Q:My boyfriend has come a very long way in becoming more and more of a feminist, but we still struggle with some very deeply rooted patriarchal issues that can be difficult for him to deprogram from. I have said multiple times that I don’t really like the idea of an engagement ring, or the idea that I wear something during the engagement period while he doesn’t. I also am opposed to diamonds in general and the entire WIC around encouraging excessive spending on a ring (percent of salary requirements and other garbage). I have made all of this clear many times. We discussed it at length, and we finally agreed that he would wear a simple band during our engagement (he liked this idea and found one he really likes), and that if he really, really had to get me a ring, I did not in any way want it to be expensive or made of diamonds. I thought we were clear. Thought.
Last week, my maid of honor (who knows how I feel about all this) called me to let me know that my boyfriend had asked for her opinion on the engagement ring he’d picked out. My boyfriend then sent her a link to a $10,000 diamond ring. I was completely shocked and asked her several times if she was positive this was the ring he was going to buy. She said she was sure, that she’d confirmed with him that it wasn’t just the style or an idea, and that it was the one he intended to buy, at that price. I was devastated.
I have no idea what I should do. Should I confront him and say I know about the ring, and that I refuse to let him do this? Wait for him to buy it and propose and then take a gamble that he’ll be able to get his money back? He had a lot of money saved up before we ever met, so this isn’t as big of a financial issue for him, but I’m just so viscerally opposed to this wasteful spending that it makes me sick. And on top of that, to wear something “worth” so much money would completely terrify me. I’m so hurt that he completely went against my wishes with this, and I have an inkling there’s a competition element factoring into this between him and his friends (he said at one point that he didn’t want his wife to “have the cheapest ring of all the wives”).
Is this an indicator of deeper rooted issues to come, or just my boyfriend being a knucklehead about feeling like he has to prove his worth as a man with my ring?
Stop him now, right now, immediately.
Yep, you’ll have to out your info source (which sucks for you and for her), but there is literally no other reason to wait until he gives you this chunk of unwanted jewelry. His entire goal is to plan a giant happy surprise, and this ain’t that. You’re not saving him any heartache by waiting till he’s already invested the money and planning. I’d normally suggest finding a sneaky way to let him know, to hint, to beat around the bush, but it sounds like this guy needs a frying pan to the face in order to hear you. Don’t leave this up to subtlety. Tell him, “I know about the ring; don’t do it.”
I wouldn’t be too, too quick to assume this is some foretelling of doom. Yes, there are definitely some warning signs here that need to be hashed out. It’s awful for him not to take you at your word. It’s terrible that he’s ignoring what you want in favor of what he wants for you. The idea that a woman doesn’t mean what she says—that she’s just teasing or hinting or flirting—is a pretty big deal, and can go some scary places.
But, this kind of misunderstanding is more likely some unexamined good intentions gone bad. He wants to spoil you, to treat you well, and he’s been fed this idea that doing so only looks this one way. He’s under a misconception that special treats are one-size-fits-all. He’s completely missing the point that you really don’t want this ring, that this isn’t some kind of, “Oh, you don’t have to do that, (but seriously please do that),” situation.
This is the perfect opportunity for a conversation about communication. An easy script? “I know you’re trying to do X, but because you’re not listening to what I’ve said, it feels like Y.” Let him know that you totally get his goal here, but show him all the reasons why it’s missing the mark. He’ll be disappointed and sad and all that, but man, it’s better to tackle this miscommunication now than when it’s about something way bigger a few years from now.
Meanwhile, he wants to do something nice for you? Help him out. Give him some ideas of things you’d like better than a giant ring, something that he can plan to surprise you. You know, in a good way, instead of a “why did you spend ten thousand dollars on this” way.
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