We all know that the wedding industrial complex is A Thing. And most of the conversation happening around it is discussed by womxn with womxn. But what we rarely talk about is how it affects men. This thought never even crossed my mind until recently, when I could tell something going on with my long-term partner. He was on the brink of a meltdown and I couldn’t tell why. I pushed him a little, and finally, he caved and admitted that pressure to get engaged from family, friends, and even actual strangers was eating away at him.
I had no idea.
We’ve been together for almost a decade, but in that decade we’ve experienced a lifetime of ups and downs. We’ve gone through a sudden death in the immediate family, difficult living situations, relocation, unemployment. That “For better and for worse”? We’ve been through it. But the one thing that’s always been consistent is our relationship. And even though we’re nearly a decade in without having chosen to tie the knot, we have rarely acknowledged the whispers of those around us. Until those whispers started to feel like shouting.
Apparently, this holiday season, my partner hit his breaking point.
When I got him to talk, my partner divulged a few things that I found alarming, like the fact that a group of his male friends were worried about our relationship because we weren’t engaged yet. But the most alarming thing he said was “BUT I DON’T HAVE $10,000 DOLLARS TO GET AN ENGAGEMENT RING FOR YOU RIGHT NOW”. My reaction:
After asking him if he was delusional, he explained that he thought that was normal and that’s how everyone does it. And even though my partner and I have had open and clear conversations about engagement (like me never needing a $10K ring) and marriage (we’ll do it on our own terms when it’s right for us) and thought we were on the same page… he thought he’d still have to give in to outside expectations because that’s what is “normal”. That’s when I realized that the WIC doesn’t only affect womxn, it affects men too, they just aren’t openly talking about it (or, you know, reading APW).
I’m not quite sure what to do to help him (other than tell him if he spends $10K on a ring I’ll kill him). The reality is, he’s not going to start reading APW anytime soon—I mean, the man doesn’t even have a Facebook account. But he clearly needs help. And I’m secretly afraid that if we were to start wedding planning, I’d find out he’s internalized way more of the wedding industry than I’d ever imagined, without thinking about it… and then what?
Have you talked to your partner about how the wedding industry affects men? Are you noticing men giving in to the “norm” even if that’s not actually what they want?