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Ask Team Practical: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I was shocked to find that my fella is more practical than I am. I’m having trouble explaining to him, and myself, why a $200 ring or non-engagement engagement doesn’t feel right to me. (Non-engagement engagement means there’s no asking, there’s just the eventual moving forward into a no frills ceremony and marriage.) It’s odd to have my own arguments used against me, just to a greater degree. In a past life, in a past relationship I had to really defend my want for a ring that costs less than $3,000. I saw it on APW in 2008 and it is my dream ring. Yes, I picked it out before I had the guy. Now I have him, love him, and am so excited that WE are so excited to spend our lives together. He has told me he won’t spend more than a few hundred dollars on a ring for ethical reasons and because he doesn’t like jewelry or traditional symbols BUT he will give me all his love every day of our lives. I am thrilled to pieces with him and with us. Why does this silly little WIC bother me, an APW, gal so much? Can I reconcile myself to this or help him understand why it matters to me even if he thinks it’s silly and worse, unethical?

Signed,
Got What I Asked For, An APW Man

Dear GWIAFAAM,

Lady, you want what you want. Whether that’s the pesky WIC’s influence, or just that shiny things are pretty (um, they really are), it’s not a terrible thing (not even a “silly” thing!) to have a sort of deep-down yearning for things to happen a certain way. Nothing wrong with that, and no need to apologize for it or feel silly about it.

The only problem, of course, is it’s not what your partner wants. His “wants” don’t negate yours, or vice versa. They’re just different. Figuring out what you want in advance is usually well and good (I’m not the only one who looks up restaurant menus online in advance, right?), but in this case, his opinions about that already-decided-on ring figure in, too.  So, you guys probably need to sit down and lay out exactly why each of you is coming at this from different perspectives. Talk about what you think the ring means (hint: gonna help you with that part in a second), and how you can make your wants (gorgeous and perhaps in the four-figure range) fit with his (ethical and more in the three-figure range), while still actually representing this whole relationship moving forward.

So, how to approach this ring-buying part? The ring is one of two things: either it’s a gift from him, or it’s a symbol for beginning your life together. If it’s a gift from him, that means all of the usual rules about gifts apply. He gets to pick it, he gets to spend what he wants on it, and at the end of the day, it’s special (not because of what it is or how it looks) because he picked it out for you and gave it to you.

If it’s a symbol of starting your life together, it makes sense for you both to pick it out and buy it together, both of you getting a say in what you get and where (and while you’re at it, maybe he should get one, too). Your whole relationship is (hopefully) rooted in mutual respect and joint decision-making. A small jewelry-shaped symbol of that would pretty practically also be a joint decision. That means that your $3,000 opinions count, but also (unfortunately for you, miss) that his $200 opinions count, too.

You’ll notice that neither meaning fits perfectly with your ideal scenario here. The idea that he picks it out as a gift for you, but that you get a say in what he gets, but that he also surprises you with it—while being a pretty messy hodge-podge of impossible, also sort of works against the whole point of the thing. There’s no situation in which this engagement ring is just you picking out and buying yourself a glittery ring with no one else’s input. If that’s what you want, go on girl. But it’s not an engagement ring. It’s a, “I like fancy, shiny things and I bought one for myself,” ring, and there’s really nothing wrong with those (if you can afford them).

Same goes for the proposal itself. While maybe you had imagined some fantastic surprise, real-life decisions about big things don’t often play out that way. Even folks who go through the steps of having the guy “pop the question” usually have a lot of discussion first to determine that it’s actually going to happen. So, if there’s something traditional deep down that’s longing for a man-on-one-knee moment, I mean, sure. You can ask him to do that for you. But, if that’s not who he is, then, you’ve got to figure what sort of proposal fits your shared story.

So, skip on the improbable fantasy that you concocted before you even met the guy, and work with what you got—a guy who loves you, but has opinions and thoughts and personal ethics. Hear his, and then help him to understand yours. Take that, figure out what an engagement ring and proposal mean to you, and then work together to honor that meaning.

*****

Team Practical, how did you have to alter your imagined expectations about proposals, weddings and marriage?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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