Ask Team Practical: Pre-Engaged and (effing) Facebook

by Alyssa Mooney, Emeritus Staff

Can we talk about pre-engagement? You know, to keep those of us who didn’t get engaged over the holidays sane? The posts in the archives are great, but these new Facebook engagement ring timeline posts are killing me (along with the well-intentioned but deranged people who actually say “Oh, so no engagement ring from the holidays?”). My boyfriend and I have been together a year and a half and are pre-engaged and living together, but he’s not ready yet. I read APW daily, but I am not sure how much more wedding joy I can take at the moment. I got my copy of Meg’s book a couple weeks ago, but it’s hidden away until I am ready to read it (emotionally and pre-maritally). Till then, can we chat?

Emotionally Fighting Friends, Relatives, Interlopers, Nottomention Grammy & Self


First, may I remind all of you that when it comes to topics that the APW staff can’t talk about first hand, in the end it falls upon readers to deliver the goods? (Pre-engaged readers, this is me gazing at you in a stern fashion. Unsure that you have anything to say? Read this and get to typin‘.) However, your email struck a chord and I really wanted to respond to what prompted this email in the first place, because I know you are not alone.

As evidenced in our Ring Olympics, Men’s Division post, all of these lovely updates on friends and acquaintances newly-engaged statuses can wreak a little havoc on your psyche. I sincerely doubt that you, or anyone else in your situation, is sitting around and waiting for a proposal. You’re in relationship and that’s awesome and your partner is awesome and life is awesome, thanks for asking. However, there are only so many “OMG!!!!! I SAID YES!!” posts, with accompanying blurry ring shots with cats and dirty laundry in the background, that a body can take before you start getting twitchy. I send hugs and sympathetic head nods your way.

But! While I sympathize, I also need to offer up a gentle kick in the pants. With love, obviously.

First off, start thinking of these posts for what they really aregreat news from friends. Just like any other aspect of their personal lives, their news has no reflection on your relationship (hint: remember this when your friends get divorced as well, which will shake a girl up in a different and more horrible way), their engagement has no reflection on your possible future engagement. These posts are a reminder of something that you’d like to have, one day. But as you said, he’s not ready. Hell, you might not even be ready. Your mutual readiness is something that you both need to discuss and decide upon, and not because fourteen people have changed their relationship status on Facebook. Focus on the positive on both sides; your friend is in a very happy place with her relationship and you are happy for her. Focus also on the happiness in your relationship. You’ve got something great and it is not contingent upon a proposal. Keep enjoying that and keep building your relationship together. As someone smart recently told me, “If you’re in it for forever, no real point in rushing forever.” Which is a smart way of saying you should enjoy what you have right now. You don’t need wedding joy when you’ve got everyday joy.

If these announcements are getting you down, it might be time for a short internet detox; if Facebook is giving you fits, stay away for a bit. If someone catches on fire, they probably won’t send an update, so don’t feel like you’ll miss major events. An internet detox is like giving up smoking or soda—tough at first, but eventually you’ll wonder why you thought it was going to be so hard. Think about giving up wedding related blogs, too. Or don’t. You know what you can handle, so take care of yourself.

And while you’re offline, why not plan a few adventures of your own for you and your partner? Getting engaged is often seen as some goal that you need to achieve, a benchmark in adulthood. First, we could spend a week arguing over if that is a totally appropriate benchmark. (And related: If you really need to buy a damn house to be considered a grownup. Or have kids. But I digress.) My point is, if this is a goal you want to achieve (and you do), and it’s not happening right away, that does not mean that the rest of your life is on hold. Decide to learn an awesome new skill, either with your partner or on your own. Vow to reach out more to your community and be more socially active. Plan an affordable trip. (Or an extremely extravagant one, I’m not the boss of you.) It’s terribly hard to be preoccupied by your pre-engagedness when you’re screaming your face off while hang-gliding or studying a new language. Or hang-gliding while studying a new language. I’m just saying.

