Mortification and the Pre-Engaged State

Stash of wedding mags discovered, not... engaged... yet.

Long time readers will remember Manya (who now writes at Safari Mama) from her Wedding Graduate post and her super brave post on the wedding she should have called off. Today’s post is in Manya’s usual frank and funny voice, and it’s about the difficulties of knowing you want to marry someone before they are ready to marry you. When she sent me the first draft, I giggled all the way through it. I, too, once had a fake Kn*t account with a fake wedding date and read wedding magazines on the Subway “to relax.” But Manya clearly hadn’t let herself off the hook for the way she’d reacted to the cultural and emotional pressures of the pre-engaged state. So we talked about the ways we redeem ourselves through planning a wedding and building a life together, and she finally let go. So today’s post is not just for the pre-engaged. It’s for all of us who need to forgive ourselves, to finally laugh at ourselves, and get back to the hard work of loving ourselves, crazy behavior and all.

The word mortify has its roots in the word death. Over the ages it has meant “to kill” and “to bring about death,” and now it has been reigned in significantly to mean “to humble or embarrass.” Never have I understood this word better than the moment Brian and I officially entered “The Pre-Engaged State,” a profoundly awkward space that we inhabited for about eleven months.

I remember the exact moment I knew Brian was it. I was nestled in a pit of sand and we were talking about what we like to cook. I gazed up at the sky and felt something inside of my chest click into place, like a lock. Now he tells me that he sensed something had changed, and had thought to himself, “Oh, thank God. She’s crossed over too.”

I started thinking about getting married far too soon for somebody who was not long off of a difficult divorce and who should have been worried about rebound. But my head was no match for my heart, so think I did. And dream. And surf websites. And open a secret file in my computer where I kept pictures of engagement rings. I might have sent one or two to my sister, in case Brian ever sought technical assistance. I might have spun the pantone wedding color wheel once or (a million times) twice. I registered on The Kn*t with a fictional wedding date. I mooned over Snippet & Ink. I made a virtual fool of myself, but no one was there to see. This went on for two years, and as our relationship grew better and better (not to mention older), I felt less foolish about it.

We traveled thousands of miles and had a Christmas together at my parents’, then two. I met his mom and stepdad, father and stepmom. I got to know and love his sons, and them me. Then we were at the beach and talked about whether it would be a nice place for a wedding. I told him about an idea for invitations—for someone who might be getting married. On our third Christmas together, our divorces were behind us, our relationship was thriving and (without ever talking to him), I became convinced he was going to seek my parents’ blessing when we visited them over the holiday. Thus, I gave myself permission to (secretly) unleash my inner Bride, and using the excuse that they don’t have all the good wedding stuff in Kenya, I bought every single bridal magazine I could find. While Christmas shopping, I also sneaked into the local David’s Bridal to try on some dresses—just for fun.

While at David’s Bridal, I felt sheepish, but excited and giddy. I tried on dresses, and juiced it up with the sales girl. I stretched the truth, and said Brian and I were getting engaged over the holidays. But I told the truth about our names, and I signed the guestbook and registered my favorites on a wish list, too happy about that short, cute little affordable dress to think to change a digit in my home phone number. By the time Brian arrived (a few days after I did), I had hidden the magazines under the bed. I didn’t want him to feel pressured, or let on that I had intuited his secret.

Then, two nights after my stealth visit to David’s Bridal, as we all worked in my mom’s fragrant kitchen preparing a huge family meal, the phone rang and Brian answered.

“Hello, this is David’s Bridal. We’re calling to do a customer service follow up with Manya who was here visiting us this week. Would she be available?”

Brian summoned me to the phone with a quizzical look; “Honey? David’s Bridal for you? You were there this week?” Unfortunately, the woman on the other end overheard the endearment and after he said, “She’s coming” gushed, “Oooooh, you must be Brian! Congratulations on your upcoming Nuptials!”

As he handed me the phone, he whispered, “You marrying someone named Brian?” My heart stopped for a minute, but in the bustle of a Christmas kitchen I recovered by saying, “What? God, these telemarketers will say anything to get you on the phone these days!” During dinner my cheeks burned, but the light was dim, and I was wearing a turtleneck. By the time pie rolled around, all seemed forgotten.

He gave me a tiny box for Christmas that contained a beautiful…(!)… pair of diamond earrings; I bravely mustered the enthusiasm that the lavish gift deserved. A few days later, when it was time for Brian and the boys to go, my excitement had chilled like a post-Christmas house. Unless he had dragged my parents into the spidery basement where the water heater lives—and that is not how he rolls—Brian clearly had not asked for my hand. I took comfort in the knowledge that my inner Bridal frenzy was, at least, my secret.

As Brian packed his bags, I sat with him and cried a little and blamed it on the impending separation. I miss you already, I said as I swallowed my tears over the lump of disappointment in my throat. Oh, baby, me too, he said, as a roll of socks slipped out of his hands and rolled under the bed. He bent his 6’6” frame down and rummaged around under the bed, then cackled as he pulled out a glossy pile of magazines, “Oh dude, I think I just found somebody’s stash.”

I froze, eyes wide open, caught in the blinding light of his grin, which was melting from sardonic to confused as he flipped through the pile and realized that they were bridal magazines. All 30 of them. My face prickled as the blood drained out of it and my palms beaded with a cold sweat. My mouth watered like I might vomit. The world narrowed to the pounding of my pulse in my ears and the discomfort on his face.

Mortification, taken in slow motion, has phases: First you think you are going to die. Then when you realize that you are not, you wish somebody would kill you.

I went to the window and fiddled around with the shades as Brian came over and tried to hug me, tried to make it somehow ok. “Oh, Sweet… of all the things you could be hiding from me, this is the best… I love you so much… don’t be embarrassed… you don’t have to hide, bring the magazines out.” I was inconsolable. I muttered that the magazines really were like porn. I didn’t really want any of those dresses or those parties (just like he doesn’t really want those perfect-bodied-doe-eyed women with the shiny hair—right?). I just liked fantasizing and escaping into that world to release stress…. I finally took him downstairs and scraped him off on my mom, “Uh, you guys, Middle East: Discuss,” and I slinked back upstairs to let the floodgates loose in silent, gut-turning sobs.

A few minutes later Brian knocked softly on the door; “Sugarpie? Are you hiding from me?” I nodded, and stared down at the limp wet Kleenex my hands wouldn’t stop wringing. He came in. Said all the right things. He was thinking about it. Not quite ready. Could. Not. Survive. Another divorce. Had ideas, but no plans, and definitely no spreadsheets—yet. He spoke of tradition, surprises, romance. He knew I wanted all of that (and I did). Could I wait for him? Did I feel secure in the relationship? Was he doing enough to show how much he loves me, how committed he is? We hugged and kissed, and I said yes, yes, yes. It was the first time ever we weren’t on the same page about us. It wasn’t a rejection at all—we were still reading the same book—but it hurt nonetheless.

The next ten months were awkward. Pressure lurked between us. I was worried I had ruined it all. We stopped talking about marriage altogether. We watched The Sopranos, and when Christopher and Adriana got engaged we sat in tortured silence. Once Brian stopped the car and threw on the parking brake. Thinking he was reaching over to grab my hand we smacked knuckles. “Ow!” I said,  “Here I am thinking you’re taking my hand, and you’re putting on the brakes!” The irony of the phrase rang loud between the raindrops hitting the windshield. He took my hand and smiled at me, and I loved him more than ever. We took a couple of vacations, and I yearned and wondered, and ruined them a little bit for myself. He planned a trip to Egypt for my birthday and that was when I got myself together. I was going to ruin a trip of a lifetime because of this?

Sure, I hated calling him my “boyfriend,” but I wasn’t going to throw down ultimatums—I wasn’t going anywhere! So, before we went to Egypt I put some energy into letting go. I can’t tell you how I let go, I just got more scared that I was ruining the present than worried about having a married future together.

And the present was awesome, so I tried to apply some Zen to the situation and turned my thoughts to enjoying our relationship fully now and releasing expectations of how it should be.

Unbeknownst to me, there were spreadsheets: my ring was already in his 2010 budget (under “car repairs”). He was getting ready in his own quiet way. He bought it a mere three months after the Bridal Porn Debacle. He kept it at the jeweler’s then planned an amazingly romantic trip to Cairo for “my birthday” in October. He hid the ring in his cargo pants for days, awaiting the right moment. He secretly worried that he had waited too long—that I would be more relieved than thrilled—and he wanted me to be thrilled to the core. He wanted to make my dreams come true.

