Ask Team Practical: I Want To Be Engaged

Please don't make me wait any longer

Wanting To Be Engaged | A Practical Wedding

Q: My boyfriend and I knew from early on in our relationship that we wanted to get married. Six months ago, he had a ring purchased, and was beginning to plan the proposal. We are the type of couple where we share almost everything with each other. I rarely have a thought in my head that I don’t voice to him, and vice versa, so I was very involved in choosing the ring, but I wasn’t allowed to know any details about how he was going to propose.

Then life happened. He lost his job, and the ring that he had just purchased no longer seemed practical. I told him to return it, and we discussed the fact that we wanted to wait until we were financially secure to be engaged. I was at peace with the decision.

Now we’re back on track and back to planning an engagement. He has a new (more affordable) ring, and his ducks are lining up nicely. The issue I’m having is that I’m fairly certain—read 99.99 percent certain—that he wants to propose in the fall, AT LEAST SEVEN MONTHS FROM NOW! On a levelheaded day I am reasonable and understand that there’s a reason that he wants to do it at that time. It’s our favorite season, and he’s wanted the engagement to be romantic and over the top. Most days, however I am not even a little bit levelheaded. I can’t stand the idea of waiting more than half a year to begin this stage of our relationship. I’ve already waited so long!

How do I deal with knowing that I’ll be in the pre-engaged state for another six months, and how do I keep from driving him crazy while he makes his plans?


A: Dear C,

Meh. What’s the rush?

Best-case scenario, you’re going to be married to this guy until the end of your life. I don’t know your age, but I’m assuming that’s optimistically a good bit longer than six months.

Engagements are fun and exciting. But you know what else is? Dating. Being single. Looking forward to an engagement. Having full control over the remote control and being able to eat the last Oreo without playing rock-paper-scissor. These are the things you get to appreciate for a little while longer. Embrace them!

I’m being a little flip, but seriously. I do understand. And as a happily married lady, I wish I could articulate just how special our short dating time was, and then our short engaged time (and before all of that, our short “no really, guys, we’re just friends, I swear” time). We dated for three long years before he proposed, and in retrospect, those three years feel like the blink of an eye. And I’m not even some wizened old married lady!

A lot changes once you’re engaged, and again once you’re marriedand I don’t even necessarily mean as a result of either of those things. That’s just the nature of time, of developing as an individual, of being in a relationship that grows and ebbs and flows. The meet-up spots, the jokes, the shared interests that are special to you now, may not be by this time next year. Forever and always you’ll look back on these times, these places, these terrible radio hits that are on a constant loop, and remember exactly what it was like to be in this specific, short-lived time of your relationship.

Why rush that?

So, let me ask you. What is it about engagement that you’re in such a hurry to get? Is it the planning? You know Pinterest has secret boards now, right? Is it the ring? Go get yourself some pretty new jewelry. It can be really hard to wait, but anticipation is half the fun, and the memories you’re building together right now are also a really special piece of your relationship.

Team Practical, how do you endure the (sometimes agonizing) wait for the next step of your relationship?

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!

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  • I agree with Liz’s advice – but given that C already knew her man had a ring and then returned it due to life circumstances, I’d be kind of antsy too, hoping and praying similar life circumstances don’t prolong the pre-engaged state further.

    That being said, you don’t KNOW that he is waiting until fall. Maybe he knows you probably suspect that and will surprise you sometime before then.

    • Ally

      Great point! I threw my BFF off of her boyfriend’s plan by making her think it was a few months further off than it was – and it worked out great. It totally threw her off of her wedding planning timeline.

  • Sarah

    I have yet to meet a person who could have a ring and wait seven months to use it.

    • meleyna

      My fiance had mine for nearly seven months before he proposed.

      • Sarah

        Wow! I guess I don’t know anyone who has that kind of patience!

        • K.

          My fiance kept our ring for 4 months and it basically killed him. The surprise proposal was fairly important to me and he wanted to propose on a special trip to Paris, so he stuck it out even though he’s the type who says things like, “I got you a great Christmas gift, I’m not going to tell you what it is!” [5 seconds later] “…it’s a watch.” The proposal was very romantic and special (and still very intimate, as we both would prefer despite being in the city of looooove). And while NOW he wouldn’t change it for the world, I think initially he would have preferred to ask the second he got the ring.

          Of course, if I had known that it was killing him to wait (I had no idea he had the ring yet), I would have told him that the surprise was a nice idea, but not the end-all be-all. So it could be the same for the LW’s fiance – he just doesn’t know that the wait is so tough on her.

    • Liz

      I think mine had it nine months.

    • Ellen

      Mine was SITTING ON HIS DESK for almost seven months. It was torture.

    • Cali

      A good friend of mine’s fiance had the ring for OVER A YEAR before he popped the question. And she knew he had it, too! Seemed a little extreme to me, but hey, whatever works!

    • Elizabeth

      Oh, I know someone who had the ring for three years before he proposed. No joke.

  • Meg

    I am with the writer…this just seems kind of drawn out

    • Teddi

      I agree, if he’s got the ring, 7 months seem kind of long to wait….

  • J

    A slightly different perspective…. If fall is special for you both, why not get married then instead of engaged? I do agree with the advice above but I’m an impatient person too so I REALLY understand your lack of calm rational patience…

  • Lauren from NH

    As someone in nearly the same shoes…hang in there girl! I am definitely a doer and if I had my way I would take over the whole process and propose myself or plan it for him. Yet I can also appreciate a well constructed surprise plan, I am a plotter myself and I love and opportunity to overdo it a little and make a person feel special. Just things to keep in mind.
    In the meantime, the sucky sucky meantime, I am bingeing and venting on APW, thoroughly enjoying the name game debate, and diving into the questions to ponder before/after you wed. And every so often, like around the holidays, sharing with the Mister how I want to bang my face on the steering wheel every time an engagement ring commercial comes on the radio. I am trying also, and it is difficult for my busy busy brain, to live in the moment and enjoy all of our favorite things. And I am trying to find solutions to some of our everyday problems, not that you can fix 100% of them for forever and ever. And I am trying to focus on me. I am trying to strengthen my friendships and find new activities, because its some of those things that fall by the way side that will contribute to the health of out relationship down the line. And every so often when nothing else will do and I am too bananas to go for a run (my miracle cure for angst), I clean something furiously!

    • Caitlyn

      Are we the same person? I could have wrote this myself (minus the running part). And I’m in NH too!

  • Katelyn

    This reads a LOT like my story – we were ring shopping about 6 years into our relationship, then a job loss stalled us for 2 years. It felt like FOREVER. Once things started pulling back together, I forgot to sit back and smell the roses and instead just push-push-pushed to finally get engaged.

    Because it wasn’t about getting engaged for me – it was about my insecurity that I had “invested” this time in a man and a relationship while putting other goals off (being the primary breadwinner does come with its pressures to, you know… win bread). Once we got engaged, I realized how silly I was. I wish we had more time to enjoy ourselves before getting entrenched in wedding planning.

    I wouldn’t describe my actions as regretful, because I am still pleased as punch to be getting married to one of the most incredible people I know. And I certainly know what it’s like to just yearn for that ring. But I think it needs to be unpacked internally a bit more (maybe a therapist?) before you decide to put your foot down. As a bride looking back, I wish I could have told myself this a year ago.

    • Meg Keene

      Yup. Agreed to all of this. Getting engaged was fun for about four days. Then it was stressful as shit and not fun again till we were married. Relationships have so many moments that pass so so quickly. I miss our dating moments, our just married moments, our no kids lots of travel moments, our new baby moments. Knowing all that, I’m trying to soak in the shared parenting of a chubby tiny toddler moments because it’ll be gone in a flash and I’ll miss it forever.

      • Ash

        Yes! I am engaged and dated my partner for 6 years before that happened. I was antsy. And now I’ll be married in a month. And I am soo excited about that. But a part of me recognizes now that its happening, it’s happening too fast. And once you have your engagement/wedding/first baby etc you won’t ever have that again. So I’m definitely trying to enjoy every second. I have had so much fun up until now. I’m sad for this time to be over- and excited for what comes next!

        Soak all of it in!

  • I totally get where C is coming from. Girl, if you don’t want to wait until fall, just tell your boyfriend. You said you share almost everything with each other, so why not this? Just tell him how you’re feeling (ready, excited, antsy), and that you really don’t want to wait much longer. And tell him what much longer means to you. I’m not saying pressure him to propose to you RIGHT NOW. Just explain your feelings and wishes, and then listen to his perspective.