But hey, if schadenfreude is more your style (because it’s kind of our style—secretly), think about how much hassle these newly-engaged friends will be dealing with over the coming months. Guest lists, bridal party troubles, vendor issues. And while she is agonizing over logistics, you and your partner get to just dress up in hot outfits, drink her booze and enjoy the hell out yourselves all while wishing her joy. But seriously, give yourself about two minutes of schadenfreude and then be a good friend and send her to APW.

And personally, those well-intentioned but deranged friends asking you about your engagement plans can suck it. “Oh, so no engagement ring from the holidays?” Who says that? I’m irritated on your behalf. Actually, we all are. Everyone reading that just got twitchy. Just pretend those people are physically unable to interact socially with any sense of tact and respond neutrally with a “Nope, but I did get _______ from my wonderful partner! How thoughtful, RIGHT?” And don’t worry about thinking ugly thoughts about them. I’m thinking them on your behalf and they are vicious.

PS. And open up Meg’s book already! There is a whole sidebar on p. 11 on “The Proposal,” and a sidebar on p. 13 on “Questions To Ask Before You Get Married” (which you should totally get cracking on).


Alrighty, Team Practical, let’s start 2012 off right! How have you, or did you, deal with the flurry of engagements that seem to happen over the holidays? What did you do to get your mind off of it?

Photo by Emily Takes Photos from the APW Flickr Pool.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com or use the submission form here.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). However, don’t let thinking up a sign-off stress you out; we’ll love you regardless. You’re already writing in for advice, don’t you have enough to deal with, sweetie?

Alyssa Mooney

Alyssa received a BA in Theatre and a minor in Gender Studies from Stephen F. Austin State University. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her adorably red-neck husband, Maggie the Wonder Dog, and sassy baby Tater.

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  • This is the best advice ever, and I am not even pre engaged. I think this can apply to any situation in which you are in between waiting. Let the focus be on the joys of today and make yourself busy with things you love until you are happy with the moment you are in, and the rest will come , when the time comes.
    I have the same with facebook updates, except in our case it is baby updates, but like Alyssa says, it is just good news from friends you love, and this is not a competition.
    So, I will repeat the advice on this post: plan travels, adventures, learn a new craft, and be happy. Forget the rest.

  • I’m not pre-engaged, I have actually been married for almost 6 years but I would like to suggest something, in case it’s useful: Try to think about the decision to get married as one that you will both make AS A COUPLE, instead of as a proposal that comes from your partner and that you simply accept or deny. I tend to rebel against the whole idea of a proposal/acceptance/ring, which I feel leaves women feeling powerless, voiceless, about a huge aspect of their lives. So, when someone asks you about the ring (who asks that???? I agree with Alyssa), you can simply reply: “No, WE didn’t decide to get married yet, WE are enjoying life as it is right now” And then go and do awesome things while they are busy with excel lists ;)

    • Steph

      I cannot agree enough and feel like I have had this conversation with many friends lately who feel that its supposed to be a total surprise and the decision is out of their hands. This is a HUGE decision and not one that I would ever let someone make without me. Sure my husband really wanted to propose and he did it in a way that I loved and was totally us but WE decided that we were ready to get married and wanted to take this next step together.

      I also felt this way a lot when people asked me if my husband asked my parents’ “blessing.” I am not judging this tradition, it just wasn’t for us. When people asked me about it when we got engaged, I said “nope, they are my parents so I had talked with them about our getting engaged”…

      • Exactly! I feel that we have to stop buying the Hollywood stereotype and get control of our lives. And, as couples, we should enter into the engaged state having been able to discuss basic aspects of the relationship,without fear of being labelled as crazy/obsessed/etc.
        BTW, a week before getting engaged a few colleagues told me I was “not feminine”and “not romantic”for thinking this way , that a “true woman” expects to be surprised with a proposal and a big ring ;) We (my husband and I) are still laughing at those statements.