The morning that he proposed I was getting up my courage to ask him at dinner that night if he thought he would ever feel ready to get married again. The very moment he was sneaking the ring out of the safe and into his cargo pants, I (from the bathroom) asked him if he thought we would grow old together and have grand adventures. Three hours later, on a hill overlooking the pyramids, he was down on one knee. Once I had satisfied myself that he was asking because he wanted to, and not because I had pressured him into it, we were finally released from the Pre-Engaged State.

The next day we went to the National Museum in Cairo, and ended up sitting on a bench amid the huge sarcophagi, holding hands, and scheming about the delicious lifetime of adventures we would have together. And from that platform of excitement about our future, I redeemed myself by planning a gorgeous, affordable, meaningful, and (mostly) sane wedding.

When I think back on what was driving all of that crazy, the answer is quite simple. It was about Love. I loved Brian so much, but I felt it wasn’t safe to unleash the full force of it on him until I knew for sure he was there, too. I needed an outlet for all of that energy. I’m a closet designer/foodie/travel buff and so I unleashed my love on a fantasy wedding. It was culturally sanctioned and it was emotionally safer than pouring it into a future I wasn’t a hundred percent sure he wanted.

So if any of you reading are currently suspended in the Pre-Engaged State, there are a couple of things you need to know:

  1. It’s OK to want—really, really, badly—to marry Your Person, and to not know what to do with yourself if they aren’t quite there yet.
  2. It’s also OK to enjoy and dream about beautiful things—buying and arranging stuff is a fundamental expression of humanity, culture and self. Choosing treasured artifacts to surround and adorn us during significant life rituals is profoundly human (dude, I bet half the stuff in the National Museum in Cairo was somebody’s wedding shit).
  3. If you tell anyone stories like these, they will retell them during toast-time, and everyone will laugh, fondly, knowingly, and hard.
  4. And finally, most importantly: You are not crazy. What you are is crazy in love. And there’s nothing shameful about that.
Photos: Manya’s Personal Collection

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  • This made me laugh and cheer for you. Because I totally had a Kn*t account, had looked at bridal magazines when in the bookstore, and was avidly reading APW months before we got engaged. And yes to the last point – being crazy in love absolves you of a whole heck of a lot.

  • Love this post!! this made me smile very large on the train today :) and also made me feel a little less guilty about jumping the gun during our proposal.

    A coworker summed up my being in the pre-engaged state as” Jenn, if he doesn’t propose to you while you’re home over Christmas, I’m gonna kill him. And then make him propose to you. Because I’m tired of hearing about it.”

  • I know this was funny, but I just cried all the way through it. Manya, you write so beautifully about what it means to be a person and, for me, a woman. I was never even IN the pre-engaged state, and yet the image of you silently sobbing upstairs resonated so deeply with me. This was such a great piece.

    One of my best friends told me once that she forced herself to let go of the pre-engaged angst when her looooong-term boyfriend gave her a beautiful pair of diamond…. earrings, and it made her think “I should not be SAD when someone gives me diamond earrings!” She resolved to Stop Thinking About It, and it helped. But it is hard hard hard, and this post captured that so wonderfully and honestly.

  • Elissa

    I could have used this post a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t bought any magazines or tried on any dresses, but I’ve been reading APW for 2.5 years and have given significant thought to the dress I want to make for myself, and I have the folder full of images – oh, and I’ve only been “officially” pre-engaged for about 2 weeks (I count it from the night I lay awake mentally composing my APW pre-engagement submission – when I finally came to terms with marriage as it relates to me and decided that I wanted to get married).

    We’re now into the next stage of pre-engagement limbo, where we’ve talked about marriage and decided to definitely do it – but not doing anything about it for now… And I’ve admitted my secret Hypothetical Wedding That I’ve Thought Way Too Much About. A few weeks ago I would have been mortified if my partner had found my secret folder of saved images and noticed the ‘last modified’ dates on some of them! Now, I think it’d be ok :)

  • Ceebee

    I never found apw until I was broken up and need a little wedding cheer.
    I came here for real people, real issues, real love, real happiness and never went back to wedding porn again.
    I had a david’s bridal moment too. I was dating my last guy for only a week before I shipped out to Texas, and in the few months I watched every episode of Whose Wedfing is it Anyway? And went to look (but not try on) at dresses. When he finally got here after 3 months, I’ve magazines and catalogs, but fortunately for me, he was the one with a longer wedding fantasy wishlist :)

  • Lor

    “What you are is crazy in love”

    That was my most favorite thing out of the whole post. Thank you for it!

  • Abby C.

    Oh, thank you, Manya!

    I totally had this, BAD. In fact, I discovered APW during the pre-engaged craziness. Honestly, I think APW and Reclaiming Wife deserve a large portion of the credit for keeping me sane and helping me sort out alot of conflicting feelings during that time.

    • FawMo

      For real!

      I fully credit APW with helping me realize that there isn’t a magic jar of All The Engagements and that if I don’t run to get one before my girlfriends there won’t be any left for me. APW has made me a better partner and a better friend.

    • Here, Here!

  • Holy Crap! That was all me. All the way down to that stupid David’s Bridal profile. I must have called the store at least 3 times begging them to Stop Sending Me Things Before He Gets the Mail First.

    I appreciate your laying bare what most of us go through but are afraid to admit to!

    • Hahaha, David’s Bridal should totally be aware of what they are doing to us secret bridal planners! I resisted the secret bridal shop visit, but just barely.
      I did sign up for The Knot, just to look at the pretty pictures and ideas and they sent me junk mail stuff for new moms! I’m not kidding. I got parenting magazines and coupons and then I got BABY FORMULA sent to me and my boyfriend (now my husband!) asked if there was something he should know. Bridal magazines might be bad enough, but for him to think I was stocking up on formula?!

      Manya, your writing is beautiful and your story funny and soooo true. Thank you.

  • Wow Manya, your writing. I could relate so much. When we were in that awkward pre-enganged phase, a very good friend of mine got engaged. Since I live in Europe and she lives in Bolivia, she asked me to try on for her some dresses that are not sold over there. I was already kind of daydreaming about dresses for ONE day sometime hopefully in the near future, and I kind of took the opportunity. I went to the bridal shop, lied about the date and fell in love with the very first dress I tried on. The boy knew all of this, but it took another 8 months after that for us to get engaged. And wow it is hard, that waiting, wanting, loving someone so much, knowing they are there too, when you are still not engaged. You describe so well the tension of the in between, the sobbing… in my case during a short vacation in Italy, I had a silly meltdown in Verona’s main square because I had convinced myself that he would ask me right there. So awkward. But after that we talked about it, we made vows to each other right there and then, and he told me it would happen (the engagement) somewhere in the next year. Thanks for sharing this, it helps to know that we are not alone in all of this whirlwind of feelings that precede the engaged period.

  • Shiri

    You just helped me make so much sense of my feelings when we got engaged…”relieved, not thrilled”. I was joyful, but also happy to have it done (this sounds so awful!). Thank you for helping me accept this feeling…and the months of anxiety that went before it!

  • I relate! I’ve had the fake wedding date and the Kn*t account too. I have thought about going to David’s Bridal, but never quite have gone that far…

    I’m in a happy pre-engaged state now, actually. But it’s a different version. It’s a he and I have both acknowledged that we want to get married, but also acknowledge he wants to do the whole ring and proposal deal and we can’t yet (we’re long distance) so whenever we can afford to fly me to his country, then we’ll get officially engaged. So a different time of pre-engaged, but still, I’ve been there. And I still sort of feel there. I sometimes tell him things like “Yes, I want a proposal. Yes I want a ring. I want to do things ‘right’… but I really wish I could call you my fiance and change my facebook status to engaged. And legitimately go and look and wedding dresses and stuff.” And he laughs at me and agrees it sounds nice… but we can’t. So be patient, crazy one! :)

  • steff

    love it! sometimes i skip over wedding graduate posts because i’m more in the reclaiming wife category now – but this is just plain good writing, and funny, and heartfelt. glad it all worked out in the end!! and sure it will help others.

  • carrie

    Oh, Manya. You are so very awesome. Thank you for sharing another part of your amazing journey.

    David and I got on the same page very quickly and mostly simultaneously, although I remember the night I plucked up the drunken courage to ask him if marriage was even something he wanted. I swayed on my barstool at a post-wedding party, and asked “would you ever want to get married?”. There were knots in my boozy stomach, and I was thinking “oh God, this could be it right here. He may say he doesn’t believe in marriage and then what?” He looked at me with his serious teacher face and said, “To you? Yes.” Matter of factly, absolutely. I don’t even remember what I said after that. But I remember the relief of knowing we were both on that page because I loved him so much, I wanted us to have forever together. My rambling point is that you beautifully spelled out so much of what’s right about the pre-engaged state. This, one billion times and thank you:

    You are not crazy. What you are is crazy in love.

