Starting With Almost Engaged

When beginnings get messy

I am pre-engaged, maybe, I think. I’m in a place where we have agreed, numerous times, that we want to marry each other—someday. But there was no proposal. Just a late morning in bed cuddling and then him whispering into my hair, “I want to marry you someday.” I don’t even know if I was supposed to hear it. But I responded the way any reasonable, giddy-in-love twenty-two-year-old would. I giggled and kissed him. It wasn’t until his “OMG-what-did-I-just-do” panic face made an appearance that I realized my reaction wasn’t as reassuring as I thought. So I shared as well. “I wanna marry you someday, too.”

And then I went to work and spent the rest of the day in a rose-colored cloud. I felt engaged. I felt like one of those girls who was surprised at a fancy dinner with a huge rock. Even though we’d just talked about the future knowing we were together for the long haul. It felt different, like it was official. Like the morning I got to stay in bed late would be our adorable engagement story. I felt like I needed to call my mom and share the news. But I didn’t. Partly because I was working and partly because all day the women I worked with were determined to puncture my rose-colored happiness with reality bites like: “Where’s your ring?” “If he really meant it he’d have asked in a sweeter/more expensive/real proposal way.” “If you don’t have a diamond it doesn’t count.” By the time my shift was up I was a bundle of insecurity and confusion. What felt so wonderful and secure nine hours previously was now a mess of other people’s expectations.

And apparently they were right. Beginnings are messy and full of miscommunications. We talked more when I got home, and he didn’t mean he wanted to be engaged.

I was crushed. A mess of disappointment and anger.

He explained that the timing was bad. He was still in school. We were barely-able-to-buy-food broke. He wasn’t ready to get married. He couldn’t afford to buy a diamond ring right now.

In that moment I wished a slow and painful death to every person who ever worked in the diamond marketing industry.

All I could say in response to his heartfelt attempt to console me was probably more of a curse to the heavens that a statement, “I hate diamonds!” (In my defense, I had spent nine hours with women shoving their diamond rings in my face saying, “This is how you know it’s a real engagement,” and telling me I had to have one.)

The end of our almost-engagement debacle was a rational conversation. He wasn’t ready, I probably wasn’t either. We both agreed we wanted to wait at least a few years before getting married anyway. He needs to finish school. I need to figure out some kind of career. We need to decide where we want to live. We want financial security first. A wedding is last on our list of building-a-life-together activities. But even after that, I still wanted to be able to tell the world we are officially together for forever. I wanted to be able to call him my fiancé instead of my boyfriend.

But I was willing to wait. And six months later, I decided I could propose. I still wanted our commitment to have the official “I can call my mom” feeling. So I was planning to propose on Christmas, with a personalized, leather wallet.

But even the best-laid plans are prone to ruin. Two weeks before Christmas we found out that a lump in my thyroid was growing, and probably cancerous. Between the stresses of doctor visits, waiting for test results, Christmas, and figuring out how we’re going to pay for my treatment, I realized that getting engaged “officially” wasn’t that important. I knew we were going to get married. His parents knew it. My parents knew it. Everyone was already assuming we were eventually headed towards wedding bells.

So my beginning is an in-progress mess. We’re kind of engaged; we’re kind of not. And we both know, regardless of my bare left hand, we’re together and no amount of richer, poorer, sickness, or health is going to change that.

Photo by Gabriel Harber Photography

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  • Franny

    Thank you. I needed this this morning.

  • I am jumping up and down for you, because that moment when you realize that you are together for the long haul, come sickness, joy, storms, or health is very important, ring or not. I hope you will get better soon, that you will get the treatment you need and be fully healthy.

    And you don’t need the diamonds (my husband proposed with a very pretty ring, which looks like a flower of pearly beads (that are in fact made of glass*) ) on a morning cuddle and the fact that there were no diamonds did not change our love or the seriousness of his proposal.

    *I have to say I was guilty for a long time of wanting a rock, because I was taught that the engagement ring should be a stone as it represents unbreakable love blah blah blah. I did not necessarily want a diamond, but some kind of semi precious stone, even a gray stone, but a stone. I had originally thought the beads on my ring were moonstones (they look like them), but when I found out they were glass, I was a little bit disappointed like I had a symbol of something that could easily brake. Anyhow, because Mark knew all of that, during our honeymoon we serendipitously found a jeweller who made custom-made designs for a good price, and he got me a peridot (a stone in my favorite color). So know I do have a stone… and a memory of that first trip together.

    • Amber

      I love peridot! Also my favorite color. The first Christmas I spent with my now fiancé, he gave me a necklace with peridot. I wear it everyday!!

  • mimi

    This is why I love APW. I was pre-engaged for a long time and just got engaged right before Christmas. This kind of post is still meaningful to me, even thought I don’t need it as much as I did a few months ago.

    And Rachael, fingers crossed for your good health!

  • I completely understand the first reaction here. Over a year ago, Badger and I decided we would get married, eventually. I was thrilled for the entire weekend. I went to work in a cloud- and the one person who I told at work was incredibly happy for me (after the initial- When are you getting married? Oh, you don’t know yet. That’s ok, you should stay engaged as long as you want! Oh, you’re not engaged? But didn’t you just say that you were getting married? Well, as long as you’re happy, I’m happy for you!) Luckily, I was working in the food industry at the time, and rings were not allowed (for sanitary reasons). I’m so happy that you’ve reached the point where you don’t need an “actual” engagement- that you are secure in your relationship. I do hope that you are better soon- healthy and happy, and that your road through treatment is not too difficult. I’ll be sending good wishes your way.