    • H

      Yes, amen to that. Your feelings that now is the right time are just as valid as his feelings that Fall would be the right time. His opinions on it don’t get amplified x100 just because he has a penis and he’s giving you the ring – I’m assuming in your relationship he’s not The Decider, you both hold that role, so you should both make the call. You guys sound like a great, open couple – so I say be open about your feelings instead of inwardly upset!

      • This x 1000.

      • Liz

        Agree to discussing it (my reading of the letter was that they have?). Disagree that it’s a matter of penis trumping. No matter gender, whoever wants to wait trumps the one who doesn’t.

        • Laura C

          Except that when both people are agreed that they’re ready to be engaged — which seems pretty clear here, since they were already ready once and he’s got the ring — but the hold-up is that the man is waiting for the perfect moment for the proposal of his dreams, that’s penis trumping. Yes, the person who isn’t ready to be engaged trumps. The person who wants a certain color of vegetation in the background of the proposal pics should not, but too often does.

          • Liz

            Different readings of the same letter (which is inevitable on the internet).

            When I read it, I get the vibe that we’re dealing with two adults who made a bunch of decisions together (one of those decisions being “you get to be the person who picks the proposal timing”), and now one of them vacillates between being super okay with those decisions and being really impatient to just go dress shopping already.

            Very different dynamic than say, this letter over here:

          • Laura C

            Yes, as you say, different reads. And almost certainly different views of the general scenario as well. The whole proposal question makes me want to embrace misandry.

    • Lawyerette510

      Yes, I just wrote this, but obviously, I didn’t need to if I just would’ve kept reading.

    • Alisha

      Yes! I was so angsty during this time of our relationship until I actually talked to my boyfriend about how I felt. Especially since he had a plan to propose, he had zero clue why I was stressed about it. I would sort out your feelings and maybe even write down what you’re thinking before having this discussion. I didn’t and ended up blurting out ‘why aren’t we engaged’ in the middle of dinner. (FYI: not recommended but it got the discussion rolling…)

  • Anno

    Ugh, I am right here with you in the waiting grey zone, where unexpected things have come up that have made the waiting even longer. I have had very frank talks with my guy about how if we want to get married at X time, we really need X number of months to plans, so he should really think about proposing by X time. I have also made it clear that I don’t need a crazy beautiful proposal– I just want to be married, and am really tired of waiting!
    I’ve done the secret pinterest boards, and the “appreciating the now.” But at some point, it’s just time. I think for him it’s been helpful to know my anxious thoughts and feelings. I have this weird mix of being proud of myself for being clear with him about this sensitive subject, and irritated with myself that I’m not able to just suck it up and wait longer.

    • 39bride

      I had a similar experience (though on a rather short time frame, fortunately). I think being direct with your SO really helps get both people on the same page. After we started talking about wanting to get married and sorted out that he really, really wanted to get me a ring, I had very little patience. I finally told my fiance-to-be that while I didn’t doubt his love or his intentions, this in-between feeling was very hard for me emotionally, so he (without telling me) sped things up. We had only one possible wedding date due to family availability if we wanted to marry within the coming year, so I also used our coy “if we get married” discussions to inform him about things like how a typical wedding dress takes many months to order, how fast various types of vendors can fill up certain times of the year, when things can be cheaper, etc., which also helped him understand my anxiety about getting a move on ASAP.

      He was so excited (and so fully understood how anxious I was) that by the time the ring arrived he didn’t want to wait another second to propose and did it on the spot.

      • Sharon Gorbacz

        Those vendors do get booked up fast, don’t they? We got engaged 12/17/12 and ended up choosing 03/29/14 (yes folks, that’s 5 days from this posting) as the date because it was
        1. the last Saturday on which we could still get the Winter package at our venue and save nearly $20 a head
        2. close enough to April that we’d get Spring weather (or so we thought last year when everything was blooming early).
        3. at least 6 months after my younger brother got married

  • Violet

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking about the timeline, and telling her boyfriend that the anticipation is killing her. I assume, if he is waiting until the fall, it’s to plan a romantic and “over the top” proposal because he thinks that’s what will make her happy – he may not know that what would really make her happy is not waiting that long.

    • Violet

      I agree with my fellow Violet here. If he’s waiting because he’s not ready, that’s one thing. If he ‘s waiting because his goal is to make her happy, and he’s under the assumption that a surprise-fall-proposal will make her happy, when actually, a now-proposal will make her happy, things can get sorted.

    • I agree. Communication is always the best choice. No sense in waiting if they would both be happy being engaged now, and unless they talk about it, there is no way to know.

  • MC

    I have a friend that did the same thing – she helped design her engagement ring and then after a few months went by, she ended up totally breaking down in front of him, crying and asking if he even still wanted to marry her. Turns out, the guy was just so stressed out about making it a surprise for her and it took longer than both of them longer than they thought to coordinate the whole thing! So I would say, from your boyfriend’s perspective, trying to surprise someone when they already know it is coming is hard’ and he might need some time to line all those ducks up.

    Also might be good to consider if you are someone that WANTS to be dramatically surprised. I for one do not deal well with anticipating big surprises and was a big ball of anxiety the whole month leading up to my engagement. If he really wants to surprise you, he might be willing to compromise with a smaller surprise sooner to make sure you aren’t anxious about it for the next 7 months.

  • Jenny

    So, I think I have a slightly different take on it. From what you’ve said, you have both talked about it, and you’ve agreed to get married. So you’re engaged, you’re just waiting on an awesome elaborate way for him to give you the ring. Maybe it doesn’t help, but it seems like if you’ve both agreed you want to get married, and your both ready to get married, well then that’s an engagement, right?

    Best of luck! I hope you get a wonderful surprise that makes you happy!

    • Moving my comment to reply to this.. man I wish I’d realized this, “You’ve both talked about it, you’ve agreed to get married, so you’re engaged.”

      I was so impatient for the proposal and ring, but I wanted him to do it
      on his terms. We had even already booked our venue and photographer! It
      seems kind of silly now, of course we were engaged then, but I
      wanted it to be “officially official” with a proposal to be considered

    • Lauren from NH

      I absolutely second that. While I am sure the official proposal and ring and sharing your news with your loved ones is super important (I know I am excited for all of those parts), you can take some comfort in that, in sense, it is all decided and you are stuck with each other (in the best way possible).

      • Meg Keene

        THIS, I agree with. Knowing that you’re stuck with each other is a joyful private thing. Enjoy it while it’s private. The public part of engagement is not always as fun as it looks.

        That’s different from being able to say, “Hey, we’re engaged,” without a conversation where you both agree to that.

    • Liz

      I would just caution to be a little careful with this line of thinking. You start telling people you’re engaged while s/he’s over there thinking, “But I haven’t proposed, wait what?” (which we’ve actually heard of happening on this site!)

      • Meg Keene

        Yeah. I wanted to jump in with the same word of caution. You’re not engaged when you talk about it and decide you’re going to get married one day. You’re engaged when you both decide you’re engaged. They’re really different things. You can both know “someday we’re probably for sure going to get hitched” for YEARS without being engaged. We did. We were under no circumstances ready to be engaged then, even if we did probably figure we’d get married one day.

        If I’d heard David telling people we were engaged at that point, with no previous agreement on that point, that probably would have been relationship destroying.

        • Jenny

          Yeah, I guess my read of the letter was different. I assumed it was no longer a someday we want to get married conversation, but a we do, let’s put it on hold due to life stuff, now we are back.

          And yes, I totally didn’t mean to start taking out ads and telling people, I think you always have to get buy in to share joint news, even if you have a ring on and have been proposed to.

          For me it was just really helpful to shift my own perspective. We went through knowing and talking about getting married, and then agreeing we were ready to get married, and then getting engaged (then married). For a while in the second phase I was a bit of a jerk to be around for a while because I was like uuuuuuuuugggggghhhhh let’s just do this, but then I think i realized that those feelings were more about imagining that he had just said he was ready, and wasn’t and that’s why it hadn’t happened yet, and that he was somehow enjoying this power. I realize that that (obviously) wasn’t him, that I trusted him, that we had agreed to get married and started talking venues, he was just waiting for a time that he could make special. That’s when I started thinking of us as engaged. It helped me out.