    • Rachel

      Bahaha, after reading some posts on this website I really want to take a poll… like, raise your hand if you first brought up marriage with your significant other while drunk :)

      We were drunk at a bar and I was all “I’m just so worried you don’t actually want to MARRY me!” (and his parents are divorced so I thought maybe that was making him skeptical of marriage or something), and he just said, “I moved to Oklahoma with you. OKLAHOMA. Of COURSE I want to marry you.” …valid point.

  • JT

    This post rings so true! I wish I had been better able to let go when I was in limbo and just enjoy the progression of my relationship rather than rushing forward dragging my relationship and poor (now)husband behind me…

    I umm… may have gone to a wedding expo with my mom (just to look, right?) when I was pre-engaged (I knew the ring existed… it just hadn’t been given yet). Then I ran into a classmate from high school who was working at one of the booths. She asked if I was engaged and I nearly DIED. Whoops.

    When I was pre-engaged I felt like I was just waiting to get engaged and once I was engaged, initally I felt like I was just waiting to get married. I just wanted to move forward. I think one of the best lessons I learned from my engagement (eventually) is to slow down and appreciate what we have and where we are RIGHT NOW. Right now is great, and I don’t want to miss it because I’m so worried about what should be coming next.

    • Shiri

      “When I was pre-engaged I felt like I was just waiting to get engaged and once I was engaged, initially I felt like I was just waiting to get married. I just wanted to move forward. I think one of the best lessons I learned from my engagement (eventually) is to slow down and appreciate what we have and where we are RIGHT NOW. Right now is great, and I don’t want to miss it because I’m so worried about what should be coming next.”

      This, this. So this. I’m trying.

    • Nicole

      Emerging from long-time lurker here…I started reading APW early this year, during my own pre-engaged-but-secretly-obsessing-about-weddings-stage. I have to say, this site got me through by reminding me that my feelings, my hopes, my anxieties were totally normal. APW gave me a sense of community, of company, during a tough and confusing time.

      “When I was pre-engaged I felt like I was just waiting to get engaged and once I was engaged, initially I felt like I was just waiting to get married.”

      This. This resonates with me so much. I feel like this applies to so many areas of my life, but I am especially trying to work on it now, with being engaged. To enjoy this year of planning, of exploration, of hoping and dreaming with my partner. It’s not easy to let go but as Manya reminds us, when we do, the universe rewards us.

    • Chelsea

      I just had to remind myself of this! I love my current relationship, and I know eventually we’ll be married, but I’m so impatient! I think my impatience about getting out of the pre-engaged stage comes from the fact things have always been in a line for me. I was excited about jr high, then couldn’t wait for high school. Then it was counting down the days till college. And then getting stoked on graduating. And now, I don’t have anything in my list of things to be excited about, so my brain grabbed on to BEING ENGAGED! SHINY RING! PLANNING A WEDDING! as the next thing to be excited about.
      And I am excited about it. But every few weeks, I have to remind myself that I already think right now is awesome, and I like where I am, and where we are. And there’s no hurry to take another step up my list.
      Not to say this stops me from looking at APW, Off Beat Bride, The Kn*t, and running my own wedding tumblr. I like weddings. They’re pretty and I like seeing other couples happy.

  • I managed to blow the pre-engaged state, and I’m still beating myself up over it.

    We knew we were getting married for years, but every time we talked specifics about getting engaged, he invented a new deadline: after I graduated college, after he graduated college, after he found a job, after I found a job…and on and on. Finally we were ready and were talking to a jeweler about getting my mother’s engagement stone set, and in December of last year I finally let myself fall into the abyss of wedding research, knowing that the proposal was coming in a matter of weeks. Then our dog got sick and died and I lost my job, and instead of buying us bliss our tax refunds were suddenly slotted to staving off eviction for a few months.

    We had a series of long, very hard conversations about the financial part of getting engaged, and how very little that meant to me. He asked for a deadline to try and make the proposal he wanted happen; I suggested the family vacation we were going on in June, which he had previously talked of excitedly as the first time we’d get to see his grandfather as an engaged couple. I put together an enormous folder of bookmarks of beautiful rings for under $200, some under $100, and finally one for $17. The weeks and days marched down to June, and nothing happened. With a week to go, he ordered the $17 ring. It never arrived. The order never went through.

    We spent the day before leaving for the vacation driving around St. Louis with an almost empty gas tank and $30 to our names, desperately searching for some small token to make it official. The surprise proposal he wanted was never going to happen. I couldn’t wait any longer. Finally we found a hideously ugly emerald ring in a hippie store that stank of patchouli and suffered the car ride back to his parents house with our hearts breaking: How were we supposed to do this now? Does he just propose in the car, at a stop light, over the bag of Culver’s on the floor? We were getting calls from his family, who were eager to hit the road. We had five minutes to get engaged and everything was wrong.

    There was no romance in that moment. There was no spontaneity or joy, and my tears were actually of sadness. I knew that I had ruined what was supposed to be one of the most exciting things to ever happen to us by setting and enforcing a deadline (that most romantic of concepts), but I also knew that if I hadn’t done that we still, five months later, would not be engaged.

    Ultimately, our clumsy escape from the pre-engaged state was worth it. Now I can plan in the open without shame, I have a real ring with my mom’s stone, and everyone we know is thrilled for us. Not many of them know the real story, and I’m OK with that, but I hate seeing my friends in long-term relationships fawn over my ring and ask about wedding details while their boyfriends shift awkwardly. Just talk about it! Be as open as possible, and while that still might not be enough to save you from a really terrible engagement story, at least ours ultimately has a happy ending that might not have happened if I’d pinned my lips and hid my excitement at the thought of getting married to an amazing person.

    • Oh sweetie–this is a story that someday you will love, because it is so uniquely YOURS, and because you lived through it together.

    • JT

      “I managed to blow the pre-engaged state, and I’m still beating myself up over it… …There was no spontaneity or joy, and my tears were actually of sadness. I knew that I had ruined what was supposed to be one of the most exciting things to ever happen to us…”

      Please, please stop beating yourself up and forgive yourself! Life is complicated, and just as many of us have weddings that are perfect in their imperfection, many of us have proposals that aren’t want we hoped for or expected. What I see when I read your story is that you and your partner wanted to share how you felt with your families badly enough that you drove around searching for a ring, any ring, to symbolize your commitment. AND because of the imperfect proposal, you moved past the frustrations of figuring out how to move on to the next phase or your relationship- you’re there! That moment is one of many imperfect moments that will shape your relationship, and instead of focusing on what it wasn’t, try to appreciate it for what it was and what it can teach you about yourself and your relationship.

      I don’t want to minimize the hurt that comes along with having a moment you dream about for so long turn out to be nothing like what you had hoped for. It hurts and it’s hard and it takes time to let go of what you wanted and try to accept what you got. I just want you to stop blaming yourself!

  • Shaya

    Awesome post! I am just barely a month out of the pre-engaged state. Now I’ve got to hold back the excitement of finally being engaged and not get everything planned in a month.

  • Manya! You’re always full of such amazingly wise words.

    Like most of the commenters here, I was one of the crazy pre-engaged brides. Finding APW was when I was finally able to come out of the closet a little with it (“See, babe, it’s not just pretty, it’s about relationships and marriage!”) but I never really could articulate WHY I was such a crazy person.

    “It was culturally sanctioned and it was emotionally safer than pouring it into a future I wasn’t a hundred percent sure he wanted.”

    Oh. Yes. That. There I was having bought a house with Forrest (and a cabin on 80 acres). And a beloved dog. We had budget spreadsheets (that DID not include a wedding…but did include substantial savings). He’d told me, in no uncertain terms, that he wanted to marry me but that he wanted me to be sure. We were building a life I loved together and I was crazy because I wanted the promises of permanence. AHA!

    I was going somewhere somewhat smart and intelligent with this but really, thank you for putting words to what I was feeling.

  • Jo

    These stories make me cry with joy and the realness of it all. I love it. I too talked myself out of the idea that he was going to propose, since it was killing me to wonder… to the point that when he took me to the beach where we’d first discussed marriage, checked us in to a fancy hotel, and said we should go watch the sunset (with a soundtrack via cd player and speakers) with a picnic… I was still surprised when he brought out the ring. As it should be!!