  • garli

    How do people like the ladies you work with exist? People laugh at how my husband and I got engaged (talking about getting married in the car one day, end of story) and I never had or wanted a diamond ring (the diamond industry is not something I want to support) but neither of those things make me any less married.

    • Amy March

      But those ladies were right weren’t they? In a mean way, but they said the OP wasn’t really engaged. And she isn’t.

      • Emily

        I suppose they were *technically* right, but they certainly weren’t right to say that an engagement needs a diamond to be valid. They were right about the situation, but out of dumb luck, not because of their preconceived notions. If that makes sense.

      • Rachael

        I suppose they were right, but at the time they were telling me they weren’t saying I wasn’t engaged as much as I couldn’t be engaged without the “real” proposal and a ring.

        As far as how right they were, I still call him my fiance sometimes, in an attempt to simplify explaining my relationship to strangers, and we both agree we’re halfway engaged. Which for us is totally a thing. So while yes, they were right, and we’re not really engaged (yet), their point was wrong, in that I can be engaged without a diamond.

        • I’m also young and in a very long-term relationship (7 years) struggling with what to call my partner, and, more often, his family. Boyfriend often doesn’t seem like enough, partner isn’t quite right. And my boyfriend’s brother, or my boyfriend’s mom, etc, definitely doesn’t feel strong enough to talk abou this family, who I’ve very much embraced as an extension of my own, but then people are sure that they aren’t “in-laws” either unless you’re married.

          On a side note, I also want to point out that this what do we call these people is a temporary problem for me, I know, but a very real and terrible problem for all of the same-sex couples living in states where their unions will never be officially valid and people will always question their decision to use words like fiance, wife/husband, and in-laws.

          • One More Sara

            Where I live, unmarried partnerships are fairly common (as are post-children weddings). My Partner and I are getting married in August, but I have been calling them my in-laws (and they have been calling me their daughter in law) for 2 or 3 years already. What makes this a little less weird here, I think, is that your in-laws are called your “schoonfamilie” which literally translates to “clean family” (This works across the board.. schoonvader, schoonmoeder, schoonzoon, schoondochter, schoonzus, except brother-in-law is zwager. That one makes no sense). So while the term probably originated with the family you gained after you married, the term has evolved and tons of people use it before they are married. I started using “in-laws” when talking about them in America as well. The first time people heard it they usually asked if we had eloped, but when I told them no, they all generally moved on.

          • kyley

            I was together with my fiance for 8.5 years before we got engaged. I settled on partner years ago, and still stick with that over fiance. His family was always tricky for me to explain, but eventually I just started saying “my family” which felt, for me, more authentic than “in-laws.”Whatever works for you !

      • Meg

        I have to agree: the OP wasn’t (and isn’t) engaged – which is absolutely OK especially given her age and circumstances! Dating seriously with the full intention of getting engaged and married in the near future is a completely valid and common relationship status. But until there is a proposal (and usually a ring) and you are actually planning a wedding, you are not formally engaged insofar as that is defined in our culture.

        That does not and should not diminish your understanding of your love or committment. Many people never marry, which doens’t mean their love is any less real. The key is to accept that, not to jump to conclusions after every little sign that he’s in this for the long haul and rush him into a timeline he aren’t ready for so you can feel more secure about the future. Which is super tempting (I’ve so been there), but generally causes nothing but friction and grief.

  • LMS

    Oh lady, I feel for you, both as a “pre-engaged” person and a fellow thyroid-lump-haver (so far so good on that front, but you never know). I’m sure your coworkers mean well, but it’s sad that they tried to push their archaic ideas about commitment on you. I can’t believe there are still people out there who say things like “If you don’t have a diamond it doesn’t count”!

    Good for you for making peace with your situation. Sending lots of good health vibes your way!

  • Sarah

    I’m in the same situation but a little further ahead on the timeline. My boyfriend and I agreed a long time ago we would get married, and this New Year’s Day we decided it would be this summer. But convention being what it is, he wants to propose with a ring, and so I’m waiting patiently (it’s on its way!). It’s a compromise between me who couldn’t care less about a ring or an official proposal and don’t care who knows it and him who feels the answer to people’s judgement is to do things the way they expect (that sounds critical but I don’t mean it to be, it’s his way of dealing with the other non-traditional aspects of the wedding we will have).

    I’ve gone through several cycles of rose-coloured happiness and cloudy confusion. I’m really excited and want to tell people and I’m stressed we won’t have enough time to plan it. Mostly, though, it’s been a really great way to have all the conversations we need to have WITHOUT the input of everyone else which is mostly definitely coming, and a really great way to find out what has meaning for each of us. Making the decision you’ve made you now have the time to have those conversations as they come up, not under the gun of wedding prep. I love what one writer here said about the “Are you sure side-eye” TM (I think I got that right). People will have lots to say about what you do and don’t do but by they time you getting officially engaged you will be absolutely sure (mostly) what is and isn’t important to you and your partner.