      • Jenny

        Oh yeah, I guess I meant that in a help with the feelings of frustration way. For me, once we talked about it, and I knew there was a ring and I was just waiting on the proposal, not waiting for him to be ready, I felt engaged. Not a tell everyone we are engaged way, which was hard because, I mean it’s exciting and I wanted to share it. But in a I feel a lot better because I’m not longer wondering, ugggghhhhh when will I be ready/will I be ready/ when will he be ready/will he be ready. I guess my read of the letter was we were ready, then stuff happened and we weren’t, now we are ready again, but I think he’s going to wait until the fall for “superficial it’s our favorite month” reasons, not I’m still working things out reasons and it sucks because I just want to be engaged already.

        For me, once I shifted my perspective to I’m waiting on a proposal/ring, not I’m waiting for us to be ready to be engaged, I became a much more pleasant person to be around. I basically could just look forward to being surprised with a lovely day and gift.

        I guess it just depends on how you interpret the letter. But yes, of course you totally both have to be on board with sharing the information, even after rings and official proposals have been done. I made him wait a few hours because I wanted to just let it sink in for a while before we shared, he was dying to call people right away.

    • Just came in to say this. Being engaged is both parties having the intention to get married. If you’ve both discussed it and you both know you want to get married and what that timeline is, then you’re engaged. You don’t *need* a ring to be engaged. You don’t *need* some elaborate proposal to be engaged. What you do need is a meeting of the minds and both parties saying “I want to marry you, and here’s our timeline to do that”.

      So congrats on your engagement C :-) Best wishes.

  • Emily Ardoin

    My boyfriend (fiance… whatever) has been calling me his fiance/wife to various different people since we started dating. We were the same as you. We both knew what we wanted from our first kiss. However! He loves to plan BIG ROMANTIC things and he loves to surprise me so while I know that engagement and wedding and married bliss is in my future, I’ve had to step back from the OMGPRESSURE and let him plan. I would hate to take away this exciting event from him, even if I would be perfectly fine with “oh we are engaged and here is my ring” moment (rather than the hot air balloon ride with fireworks and champagne that was his plan (before I ruined it… oops)).

    Did all of this knowledge make it any easier to handle that my little brother got engaged at Christmas? Nope. But remembering that it isn’t just what I want and knowing that he is going to have a blast planning out a proposal for me helps with the waiting.. usually. :)

  • Kate V

    Is anyone considering that its the tradition that’s so crazy making? Dear Prudence just wrote about this with the following: “I have written many times that I hate the whole waiting for an engagement ring ritual. It turns powerful, accomplished women into passive vessels hoping to be told the man in their life wants them enough.”

    • H

      Yes yes yes. This.

    • Liz

      Sometimes, yes. In this situation… I’m not sure. She didn’t seem to have an issue with that plan to start. just now that she knows holy crap, it’s actually going to be THIS long til we get rolling.

      • H

        That’s the point – now that she actually knows the plan and the timeline, she’s not ok with it. And that’s legit. She should be able to voice her feelings on the subject without feeling like some tradition-crushing ball buster – it’s her life too!

        • Meg Keene

          Yes, totally. THAT SAID. If your partner isn’t ready, forcing them to be ready is bad for everyone.

        • Liz

          Perhaps we’re saying different things. Sometimes the whole “the man proposes and it’s a surprise” dynamic is SUPER problematic in and of itself, because of the power differential. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. They both agreed to this surprise proposal thing, that angle is fine.

          I think waiting for a time that is important to their relationship, makes him comfortable, whatever… doesn’t contribute to that unequal power structure. It’s a different issue completely. Timeline discussions are way different than flat out “sitting on my laurels waiting for my man to deem me worthy” problems.

        • Lawyerette510

          I agree, the letter writer says “we share nearly every thought in our heads” and as I was reading I wanted to say “So share this one too!” and also, look at why she’s so eager to be engaged– what actually changes? they have some serious conversations she’s ready to have now? they start planning the wedding, and she wants to have it in the fall but plan it in less than a year? There’s a host of options, but she should talk to him about it.

    • Lauren from NH

      I hear that, but I am sure of a way around it. I would be happy with anything, share some feelings and plans and dreams…KABOOM! Engaged. But it’s kind of a point of pride and how he (and I think a lot of guys) understands showing his love and making official our plans to be committed. Traditions do help people understand important moments in their lives.

      • Meg Keene

        It can be a bit of a balancing act. I don’t like the tradition as it tends to play out, but I do think you have to work within who is ready when. In our case it was less about him proposing, and more about him being ready to be engaged. Since I was ready first, I needed to give him time to get there emotionally. This reads to me as “he’s not ready yet for a bunch of reasons, but he will be soon.” In which case, that’s the sucky part of partnership. A part you should talk about, but you can’t force someone to be ready when they’re not. If, in fact he wants to do something over the top in the fall only because he thinks that’s what she wants, then YEAHHHHHHH converse about that please.

        In defense of the feminist proposal: I’m the one who actually wanted one, but I like things like surprise parties, and it was exactly like that for me. The conversation about getting married was a mutual one, the ring was a mutual thing, and then I was like, “Hey, now ask me sometime please.” So I wasn’t a passive vessel (as ever).

        (Using him and her here, just because I’m talking about two mixed gender relationships, obvs.)

        • april

          Ha! I did just this- we had a long serious conversation about our future and decided that we were ready to commit to marriage and would have a wedding in about 2 years and that engagement rings weren’t important to us. Then I was like, “Oh- but you still have to propose to me for real sometime.”

        • Cali

          Yup, same here! We planned to get engaged together, discussed the ring, and then he planned when he was going to propose as a surprise. He had a lot of fun with it, trying to do it in a way that I wouldn’t see coming so it would ACTUALLY be a surprise (and he succeeded!). Admittedly, I suppose you could argue that the waiting period between the decision, the ring discussion, and the surprise (which, for us, spanned about six months) was “passive waiting,” but it was the sort of waiting one does for Christmas. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when. I do think the idea of a woman just waiting around wondering if her guy is EVER going to propose (i.e. they haven’t decided together) is weird.

          And, personally, I say examine your reasons for questioning his timeline. Is it just because you’re excited to start planning? Then I say wait it out, and enjoy the anticipation. Is it because there’s an actual, logistical problem with the timeline (“We want to get married on such-and-such date and this doesn’t allow us enough time!” or something like that), then totally discuss it and come to an agreement together about a reasonable timeline. You don’t want to pressure him into getting engaged before he’s ready; that’s no fun for anybody. Ultimately, it’s better to wait a little longer and know that both of you are ready and in it 100%.

          • Meg Keene

            Agreed. Unless the reasons for waiting are: he thinks you want a big surprise and you don’t, you feel like you guys can’t talk about this, he’s trying to hold onto the control (or variants of that).

            If what’s going on is: he’s not quite ready, you’re antsy, then GIRL I feel you. And my best advice is try to enjoy the ride. Rushing things is bad for everyone.

          • KimBee

            I am not sure if the waiting is always quite like Christmas. I know that once we’d decided that we wanted to get married, I was deeply bothered by the idea that he would establish the timeline completely independently. Why? Why did we decide everything up to that point as equal partners and then suddenly shift to one person making the plan? If this isn’t making her feel happy anticipation, I think it’s important to voice it. In my case, the surprise proposal was important to him…but our mutual happiness was more important. And the timeline wasn’t about readiness, it was about the surprise.

        • Lauren from NH

          Yes, yes, and yes. Relationship with no communication = emoj with Xs through the eyes. Secret proposals can be problematic but communication solves most, if not all, of the traditional yuckiness. My main point was I wouldn’t disagree with him wanting to do some kind of semi secret planned proposal on principal. Why talk someone out of doing something loving for you? All surprises entail some loss of control and sometimes are a little off base, but with some pre-requisite communication it can be wonderful. But hey, I am a sucker for thoughtful gestures.

        • A.

          It is totally a balancing act, but from the letter I can’t really tell if C’s partner is not ready, or is totally ready but just wants to do things a certain way. Either way, I’d suggest having a conversation about what he’s envisioning and why he wants to do things this way and what C is sharing with us. At best they would both get on the same page about this event/transition in their lives and incorporate some things that are important to both of them. At worst, hopefully he shares his thoughts and priorities (e.g. “I really want to do this in the fall because [insert meaningful reason here]”) and even if those aren’t C’s priorities (“Thanks for the [meaningful reason] but I’m really just ready to do this thing!”) she at least has a bit more perspective on what’s going on. That conversation may not change the timeline (or it might, I don’t know their lives), but either way I bet a bit more knowledge about it would ease her mind.