        • Alyssa

          AND remember that a joint decision to get married and a “surprise” proposal aren’t mutually exclusive. Lots of women and they’re partners know they’ll say yes, it’s just the actual asking that is the unknown and that can be fun. Some may find it disingenuous, but for a lot of people it’s fun.

          • Steph

            I agree! the actual proposal was a total surprise for me- very sweet and so so fun! despite knowing that i would say yes, he also was still pretty nervous! i cant help but smile when i think about it!

          • Of course! I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

          • Absolutely. My BF and I have been living together for almost five years. We’ve merged our finances to a great extent and we’re saving for a ring together.

            BUT, once we hit our ring savings target, he’s in the driver’s seat. He WANTS to pick out the ring and plan a proposal, that is important to him. And it is important to me because it’s important to him.

            We’re a team but there is always room for surprises and displays of love and affection.

          • jessie

            Oh, SO THIS!! My partner and I proposed to each other (with rings for each – I was ambivalent on rings but he really wanted them because he thinks they’re romatic) on a day that was a surprise, but in a style that was planned. Prior to this, we talked about the proposal concept and what it came down to was: we want it to be SPECIAL. I think the stories and images of proposals make us think that proposals MUST look a certain way, and they so don’t. So if planned or surprised or mutual or staggered over hours/days/months is what works for you, you do that, and don’t worry.

          • Exactly. We’re kind of of the opinion that if you don’t know what their answer will be you have no business asking. The method might be a surprise, but the actual question should never be one.

          • MDBethann

            That was exactly what happened with our engagement. This time last year, we started talking about it and in late January/early February went window shopping for rings so he could see what I liked. I told him I didn’t care when and how he proposed – even if it was on the sofa at home with the cats – I just wanted to be engaged to him and more formally start our life together. He ended up proposing to me on a family trip to Greece (after telling me he wasn’t going to because he was afraid of traveling with the ring). We were over 4 days into the trip when he proposed, and my parents and sister knew the whole time. I was clueless until right before he proposed, but it was the best surprise and made the trip.

          • We did this! My hubby even went as far to get the jeweler in the shop in on it to “trick” me into choosing my own engagement ring. I was clueless that he was planning to propose. In fact, that evening we had a discussion about how I wasn’t necessarily “in a rush” (because I wasn’t – marriage shouldn’t be on a timetable), but that I was ready to get married TO HIM, and I wanted to spend my life with him.

            He surprised me with an amazing proposal a month later … little did I know he was planning it all along. :)

          • I think for a lot of the ladies on here, at least I highly doubt that I’m the only one, it’s this mutual agreement/surprise proposal concept that make major events like the holidays kind of hard, and cause people like the Asker to write in to you. It’s not just those who buy into the fairy tale who get bummed about being the only one (or feeling like the only one, at least) who didn’t get engaged in the last two weeks of December.

            We know we’re gonna get hitched, but we want to go through the ritual before we tell people. Then the holiday comes, others get to go through the ritual and shout their decision from the rooftops and the jealousy sets in. Then the whirlwind of crazy-making and guilt-inducing thoughts begin, the “they’ve known each other for five minutes, they can’t possibly have been talking about this as long as we have!” and “it’s not their fault they’re engaged and I’m not” followed by “geeze, I really shouldn’t be feeling this way” and culminating in really, really wanting the validation of engagement and being sad it hasn’t happened, yet.

          • I agree! Everyone has to decide which traditions have meaning for them personally and which ones to reject. We are definitely “pre-engaged” (and jeez, I totally, TOTALLY sympathize with this post!). We’ve discussed marriage, rings, our hypothetical wedding, all that. He knows I’m going to say yes, but we both think the surprise proposal scheme sounds too much fun not to do! So although I’m waiting (kind of impatiently) for him to ask (and hoping it is epically romantic) it is definitely a decision we’ve made together.