    Some people want the traditional suspense and surprise engagement story and if that’s what they want, awesome. I’ve teared up at more than a few stories. For me, thought, it seems totally ridiculous that I wouldn’t be involved in the timing of most important decision in my life and that I would leave the details entirely to him. To me, it would be like me being 100% responsible for deciding when we have a child. Like one day when I think we’re ready I will secretly go off the pill and surprise him with a pee stick. Surprise! You have no say. And he’s just supposed to be happy about it because that’s what happens. Nope, I like the way we’re doing it. It works for us.

    Remember as you go through this that people will use their own reference points to ask you questions about your relationship. They’ll ask about the ring and the venue and the dress because that’s what they expect. You might have to explain your timeline is a little different but they will adjust. Good luck!

    • I’m basically in the exact same boat as you but without the wedding date timeline (it’ll likely be summer of next year since my man’s in school for Round Two, Career Change time. If all goes according to plan he’ll be in school for AWHILE so I’m not lining up the ducks anytime soon). The engagement is agreed upon and it will happen, and while I could care less about a ring he really wants to do the proposal all traditional like. Which is very fine and very sweet. Anyways I know it will be coming soon (I requested it to be before my 10 Year High School Reunion, which is Memorial Day Weekend, and I know it is a little lame but I really want to be able to go: “I am so happy in my life and I have a career I love and a man I love and we are getting married here is the ring whee!” because what is the point of going to one of these things if you can’t brag just a little bit, and if I’m going to get a ring I might as well get to show it off, hee).

      Anyways, regarding a wedding this summer–why don’t you go ahead and start planning? You know it is happening and you know when you want it to happen, so why do you need a ring to do the hard things like booking a venue and finding an officiant? I’d say if you’re worried about the planning crunch then you should get going, ring or no ring!

      I personally like this pre-engaged thing, none of that weirdness of “Is this relationship FOREVER?” and all of the anticipation of “This is fun when’s he gonna ask.” It is a nice place to be for a bit.

    • I agree with The Dilettantista- start planning! Especially because you can start to gather information and research options while flying under the radar. (Just like you mentioned, being able to have big conversations without the pressure surrounding them)

    • Oh man I feel like I am in the same boat. We decided we were going to get married a year ago, then last Thanksgiving he told me his grandmother gave him her engagement ring and then he talked about getting it reset this month, and then we decided October 2014 would be a good time to get married, and then he sent me to buy the wedding dress I’ve been drooling over for 5 months.

      But I am still ringless, and he wants to do a really special traditional proposal, and I feel a little silly wedding planning without a proposal. Like it’s something I have to hide and keep secret. My boyfriend have had tons of conversations about why I’m so anxious, and it feels like gender expectations. When he tells his friends he is planning on marrying me he gets congratulations. When I tell my coworkers I get the “if there’s no ring you can’t be sure.”

      So I continue my planning in secret. It is kind of great because no one is forcing opinions on me. I also have a crapload of time for crafting (I spend 6 hours last weekend hand-stitching lace onto tulle to make a veil), and the almost two years away part means spreading out the cost. It’s super easy to budget for a couple hundred dollars a month rather than thousands later.

      • I just started looking at dresses. Insanity man. Secret planning! And the man and I have started discussing locations and types of weddings so, I guess, not so secret planning.

        • Oh no we’ve been planning together for sure. Just secret to everyone on the outside. Except my two best ladies who are helping :)

          • Sarah

            Thanks for all the support, guys! It’s so nice to know I’m not alone. We have started planning certain things, just haven’t booked much. The officiant and venue (family home) are taken care of so that’s a big relief. I went dress shopping already but it just didn’t feel right. And thanks to the secret boards on Pinterest I’m pinning like crazy. This site will be my sanity as I navigate this process!

      • Aubry

        I totally feel the secret planning! I feel that because it isn’t “official” I’m not allowed to plan. I of course am, but in secret from everyone. C knows about a bunch of it, and about how much time I spend loking at wedding porn, but I feel like I cant really talk to my girlfriends. I think this is mostly in my head, cause whenever i bring anything up we get all silly and girly excited about it. I cant wait to have my planning self unleashed when the ring arrives, and give licence to start making real decisions and crafting!

    • We decided to get married, found a date and began looking for a dress and venue WAY before the ring/official engagement. In fact, we only got “officially engaged” a couple of days before the wedding. There were some side-eye looks along the way, but I tried to ignore it, because we were in agreement and our families and friends were supportive and in the loop too. Go for it, if you both agree it’s time to plan. (And we did the planning in four months, so you can totally do a summer wedding! Good luck!)

  • Claire

    This post made me think about the importance of valuing “intermediate” steps in my own relationship. The pre-pre-engaged conversations my partner and I have–“I want to be with you for a long time, and thinking about a future with you makes me happy”–are their own happy occasion. I don’t have to wait for a proposal to celebrate our slow, sweet process of coming together.

    • Amanda

      Yes – to the importance of valuing the intermediate steps. How I wish now (that I am married) that I had not rushed them, or succumbed to the pressure to force him to rush them. Those sweet, sweet memories of conversations and thoughts about our happily-ever-after are slightly clouded by my regret for pushing a little too hard, a little too fast, for an engagement. Knowing that you two choose to be together — forever!! — is something to be cherished in its own right.

    • Meg

      I agree about the value and importance of “intermediate steps.” The simple, sweet sentiment that he expressed – which you had every right to be thrilled about – was turned into a a “crusing mess of disappointment and anger” for no good reason. Instead of just basking in the joy of his love, you immediately jumped to “we’re practically engaged!!!” and started planning a wedding and telling colleagues. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but it is what many women do; we want certainty and finality in our relationships, and we think that being engaged or married will bring that so we search eagerly for signs or signals that we are on that track. And we wonder why men sometimes drag their feet when it comes to committment or long term planning.