          In my case, we had a mutually-agreed-upon milestone that had to be passed before we got engaged. After it passed, I was pretty much ready, but I also didn’t want to know much about when/how we were going to get engaged. Despite my ignorance being my choice, that didn’t make it easier!! What did make it easier was talking, in greater depth and detail than we ever had before, about what was on our minds about this upcoming transition and what we wanted from our future life together. Waiting was hard, but these conversations made me feel like we were laying a foundation to build upon later. They really held me over and eased my anxieties (leftover from a past relationship) that yes, he really did want to marry me, and yes, we are going to get there, in our time and no one else’s. C, maybe having conversations like this will help you too? (But real talk, we got engaged five months after that milestone, and I had MAYBE two more months of patience left before we were going to have a conversation about timeline. Waiting is ROUGH, C, and I feel your pain!)

    • taygete05

      I agree and don’t. On the one hand it seems like they have ‘a plan’ and it’s just the timeline that’s an issue. Overall, though, I agree with you that it’s the tradition that’s crazymaking, and am planning on doing some proposing on my own tomorrow night, to get it out o my head if nothing else. Wish me luck?

      • H

        Good luck!!

        • taygete05

          He said yes and I didn’t pass out or throw up from nervousness. Win-win-win.

      • enfp

        Yay asking! As someone who also did the proposing, good luck to you!!!

        • taygete05

          Thanks! He said yes!!

          • enfp

            Woohoo! Congratulations!!!

    • Granola

      I totally agree, and I think the next step is to get men to see that also. I had thought it through and was happy to buck this tradition, but then I ran into the fact that it was important to my husband. This was something he was looking forward to and saw as a meaningful moment. (Plus all the Dr. Laura “no ring, no real engagement” crap) I didn’t want to take that away from him, but I still think the tradition is more than a little outdated.

    • enfp

      Agreed, and I think this can also make the man in their life crazy. As Katherine pointed out in this advice thread already, maybe he is actually ready to propose but is feeling all this pressure to make it super duper romantic and perfect. I think Liz’s advice to question why you are in a rush is fair, but I just think you can’t go wrong in honestly sharing your feelings with your partner. If your feelings about the timing have changed, why shouldn’t you tell him that? Maybe you’ll realize that his timeline totally makes sense and airing your concerns allows you to let go of them and enjoy this time. Maybe you’ll both realize you’re ready to move forward earlier. You won’t know if you aren’t communicating about it!

      • Laura

        When my close friend and I would discuss my frustrations with not yet being engaged, her husband’s take on it was this exactly. “You can only do this once,” he said. “It’s so much pressure and there is still the question in your mind of whether she will actually truly say yes.”

    • Kats

      I agree. The tradition of “waiting for him to propose” can be pretty gutting, by removing any degree of control/decision making from women. I remember hating that time period and not handling it as well as I could’ve, precisely because I was sure I wanted him to ask but wasn’t sure he would. The information imbalance just isn’t fun, and, in hindsight, was a sign that we both should have had better communication skills going in. He did pull out the ridiculous/tropical beach at night/WIC-like proposal, and it was a surprise and lovely, but in all fairness, had I had a better idea of the plan, I think I would’ve enjoyed it all more. I was too busy having the phew-thank-goodness-that-happened reaction rather than living in the moment. (Yeah, I know – I should by now have this whole wiser-and-smarter reaction and been more zen about it but, well, somedays I’m just not rocking that s–t.)

      • Anno

        “(Yeah, I know – I should by now have this whole wiser-and-smarter reaction and been more zen about it but, well, somedays I’m just not rocking that s–t.)”
        YESSSSS times a thousand!!! :)

      • Carolyn

        I am, pre engaged. But here is where we stand: we have matching bands picked out. We’ll be ordering them as soon enough. When we receive them, I will keep his band, and he will keep mine. I plan to “propose” to him. Rather than asking him to marry me (since we already intend to get married) I will give it to him as a gesture of my intention to marry him. His band is now his, to wear or not wear. Now the ball is in his court, and when he presents my ring to me with his intention to marry we will be engaged.

        Since I’m talking about my own relationship it’s his and hers, but could work in any combination. I’m only assuming I’ll be the first to declare my intention because I’m jumping at the bit. But who knows?

        • taygete05

          Thanks for the idea of the counter-proposal, that sounds lovely and you each get your ‘moment’. Mind if we borrow?

      • Kelsey

        “I was too busy having the phew-thank-goodness-that-happened reaction rather than living in the moment.”

        YES x 1 Million Billion

  • Katherine

    Personally, I would share how I’m feeling with my fiance. That doesn’t mean dictate what he does, but have a conversation about it.

    I would not have been happy with a long pre-engagement or a long engagement. Once my husband & I decided that we definitely wanted to get married, we co-planned an engagement a month later (because it was the next time we were going to be alone for an evening…and that short time to sit with the idea of being married was nice). I think it was less about being impatient, and more about feeling that if this was what we wanted, there was no reason to postpone.

    I wanted the external legitimacy of being married. I wanted the world to see & recognize this commitment as real, and I wanted my community to help hold me accountable in my relationship. It’s harder to get out of a marriage than an engagement, and — once I knew that this was the person I wanted to marry — I thought that was a good thing. It made me feel safer in the disagreements that we’ve had, and it’s made it more important to work on reconciling differences.

    • Meg Keene

      Oh FOR SURE talk to your partner. But that said, I think all of the issues about soaking in each moment before it passes is really important. I’m not sure I agree in moving fast into the external legitimacy of being married. Taking the time to build that internal legitimacy is so so important, in my book.

  • Christine

    Hi C –

    I was totally in your shoes for the year and half before we got engaged (which was Thanksgiving ’13). My boyfriend and I had been talking engagement and were moving in together when he lost his job. So began a 15 month rollercoaster of career change, debt, and job hunting that put all talks of a ring and proposal on the back burner (more so for him than for me, he wanted everything to be “perfect” and ducks in a row – I just wanted to be engaged/married).

    Once things got back on track late last summer, he hinted that he’d be proposing in early 2014. Well, that just wasn’t okay with me. I felt strongly that we’d waiting long enough, that things would never be “perfect” and there was no reason to prolong an engagement. One night I broke down (which wasn’t the best) but it led to probably the first truly honest conversation we had about how we both felt. Apparently a lot had gotten lost in translation. I was giving him the vibe that I wanted things to be “perfect” when we got engaged, or that being engaged would make all our financial ducks line up, so he felt pressure to wait til that happened. And once we cleared the air and got on the same page, we were engaged within two months. And it was still a surprise, still a grand gesture, and still so amazing in every single way even though I had a sense it was coming.

    My point is, I would talk to him. You never know what misunderstandings could be out there even if you guys share everything and talk all the time (we did, and do). You might be giving off a vibe you don’t mean to give off. I’m not saying give him an ultimatum – i agree with a lot of commenters’ perspectives on enjoying this pre-engaged time. But I know how it feels to be confused about what the hold up is and like most relationship problems, the solution lies in honest, rational communication.

    Good luck!

  • emilyg25

    I actually disagree with this advice! I was in the same boat—very anxiously waiting to get engaged since we were both ready. It’s just my nature, and even being married now, I don’t feel bad about it or feel like our dating time was too fleeting. Like others said below, just tell your boyfriend how you feel!

  • Jamie

    While I understand exactly how you fee, I encourage you to respect your partner’s desire to do it his way (let go of control!? yikes). Like Liz says, you probably won’t regret just chilling out for 6 more months. You might regret feeling like you forced him into doing something that wasn’t “just right” for him. If he’s the kind of guy who is going to plan an elaborate proposal, I’m guessing he’s quite a doer and planner himself (or maybe wants this to be his one thing that he plans and does), and has given this just as much thought as you have. It’s fun to let go and be surprised…my advice is to wait for it in silence :)

  • Hallie

    I am in a similar position, but ultimately my partner wants the proposal to be “his thing” that he always wanted to make his own. He wants to me to have the wedding -I- want, and he in turn he wants me to let him give the proposal -he- wants.

    In that perspective, I can much more easily sit back and relax. It’s okay for him to have the proposal most important to him, it’s okay for me to want to focus more on the wedding. We’re in this for the long haul, all this engagement/wedding stuff is a detail that WILL come.