    • I couldn’t agree more! The decision to get married should be made as a couple. I made this very clear in the beginning of my relationship, almost to the horror of my now fiance. Being part of the decision was huge for me, I wasn’t ready for a long long time and I didn’t want him to make plans for a proposal while I still wasn’t ready. Regardless, it still did happen in a mass of confusion and our first proposal was an awful teary mess at around 2 AM in our living room…. I still wasn’t ready. A lot of my friends were getting engaged at this point too and it was very hard for me knowing that I wanted to marry my man but also very aware that I wasn’t ready for a marriage. Conflicting horrible emotions that I felt completely alone in as my girlfriends were flashing their new sparkle. But the right time did come and I let my man know that now I was ready to maybe take on this life changing process. We made the decision together. Three months later, after six years together, he created the most perfect situation (for us) and he got down on nervous knee and asked. The proposal was a surprise, as was the ring but we got to that point together and I believe we are stronger for it.

      Now I am neck high in Excel spreadsheets…. We had to cancel our trip to Mexico with friends over Christmas so that we could put the money towards the wedding. All the decisions to be made are on my brain 24/7…. Its wonderful and its awful. Really I just cannot wait to get to the other side so that we can go back to life as we knew it. A happy couple madly in love but first we must get through this sh*t show of family expectations.

      Enjoy your time with your man, laugh, have fun and love deeply. When you are ready together it will be all worthwhile and you will never even think twice about these other girls flashing their sparkle now. Then you can continue to laugh, have fun and love your man for the rest of your life. Its so very true, when forever is on its way why rush it, just love into it.

    • Julie

      I just got engaged -yay!- and it was something we planned together and kept secret for a while. We talked about having him do a proposal for about 5 seconds but it just wasn’t “us” so we planned the funnest day ever with all our favorite activities and decided we would get engaged on that day. I was totally in charge of my ring and paid for part of it and got a surprise gift for him. Our fun day really was the funnest day and the actual engagement was one of the most emotional moments of my life even though I knew it was coming. Everyone has been overjoyed for us but I have actually been surprised how many people are confused by the fact we planned it together ahead of time or who assumed he “popped the question”. Not mean about it or anything, but I was kind of sad that it seemed less special to people to do it our way.

  • lorna

    i am getting married tomorrow, and was (grumpily) pre-engaged for about 3 years.

    i started just asking people straight up why they thought it was OK to ask me when “it was my turn?” looked them in the eye, and said, very lightheartedly, “haha, that’s quite a personal question to ask in starbucks/during dinner/in front of my mum.” works a charm, and you’ve saved another future pre-engaged person the same pain and rage.

    and seriously, like alyssa said, enjoy the time you have together without tonnes to plan. in fact, tonight, whilst i am glue gunning, managing relatives and sharing a bed with my snoring sister, i would love for you to get dressed up, go and get amazing food and have really hot sex. that would make me so happy for you, and only a little jealous.


    • Congratulations and best of luck!

    • carrie

      Genius! And best of luck tomorrow and early congrats!!

    • Alyssa

      AHHHH! Congratulations and good luck!

    • meg

      YAYYY! (Also, you should have hot sex tomorrow. That is an order ;)

      • Yes, hot sex for the wedding. And, might I add, perhaps take our approach. We figured we’d be tired the night of our wedding (and we were), so we enjoyed our hot sex beforehand. Technically, sort of the night beforehand, but it was after midnight :-) We just both knew we don’t feel all sexy when we’re tired.

        • Mari

          this. so smart.

  • Although I’m in the post-engaged state now, I definitely understand this feeling. My husband and I were together for seven years before getting engaged, so we saw a lot of friends get married before us. We were happy for them, and we had talked about when we wanted to get married (we were in different time zones for three years, so we wanted to cover that base first), but sometimes it was hard.