  • KateM

    I am adding my two cents, and saying enjoy this time. The wait is over, you found the person you want to spend your life with and he wants it too! The bloom you have during this time is something that does’t come again. The dreaminess of thinking about the future and how great your life is going to be, kind of the rose colored glasses is something that is such a special time. You are still dating and you are never going to date again in the same way. Marriage is awesome, but it is different, and for many people engagement is tough. Wallow in the joy and romance of being in love with the right person.

    • Thank you for this! I literally just printed it out for myself — it makes me smile and feel less anxious about our “not official” decision to spend the rest of our lives together :)

  • I want to say that this: “getting engaged “officially” wasn’t that important. I knew we were going to get married. His parents knew it. My parents knew it. Everyone was already assuming we were eventually headed towards wedding bells.” YES YES YES.

    I was pre-engaged for YEARS, and looking back, it really didn’t matter. We knew we would get married some day, everyone around us assumed it, and when I really realized that, it got better for us in the pre-engaged period.

    I hope things with your health turn out okay. Many hugs.

  • Lou

    What an awesome feeling it is to know that you both are on the same page! I remember having the same morning cuddle conversation a few months ago, and feeling like I might burst from excitement. But no one else was in on it, and he was determined to get me a ring and “properly propose”. That time was equal parts bliss and frustration – because it felt like we were truly engaged and yet, not. No one else was in on the secret, and it was tough to keep under wraps (especially during the holidays with all the engagement talk from our families!).

    Now that we are “officially” engaged, people ask for the story. The public story is the one with the ring, and it gets the oohs and ahhs…but I kind of prefer the just-us-two-secret-semi-engagement story.

  • raerose1984

    I feel like this is something many twenty-something women go through – and, whatever rose-colored spin we may put on it, there are times that it frickin’ sucks. I don’t know how unique this is to our particular generation, but the longer wait times to get engaged coupled with the living together beforehand and the murky life-planning stage that goes with it can lead to some serious meltdowns.

    I live with my boyfriend. We’ve been dating for three years. We live in the home he owns and with a dog we got together. We talk about having kids and starting a family ALL the time. We talk about our wedding. And yet…

    We’re not engaged. Officially. I mean, we are in my mind, but not in his. Which means he’s not willing to start actually saving money for our wedding because it doesn’t officially exist on the horizon yet. We can be generally “saving,” but not “saving” for our wedding.

    And whatever surprise was coming, I’ve definitely already ruined that. I congratulate and applaud the women wo can wait patiently – not uttering a PEEP – until the engagement day arrives. I do the opposite – I set timelines (ok – you just said you want to have a kid in two years – where the F is the wedding in the picture?) and talk getting married all the time.

    The thing is he doesn’t think the wedding will change anything. In his mind, his commitment to me now is akin to his commitment to me when we’re married, and the wedding is just a financial burden/really fun party in our hazy near future. He doesn’t think anything transcendent will come to pass, or that we’ll be any different the day after (this hurts I think, more than the other stuff). He has explicitly stated that the wedding would be FOR ME – because he doesn’t really believe in marriage, thinks you can be just as committed without it.

    I could get down with that, but I’m a teacher. Everyone in my department in married. Professionally, getting married is the thing to do. It is still taboo to talk to my kids (high school students) about my partner and the fact that we shack up together without a ring on my finger. Getting pregnant without that ring would definitely be frowned upon and discouraged.

    The above statement is what I use to rationalize the “common sense” reason for why I want to get married. I just caught myself. Trust me, there are deeper ones.

    So yeah, there are, I think plenty of women in our situation. Also – woot, woot – I’m a thyroid cancer survivor – and, boy, that is too many emotions to put into words in this comment.

    • Paranoid Libra

      First RaeRose congrats on beating the big C and Rachael good luck with your health.

      I fully agree it is something many 20 somethings go through when living together. I feel like the people who get engaged only a year after dating have it a heck of a lot easier in terms of not having this kind of almost torture for months and even years. It’s incredibly frustrating. It also sucks not having anyone to vent to. I honestly lost a friendship because I was having such difficulty dealing with it and my former friend couldn’t grasp my need to vent as she just got engaged after not even a year. She couldn’t understand why I was dealing with jealous feelings and then just ignored me.

      It’s hard being in the in between state. Parts of you want to burst at the seams with happiness that your relationship is growing. Other parts of you want to kill something as it feels so slow especially when society is constantly pressuring women that they should be racing to that alter with that huge honking rock because otherwise he doesn’t love you.

    • Heather

      OH MAN was I there. SO THERE- on all of it- no transcendent difference, no difference in commitment, financial burden- all of it. Your guy sounds like my guy- great, but on a different page than you about marriage. Thankfully, mine came around to understanding that for me, marriage was an important first step. Yes, I want kids and a home and a dog and all of that- but first I wanted marriage. For me, for us- just us. Our reasons for wanting to get married before kids are going to be different from yours, probably, but yours are no less valid.

      Since he thinks the wedding is just for you, I would think that he’d be more willing to operate on your timeline. Have you guys talked about why marriage matters to you, even if it doesn’t to him?

      I just want you to know that you’re not alone. I’ll do my best to get my fiance to reply to you here!