  • Victoria

    I do not understand how its special or reasonable to make someone you love miserable and in a lot of pain for a “surprise” that really isn’t. I know it’s popular so I’m the one who doesn’t get it but I really don’t.

    • Kendra D

      You’re not the only one who doesn’t get it. I think it’s kind of cruel honestly. Especially if the couple has looked at rings together so they know it’s coming but they keep having to wait. I do not get it at all.

      I’ve never gotten the surprise proposal honestly. Because if it’s a legitimate surprise then there’s probably a communication issue. And if it isn’t, then it’s typically pretty torturous for the person waiting to celebrate.

    • Exactly. If you both are comfortable waiting, that’s fine. If one of you is not emotionally ready- it is hard, but important to wait. If you both are ready and the only thing keeping you from proposing is the surprise and your significant other is upset by this- time to come up with a different “surprise” that can happen sooner.

    • jhs

      Yess. I’m thinking back to a lot of other advice posts that talk about making sure you and your SO are on the same timeline, and this doesn’t sound like the same timeline!

    • Kathleen

      I also agree with you Victoria. I read a story once that went like this–guy tells the girlfriend that he wants to be married to her, but it’s going to be a year before they get engaged. The girl goes through all this emotional anguish and finally decides that she loves him and will wait, and she’s good with this. Well, turns out he was just trying to throw her off the scent, and engaged her in the next few weeks. Everyone is all “awwww!!” I’m thinking, how cruel!

      I just don’t get the surprise proposal thing, either. Seriously, what could possibly be more romantically over the top than your man (or woman) asking you to spend the rest of your lives together? And, if you both know that’s what you want, I absolutely understand not wanting to wait 6 months to make it official. Just my 2 cents!

    • Emer

      I don’t get it either! I will never understand the surprise-not-really proposal thing. Granted, I don’t get the actual surprise proposal thing, either – I think couples need to sit down and have lots of discussions/planning together before making such a major life decision.

      My husband and I talked about getting married, then decided we would wait until our job situations settled down. 6 months later, when we both had new, happier jobs, we talked about it again and looked up some venue possibilities. We visited one, liked it, set a date, and announced we were getting married. No proposal. No engagement ring. I can’t even remember who brought it up first.

      I suppose I can understand wanting to go through a proposal as a ritual. Rituals are important – that’s why my husband and I had a wedding ceremony with family and friends even though we’d already done the legal thing at the courthouse. So yeah, I can see why someone might want a proposal. It wasn’t for us, though. When people ask about our proposal story, I never know what to say – “we had a series of conversations over several months and decided together that we’d get married?”

    • anon

      Completely agree! If they’ve talked about getting married AND bought a
      ring, surely they are both ready to be engaged? And it won’t be a
      surprise proposal since she knows it could come at any time! I have
      no proposal story, and am fine with that. It was a decision we made
      together and I would have felt silly with a big elaborate proposal since
      he already knew I wanted to marry him…

    • Margaret Thatcher

      Never got it either. What does being surprised have to do with spending the rest of your life with someone?!

  • Jenni Kissinger

    Kind of surprised at this advice.

    Honestly? Waiting for something you’re excited about, sucks. Even if you know it’s definitely going to happen. It sucks even more if you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, so you can’t even count down and think “only 15 more sleeps to go”. C has already had their plans put off once, now things are falling into place and it seems that she has to wait even longer. I don’t think that’s “Meh”. It’s frustrating.

    Waiting to get engaged is especially hard. I was ready 3.5 years before he actually proposed. It was nine months between when we looked at rings and when he proposed. There are reasons (even good legitimate reasons) for all of this, but that doesn’t change the fact that waiting was really hard for me. The questions from both sides of the family that were only directed to ME, sucked. The uncertainty of never knowing how much longer it would be, sucked. Near the end it got to the point that every time I returned from visiting him without a proposal I felt like I was disappointing my family (they knew we had looked at rings).

    I think it’s perfectly fine for you to feel frustrated at the delay. Other pre-engagement advice articles on APW have talked about how hard it is to have this big thing in your relationship that you lack control over. You could absolutely talk to him about how you don’t want to wait. Or if you feel that you don’t want to ‘ruin’ the surprise, maybe you could still down with your partner and discuss when you would want to have a wedding (maybe in the fall if it’s your favorite season?) and how long you would want between the engagement and the wedding. That’s something you two can talk about, together, as a team.

    If you’re quite sure that it will be six months from now, at least you know there’s an ‘end’ in sight to the waiting. Take a deep breath, count the Sundays until the end of the fall, and then go live your life. Don’t think “could this be it?!?!” at every dinner out, every vacation together. (Maybe I thought to myself “this would be a nice place for a proposal” but I (almost) never expected it in a given situation.) Talk to your girlfriends about how waiting is hard. Show your love to him, and accept his displays of love for you, and cuddle. It’ll be over soon–hang in there. ::hugs::

  • Kess

    This is one of the few times I don’t entirely agree with Liz’s advice. It’s true there’s no real rush – dating is awesome, being engaged will be awesome, being married will be awesome, and everyone should definitely enjoy the stage they’re in! But for me, while I look back fondly on our time when we were just dating, that whole “pre-engaged” period where we knew we were getting engaged but hadn’t gotten a ring or announced it etc was significantly less fun for me. I was bursting with the excitement of what was to come but not allowed to talk about it. In my mind, we had already moved forward to the next stage, but there was no recognition of it and the way things were still up in the air caused me anxiety. Maybe it would be more fun for someone who isn’t as anxiety and over-thinking prone as I am, but I really feel for C here!

    Of course no one should be pushing their partner into an engagement they aren’t ready for, but from the limited info we have here it sounds like C’s future fiance is delaying not because he doesn’t feel ready but just because he thinks it will be more romantic. In those circumstances I think it’s pretty legit to confess that the romance just doesn’t feel worth waiting that long.

    • Kristen

      I don’t completely agree either. I for one almost went insane when I was waiting for my now-fiance to propose. We talked about getting married from pretty much week 2. Around our one year anniversary his brother got engaged to a girl he’d been dating even less time than us, and it kind of sped everything up. My fiance told me he felt like he had pretty much been beaten to the punch, and from the day he found out about his brother’s engagement all he kept talking about was how he couldn’t wait to spend the rest of his life with me, etc. etc. After about a month of that I couldn’t take it anymore and basically told him to propose or stop talking about it, and offered to look at rings with him. Turns out talking to him was all it took. He wanted to do something huge and romantic, but felt too intimidated and didn’t know where to start, so he didn’t start at all. We picked out a ring together, I had him give it to me when we got home from the mall, with a little speech about his feelings. And that was that. Now 3 months before the wedding we couldn’t be happier.

    • K.

      While I see where Liz is coming from (that you should enjoy the moment and the journey), I also found the line about enjoying being single a little odd. Obviously, there are plenty of people who don’t live together or live fairly separate/independent lives until they are engaged (hell, sometimes even after – whatever works!) But personally, during my pre-engagement we had already lived together for over 2 years, so my days of last-Oreo-eating were loooonnnggg gone. I think that’s pretty common in this day and age, and I think that’s what can be so frustrating about the pre-engagement stage. You feel like you already have a life, a home and a family, but it’s not being recognized in the same way by society or even your closest circle yet.

      But like you said, I don’t think this couple is coming at it where one person isn’t quite ready to take the leap. The most frustrating part of my pre-engagement were the 6 months or so when I wanted to be engaged and my fiance wasn’t emotionally ready. I accepted that, of course, because he was able to clearly communicate what he needed/some sort of timeline and we kept the lines of communication open — and our overall future together was never, ever in question. But while I still loved our life (obviously), there was nothing fun about that part of that time. However, I actually DID have fun in the 4 months leading up to our actual engagement, because that’s when we were able to talk about our wedding plans without any outside interference and without any logistical realities. Would it have been nice to get the ring early? Maybe. Sure. Like I said below, he probably would have preferred it deep down (though now he’d never change our proposal). I mean, we always knew we would have a long engagement, so it was either a 28 month long engagement or a 23 month long engagement. Not really much of a difference in the long run. But I can understand someone just wanting to be ENGAGED too, especially if they aren’t actually able to enjoy the moment because they’re ready and their partner is (in all actuality) ready too.

      • anon

        The one quibble I have with the answer is the idea that single = dating and waiting to be engaged. In my book, once you’re in a serious relationship (no matter how it ends), you’re not single. You might not be engaged or married, but dating seriously is very different than single, and I think it does a disservice to both coupled and single people to equate them.