    I remember one particularly tough time, when a friend of mine got engaged after dating her now-husband for about a year. She got really swept up in the wedding thing and it hurt me a little that I wasn’t doing all that yet, even though I’d been dating for 5 years at that point. Her wedding came just after my now-husband and I decided we were going to be apart for another year. For about a day, I really thought about skipping her wedding, even though I had bought plane tickets and booked a hotel room. I thought it would hurt too much to see a friend get married when my boyfriend and I couldn’t even manage to be in the same place. I did go and had fun; it was easy to be happy for her in the moment. And thinking back, I would not have wanted to get married at that time. Getting married in 2011 was right for my husband and me, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

    It may seem hard now. Heck, you may even have to block those friends who post about “getting my dress/meeting with the florist/I have the best fiance ever!!!” if you need to. But getting engaged when it’s right for YOU will feel way, way better.

    • KW

      Thank you for sharing! We are coming up on 2 years of long distance of our 3.5 year relationship right now. Fortunately our friends understand waiting until we can live in the same place, but the whole process just seems so long and dragged out.

      • awww, long-distancers unite! we were long-distance for almost five years– and now we’re happily not. :) i remember waiting for that day though, and thinking it would NEVER get here. hugs to you!

        • I just (as in 3 weeks ago) moved to live with my boyfriend of 2.5 years, after 2.5 years of being long distance. People would ask when we’re getting engaged and I would say “some time after we live in the same zip code for a while!” We don’t even have our own place, w’re staying with his parents for now.
          We know we want to get married sooner than later, but the actual proposal is in his hands. Fortunately most of our friends and relatives understand that we need to take some time to adjust to not being 3.5 hours away from each other.

          • “some time after we live in the same zip code for a while!”

            YES! It’s nice to be able to just enjoy having each other around. Getting married is great too, but there’s no reason to rush the nice feelings you have now that you’re finally in the same zip code.

      • Aw, good luck you two! Long distance can suck, but it’s worth it in the end. Sending lots of good long-distance vibes your way.

  • Oddly enough, I didn’t have issue with other people getting engaged before I did, but once I was engaged, it seemed like 10 of my friends instantly got rings and I didn’t have a chance to be unique or special….we all went from dating to engaged practically overnight. I wanted my time to shine (selfish as it may be), but never got that. Well, not until my wedding day anyway.

    I spent the holidays reminding myself that I didn’t want to be another Christmas proposal (as if I would have turned it down if he did it on Christmas….though, I might have died of laughter since he is, in fact, Jewish). I wanted it to be random and unique and very much “us”.

    And it was. On August 20th after 2+ years of dating, on a random Friday night…

  • Robyn

    “”Oh, so no engagement ring from the holidays?” Who says that? I’m irritated on your behalf. Actually, we all are. Everyone reading that just got twitchy.”

    Yup. Twitching. People are so ridic. Also, Facebook is the worst for these things, so trytrytry to ignore it. It is so true that when other people do things it isn’t about us at all, even though it feels like it is directly about us!

    I got engaged in October and as excited as I am for the wedding, it is a lot of work and stress and I sometimes miss just BEING instead of always planning. My mom is coming this weekend to visit and the whole weekend is centered around wedding planning and to be honest that isn’t awesome. Enjoy the days you have right now to just be with your boyfriend and enjoy all the anticipation and excitement because when it happens, it happens quickly. So enjoy the now and get giddy for the next thing. I know you look at people who get engaged and you get the envious feeling (most of us have been there), but I am looking at you and I am a bit envious. You get to still be so excited with your boyfriend about the huge decision you’re about to make together!! You get to talk open endedly about your future and as stressful as the unknown might be, it is also sort of exciting.

    It is also very important and admirable for him to be honest if he is not ready yet. As hard as it is, him being honest about that is better than him giving in and just doing it. It is a big exciting step and both people need to be ready for it to be a happy time.

    The most important thing is to take a step back and say am I really needing to get engaged right now or is it the pressure from everyone around me (including facebook)? And then, with those thoughts in mind, talk openly with your boyfriend about everything, so even if you aren’t on the same page right at this moment you can at least see each others pages.

    Lastly, don’t forget that you seem to be in a solid relationship. And THAT IS AWESOME! Enjoy!!