      ** also- ROCK ON, CANCER SURVIVOR! WOO!!!! **

    • Maybe you and your partner would benefit from some talks and really work to disentangle the wedding from the marriage? It sounds like you’ve thought about why you want to be married and how you see that differently from the commitment you’ve already made to each other. Sometimes taking the hoopla of a wedding out of the conversation can let you really focus on the relationship and the way you both feel about how it’s structured.

      As far as him not thinking he’ll feel any different goes, well, he might not. You might not. You really won’t know until you get to that moment (and even then sometimes you might not know until you’re looking back on things).

      • MDBethann

        We’ve been married since May 2012 and lived together for 2 years before that. Did some things change? Yes, but many things didn’t. The biggest change is that the world definitively views us as a legal unit, even though we viewed ourselves as one before that. The legal unit part has definitely made some things easier and as we move forward with children, health issues, etc. it will become even more helpful.

        But I don’t think marriage has changed our every day interactions – our pet names for each other are now derivations of wife and husband, but life continues. So I think it’s fair to say that nothing can change in a relationship when you get married but at the same time, everything changes too. It’s different now that we often live with our partners before marriage and we don’t have the physical moving in as the big change. But there are subtle changes and legal changes that I think have made our relationship deeper in some ways.

        I definitely think talking with your SO about different views on marriage is important though. Always best to be on the same page.

        Good luck!

    • Staria

      Thanks for this post APW. The holidays are hard. Raerose, I’ve worked something out: to some guys, :not: being married is actually important to them – they feel like it proves something important that they live with you but are not married. Not criticising that way of thinking, it’s just that guys who say ‘being married is important to you not me’ should be able to easily say ‘ok, it’s important to you not me, but I’m happy to do this with you’. but it’s often not like that. I think this is what’s going on in that case.

      My difficulty is with, if you know you want to be together always, why wait? I just love my boyfriend so much, I know we are fantastic together. Why not set your savings goals and work together towards that?

      Also people don’t like it when you say this, but, for me I also hate being one of the last ones of my friends and extended acquaintance group being unmarried. I admit it! I hate it! I know too many couples who got engaged well before a year; and of the others, who waited 3,4,5,6… 10… years, I just don’t think I have that time to wait, because I want to have kids!

      I’d be happy to have a long engagement, the not knowing is hard for me.

      Anyway, thanks for letting me get some of my thoughts out everyone :)

    • I can relate to this:
      “The thing is he doesn’t think the wedding will change anything. In his mind, his commitment to me now is akin to his commitment to me when we’re married, and the wedding is just a financial burden/really fun party in our hazy near future. He doesn’t think anything transcendent will come to pass, or that we’ll be any different the day after (this hurts I think, more than the other stuff). He has explicitly stated that the wedding would be FOR ME – because he doesn’t really believe in marriage, thinks you can be just as committed without it.”

      My husband comes from a culture where this is the general belief. And it was his belief, but he decided to get married to me because it was so important to me (and in the culture I come from). However, since getting married, aside from the emotional part, we’ve also realized more fully some of the practical advantages of having gotten married (e.g., in the immigration process). (That we hadn’t really considered in advance.) Anyhow, I hope you guys can find a common ground to move forward on. I wish you the best as you figure out your path.

  • Aubry

    Thanks APW, I needed this today. I am definitely in the pre-engaged state, and it is driving me a little crazy. I have recently started to find some peace with it (this feeling has waxed and waned over the last year or so, but I’m trying to make it stick around) mostly by virtue of the fact that I’m pretty confident the “official” engagement is coming in the next 2 months. *insert happy dance*

    Part of the reason I am feeling my own pressure to get it done is the fact that it has suddenly become such a possible reality. Let me explain – I hate engagement rings. I am so picky and basically wouldn’t want any of them. Knowing this, C asked me to pick some styles I like and send them his was for inspiration. after many hours of dismissing rings I didn’t like, I found one! It was just what I wanted, we went to the store to try it on, get sized, etc. except, it was quite expensive. For us anyway. So, I pushed it away and not happening any time soon and tried to forget it. But, I kept looking back at it, and the price tag, and got this nagging feeling it wasn’t for me. It didn’t look as amazing and perfect as the first time, and the price didn’t reflect us. And I kept thinking about my issues with diamonds… so I decided to start the search anew. And I found the most amazing ring I love so much, with a white sapphire, for a price point that made so much sense. Amazing! Combine this with APW convincing me I don’t actually need to spent 10k on my wedding if that isn’t a possible reality, and this wedding was ON!

    I actually didn’t know about the whole “engagement over the holidays” thing until this year. I was so not a person who cared at all about weddings until recently (how…?) but have been caught in a fervor of weddings recently. There were a bunch of diamond commercials on in November and I asked C about them. He casually replied that 1/3 of the yearly engagements happen over the holidays and I was totally shocked! So much that I said something like “don’t you dare propose on Christmas morning with my family!” He just smiled in that infuriating fashion, as usual when I get weird about wedding stuff, and went back to watching TV. But, since I discovered this little tidbit, I became obsessed with the idea of getting engaged over the holidays. Very silly I know, but true. I thought that we would be “official” by our 3 year anniversary on Jan 17. I was pretty disappointed, but we talked about it and I am trying to just let it be.