        • Guest

          Didn’t equate them, just listed them together.

          • anon

            To me, the listing read like equating, given that “Dating. Being single. Looking forward to an engagement” were all classified together as “things you get to appreciate for a little while longer” before getting engaged. Your comment tells me you didn’t mean for it to be read like that, but it’s how it came across to me upon first reading.

          • Guest

            Wasn’t my intention, but it’s a silly point to argue. I deleted the above comment as soon as I posted (and I’ll be removing this one as well), I guess Disqus is just taking awhile to catch up.

          • anon

            That’s fine, but what feels silly to one person may feel important to someone else. I noticed it because I’m in a committed, but not married, relationship and I find it annoying to be referred to as a single. By the same token, for very different reasons, my not-dating-anyone single friends often find it annoying to be lumped into a category with people in relationships. Words matter, that’s all.

    • another c

      I disagree also. Sure, there’s no rush, but why does that fact invalidate C’s totally reasonable feelings?

      Saying, “Why rush?” is like telling that person, “Why is this such a big deal? It’s not. So calm down.” That’s pretty harsh, actually. It totally invalidates C and her desire to be engaged to the man who has already purchased 2 engagement rings for her!

      C and her partner came up with a plan (pick a ring together, he chooses proposal time) and that plan changed (return ring, get on better financial ground before getting engaged, buy cheaper ring when money is available). Now that her partner chose a new ring, C definitely gets to revisit their entire previous agreement and ask him what his timeline for proposing is.

  • I’m probably one of the few people who will say this, but I don’t think being engaged is all it’s cracked up to be. I’m engaged to be married, and that’s what I really want to BE more than anything. Engagement means wedding planning, which I’ve found I’m pretty bad at/indifferent about. And being in limbo waiting to be married? Yeah, I could really live without that part, too. The best thing about engagement for me has been that it goes by fast (I’m already almost 2 months away from my wedding?? HOW IS THAT?) and that it leads to something awesome.

    I think you need to be honest with your boyfriend about this, but if he’s not ready, he’s not ready, and you’ll have to respect that.

    • Laura

      Ack, you’re not the only one. being engaged really isn’t that fun at all; looking forward to being married is.

  • Natalie

    I could have written this post just a few weeks ago. Our ducks were different, but we wanted them completely lined up (didn’t actually happen, but that’s life). We knew we wanted to get married December of 2012. I moved to be in the same town as he did Feb of 2013, and from that point forward I was thinking it would be “soon”. As did he, but after I broke down after the amazing birthday he planned for me in August we realize that his “soon” and my “soon” weren’t the same thing. We went ring shopping after that, had a ring made, and then from October to just last month I felt like I was in a weird holding pattern waiting for the proposal. If I could go back and talk to myself, I would say “relax! You know he wants to marry you, you know it’s going to happen. Enjoy the time you have”. Of course, people *did* say that to me, and I know how hard it is to do it.

    But here is the thing I will tell you – give yourself freedom to be content with this stage. Go out and do romantic things together, and don’t expect him to propose every time a milestone comes your way. Enjoy the parts where you can gleefully tell your girlfriends that you know he’s the guy for you, and you know you’re going to get married. (Trust me, their excitement for you will ease the fact that you can’t shout it out to the world that WE’RE GETTING MARRIED!!!). Also, it’s kind of a fun time, because you can scheme and plan and talk about what you want in your wedding without people grabbing your hand and asking if you’ve set a date.

    And yes, secret boards on pinterest. Secret. boards. on. Pinterest. I had a board for our wedding, engagement party, and engagement shoot, all set to secret from October to February.

  • Adria Rizzo

    Wake up tomorrow (or the next nice weather day) and declare spring to be your new most favorite season?

    I kid. I say let him do it his way…and in his time. It’s hard as hell some days, like you said, but it’s so totally worth it in the end. Out of so many of the big things in life, this one he has control over – I know for my (now) husband, I think proposing was a pretty big deal because it’s almost a rite of passage or something….like here’s this guy, certain he’s in love, getting ready to turn in his “single guy card” and ask another person to spend the rest of their life with him. That’s a pretty big deal, and something that shouldn’t be rushed, for any reason. And really, who knows? Maybe he’ll propose tomorrow and want to get married this fall? In the meantime, keep daydreaming/planning the wedding and your future path together…this is such a fast stage of life, the dreaming/planning/hoping/waiting part, in a few years time it will seem like a blink.

  • up_at_Dawn

    Waiting can really, really suck sometimes. My SO and I have some significant duck issues, and although we know we want to get married and have even talked about when we’d like to get married, we are currently unable to set a date or predict when we will be ABLE to set a date (Yay long-distance…) Add to that some unemployment and you pretty much have our situation where we are not getting “officially engaged” until we can set a date.

    We can’t even predict right now when we’re going to be able to live together. Or in the same damn city.

    I just see roadblock, after detour, after roadblock… and it’s really frustrating. So I understand where the letter writer is coming from, I feel like as soon as we can figure out when to do this thing, I’m just going to want to elope.

    Anyway, for once I’m not sure I agree with the advice to “just relax, enjoy, it’ll happen”. If she’s not comfortable with his timeline, she should talk to him about it. That doesn’t mean he’ll change it, but her feelings should be taken into account.

    • “Anyway, for once I’m not sure I agree with the advice to “just relax,
      enjoy, it’ll happen”. If she’s not comfortable with his timeline, she
      should talk to him about it. That doesn’t mean he’ll change it, but her
      feelings should be taken into account.”

      This. I hated waiting, and one of the reasons why is because there was no communication. I felt like I couldn’t talk to him without pressuring him (why does society think women talking about getting married is pressuring men into getting married???) and he wasn’t talking to me because he was planning the PERFECT proposal. Being told that “the time isn’t right yet” for over a year was incredibly frustrating- it made me feel like he was second guessing our relationship and worse- I started trying to change things so the time would be right. That year turned into a LOT of resentment and tears- even after he planned an amazing proposal. We love each other and are excited to spend the rest of our lives together, but we’ve had to spend a lot of time working through the issues that were created by that long waiting period. If I had spoken up early on, we might have at least had a few healthy conversations and not have as many issues to fix.

      • Laura

        We are still unpacking our issues over this long waiting period. I feel you.

        • I’m actually getting married at the end of the month. And I’m annoyed that we haven’t gotten through all of these issues yet. I know that it’s unrealistic to think that we would have no issues when we get married, but I sort of fooled myself into thinking that would happen. Don’t get me wrong- we’re good, but sometimes I just have sad days thinking about things. Any tips?

          • Laura

            We’re not getting married till November (oh is that one of my issues? yeah). We’re good too, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. It’s hard because it’s such an emotionally charged thing, partly fueled by society and WIC which makes it even more infuriating. For me it’s helpful to do a lot of alone thinking to sort out what is about him/me and what is about the outside pressures though sometimes the two are hard to separate. Another thing is to just own it. I am a woman who is used to making things happen and damnit it pisses me the hell off that I can’t make you ready when I am ready. Damnit damnit damnit.. and etc. I said it in a comment elsewhere on this article but what it really boils down to for me is that I have to come to a place where I am emotionally ok with the fact that he was not ready as soon as I was. I have to make peace with the fact that it’s never been about whether he loves me or wants to commit long term. Because he does and he has. (Honestly, the man is never ready when I am, whether if that is for dinner or for “I love you.” Though, he is the one that initially brought up spending the rest of our lives together). That’s not easy and I’m not totally there yet. I am there sometimes though, which feels so good, and I hope I can be there more often. Hang in there. We’ll get through it!

  • Alyssa

    Oh, girl, I feel you. I was in agony waiting for my now-husband to propose. He knew it was coming, my FAMILY knew it was coming, but since I was in the dark (he wouldn’t discuss it with me – it was to be a surprise!), I thought maybe he had changed his mind about me. The thing is – he had the ring but not the right advice.
    He was in a program that kept us apart for a year, and his family encouraged him to wait until the end of his service, or near the end, so that he wouldn’t have to plan long distance. If he had asked my family, he would have learned that I was more interested in being engaged to him than having an “OMG DON’T YOU LOVE HOW HE PROPOSED” story. For me, it was about the commitment and the relationship, but he felt a lot of pressure from outside sources to make the proposal a whole thing. And conversely, I felt like his lack of proposal meant that perhaps he was having doubts, and whenever I tried to talk to him about us, he was quiet – because he was planning a surprise proposal!
    Once he actually did propose, I surprised myself by feeling all kinds of feelings I didn’t anticipate – feelings of “Oh my gosh, it really happened! Oh my gosh, this is a big deal! Oh my gosh, am I READY?” While he had the time to plan and prepare emotionally, I had spent my time – and wasn’t on the page I thought I was. I came around quickly and we celebrated and enjoyed our engagement. However, in looking back, both of us agree that while it doesn’t play into the traditional romanticism of proposals, we wished we’d had more up-front conversations and less veiled ones. We agree that we also should have gotten engaged sooner – he was just waiting because he was told he should!
    I guess my point is this: talk about it with your partner. He might think all you really want is a big story, when really you just want him – and your opinion is valid!