  • Jaycie

    Is “pre-engaged” even a thing? You’re either engaged or you’re not.

    I was in the same boat as Adria: we got engaged right before Christmas, only to find out that 5 other couples we know got engaged the same weekend. Then, since my engagement was a little longer than theirs, I spent the whole time in the shadow of their planning/parties/etc. Total bummer.

    • I never thought of myself as being “pre-engaged,” just “in a relationship.”

      • Chronically Ill Bride

        There have been a bunch of posts about the pre-engaged state, and I know for some couples, it is a thing. I definitely had that state of “we’ve talked about being ready and wanting to marry each other but we don’t consider ourselves engaged”. To a certain extent, I was waiting for him to propose, because he’d said he wanted to, even though we’d talked (a few times…) about how we were ready. Also, the ring was being made and we both were part of that. So, for me, pre-engaged.

      • Jess

        Same here – I’d never heard the term until after we were actually engaged. Looking back, there was definitely a time when the word would have fit, but I would never have announced it/used it out loud! But the time between when we decided to go look at rings and when he proposed? I’d call that pre-engaged. (NOT the time between when he first brought it up…after 3 months of dating…half serious, half joking, and I proceeded to ignore it for oh, a year or so).

      • Rachel

        me too

    • Pre-engaged is totally a thing! There is definitely a difference between dating, seriously dating, and being in a committed relationship where you both know you’re going to get married but you’re not there yet. I’ve been there, trust me. Pre-engaged and not engaged can be completely distinct.

      • Jan

        Meh, I think that perhaps “pre-engaged” is a term that people who really want to be engaged use so they feel better, like there is something to look forward to in the future.

        No one asks someone, “so who are you pre-engaged to?” Also, have you ever seen a Facebook status that said, “OMG, I am pre-engaged!!!”

        I don’t mind either way. If it makes you feel good, tell the whole world you are pre-engaged!

        • I didn’t tell anyone about being pre-engaged, and we certainly didn’t facebook it. Actually, strangely enough, I think we put “in a relationship” on facebook just a little before becoming engaged (after 2some years of dating). We didn’t change our status after getting engaged — we waited until the wedding.

          But, for me, there was definitely a big chunk of time where I consider us pre-engaged. We talked about getting married and what we might want in both a wedding and in a marriage. We talked about those questions you ask before you get married. We already knew we’d get married someday — we just didn’t know when. That was pre-engaged to me.

    • Alyssa

      It’s a self-identifier; if you think of yourself as pre-engaged, you are. If you don’t, you’re not. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

    • meg

      The background on that: it started as a totally bullshit marketing term, which I mocked. We then sort of co-opted it to talk about the period many of us went through where you know you’re going to get married, but one partner is not ready to actually get engaged. That period can be it’s own kind of painful. We were in a relationship for 2+ years. Then, I moved across country with my partner to support him going to law school but he wasn’t quite ready to be engaged (GRRR). For us, that was the pre-engaged period. It lasted about 9 painful months. There are lots of ladies here in that boat, who now use the term pre-engaged (somewhat ironically).

      • Nina B.

        I saw about 1 minute of some movie I’ve never been able to track down again where a woman is wearing a necklace with an egg pendant on it, and it was supposed to mean that she and her partner were engaged to be engaged.

        While I was pre-engaged in a relationship that thankfully never made it to an engagement, all I wanted was that GD egg pendant (which is think was a symbol entirely made up for that movie?) so that I could put my energy into waiting for that GD ring instead. Augh, WIC.

        • carrie

          I thought egg/nests were supposed to be symbolic of fertility?

          Also, there was a “single” ring at some point, that you wore to show people that you’re single. It never quite caught on…

        • meg

          Ha! Yeah, I never wanted anything official. It’s not like I told people I was pre-engaged. I just was angry that I was uprooting my life to move with my partner and he wasn’t ready to be engaged. Poor thing, I’m still mad about it. He said he thought being married for 2.5 years would have made the anger go away, but alas ;)

          • Class of 1980

            He’s quite lucky you agreed. Justified anger if you ask me.