  • Alana

    My criminal mastermind of a fiance was so worried that I had intuited that he was going to propose (in fact, since the football sock he’d hidden the ring in for three months had rolled out of the wardrobe, he thought I KNEW) that he embarked upon a month-long campaign to throw me off his scent by convincing me that he wasn’t ready yet, and further more was feeling a bit pressured thankyouverymuch. We’re talking a month of feigned discomfort and even a completely staged hissy fit after some guests brought up the dreaded M word. He was so convincing that I a) bought it completely, and b) felt rather sad and flat all month. And then he proposed (splendidly, elaborately, gloriously) and I, like Manya, had to interrogate him about whether he was doing it out of pressure or whether it truly came from within before I could say yes. I appreciate that he wanted me to be surprised, but, er, to be honest I think his strategy went a bit far, lol! Being surprised is nice, but I would have been surprised anyway. As it was it was quite hard to switch from the ‘he just isn’t ready’ mindset to the ‘oh my, he just proposed’ one! But bless him, his heart was in the right place :P

    • Oh my, the IRONY. I had a friend whose husband was doing the same thing to her… yet I knew that he was actually in the process of procuring her ring because he had asked for my help with it! It was torturous to watch her suffering and I had to tell him to dial it back!

    • FawMo

      One of my best girlfriend’s lost her job earlier this year and over beers that night she cried to me about how, now that their, financial situation changed her then-BF wasn’t going to propose and they would have to go through another holiday without a ring! I sat there grinding my teeth because he had emailed me about jewelers just a few weeks before. They got engaged over the summer, she got a job and their wedding is going to be a blast.

      Everyone gets a little crazy. It helps to step back and realized it’s no cake walk for the asker either!

    • Your story reminded me of Friends, when Chandler tries to convince Monica that he doesn’t want to get married EVER so that the engagement will be a surprise ;)

  • Oh, this post was just what I needed this morning. And it made me cry. I AM a crazy pre-engaged woman. I tried really, really hard not to be, but…somewhere in the last six months I decided that my boyfriend was going to propose this Christmas. Well, he’s not. At least, that’s what he says. So, all of my wedding porn gets pushed further under the bed.

    I needed this post, because I can’t help but feel realy foolish lately. Maybe it’s everyone else asking me when it’s going to happen, or maybe it’s my slightly overzealous wedding blog reading, but…I feel foolish. And not like myself. And I hate it.

    We are going on a little vaca for Thanksgiving, and I hope (I should say, I am determined!) to keep the little parrot on my shoulder (ya know, the one who whispers dangerous things like “ooh, this could be it!” every time my boyfriend has a seemingly spontaneous idea) silent. Utterly silent.

    Manya, thank you for your wise words. I will keep them close to my heart. And I will not go to David’s Bridal.

    • Forgive yourself–and if you end up going to David’s Bridal that’s ok! Just give them a fake name. And don’t let worrying eclipse just loving each other and enjoying the love.

    • Moomin

      That parrot is insane. Last year I ruined our anniversary by thinking EVERY TWO SECONDS ‘this might be it’ and feeling so disappointed at the end that it never happened. This year on our anniversary I just confessed – “I am distracted by thinking that you might propose.” He told me that no, today he definitely wasn’t going to propose, which was BRILLIANT because I stopped thinking about it and had one of the nicest days all year. I’m sure he will propose at some point (or I will) and in the meantime i just keep sending the parrot away.

      It’s also hard criticising yourself for being so ‘crazy’ as if it’s a ‘weak woman’ thing to be feeling. It can’t be true, because look around at the company we’re in :)

  • Jen

    Manya! I am so happy that you’re writing somewhere else too! I’ve always enjoyed your comments here.

    I haven’t even gotten the chance to read the post yet because I’ve been too enthralled by your writing over at Safari Mama.

    • Cool! Thanks for going over there to check it out! That’s a new-ish project, but I’m enjoying it a lot so far, and dream of having a bunch of women like the APW crowd over there!

  • Wedding porn was my comfort during one of our long-distance phases. Started with The Kn#t and then all the other pretty wedding blogs. Eventually though I got sick of meaningless photos and found my way here. But it was still more than a year until we actually got engaged.

    • meg

      You owe us a grad post… at least for the new year, no???

      • Ha, I was waiting to see how long it would take you to start in on me. Yes, it’s coming soon I promise.

  • Renee.S

    Just last week I emerged from the pre-engaged state that lasted about a year. Being in a long distance relationship meant that every time he did something special sounding or quirky or very “us,” I was on high ring alert. A month ago, we had a shake-down about it and I decided unbeknownst to him that I didn’t want to go visit him for his birthday. Then I realized I was being stupid and changed my mind. I love him, right? Just because I think something should be happening doesn’t mean it should be so; how spoiled does that make me? I could go and enjoy his birthday without all the pressure. Of course, after my zen transformation, he proposed on his birthday after months of secret planning. It all happened as it should have.

    Being pre-engaged sucks. You make it suck. Other people make it suck. It puts a strain on the relationship. But once it’s over, it’s glorious. Honestly, the only thing that helped me during that time was APW.

  • This was hilarious and pitch-perfect.

    And there should be a seminar that teaches jewelry-salepeople around the globe to ask any man purchasing diamond earrings/pendant necklace how long they have been dating their significant other. If the answer is “longer than a year,” they are not allowed to sell those items to said man. They will instruct that man to go for the tennis bracelet instead, or better yet a giant homebrew kit, or a puppy, or something. NO SMALL BOXES AAIIIHHHHHHHH.

    • meg


  • Carrie

    This reminds me so much of my own pre-engaged crazy (which I wrote about in my guest post here). And it kills me yet again that I felt like the world would end if I dared to open my mouth and tell my boyfriend “So, um, I have to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting married. Do you ever think about that?” Just talk to him about what was on my mind, instead of cramming it all down inside and trying to hide it all from him.

    Why did that seem so impossible? I mean, I know why. It’s because we’re all supposed to assume that men don’t want to get married, and talking about it will cause them to freak out and run screaming away from you, or else propose just to shut you up.

    It would be a heavy conversation to have, sure. You might find out that he doesn’t believe in marriage at all, or that the idea hasn’t even crossed his mind yet. Or worst of all, that he has thought about it and decided he doesn’t want to marry you.

    But you also might find out that he’s totally been thinking about it too, but wasn’t sure how you felt. Or that he feels the same way as you, but really wants to do a traditional surprise proposal. Or that he wants to save up so he can give you a really expensive ring (and then you can talk about whether that’s important to you or not). Or — as I found out from my now-husband during our engagement — that he definitely wanted to get married, and knew you did too, but assumed that you wanted to wait for something (he’d assumed I wouldn’t want to get married until I had finished my Ph.D).

    If I had it to do over again, I would definitely talk to him instead of stewing inside my own head the whole time. I would not feel like I had to just wait silently for him to propose, pretending like I didn’t care and had never given marriage a thought in order to avoid “scaring him away.” I would realize that I had talked with him about big scary stuff before, and he hadn’t run away, so maybe it was safe for me to trust him with this too.

    I would still propose to him, with a ring, as a surprise. Because that was awesome (once it stopped being terrifying). But I would have talked with him about marriage long before.

    • Ana Maria

      Exactly! “I would definitely talk to him instead of stewing inside my own head the whole time. I would not feel like I had to just wait silently for him to propose”.

      Maybe I’m out of the loop on the whole tradition of boy proposing to girl, but when I felt we were ready, I talked to him about it and he was completely on the same page but wouldn’t have asked me until 123893 years later because 1. he still has a long way to go to finish his degree, and 2. has no job.

      Seeing that I live in a country far from my family I told him having a ring on my finger would buy him props with the relatives he has yet to know, so I did pester him to do the whole get me a ring . There was a 2-week period in when I actually gave him oppurtunties to make the perfect proposal, like “Why don’t we go for a walk in the park?” or, “Why don’t we get dolled up and eat out at this nice restuarant?” or, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go to X place for the weekend?” And when he finally did it (under my conditions!) I was still in awe and in love and cried.

      I feel like once we finally realized we’d be marrying each other I turned into bride-zilla, typed “wedding” and “wedding dresses” in google and of course was bombarded by picture perfect wedding sites. Finally I found APW after maybe 6 months of not understanding why these superficial sties made me sad and feel imperfect. And I found people like you Mayna who keep us sane! Thanks for the post!

  • Trina

    Delurking to say thank you to Manya and Meg from those of us who are pre-engaged. This really resonated with me–not just because of the cultural noise about weddings and marriage, but my own. The pressure is compounded by the fact that I thought I knew once before and was so incredibly wrong that I almost find it difficult to believe that something *this right* could be mine. The advice and “permission to dream” are welcomed.