    So here I am, frustrated and anxious for all the reasons discussed here in the past (big life decision hanging on him, I’m OCD, struggling with patriarchal traditions, etc) and greatly appreciative of this wonderful outlet for me. So good to know I am not alone. You are all wonderful people, and I wish us all every happiness :)

    Also, love for thyroid problems. They thought C had lymphoma, but it thankfully came back as sarcoidosis. Medical problems are scary, and I hope everything is fine with you!

  • Ari

    This was really good to read today, thank you.

    I’m 31, and my partner and I have been together for three years and have two kids, but…we’re not married, and we’re not engaged. We know we want to get married, to each other. We talk about growing old together. I feel really good about our relationship and where it’s headed, and rarely do I feel impatient (I have two small kids, you guys–lack of patience on any front is the mind-killer). But man, half my friends are married, and those that remain are mostly either much younger or have been married and are now separated. Several couples of my acquaintance got themselves formally engaged over the holidays. It’s just a tough time of year.

  • energyanddisease

    My boyfriend and I have just started talking about marriage in our future. I know we’re doing the mature thing by talking it out like adults and thinking about a tiny visit to the courthouse and maybe a party, but I still have a secret desire for something like the huge romantic proposal he did for his exwife, their exquisitely planned fancy event and custom-written vows with everyone there, the ostentatious engagement set and matching bands (now he thinks engagement rings are silly and isn’t sure if he even wants to wear a wedding ring). Logically I guess he’s just gotten all the fanciness out of his system, and I know he cares more about the marriage than the wedding, but it’s still hitting all my “I’m not worth any fuss” and “I’m only his second-best choice and I’ll never measure up to his ex” insecurities.

    • Katie M

      OMG YES! Being second is harddddd. My man was engaged to his ex. Even though he hated her. And they never loved each other. But they had a kid so Christian upbringing kicked in and wham titles! So I often feel inferior. I explain this to him and he then feels guilty and becomes veryyy loving to compensate yay.

    • MDBethann

      I totally get the insecurities. I am my husband’s second wife. It is rough occasionally if/when I think about the fact that I’m not his “first” in many ways. But at the same time, I am the one who is going to grow old with him, not her. He loves me, not her. I am the one he takes care of and I’m the one who takes care of him, not her. I’m the one with the great relationship with his family, not her. I’m the one who is going to be the mother of his children not her (I know this isn’t the case for everyone though). I’m the one with whom he bought his first house (though I owned a condo when we first met). I know this is unique to my situation and that everyone’s relationship with their ex is different. I recognize that I’m lucky my husband doesn’t have a relationship with his ex and never wants nor has a need to.

      That said, no matter what the situation, there are good, valid reasons why the ex is the ex and you are the one with him/her now and for the future. And that future is filled with firsts, your firsts together as a couple and a family. THAT is what matters.

      As for the “he had a fancy wedding with his ex and doesn’t want it again” part, talk with him about it. In my case, I don’t think my DH really wanted it the first time either, but he did what his ex wanted. The second time, they’re older and wiser and probably more willing to say what they do and don’t want – it’s also a sign that they are more comfortable communicating with you then they were/are with their ex.

      As with us, there might be a way to find some common ground on a wedding that you both can enjoy. My DH and I talked about the things that were most important to each of us: we both wanted to be married, he just didn’t want a lot of fuss and feathers. A church wedding with my family there was important to me, and he knew it, but I knew he didn’t want something elaborate, so I tried to keep the trappings simple. We had flowers, music, a DJ, delicious cake & food (at a great brewpub), and all of our our loved ones (150 people) but did it all for around $18K, half of which was for the brewpub, which did pretty much everything for us. We ended up with a wedding I loved and one that didn’t overwhelm him (he’s pretty introverted) and wasn’t too fussy.

      I hope this helped a bit. Good luck talking things through!! And just remember – 2nd wife does not mean second best. You get him for life!!!

  • LimoLady

    Whoa. I totally had no idea that this happened to other people. Serious happy dance that y’all exist. I too am a pre-engaged (yes, twenty something) who lives with her boyfriend. I was surprised you all mentioned that, because even as a member of that demographic, I don’t meet a lot of people like me. Guess it’s more common than I thought. The thing is, I’m happy and content being pre-engaged. I had to overcome a lot of social pressure and gender pressure and had to fight hard against the “wedding-craze”–a real disease, I swear!–but I’ve crossed that bridge and I’ve got to say that I’m enjoying the other side.

    Above all, I find that the most frustrating part is people not getting it. I refer to my partner interchangeably with BF and Fiance; I mostly use fiance for strangers because, in all honesty it is to damn long of an explanation otherwise. I often feel the urge to shake them and scream: “So what if my relationship doesn’t fit in to a Facebook category. It’s real. Deal with it. Expand your mind a little!!” But I can’t. So I often find myself giving lame explanations that they’ll understand. I mumble about money, the Army and school and they usually leave it alone.

    These strangers, when I say he is my “fiance,” it clicks, you know? They go: “Ohhh, okay so you love him and want to spend the rest of your life with him! Congrats!” But, when I say, “he is my boyfriend of over four years, we’ve lived together for two, I know I want to be with him for the rest of my life, but we’re young, times are hard, and we’re students trying to make ends meet, blah blah blah blah blah,” they get very confused and have all sorts of rather judgmental questions, much like your co-workers.