    • Alyssa

      *spent my time crying – and wasn’t on the page I thought I was.

    • Sarah

      Oh I feel for everyone in this position! When I was 26, my now fiance and I had a “When? No really, when are we getting engaged?” conversation. I got a timeline of “before you turn 28.” So I had a set, not infinite, amount of time, just like the the question writer. That year and a half took FOREVER. Every holiday, birthday, weekend, dinner out, walk around our favorite place, and an entire trip to Greece were fraught with stress over whether or not the proposal was coming. I am all about delayed gratification- but I just could not enjoy anything. I didn’t just want to plan a wedding (pinterest secret boards are not a comfort to the pre-engaged). I wanted to start building the big, important parts of our lives that we wanted to keep for marriage (babies, house, etc.). I wanted to know that we really were getting married, not just talking about it. I wanted us to be totally committed, and I wanted our loved ones to know it (and to stop asking me when we were getting engaged- when they should’ve been asking him).
      My advice to C? Just keep talking to him. Talk to him when you’re in a good mood, and give him warning you want to talk about it. (Don’t just talk to him when Father of the Bride comes on TV and you start sobbing because you feel like you’re never going to get engaged.) What finally helped us really open up the getting engaged conversation was a really honest conversation right before Christmas when I said that I needed him to know that I was expecting a ring, Christmas would be great, and if it’s not going to happen now, please know that I need to know so I do not spend the next month feeling stressed about it. He had no idea how stressed the final wait was making me, that I thought about it ALL THE TIME, and that it really was coming, but not at Christmas.
      The wait between Christmas and the proposal 2 months later were still stressful, but at least Christmas wasn’t ruined. (and if you can’t tell, I’m still haven’t completely let go of having to wait… it’s a work in progress).
      Also, find a friend who can sympathize with your wait and will let you vent without judgement. Mine was priceless.

      • Alyssa

        Sarah, I totally thought my proposal was happening at Christmas! He made me a photo album of our relationship and I was like “this is it! the last page will say, ‘Will you marry me?'” BUT… It was a beautiful, really nice photo album, and not a proposal. Ha! I’m glad you knew pre-Christmas it wouldn’t be a Christmas thing!

  • Lauren from NH

    Speaking of the damn ducks…
    Any other young lovers feeling like the slow economy is slowing everything down? I know it’s a Meg classic to say fuck the economy and get married, but money and relationships are pretty complicated I think we would all agree. That’s what’s doing it for us. I know things will never be perfect but for my partner having so much student loan debt is somewhat weighing down his confidence as an adult. I am covering a greater portion of our expenses so he can pay his loans down but my career isn’t exactly taking off either.

    • Liz

      I’m in a phase of brokeness (we’re in year 5 of his unemployment/underemployment) where I don’t foresee our brokeness as a short-lived, soon coming-to-an-end sort of thing. For 5 years now, we’ve been saying “when we’re done being broke…” and “after we right the ship…” and you know, in 5 years, it hasn’t happened. So. Done waiting for financial stability, ready to continue making life choices (within reason).

    • kcaudad

      I’m with Meg on this one… My husband had a similar freak out when he realized just how much student loan debt he had and just how little money he was making after graduation. He broke down and said that he wasn’t sure if we should get married because of his debt. I told him that I would rather be married to him and broke (paying off debt) than not married to him at all! I also was not willing to pay down his debt without being married (that would have been a big financial risk for me to take without the major committment that marriage brings). So, we decided to get engaged with a ring I already had and plan a more modest wedding (with help from family) so that the economy and debt didn’t have to stop our plans. Now, we are married and working on paying down the debt together! Looking back, I can say that I much prefer it this way!

    • Vic Horsham

      Money worries are definitely delaying ours!

      To be fair, we were together a decade (and living together for 8) before we started talking about getting wed anyway, but we’re looking at being engaged for anywhere from 3-5 years and, honestly, I think the whole thing – wedding discussion, engagement, wedding itself, would probably have happened a lot quicker if finances weren’t a concern. Sure, I was 18 and he was 20 when we met, but I can imagine us having got it done when I was around 25-26 or so if LIFE hadn’t kept making everything except surviving seem like an extravagance.

      Between student debt, mental health issues on both sides and the fact that permanent employment has never quite lined up at the same time for both of us, we’ve never had much money and often struggled to get by. 6 months ago my other half found a permanent job, but the 2.5 years prior we had BOTH been out of work for most of it.

      For us, we’ve been together long enough that getting married doesn’t feel like a step up in terms of commitment or relationship status. And since we’re not having children, we don’t need to worry about having that bit of paper signed for their sake. It’s more about bringing our families together, since we adore our families, and they all live in different countries and all over the place, so a wedding is a chance for us to finally get them together to meet.

      We want to do it while the older and less physically well members of our families are still able to travel, which ideally would mean within 2 years, but there is just no way we can put together the money for the wedding we want in that time. We’re not going for something extravagant – everything is going to be home-made and we’re not even doing rings – but the few things which truly matter to us do still add up, and a decade of poverty and still having no financial security (his job is temp-ongoing so he can be fired with no notice or severance!) leaves you with a lot of other things to worry about.

    • never.the.same

      100% yes. We were committed a long time ago and have been together longer (8 years) than almost everyone we know who has gotten married in recent years. If I needed the paper, he’d go down to city hall tomorrow (or vice versa). But we both agree that we want the ceremony and public commitment, but have simply not had the money to have any kind of event. And so we’re not married. It’s really not about waiting for things to be perfect, so much as waiting for things to be possible. And it’s a fact that young people today are putting off all kinds of milestones because they’re broke, marriage just being one of them.

    • up_at_Dawn

      Due to our crap economy I returned to school to pursue something a bit more “economy-proof” (and moved back in with my parents), whereas he is still unemployed/ unpaid internship while looking for work. In different cities, and neither of us can afford a car right now.

      I’d be happy to say “f*ck it” to the ducks and get married, if I could be sure of us living in the same city. Which still seems like it’s more than 2 years out if it depends on me moving. AND then we have the obstacle of me starting a job- who is going to give me time off to get married when I’m starting a new job? It’s hard because I just keep seeing all these obstacles and detours and no way to actually make things happen.

  • rys

    I think Liz’s advice is reasonable, but I’m also wondering if there’s a bigger personality/worldview at play. The question I have is: how does C feel about delayed gratification in general? I ask because I’ve spent a lot of time talking friends about patience, motivation, and gratification lately, we seem to fall into three categories:

    1) prefer quick rewards immediately (once I get through this big thing today, I’ll get fancy cocktail, sparkly skirt, etc)
    2) prefer long-term rewards (when I’m done with this huge project, I’m going to get an ipad, a new bike, etc)
    3) prefer the idea of the reward and when it comes is irrelevant (at some point in the future, after I’ve accomplished my major thing, I’ll get myself new kitchenware or go on a big trip).

    For some, #3 is enough (today’s work earns me a hotel night whenever that might be) whereas others needed the immediate or mid-term motivation of #1 or #2. It seems to me that romantic partners may operate similarly, such that C wants something now or soon while her boyfriend just needs the idea of being engaged to keep him buzzing along. If this is the case, then it’s worth thinking about because it’s bound to arise again.

  • Aubry

    Girl, I know that feel. We had a good six months between the fully discussed decision that we will be getting engaged, to the actually event. The first few months were … OK … but the last few were nearly unbearable. I surely talked my poor friends ears off. But, it did happen eventually and the wedding planning is going along nicely. I don’t have any advice for you, other than to maybe try to either move the timeline up or deal with the feelings of hunger in a more graceful way than I did. But either way, try to assure yourself that it will happen, and 6 more months will seem short in the timeline of your whole relationship. Maybe even a cute story to tell you one-day distraught granddaughter or something.

    fist bumps.