            Glad everything worked out.

        • Not a regular commenter

          Just FYI, the egg pendant as a symbol for “engaged to be engaged” is a real thing, more formally known as a “Greek Lavalier” in my experience.

          Maybe that will help you find the film again?

          • Nina B.

            Oh wow, it IS real! Thanks!

      • Alyssa

        Also? Selfishly? It’s a handy term to use when writing about those who are mostly engaged, but not really officially in their own eyes and want to be but the time isn’t just right yet and that’s okay but it’s still a little unnerving at times and sometimes it’s just perfect and it’s a little complicated.

        • meg

          Yeah. The other term is kind of wordy.

    • I think it’s a useful way of expressing to people that you are in a serious relationship for the long haul, that THIS IS IT for both of you, even if you’re not engaged yet, for whatever reason. There was a point in my relationship where I felt like “boyfriend and girlfriend” really didn’t do justice to the relationship we had. Like Alyssa said, it’s a way of self-identifying, but I don’t think it’s just something that non-engaged women use to make themselves feel better.

      • When I was trying to convince people to hire me when I was moving to a different state for my boyfriend, I would sometimes use “partner” to explain why I was moving. Boyfriend just seems so… high school I guess. We’re in a committed relationship where I’m uprooting after 6 years to go live with him. “Boyfriend” just didn’t seem like enough, and he’s not my fiance yet either. Interestingly though, “partner” tends to make people assume that my SO is a woman.

        • meg

          Yeah. Once I moved for David, I started using the word partner. He did too. (Even though he wasn’t quite ready for the proposal).

      • Class of 1980

        I understand the impulse, except I don’t think you need to justify your relationship to anyone else. It’s no one’s business what level of commitment you are at, so they should not assume anything from the words “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”.

        Isn’t it already assumed that people bearing those titles are at different levels?

        • Jo

          Vocabulary can be tricky.
          Our technical status: Not yet officially* married, but we are in the process of planning a wedding.
          We tend to refer to each other as either “husband”/”wife” or “significant other” and we’ve done so since before we decided to have a wedding b/c we’d already decided that we see ourselves as permanently attached. On facebook we are “In a relationship”.

          Your relationship is whatever you see it as from the inside, the trick is not getting overwhelmed by how other people see it from the outside.

          *According to Common Law in our state we have certain legal rights of being a married couple.

        • Kyley

          I don’t like using the term boyfriend, but it’s not because of what other people’s perceptions might be. I’ve been with my partner for 8 years, and while we are emotionally as committed as possible we’re not in a position to get married yet. And so I dislike calling him my boyfriend because doesn’t capture, in my heart, what our relationship means.

    • Class of 1980

      I don’t understand the word “pre-engaged”.

      Once two people have agreed to get married, they are engaged … even if they don’t have a ring … even if they don’t actually get married for another 10 years. An engagement is nothing more than an agreement to marry. There are no prerequisites.

      I don’t understand this new idea that two people agree to get married, but absolutely refuse to consider themselves engaged until the very hour someone “officially” proposes and/or presents a ring.

      I blame Hollywood. ;)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        That’s fair, but…I once foolishly agreed to get married without a formal proposal or ring or anything, and then concluded I was secretly engaged, and when it was no longer a secret, I was publicly engaged. It was a long-distance-relationship, and I don’t think my ex-fiance and I were ever on the same page about the seriousness of the relationship, and the situation really blew up in my face. If I had thought about a pre-engaged state between new long-distance romance and actually engaged (and held my ex-fiance to higher standards regarding communication and adopting some of my culture’s norms), I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.

        And, now, years later, with a wonderful new fiance, the pre-engaged state was brief but real for us. We were planning on marrying (which is different than agreeing to marry), chose a date, but then because we both wanted a quasi-Hollywood proposal with a ring, I gave him a 7-month window to propose, based upon the wedding date and the wedding I wanted to plan. ‘Cause I had learned the first time that being engaged without a ring or a date causes bunches of headaches.