    I feel like I have to justify my relationship to these complete strangers, and I hate it. If you asked any of my close friends and family, it’s just a given fact that we’re in it for the long haul. Sure we’ve faced many battles, and it took us a while to get there (my father still insists he needs to get down on one knee and “propose” to be real) but he and I are much, much, much more comfortable in “engagement limbo” than my casual aquaintences. Frustrating as hell, but we’ve learned to deal. As long as we’re on the same page, I don’t think we can go wrong. Thanks, APW for bringing this up!

    P.S. I’m sending you thoughts, prayers to all the deities, and hugs. I hope your treatment is successful and that you heal quickly. All the best and tons of LOVE!

  • Diane

    Oh man, that was not a fun place. A and I started dating when I was in med school and he was getting a PhD. As I was making my rank list for our Match (it’s complicated, suffice it to say that graduating medical students make a list of programs that they want to go to and the lists all go into a big computer and in mid-March, everyone finds out all at once where they’re going), questions about where he could move in a year when he finished his PhD were very much part of the discussion. So lots of commitment but no engagement. Then, after our complex calculus had landed me in Boston at a program that I loved, he got interviews in Oklahoma, Kansas City, Richmond and Chicago and then (because God has a sick sense of humor?) a great offer in Oklahoma. Explaining to people in Boston that you’re leaving Harvard to move to Texas (“flyover country”) so that you can be close to Oklahoma (“does that even still exist?”) is tough. Then doing it without a ring on your finger makes it even tougher. I knew that we would get married and we even talked about how we both thought this was it. And I had complicated feelings about what this meant for me as a professional, a feminist, a person, all that.

    It turned out that 4 months later he proposed, I was (and still am) deliriously happy, and the waiting and uncertainty melted away into…the waiting and uncertainty of a long-ish (18 month) engagement. But it seems crazy to me that in this day and age, we still have to justify decisions we make that prioritize our relationship with a diamond or a proposal. Good luck! Enjoy loving each other!

    • H

      Oh. man. The Match. The only thing I have to say to that is, “Sister, I hear you.” The Match is in my future (twice), and of course, we’re not in the same year of medical school. Bah humbug to it all. Why do professional jobs try to kill relationships (especially those between equally educated peers) so badly? Why are we made to feel like we lack self-worth if our partners matter to us?!

      • Diane

        Actually, the Match was the least of our worries. I’m in psych (so not the most competitive match) but A’s PhD placement process was much more difficult. If we’d graduated in opposite order (him then me) it would’ve been a lot easier but them’s the breaks (as my mother would say).

        If I can pry, how far apart are you? Because if it’s one year and you’re willing, seriously consider a year of research, an MPH, an extra clinical experience with a lot of travel…basically add a year to the whole mess so you can Couples Match. Otherwise, if you ever want to discuss what residency transfers involve, shoot me an e-mail (dianecreis at gmail). Or if you just want to say hi (or interview in Dallas!).

        Good luck!

  • Shira

    Your relationship sounds a lot like my own, except I didn’t want to be engaged :) We were together for 7 years before I was ready to “officially”,”really” be engaged. To me being engaged meant setting a date (or at least a season), but it was something that happened after many years of being together, being committed, discussing surnames, children, etc. I honestly don’t understand how it could work any other way – I did not want to be surprised with a ring which meant surprised by the idea that yes, we’re getting married. It was something I wanted to talk about!

  • Stacy Lynn

    “In that moment I wished a slow and painful death to every person who ever worked in the diamond marketing industry”

    Amen to that. I will probably have a diamond so I am not against that as a choice just the ubiquitous understanding that YOU MUST HAVE THE GIANT BIG A** ROCK OR YOU FAIL AT LIFE aspect.

    At least we have APW

    • MDBethann

      And that’s why I have a sapphire :-)

  • Emily

    Hooray! This is why I love APW – for sharing thoughts such as this. My boyfriend is 11 years older than I am. When we first began dating, it was clear that he was a bit more invested in our relationship than I was. Not saying that I wasn’t invested, he was just more aware and vocal about his feelings before I reached the same place. I quickly fell in love and my boyfriend and I have had several “I want to marry you conversations.” We have casually looked at rings since we were both really confused on how the whole ring thing worked. And then, the bottom fell out. We both became super stressed about the idea of getting engaged and trying to put things in motion. We are still together and feel stronger both individually and together after talking about our feelings. But the beginning of this month was super messy as we worked to sort things out. Bottom line: I allowed other people to influence my feelings so much that I lost sight of who I am, what I feel and what I want. Today I can say with confidence that I love my man, I am happy with him, and regardless of when or how we get engaged I could not give a s*it about a ring. And that’s okay!

  • Rose

    I am 37 with one child, divorced. No wedding or engagement or proposal the first time around, just an appointment at the courthouse because he felt a wedding wouldn’t change anything. Our family wasn’t even there. It wasn’t what I wanted exactly but I did it for him. Fast forward through having a child together, the divorce, through waiting for the right guy and being super picky about it, to me meeting a wonderful man with 3 kids. Within 3 weeks he said he wanted to marry me. It sounds crazy, but it was real. True love. From that moment on, we’ve been “pre-engaged.” The problem: he was still married to his ex on paper. He had to go through the process. He thought it was going to go faster than it did. We moved in together 6 months after we started dating. Almost 2 years later, he finally got his divorce. It was very stressful and a hard process to go through. But our love endured and I am so happy to have a future with him and the kids. The divorce was finalized 3 weeks ago. He’s going to ask me to marry him. I know his proposal will be amazing because he is thoughtful. Our engagement will be short and our wedding will be awesome and a true celebration of us. I am trying to enjoy this phase and most the time I do, but I find it is just awkward. I’m a stepmom but not really. He’s my fiancé but not really… I feel like we’re already married but we aren’t. For the past month I have been asked many times, “where’s the ring?” I’m also a planner on a tight budget! I’ve got my pinterest board going and a ton of ideas but beyond that, not making any plans until after the proposal. I just hope the “post-divorce pre-engaged” phase is short for us. At the same time, it is the best feeling knowing that you’re committed to your best friend, through thick and thin, whether it be on paper or not. Thanks for reminding me of this, thanks for writing this and I’m sending you healthy thoughts.