  • Katie

    Manya, thank you so much for writing this. It really resonated with me. Mister and I have been engaged for about a year now, but I remember the pre-engagement insanity well. The thing is, I was never crazy about weddings until I started dating my Mister. We started dating and I thought, “Welp, this is all I want forever and ever.” Right from the get-go, marriage is what I wanted. The kicker is that he didn’t know if he wanted to get married at all! To anyone. Ever.
    It felt like a kick to the stomach. We had conversation after conversation about it, with both of us trying to understand what was going on with the other. I spent hours lurking here and on Offbeat Bride (and, yes, the Kn*t), while feeling too guilty to make an account or comment or make any decisions because I was TERRIFIED of putting too much pressure on him.
    One day, we were sitting in the bedroom in his apartment and we had another conversation, in which he said that he wanted to wait. To be fair, it had not been long, but we both had wanted to be together for a long time before we actually dated. I was sobbing, but I tried to form a coherent sentence to say that it was fine that he wanted to wait, I was just impatient and I’d be okay.
    Needless to say, he didn’t believe me. He decided to give us both a little while to be alone and asked to use my car. I said okay. I cried nearly the entire time he was gone.
    He came back, gave me a hug and kiss, and made dinner. I walked into the kitchen to apologize to him for being a crazy and to tell him it would probably go away soon.
    I never got the chance to say any of that past “I’m sorry,” because he got down on one knee and pulled out a cherry-flavored “Ring Pop.” He said that he had spent the last two hours thinking about it and realized that he really did want to keep this going forever. My answer was something like “OhmygodyesIloveyoucomehere” and snogging him.
    I did make sure to talk to him and make sure this wasn’t just me pressuring him into submission. He said it wasn’t. Several months later, one day before our anniversary, he did a “public” proposal, complete with marching band who played “You Can Call Me Al” and “99 Luftballoons.” No, really.
    So it can get better. Be crazy if you feel crazy. It’s okay. When you know, you know, and everyone “knows” in their own time. Sometimes, you’ll know before your partner, and sometimes, your partner will know before you. It happens. It’s okay to be a crazy. We’re all right there with you. <3

  • Manya, I love you and I love your posts.

    • Mwah. I love APW. The most unexpected gift our wedding brought me was the amazing APW community.

  • Barbara

    Manya, thank you so much for this post! I, like others have written, am in the crazy pre-engaged state. And I, like others (or so I’m telling myself) may have gotten leaky eyeballs while reading this.

    We’ve had the wedding talk, I am shameless about my love for everything weddings…but also in that”wouldn’t this be nice for someone w ho may be having a wedding but definitely not me” kind of way. AND ITS HARD. Thank you for your words, and for (hopefully, for my and my bf’s sake) allowing me to at least think about letting go. But mostly thank you for reminding me that its ok to feel this way, and to enjoy everything as it comes.

  • Nicole

    Manya, this was an incredible story and a beautifully written essay. And this is coming from someone who was never quite pre-engaged (if anything, it was my partner who was pre-engaged, as she proposed to me at least five times before the real proposal). So, even from someone who can’t identify much with this situation at all…this was awesome. Thank you for writing it.

  • Manya, you’re such a fantastic story-teller and writer. Love you and all your posts, as well as your infectious optimism and understanding!

  • KW

    Thank you for this post; I have saved it for future reference. I am in the pre-engaged camp due to long distance, and he wants to wait 6-12+ months after living together again before moving forward. It drives me crazy, but I should *enjoy* this part, instead of hate it.

  • Sarah H.

    Long time lurker, first time writer here, because this post really spoke to my experience of pre-engagement. I really want to forward this post to my new fiance and say, “Look! This is why I was like a crazy person for the last 6 months! Because I love you!”

    He caught me looking at APW a couple of times over the past few months and liked to tease me about it. It was definitely embarrassing- especially when he would mention it to mutual friends (or his parents!). But he also told me that he liked that I was so excited about spending our lives together.

    And of course I should have known that the day he brought me flowers in bed would be The Day, but I had finally reached a truce with the wedding monkey on my back and just accepted it as a “just because I love you” surprise. And I’m so oblivious that when we were walking in the park later that day, I wasn’t thinking “Wow, this would be a perfect day for a proposal.” Instead I was thinking, “Wow, today’s so perfect I wish it were my birthday or something.” And my Zen thinking was rewarded about 30 seconds later…

    So thank you Manya and everyone else for sharing your journeys! It’s nice to know that I wasn’t alone.

  • Hanna

    I may or may not have a folder of bookmarks titled “ideas” and I may or may not say it’s full of ideas for teaching.

    In actuality it has multiple wedding bookmarks.

    Oh pre-engaged bliss.

    • mimi

      I also have a folder of bookmarks titled “ideas”. Hopefully those men don’t get any ideas in their heads about checking bookmarks of ideas…

    • Mine is titled “unmentionables”. Ha.

    • Mine is called “Stuff for Stuff.” There is a note on my iPhone titled the same. The iphone note may or may not have seven entries for random stuff that make no sense before going into the wedding stuff, so as to protect me if anyone accidentally hits the “note” icon on my phone when trying to get to the calendar or something else.

    • LaikaCatMeow

      Mine is called “Misc.” hidden deep, deep, deep on a website I never use (except for this) and I know my boyfriend will never go – – Pinterest.

  • LilSass

    Oh what I timely post! Last night while lazily reading the NYT and watching Say Yes to the Dress (so ridiculous) with my beloved sleeping on my lap, I pondered the ridiculousness of my watching this show. I have a spreadsheet to which I’ve confessed to the beloved about. He was intrigued and thought it hilarious. I mean … we’re gentiles and I’ve half-scripted a Katubah because the idea of a marriage contract with a spiritual foundation really speaks to us. And then today he called me at work to ask the name of the estate jeweler downtown. Seriously? SERIOUSLY??!!!

    Manya, this was the most beautifully written post I’ve read in a long time. Thank you!

  • Shawn

    This post was great. I wanted to add that while the pre-engaged state can be awkward or painful at times, I think it has its positives, too. It has allowed me to go through the whole secret planning and dreaming about a huge traditional wedding at my own pace and without the stressful deadlines that I would have faced had I done it while actually engaged. And like many others who commented, having time for this research forced me to really think hard about what I want a wedding and a marriage to look like and taught me that there are more options out there than I even realized. My view of weddings has calmed down in a good way and become more mature and authentic to my true self – probably a process many went through on their way to this site. And I’m glad that when I become engaged “for reals” that I already have a lot of that process under my belt.

    • Yes! Totally! I’ve been lurking on sites for a while and my tastes have changed and ideas have come and gone in that time. I’m hoping once I’m engaged for realz, I’ll have a better sense of what I really want.

    • Hell yes.

  • This makes me feel sooooo much better! I had this obsession looong before the talks of marriage. Piles of wedding magazines. I blamed it on “being in the industry” I think he was smarter than that. I still feel guilty to this day, three years later, that maybe I started too early and pressured him, but the fact that we are waiting a few years and enjoying our “engaged bliss” I feel relieved, less pressure, and intend on enjoying the SANE wedding planning process. Thank you!

  • Lucy

    This post brought me to tears out of nowhere. Thank you for your words. My boyfriend and I have been in the awkward Pre-Engaged state for over a year now. I haven’t done so much of the secret looking at Things – lots of pictures online but no stash of magazines – but I have done the “it’s a wonderful date/vacation/conversation/Chinese take out, I bet he’s going to do it tonight!” way too many times. (These have not been helped by my boyfriend’s confession that, one of those nights I expected it and it didn’t happen, he HAD actually been going to propose, and then didn’t. And couldn’t give a reason why he hadn’t beyond, “I don’t know.”) Even my mother asked me after our vacation in August if anything had “happened”. With us both in our fifth and final year of college, I have decided that I am not allowed to think about it and obsess anymore. I’m the type of person whose mood gets routinely ruined by these kinds of thoughts. Boyfriend and I currently only get to see each other once a week due to our busy schedules, and we can’t afford to have that little time destroyed by my moods.

    So again, thank you for your kind words. Even with my self-banishment from engagement thoughts, I will try to take #4 to heart.

  • This post was mortifyingly resonant, but it finally gave me insight into my own pre-engaged state. We had the same joint ah-ha moment and a long two-year wait after that as he got comfortable with where he was and what marriage meant. I too, suffered the unfortunate discovery of my online stash of wedding porn bookmarks (and fake Kn*t and Offbeat bride logins) and a veeeery uncomfortable conversation or two. Mind you, he knew I had set up a wedding savings account – he was on board with that, since we were definitely getting married, but he needed to come to the proposal on his own. Which I respected, even as the waiting spiraled downward cycles of hope, letdown, and crazy-despondency.