  • Grace

    We are waiting to be engaged for practical reasons (I’m graduating medical school in July!). So I have about 6 months to wait. I hear what Liz is saying but after 5 years together (anniversary next week!) and nearly 3 years cohabiting we really are ready to be married now. I know wedding planning will be stressful. I know there will be people in my life who ask what the rush is. The rush is that we want to finally be legally recognised as a couple and enjoy all of the benefits that brings, even if it’s just a new level of respect for the needs of our relationship from our respective families. I can’t bear the idea of waiting more than 18 more months to be married. We’ve been waiting so long already. Maybe that’s the difference though, the engagement seems like a kind of necessary evil to us rather than a thing in itself. Honestly if I didn’t have such an amazing supportive family who will love our wedding, we’d probably elope.

  • Ariel

    I couldn’t deal with it any longer (we had been dating for 7.5 years), so I proposed.

    • up_at_Dawn

      Serious props. Good for you :)

      • Ariel

        Thanks! He was (finally) ready to propose by then as well, so he had the ring with him (unbeknownst to me). I then got pissed that I was all stressed and couldn’t sleep the night before when he was just going to do it later that week… classy, I know.

  • Amy March

    I don’t understand why you can’t just say “are you planning on waiting until fall? Because I don’t want you to. It won’t be fun and romantic, it will just be 6 months later. I love you and I want to marry you and I want to be engaged in the very near future. The romance is you asking me to marry you!” And going from there?

  • Victoria

    Comment #2. I guess it’s a sore issue for me.

    And this might not apply all that much to the letter writer but in the cases where the wait (because of reasons other than the guy not being ready to commit – at least according to the guy) causes genuine very serious pain and angst to the girl the excuse always seems to be that the guy “had no idea”.

    Where are all these guys who have no idea of the emotional well being and state of their significant other? Even if the girl does not have a super explicit conversation where she lays it all out it seems strange to me. My SO has generally been able to tell when I’m unhappy and guess at the approximate cause.

    I think part of the problem is that in a lot of cases the guy is lying. Sorry. But either because he’s lying to himself or is trying to not to hurt the feelings of his girlfriend (or in very rare cases deliberately misleading her because he doesn’t want to loose his girlfriend but has no intention of proposing any time soon) the guy gives “ducks” reasons when really he’s just not emotionally ready to commit/get engaged. And since the given reasons don’t necessarily make any sense (since they are not the real reasons) it just cause extra confusion and weirdness.

    Interestingly I disagree with the common sentiment on APW that a real surprise proposal is a sign of something bad because there haven’t been explicit ‘planning’ ‘relationship’ conversation beforehand. My boyfriend and I did not have one explicit conversation before he proposed. We never even talked about “someday” or kids, the closest we came was discussing briefly that I wanted to move to California and he wouldn’t mind moving there since nothing was holding him anywhere else. However, while it was a surprise because we hadn’t talked or picked out a ring or anything I wasn’t shocked, because our relationship “felt” like that’s where it was moving and I had secretly been planning to propose a couple of months later. We could both “feel” that the other person was ready/would like to get married without necessarily talking about it. I kind of think that’s normal.

    • Sarah

      This is coming a couple days late, but I just wanted to say that it was the same for my fiance and I. In fact, the night I did decide to bring up an explicit conversation about a timeline (and during which I said I have my great-grandmother’s ring and gave it to him), he proposed the next day because all he was waiting on was obtaining a ring. We were both on the same page even before I said anything. I didn’t have to say *anything* and we were still going to get engaged because we both already felt the same way AND felt that the other also felt the same way. It’s kinda weird, especially because many people advocate the explicit conversations…and we just didn’t have that. There have never been any “ducks” in our relationship. In fact, I’m going to law school just after our wedding and I’ll be 26. There’s no way I’m waiting until after law school to get married to my favorite person. And there was no way he was going to wait until he paid off xyz debt, or whatever else. Because we both simply want to be married.

  • Laura

    I spend a lot of time on fiancé’s couch. In fact, just the other night we had agreed to dinner at 6 but it was 7 and I was still sitting on his couch waiting for him to get ready. That’s kind of the story of our relationship. I wait on him all the time. So much that we have a joke that my schedule is a concrete block while his is a rubber band. We got engaged about a year and a half later than I wanted and are going to be engaged about a year longer than I wanted, for a grand total of two-and-a-half years longer than I originally wanted. I want to be his wife. Yes, single is an amazing time that should be cherished, as is dating. And engaged time is… as others here have already mentioned… really not that fun at all (All The Questions, sheesh!). Waiting to get engaged is hard. Especially because of who I am as a person. When Meg wrote about her preschool aged self learning to roller skate, I thought, “oh hey, that’s me”. I set goals and take steps to attain them. I am a person who makes things happen. But of course when the goal is a mutual one, the steps to attain the goal will not always follow my concrete block schedule. The reality is that you just can’t make someone be ready before they’re ready. It sucks to wait, and it’s an emotional roller coaster of a time. And you should definitely talk about how hard this is for you and about the reasons why you don’t want to wait because those things are valid. But there also comes a point where you have to make peace with the fact that you’ll have to spend some time on the couch waiting for him to get ready. Bring a book. It’s not so bad over here.

  • Sarah

    I completely understand. My husband and I went together to pick out the ring. It was this time last year I knew he had it and it was torturing me that he hadn’t proposed, especially since we knew we wanted to get married that year. I actually had a meltdown on vacation because it hadn’t happened. It’s funny that this comes up as I’m packing to go to the same place because he propose later in the month, we did get married, and now we’re going to his parents’ place to tell them they’re going to be grandparents. Things happen quickly once they happen. Maybe he needs the 7 months. Not to be sure, because it sounds like you’re both sure, but just to revel in this stage a little longer.

  • Caitlin_DD

    I *know* that feeling. And waiting was so hard, because of course, you know he has the ring, you know it’s going to happen, (maybe) other close friends/family of yours know it too…and there’s nothing you can do about it but to wait. However, I’m going say the wait was worth it. Don’t spend all this time counting down the seconds to the proposal. Use it to build your relationship, and explore this other person. It’s different. Of course you’ve been dating a while, but suddenly you’re in this special space where you know this is the person you want to marry, but there’s no pressure yet. You can explore what it will really be like to be with this person the rest of your life, without having to field engagement questions. It’s really a private, unique bit of time. Second, your man loves you, and is planning a romantic proposal for you. Don’t take that away from him. It’s his proposal too, and if he wants it to be a big planned, romantic surprise, let him. If you don’t focus on the fact that you are waiting, the time will fly by.

  • Chrissa

    My partner and I met in college and dated for nine years before getting engaged. We talked about marriage four years into the relationship, but we wanted to apply for and finish grad school before getting married. It was comforting knowing we were both committed to spending our lives together, but weren’t ready to start wedding planning until we got back on our feet after school. That was our path, and it is different for everyone, but I think it’s important for both sides to feel confident that that they’re “ready” for the next step. It’s not just about your feelings towards the other person, but also about where you are in life and your beliefs about what marriage signifies for the life stage you’re in. For the two of us, that meant having more financial and professional stability before planning (and paying for) a wedding. That said, I did start putting money aside for the wedding a year before the proposal came. =)

  • Hannah

    I do think the best policy is to be open with your partner, and try talk it out with them. That said, if you decide to wait it out until the fall, try to find some other big project to get excited about, either with or without your partner.

    Throw a theme party. Train for a 5K. Plan a camping trip. Enroll in a dance class. Make a list of ice cream shops in your state and start working through them. Get some relatives together for a family vacation. You get the picture.

    I don’t want to suggest that pining for an engagement is the result of idleness. But I know how thrilling it can be to have something to look forward to. If you pick some other thing to dream about and work toward, it might take the edge off all that waiting!

  • Episkey

    I empathize, and also add: after the engagement, holidays as a couple are SO MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE. It’s Christmas. Is a ring coming? No. New Years, is this it? No. Valentines Day, THIS MUST BE IT. No. At last, we’re finally engaged, and our holidays aren’t rife with expectations and disappointment.

  • whiskeylady

    As someone recently in a similar position, I think the “what’s the rush” for me was that I didn’t like ceding control of such a big life-change with absolutely no say in the timing. We do everything collaboratively – but with an engagement, the nature of the beast was he had all the control. it was very disempowering to be ready for something and not get a say in when it happens.