  • michelle

    I was pre-engaged, too. It’s just that not everyone thinks we’re gonna end up together, but we did!

    Wedding planning started, and while in the middle of it, that was when I got the proposal and got a ring (truth be told, I didn’t even want one. We already have a promise ring. But having THE e-ring was something that I can use to show-off, hey. So I was glad I still got one).

    What’s impt is you’re committed to each other. :-)

  • Thank you so much for posting this. I am in more or less the same boat (seriously, I felt like I was reading my own story, except breast lump instead of thyroid lump), and I was starting to get frustrated by the lack of “official” commitment, even though he has told time and again that he will be there for me through everything. I was even thinking of taking a break from APW just to get marriage off my mind, but posts like this remind me why this community is so awesome, and why I don’t have to be “officially engaged” to belong here.

    I wish you all the best with your health, and thank you for your awesome and timely insight!

  • Brittany

    I found this site because of a “pre-engaged” article, and its stories like these that reassure me that I am normal. My boyfriend and I are both 28 years old and have been together for over 3 years, living together most of that time. For a while, I’ve beaten myself up over the fact that I moved in so quickly and basically became a housewife, doing everything a married couple would do, without a ring. For the past 2 years, at least, we’ve talked about getting married and it seems like every holiday, every vacation, every special event, comes and goes with no ring. It really does get depressing. It’s stories like these that reassure me that we should just enjoy this time together and be happy. Thank you for this article and giving me a little of my sanity back.

  • Luna

    I’m 25 and engaged…although I haven’t told anyone outside of the people that are going to our wedding in April. We have everything for the wedding and it’s definitely happening. I’ve never wanted to get married, especially not through the church, but I want to with him. The only thing is that he never “officially” proposed and I don’t have a ring. That bothers me sometimes. Most of the time I don’t care because I love him and I was never into weddings, and I’m not into them now either. But if I’m doing this shouldn’t it be the “right” way, like he even says? He says he wants to do everything right, and I know it bothers him that he can’t without putting off our wedding. Which neither of us wants because we want to live together already, and we won’t without being married. But we’re paying for the wedding ourselves, actually he’s paying for most of it, and I know he can’t afford to do that and buy me the ring. Am I wrong to feel this way? Because to be honest I feel like a crappy girlfriend/fiancee for thinking like this especially because he’s the love of my life and I’m truly excited about spending the rest of our lives together. My mom and sister say I shouldn’t worry about it because he can get me the ring later…but in my mind that doesn’t count since it’ll be After our wedding.

    • Aubry

      You are totally within your rights to do this wedding thing however you want, and you are also entitled to not be totally happy with how it is going! I was in a similar boat of finances-dictating-choices, not fun. It might help you broaden your idea of and engagement ring, and his too! There are lots of lovely rings (on etsy, turtle love co, and lots of other places) for hundreds of dollars, not thousands. When I broadened my search a bit, I was so relieved to find a wide selection that fit my budget (and consumer morals!). And if you have your heart set on a specific ring/store/size/setting/stone/whatever you can totally wait till later, or upgrade later!

      Best of luck navigating this sticky situation!

  • Devin

    I am new to this site. I actually just stumbled upon it tonight! This post resonates close with me, especially because of the test results you are waiting on (I know this is 6 months old so I can only pray that in newer posts you reveal that everything came back alright). My mother is going through her fourth battle with cancer, and every time that I think about the fact that she might not be there with me to pick out my wedding dress or light my unity candle (yes, I want a unity candle), I start to cry. Thank you so much for this post. It really has brought some peace of mind knowing that I am not the only girl in the world going through this “almost engaged” phase.

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  • Rae Rae

    I am in a very similar situation to you! I’m a little over two years younger and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer just before I turned 18. It was a horrible, traumatic event for me. Unfortunately, nearly two years later, I’m dealing with a recurrence; the thing is, in spite of my young age, this has really made me think about what’s truly important to me. I’ll have been with my boyfriend for five years this February, and he’s been ready to get married for a long time! I’ve been the one who’s been begging him to wait. With my current health situation, all I can think of is how short life is, how insecure it is. I know that he’s the one for me, we’ve been through horrible things together and we’re still here (in the relationship). My health has been a catalyst to spur me into a new kind of relationship; I need him now more than ever, and there’s no sense in waiting. I hope that your bout with thyroid cancer is as painless, emotionally and physically, as possible, and I hope that you don’t let your health stop you from having what you want. On the note of thyroid cancer, a great resource is I also recommend stocking up on cute scarves and cowls if you end up needing a partial (or total) thyroidectomy. It’s hard at first, but it gets better eventually, after your lack of a thyroid is sorted out. :)