    I never quite forgave myself for the pre-engaged wedding crazy. In fact, the pre-engaged panics and doubt were worse than many wedding planning breakdowns, especially because I didn’t have an outlet to talk about it (without exposing the crazy). This post helped me finally make peace with it, and not just because the pre-engaged crazy is a shared experience (though there’s definitely relief in the shared experience). Instead, this line hit home:

    “When I think back on what was driving all of that crazy, the answer is quite simple. It was about Love. I loved Brian so much, but I felt it wasn’t safe to unleash the full force of it on him until I knew for sure he was there, too. I needed an outlet for all of that energy.”

    That’s it. I never thought I was holding back, but I was. I thought we were 100% getting married and completely in love because a 99% assurance can feel an awful lot like 100%. But it’s not. I wanted to share our love and our joy, but I needed to know that he felt the same way, 100%. All that love and anticipation got channeled into “research” when all I really wanted was for us to talk openly about the future (not just the wedding) we had already agreed we wanted.

  • I want to add, I went through an intense pre-wedding time when I was perusing blogs instead of working, and daydreaming about photobooth props. And what has been said was true: a lot of it was about love.

    But a lot of it was about escape. It was something I could plan without committing to (unlike my upcoming cross-country move), it was something I could think about without stress (unlike work) and it was a time I could look forward to when my family and friends would all be in one place together again (now that I was moving and others had moved, too). It was fantasizing about a party with the theme of love and togetherness. I needed that escape.

    • Kellyh

      I just have to chime in here because I really think Emily hit it on the head with the “escape” bit. I rarely comment (though I am a faithful reader) in part because I am pre-engaged and still wrestling with those demons. My relationship is about to hit the 7 year mark and I have been reading APW (and otherwise thinking about weddings) for 2 years now. We haven’t had a ring discussion but we have had a hell of a lot of “life” discussions. We both think this is it, but it has been a long and sometimes painful process. I think wandering around the interwebs looking at pretty pictures and thinking about colors and dresses and other frivolous things is partly my way of taking a break from thinking about the darker side of being pre-engaged, namely the completely irrational DOUBT and INSECURITY and crazy, lots of crazy. That’s completely aside from the general stress of trying to make sense of career, grad school, etc etc. No wonder I can spend hours looking at stationary!

  • Cassandra

    Hahahaha. I read this first thing this morning at work, and it’s still making me giggle tonight after trick-or-treating. We are so pre-engaged it hurts. We know we’re getting married. We even know it’s probably going to be early next summer due to PhD/international long distance/visa issues. We’ve had lots of conversations, he’s seen pictures of rings I like and think are not offensively expensive (no offense to those with richer tastes and bigger budgets than I!). We’ve done all that. But we haven’t done the buy-a-ring-ask-the-question-get-excited. He knows I want that – the engagement and the getting to be excited for a little while. But while he’s a-okay talking about the upcoming marriage, the asking? Not happening. I don’t even consider when it might happen, because I’m a bit afraid it won’t – that we’ll get up one day (on one of the few days he’s back home with me) and decide that we should go to the court house the next week. And I’m trying to be at peace with that.

    Because we’ve long been building a life together, with our daughter who he has taken on whole-heartedly and without fear, and with our plans for all the adventures we’re going to have until we’re old and wrinkly. And the life-building is what I’ve actually been looking forward to and have been excited about… but the question sure would be nice ;)

    Also, Meg, why did you have to link to Manya’s blog? I definitely didn’t need another great excuse to procrastinate at work :)

    • are you me? LIKEWISE. (also the visa issue adds its own special spin to the insanity, because part of me thinks I’d be able to take all of this more in its stride, but the simple fact that we can’t be together if we don’t get married and/or he gets a job willing to give him a work visa (unlikely in these economic times) is turning me into a crazy person obsessed with getting married.

  • Moz

    Point number 2 is so damn true. And funny.

    Such a generous post, thank you.

  • Ceebee

    Be very careful about this pre-engaged peril. Other than the covert actions, I found myself wanting things that I Really didn’t want before. Suddenly I wanted a fancy ring, suddenly everytime we’re doing something different I’d be hoping for it, suddenly I wanted More than what everyone is having everytime someone gets engaged/married/get a dog/anything! I dealt with this in the thick of depression and I was crazy.

    Coming through, I found myself again. I never wanted any of this. My idea of getting engaged was just having the boy wake up one day and saying hey, I want to wake up to this sight forever. No ring, no venue, nothing. Just us. The proposal is not really for us girls, but for him to grow into a man making the most important choice of his life. If you’re the one, give him time, he’s getting there.

    Getting the right man to want to marry is only the second challenge.
    The first challenge is becoming and growing into the right woman a right man wants to marry.

  • emily

    Manya – Thank you so much! My boyfriend and I have talked about weddings a lot – he’s even asked for my parent’s blessing. I get butterflies and do my hair essentially every time we go out for dinner. And then I crumble from the disappointment when he doesn’t ask. It’s as if I don’t feel like I’m real or that our relationship is real – especially the part where he loves me and wants to be with me forever (which he does) – because we’re not engaged. He’s in the middle of applying to grad school, which is all-consuming for both of us – especially since it will likely involve a cross-country move in the next year. I’m trying to support him as best I can but the last month has been so dark for me. Every time he starts talking about letters of recommendation or his portfolio I just want to scream “WHAT ABOUT US???!!! Why don’t you love me anymore???” I can’t believe that the lack of a stupid piece of jewelry could ever make me feel so empty and alone! And that with the love of my life asleep next to me every single night! How can that BE? I desperately want to shake off these feelings because I too want to be joyful and thrilled when he proposes – not just relieved. We both deserve that moment – we’ve earned it after all this waiting, planning and fighting. Thank you for helping me believe that it’s still possible. And that I’m not crazy. phew!

  • GingerJess

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve read a lot of moving posts on APW, but this is the first one that actually made me cry because I remember EXACTLY that tension-filled pre-engaged phase and my own moments of mortification. You did a great job putting that feeling into words and reminding me that I’m not the only one who has been there.

  • Sophia

    Just wanted to say: thank you so much!
    You have fan over here in Germany.
    pre- engaged Sophia

  • Moe

    Sidenote to other crazy pre-engaged girls…(learn from my mistake) Don’t Ever give your personal contact information to David’s Bridal unless you are totally ok with the AVALANCHE of bridal marketing that will come your way. Phone calls, emails, catalogs….not just from DB but from tuxedo shops, Mary Kay (no you have not won a Pamper Me package, you’re getting a sales pitch!), and honeymoon travel agents.

  • Elianna

    This is a fantastic article and a great resource for all the waiting ladies out there–and even for us married ladies who’ve been through it and still feel guilty.

  • There’s something powerful about ritual and about crafting our own rituals with our loved ones, to celebrate one of the most important things in our lives – our life partner. I think that’s where the ‘crazy’ comes from – we can’t wait to do it! We’re ready now! It’s hard to wait two years, more, when the moment you know, you’re ready to do NOW.

    Those are my thoughts on making peace with the crazy feelings. It’s not about being a princess or having expensive stuff, it’s about ritual.

    Ritual helps us through all our life stages, in fact when certain rituals go missing from a society you notice it, like how we’ve lost our coming-of-age rituals. Our menopausal rituals. there must be more. They helps us shape, understand and enjoy our lives as well as feel a sense of belonging to others.

  • Rebekah

    Thank you. I needed to read this, and especially this week. I have been in my pre-engaged state for a few years now, and the holidays always bring out a flood of engagements for friends whose relationships have been much shorter than mine. Sometimes the impatience overrules the realization that my relationship doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s.

  • Jen

    Thank you so much for talking about this topic, I feel a lot less crazy now. It’s so comforting to know that other people have fake accounts, hidden bookmarks and a list of wedding blogs to read without a ring on their finger.
    I constantly struggle with the desire to get engaged battling the “why rush” question. I’m young (mid 20s…not that young), I don’t quite have the budget for the wedding I want, I’m in grad school and working full time, planning a wedding sounds like hard work… I have all these reasons that I should wait to get engaged, but they are totally outweight by my desire to be married. I’ve tried to give up wedding blogs, but that lasts for about a week each time. This post has definitely made me feel a little relieved and as though I have permision to fantasize. Thanks!

