I got engaged in June and am planning a wedding for next summer. I have no doubt that I love my fiancé and that we have been building a very solid relationship together. I am struggling, however, with the fact that neither of us are able to feel super excited about being engaged or planning a wedding. This was really driven home for us yesterday when his best friend got engaged and called my fiancé up, totally over the moon, to tell him. That phone call put my fiancé into a daylong slump. He was sad because he never felt that way.
Some backstory on our engagement may help here. About a year into our relationship we started talking about getting married some day and also about moving in together. I had always been adamantly against living with someone before marriage. I went back and forth several times over the next six months. Even to the point of looking at apartments together and then not following through. Finally I decided that I needed to be engaged before we moved in and I wasn’t ready to be engaged yet. He was.
Around our two-year anniversary I decided that I was ready to be engaged and move in. We started looking at places. I wanted to pick out my engagement ring together and pay for it together since I see it as an investment in our future. We looked at engagement rings once in March and did not get one. In April we signed a lease for July 1. Then I waited, and waited. He made no more mention of getting engaged. We were both applying for new jobs and really busy. I silently started to freak out. Any free time he had he spent on a side project of his, and when I would suggest we go ring shopping again he would say he didn’t have time.
Finally in the beginning of June I confronted him about it and told him that I was freaking out that he did not want to propose to me and that he wasn’t going to. He told me that I had taken all of the fun and spontaneity out of it for him by setting a time line and preventing him from surprising me with a ring. There was a lot of crying. He proposed to me the next day. It was lovely and he used a shell that I had given him on our second date since we had no ring yet.
At the time instead of feeling excited I felt a little let down and vaguely anxious. We drove back from our hike in silence and then called our families and tried to act excited over the phone. I felt that I had badgered him in to it. He still wouldn’t go ring shopping so I didn’t have a ring for almost a month. I ended up picking it out myself, without him there, and he went to pick it up another time.
From the moment we told our families they have taken over wedding planning and made it into a big ordeal. We both got new, more demanding jobs around the time we got engaged and moved in. We almost never have a day off together and the wedding is going to be out of state so my parents are doing most of the planning. He is shy and would rather have it be just him and me at city hall.
He has not been able to get excited about any of it because I think he feels like first I, and then my parents, took the whole thing out of his hands. I have been having a hard time getting excited about it because I felt like he was not taking any initiative, and then I started to feel guilty that I took away his agency. When people ask me about my engagement or my wedding planning I am almost embarrassed by my lack of ability to enthuse. He pretty much refuses to even talk about anything wedding related and tenses up anytime we have to.
Despite all this, I do think we have a wonderful relationship. We care for each other and put the others’ needs first. We communicate about everything (including about our lack of pre-marital excitement). We make each other laugh and enjoy each other’s company. We have good sex (though not enough due to job stress). I look forward to being married, and everything that will entail, and so does he.
Is it possible that we (maybe I) just royally blundered our engagement in an otherwise great relationship? Or is this lack of enthusiasm about our engagement/wedding a sign that something deeper is wrong? Is there anything we can do to make this better and get excited? I suggested that he could surprise propose to me again, which he thought was silly. I also suggested that we could put our foot (feet) down on my parents’ wedding plans and insist on doing it our own way, but he doesn’t want to do that either.
Bothering Lack of Acceptable Happiness (BLAH)
A: Hey BLAH,
So first let’s pretend that we’re out at a great little bar and we’re besties having Tang flavored martinis. Yes, they make those and they are delicious. I can already tell (’cause we’ve been besties for so long) that you are an incredibly loving person. And while you maybe haven’t been planning your wedding since you were a little girl, it definitely sounds like you’ve been looking forward to your happily ever after.
Who hasn’t been, right?
And because it’s really important to say, it sounds like your relationship is awesome. Like the kind of relationship that people look at and want. Now, the thing is, those awesome relationships don’t need to always lead to marriage. Some times they do. Some times they are just really, really amazing lessons we get to live in life.
I’ve had a total of three of those awesome relationships. All three had engagements involved. Yet, only one has become a marriage. You have to know which ones are right and which ones aren’t. I can tell you’re questioning things on a deep level. I did the same thing when I was not so sure about my relationships.
Honestly, there is no right answer I can tell you. There is one really important thing I can suggest, and that’s couple’s therapy, or pre-marital counseling/talking with a qualified professional together. You also need to know that the therapy stuff is pricey, and people may tell you that it’s not necessary. Those people are wrong. You know what’s pricey and not needed? A big wedding where the marriage ends in divorce. How you say that gently is up to you.
Go talk to someone. You can absolutely go alone and together. Let me say that again, you have my permission to go alone and together. Your older family members may wonder why you’re doing that. Don’t let that dissuade you from going. If you need to ice the wedding plans for a bit while things get talked out, then do that. You can seriously get married all year-round. So while next summer is a nice time, maybe let the date be a moving target until you get things sorted.
Not being excited about your engagement can be a red flag. Feeling that other people are controlling the path to marriage and the wedding are also not good things. It’s cool if parents help, or even take the reigns if you’re comfortable, but you shouldn’t feel rushed or controlled. If you do, then maybe a step back would be really healthy and helpful for your relationship.
Getting married, no matter how shy y’all are, or how overwhelmed at work, or what not, is still cause for celebration. We celebrated after our super quick courthouse elopement. Because it was such a happy moment. If you don’t feel like celebrating, then something’s up.
When you suggest putting your foot down with the fam, maybe your fiancé is uncomfortable rocking the boat with your family because he wants them to like him. Who knows, but it’s definitely stuff to talk about in counseling.
When it finally does come time to plan your celebration, know that you really can do it on your own terms. There are very creative ways to honor your family in regards to your union without having a “traditional” wedding. I officiated a wedding this past summer where we FaceTimed all the out of town parents in so they could be there.
Blergh, I know how much it sucks to hear all this. I’m sure you’d rather have heard, don’t worry; things are fine, but I suspect that fine is not exactly what I’d say. I really think your relationship sounds awesome, but is it in both of y’alls best interest to get married? Know that there is no wrong answer to that question.
All My Love,
Photo by Gabriel Harber
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!