  • Amy

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for “You are not Crazy. You are Crazy in Love.” We are so crazy in love it’s stupid, and having just returned from the first, amazing trip to meet his big, loud extended family, I’m 100% convinced that This Is It.
    This post also rattled and resonated with me, as My Person is divorced, and I don’t know if he’s scared, how much time he needs, if he fully trusts me enough to marry me. And that’s really, really hard. I feel a bit like I’m supposed to be at the right place on the timeline to even talk to him about it- we’ve only been dating for 5 and a half months (crazy, yes? I’m aware). But we have stated, out loud, that we want only each other, always, forever, no one else. And the rest: the ring, the barn wedding, the jobs, the moves, the family will come, in time.
    (And OMG when you see the love of your life smiling and holding a 3 week old baby tell that parrot to STFU!)

  • I have been out of the loop & missed this post :(

    But oohhh Manya <3 I feel those moments so deeply. The wanting even though the divorce was still looming and it was way to soon and what the hell am I thinking oh my God I can't do this again but I love him more than freaking air. The terror. Oh lordy.

    In our situation, Adam was ready to go and I was terrified to let go, but still. Ah. So perfectly displayed. And I am still oh so happy for you <3

    • Love you, Melissa. Seriously. Love. You.

  • Oh man, oh man. I hardly ever comment here because I’m still trying to work through the guilt of being a pre-engaged crazy person with a folder of web bookmarks all labeled in ways which would not tempt people to look at them (my link to Claire Pettibone’s site is entitled “SQL Editing for Historic Data Report”), but thank you so much for this. I needed it.

    I particularly love the part about ruining vacations. I’ve ruined two vacations and a birthday so far! (Maybe I can go for the bingo and turn Christmas into a night of inappropriate and embarassing crying jags as well!) Everytime I feel myself edging back into the “oh today’s the day!” insanity, I’m going to come back to read this post.

    I have it bookmarked under “Retirement Planning Strategies.”

  • holly

    Hold on. I need to freak out first.

    THIS TOTALLY HAPPENED TO ME! I did the exact same thing! Just trade that secret wedding porn magazine stash to an internet history and humiliation is complete!

    Freak out accomplished. Manya, your writing is so lovely and utterly hilarious. Thanks for the sympatico mortification.


    This is so me! I’m not desperate to get engaged right now, but the BF and I have talked about it, and his timeline is waaaay longer than mine. :( Granted, it may change, and I’ve told him that his timeline does make me feel uncomfortable, but I’m working on getting used to it.

    That said, I basically have a hypothetical wedding planned. Super simple/easy, so it’s not like there’s tons of details, but having the plan somehow makes it more real, and makes me want it more. Not the wedding, per se, but the celebration, and the family/friends, and the commitment. (Which, looking at it listed out, is basically a wedding. Sigh.)

  • MadGastronomer

    My sweetie and I are pre-engaged, and we’re enjoying it immensely.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s because we’re both women, and our expectations are completely different from OS couples, and lesbian culture (well, ok, we’re both bi, but we’re both strongly queer identified and have spent a lot of time in lesbian communities) encourages talking these things out.

    I think the first time we talked about marriage — but far from the first time either of us had thought about it! — she was telling me about an ex of hers who had simply expected her to take the traditional man’s role, and buy the ring, and propose, and everything, and for various reasons, my sweetie was wildly uncomfortable with this. (They never did get engaged.) I, already plotting how and when to engage, said, “I claim the right to propose in this relationship.”

    She sort of blushed and said she was totally fine with that, and I asked her if she wanted me to dress up all butch and go down on one knee in some romantic setting, and she said, “Maaaaaaybe,” in that way she has when she means she’d really like that but she doesn’t really expect me to do it, and, I dunno, from then on we were talking about getting married like it was a decided thing. And it is.

    We haven’t been together very long (six months now), but we were friends for a year before we got together, and living together for six weeks before we started dating (don’t ask, it was a whole thing; but it’s produced a lot of UHaul jokes). We’re both in our thirties (she’s 37, I’m 34), never married or engaged, with strong ideas of what we want. We’re not rushing into this in a fit of NRE and infatuation, and neither of us is prone to that. But we both knew months ago that this was the relationship we wanted to be in for the rest of our lives.

    We’re waiting a few more months to get engaged. I guess we’re both a little nervous about getting engaged too soon. We agreed on somewhere between 9 months and a year, and I’m just going to play it by ear. There’s a lot of crap going on in our lives right now, and I want to pick a relatively quiet moment for it. But I know exactly where and how I want to propose. On our first date, she took me to a beautiful park in our city that I used to drive past on my way to work every day, but had never really seen, because it’s screened from the street by trees. There’s a beautiful old glass conservatory there, and we tried to get in that day, but we were half an hour too late and it was closed (we did make it a couple of weeks later, and it was wonderful). That’s where I want to propose, in the west wing of the conservatory, by the tropical plants.

    She’ll have a little warning, because I’ll get dressed up and tell her to, too. But she won’t know what day it’s coming. She likes some surprise, but not too much, and I can totally work with that.

    We both spend time every week or two looking at pictures of rings, and we’ve tossed around some basic stuff about the wedding, but we’re not obsessed the way so many people here talk about being. We’re enjoying what we have, and enjoying talking about the future, but we spend far more time talking about kids and places to live and other plans for our marriage than any plans for our wedding. We’re in a good place with it, I think.

  • anon

    I have posted other comments here, but this one is anonymous…I’m not willing to be searchable here. LOL.

    My boyfriend and I are long distance and it’s about to get even longer. We’ve both been married before. We’re both very careful about our choices now. Come spring, we’re going to be even farther apart geography-wise than we already are…and y’all, this is a good man. I’m struggling with being at peace with seeing what the next few months brings. I’m terrified to make any leaps of faith but even more terrified of letting a Very Good Thing slip through my fingers.

    So…thank you. I feel not-alone now.

  • M+J

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I’m living this situation right now (luckily there has been no wedding dress try-ons as yet!) and desperately need(ed?) to pull my head out of my a*@, get a little perspective, and enjoy my awesome relationship as it is right now.

  • Lyn

    What I want to know is, what happens when you’ve been lurking in the crazy “pre-engaged” state for so long that it begins to dawn on you that you’ve been together so long that actually having a wedding would feel a bit ridiculous?

  • Lady B.

    This post made me feel so good. I am older (33) and all of my friends are having their first or second children. The few friends I have who were still single have gotten married (most of them started dating after me and my guy). The problem is my guy is quite a bit younger than me (22). It took a lot for me to even consider going on that first date with him, but I am glad he persisted. He is more driven, respectful, loving and grounded than anyone else I have ever dated. We share the same values and are in love and are certain we want to be together in the future. However, it is important to both of us that he has a chance to live life and experience is freedom before settling down, just as I was able to. I don’t want to settle down with someone who has not had a chance to discover who they really are yet. Very bad timing (if only he was born 6 years earlier, lol) is the only real problem we have. I feel guilty looking at sites like this and don’t buy bridal magazines at all, but after 3 years together in a strong, communicative partnership with him it’s tough not to dream. Your article made me feel a little less crazy. Even though my circumstances are slightly different, it’s nice to see that other people feel the same inner conflicts.

  • Elizabeth

    I am also in the pre-engaged state and I am crazy in love, but I was getting that confused with being just plain crazy. Unfortunately some people in real life tend to make me feel worse no matter how well intentioned. Thank you for telling me that I am not alone, and that what I am feeling is “normal”. Thank you for creating a community where there is such wonderful feelings of love and support. I am working on finding my Zen and learning to be content in the now. Because I won’t be pre-engaged forever and often life goes by to quickly not to enjoy every moment.

  • qualm

    “You are not crazy. What you are is crazy in love.”

    Can’t say that I agree. Honestly a lot of these stories sound pretty crazy to me personally, but I don’t think it’s actually about crazy vs. non-crazy or anything pathologizing like that. That said, I don’t think everyone with pre-engagement fever is necessarily “crazy in love.” Some of them are probably unfulfilled in their relationships and think that an engagement/marriage/babies/whatever is going to make them more fulfilling. I think obsessing with this kind of anticipation could definitely be unhealthy for some people.

  • An absolutely beautiful post. So many complex emotions happen for the “pre-engaged;” I felt many of the things you’re describing here myself. Although I didn’t look at bridal magazines or wedding websites, I thought constantly about “will he, or won’t he? Am I even ready yet?” (The answer to the latter question, for a long time, was no).

    I most appreciate what you’re saying about unleashing the “full force” of your love… as women we simultaneously learn and are taught to guard our hearts as much and for as long as possible for fear of getting hurt. The freedom to feel that way is perhaps the greatest part of marriage.

  • Amanda L.

    So, I’m late to this party, but these words BOWLED ME OVER. This is exactly why the pre-engaged state is so very difficult: “I loved Brian so much, but I felt it wasn’t safe to unleash the full force of it on him until I knew for sure he was there, too.”

    Thank you, APW. Even though I’m almost a full year past the pre-engaged state, it’s nice to be able to look at that time through a slightly more-educated lens.

  • This is EXACTLY what I went through as a pre-engaged state! I had a secret folder of images on my computer (my ‘stash’), had secretly bought a bridal magazine or two (supposedly for recently engaged friends) and I had even gone so far as to invest in a ring for him (because if he wasn’t going to propose, by George I was)! But he just wasn’t there yet. Like Manya and Brian, we were reading the same book but as in real life, I was already a few pages ahead. It took me some time to realize that I just had to be patient and let him catch up! (and now we’re planning our March 2013 wedding!)
    Thank you for putting all that angst into words in such a witty way :)

  • Martha

    The pre-engaged state is so ridiculous. My boyfriend (now fiance) and I moved in together 850 miles from home and at the time I told myself I just HAD to be engaged by Christmas (which was 6 months after moving in together). Well, financial issues and him not being ready piled up and it didn’t happen. The funny thing is, I was going crazy, but because my mom was constantly bugging me about it, I started to cool down. I certainly didn’t lose my desire to marry Jack, but my the pressure my parents put on my drove me to the point where I didn’t care. It made me so angry that they were putting all these expectations on our relationship, that it made me drop all of mine, which, in retrospect really helped. When I calmed down Jack and I were able to talk more openly about getting married then we ever had when I was going nuts.

    Then, well over a year after living together, we went home for his cousins wedding. Well, needless to say we had a great time and his whole family kept giving me these funny looks all night. When we got home that night (to his parents house) he had a voicemail from his bank telling him that his account had been frozen due to suspicious charges. I guess several gas station purchases between Missouri and Pennsylvania and then a giant jewelry store purchase was a red flag! Apparently his whole family knew he bought a ring THAT MORNING and were just so excited they didn’t know how to act around me.

    The next few months were a hilarious game of hide-the-ring because I knew, and he knew that I knew, that he had the ring. It was a great story that we look back on and laugh.

  • Mina

    Thank you for writing this article. It has given me peace and strength. Before reading this article, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as being “pre-engaged” even though I’ve been experiencing it for some months now. My Person and I had been dating for 3 and a half years, and a couple of days ago, my mother put on the pressure and suggested that we should be engaged within the year. Naturally, I talked to my boyfriend about it, and he seemed to respond very positively…stating that was his plan all along. So I became certain that he was going to propose within the year, and took that as permission to unleash the “crazy” that I had pent up for the past couple of months. I sent him an email filled with pictures of engagement rings that had caught my eye. He then responded very differently, saying “let’s just take it easy for now.” I talked to him later that night and found out that he had second thoughts very soon after our conversation and that he felt that he wasn’t ready yet. And that was when the mortification set in.

    In agony, I turned to the Internet because I was certain that I was not the only woman to have experienced this, and I was not wrong. It will be hard, but I will wait until My Person is on the same page as I am. Meanwhile, I will keep reading APW and draw upon the support of this strong community of wonderful women.

  • Hannah

    Oh my god.

    Thank you so so so much for writing this. I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. It’s unbelievably relieving to know that someone else has gone through this. My boyfriend and I have talked about getting married and spending our lives together and there’s no questions about it…it’s only a matter of waiting until the time is right to get engaged. In the meantime I feel like I’m going insane and turning into the kind of woman I never thought I was. I’m terrified of pressuring him, but I’m making myself sick with anxiety over waiting. I too am “more scared that I [am] ruining the present than worried about having a married future together.” I’m not sure of how to just “let go” of this nagging feeling, but it’s comforting to know that someone else has. I know deep down that it is only a matter of time and I just have to be patient, but I’m excited to really start our life together.

    I don’t know what else to say. Just thank you thank you thank you for writing this.

  • Katie785

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing all of your stories!! I am almost a year into the pre-engaged state and I am having a difficult time controlling my emotions, even when i can recognize that I am acting crazy.

    It all started about 3 months into the relationship when he told me he would want to be engaged 6-8 months later. That 8 months passed by and while out at a bar and getting hit on by one of his friend’s roommates, my guy butted in and proclaimed that “nobody even knew just how close we were to being engaged.” This was November and we were going to an intimate concert for one of our favorite mushy-acoustic bands the following month. The concert came December 10th and I was so giddy and anxious during the whole thing that I ruined it with utter disappointment. He was texting his friends the entire concert and did not really live for the moment… I was crushed… the holidays came and the holidays went. He’s in the Army to make it worse – so we only got 1 day of travel in for Christmas before he had to be back home.

    I brought it up. I couldn’t control myself anymore and I cried hysterically; telling him how much it hurt that he proclaimed our supposed engagement that never came and how I feel like he doesn’t think I’m good enough to spend forever with… nothing really ever came out of that conversation other than him thinking I was crazy. He rarely says all the right things.

    Then, Valentine’s Day came around. He’s not one for common things like proposing on Valentine’s Day, but I still had my hopes up. If it wasn’t now, then when? I was kidding around about it one day near Vday and he became defensive, as though he was disgusted with the idea of it. This was heart-breaking for sure, but I loved him and I wanted to make it work.

    Now fast forward to our current position – September the next following year. He received new orders from the Army 9 hours away. He asked me to go with him. This means giving up my current job, my prospective job (I spent numerous days and hundreds of hours trying to get a place with KPMG), and all of my close friends and family… I saw that he had searched for rings about 20 days ago.. and I knew it was coming, but not sure when. I’ve ruined so many perfect days and events by hyping myself up and then becoming disappointed when doesn’t happen that I got desperate. I printed out all of the rings I liked and left them on the bed with a note that read ” I like all of these..” Even his best friend told me that it would be a good idea – that guys need all of the heavy hints they can get. It exploded in my face. He was upset. He admitted that he had been thinking about it, but now that I was putting some pressure on it; he would no longer pursue it. He feels pressured and does not want to propose with that feeling. I understand where he is coming from, but I cant help but to feel like the whole situation is unfair. He is okay with asking me to make such a life-altering move, and in return I get no formal commitment? On top of being married, an Army wife is relieved of certain negative parts of being just that – an Army wife. I am not going to have healthcare or access to the base, all of the things the Army recognizes as common sacrifices made by those who commit to Army personnel. I feel cheated and let down. I keep trying to remain Zen – living in NOW. I am about halfway through reading the book “The Power of Now” and that paired with this site is the only thing keeping me from imploding.


    Everytime I feel depressed and resentful about waiting I read this, and it centers me. Thank you so much for writing it.

  • Jessie

    THIS brought tears to my eyes. I’m in the exact same state. One I could not even understand or put into words until THIS. Thank you.

    • CHRIS

      Thank you so much everyone for all of your stories. I’ve been at this point in my relationship for about a year now, and I thought I would get over it, and was so embarrassed and felt ashamed with myself for being such a Kook! Everyone I know that is married/gotten engaged (and it’s been A LOT lately) makes it seem like their boyfriends/significant others woke up one day so completely enamored with them that they decided right then and there that they just had to marry them. The worst part of it has been the “Poor unengaged/unmarried girl” head-tilt, scrunched-faced head nod I get whenever I respond to the “when are you two getting married” question with “There’s still some things we want to accomplish first”. Like somehow I’m delusional and making it up and I’m really unhappy, which is not the case at all. I’m in a wonderful relationship that I’m very confident in and I’m very happy.

      I’m starting to think that more often than not, one person in any relationship is ready before the other. I’m hoping to find the strength in my control freak Type A personality to just let it go, and go with flow. Though I still feel hurt that my boyfriend, while he says it’s a matter of when not if, is still not ready, and every new engagement announcement which seems to be coming once every month gives me a bit of bee sting in the chest area(again feeling of shame follows for being self-centered and not just being happy for my friends/family/coworkers/strangers on facebook), finding this blog has truely helped. And all of your stories have helped me realize I’m not alone in feeling this way. Step one on the road to getting rid of the crazy! :)

  • katy

    I cried. From the word stash all the way to the end.

  • anon

    I know I’m late to this party, but this is a *magnificent* post! I’ve been in pre-engaged limbo for 8 months or so, since my partner (who has long been clear that proposing is something really wants to do himself!) said he’d “better do the decent thing”, prior to me moving cities with him for his work. Every holiday or trip since has had a lurking “is it now?” beneath it, so thank you so much for showing it’s possible both to furtively plan, and to let go, and for both of those things to be okay.

  • Kristina

    It was by chance that I happened upon this website, and I am so thankful I did!! As I read this article, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief that I am not alone in this!!

    I feel so completely understood and I am finally finding peace about this stage of my life. Kudos, APW.