        • Class of 1980

          Well, if you thought you were engaged and your guy didn’t take it seriously, then you weren’t engaged. You were taken for a ride.

          An engagement ring does serve as a sign of commitment, but actions can serve as a sign too.

          Example: I personally don’t want an engagement ring if I get married again. It’s not a money issue. I would want a more elaborate botanically-inspired wedding ring that needs to be worn alone.

          So how would I know he was committed? Um … he’d be spending some of his own money on wedding planning for one thing. He be investing in our life together. I’d have a clear plan for the length of the engagement. I definitely wouldn’t put up with wishy-washy plans because I’m old enough to know better. ;)

          • ElisabethJoanne

            My point was, maybe the ride wouldn’t have lasted so long or been so rough if I had this concept of “pre-engaged.”

            It’s crazy-interesting and sometimes crazy-helpful how complex situations lead to new, simple vocabulary, and then that vocabulary helps us understand the situations.

      • Kess

        As I (privately of course!) ‘identify’ as pre-engaged, here’s my take:

        My boyfriend and I know that we will get engaged, but frankly neither of us are quite ready for that state. We don’t feel quite old enough, or stable enough to get married. For me, engaged implies that EVERYONE knows that you are planning a wedding and the wedding is coming sometime relatively soon. For me, that typically means a year or two, but things happen that sometimes draw out the planning process.

        So, I think its a term that’s very convenient to use if you are
        (A) not publicly telling people you’re going to get married (although there are also people who are engaged engaged who choose to keep it a secret – that’s different)
        (B) quite certain you want to marry that person, but one or both of you aren’t quite ready, and
        (C) know that you want to actually marry (basically, if you’re never planning on getting married, you’re never really pre-engaged)

        • Kess

          Actually, I just thought of a better, more straightforward explanation

          “I want to marry you” = pre-engaged
          “We’re going to get married” = engaged

      • I think pre-engaged periods can start when the couple starts talking about getting married in more specific terms, but isn’t ready to start planning a wedding. It’s kind of a testing the waters kind of thing. You are discussing the idea of it but there is no commitment.

        I don’t think it matters about a ring or proposal. It’s just the lack of solid commitment that you are indeed doing “the thing” that makes you pre-engaged. Once you have made the solid commitment, then you are engaged.

      • meg

        Noooo. I agree with you. Pre-engaged isn’t about deciding to get married without a fancy proposal. It’s when one of you is READY and the other one is still thinking it over, and you’re pretty sure it’s going to happen, but you’re not quite there yet and… Or when you move across the country for your partner but he’s not TOTALLY sure he wants to get hitched yet ;)

        Also, it can only be said out-loud with an ironic eyebrow raise.

      • Kyley

        But sometimes there is not that agreement. I feel like there is often a period for couples where one person is ready to get married and one isn’t…yet. And so this weird limbo space is born, that I think some people find comfort in labeling.

    • Hoppy Bunny

      Dated for two years. Moved in together and dated for another eight. We never had the security for the next step to happen in terms of money or jobs, but we knew it would happen eventually (and it has). Pre-engagement is definitely a thing. When you both want to be married. Before the stars align to make it feasible. When your partner says to you, “I want to marry you, but we can’t afford a ring, and I want you to have one.” Yep. It can be a crappy place to be sometimes–especially when you know that, had your crappy job been a little better, you’d have been married a long time by now.

      • Class of 1980

        See, I’d call that engaged.

        • But practically speaking, I can’t walk around telling people that I’m engaged – there is no wedding being planned. There is no date set. There is no official anything.

          I don’t walk around saying I’m pre-engaged, either, because that would be weird, but I tend to use it here as a short-hand for explaining my more-than-just-a-boyfriend-girlfriend-kind-of-thing relationship.

          If you don’t like it, by all means don’t use it, but please don’t argue that it doesn’t exist, because for a lot of people it’s a really useful term to explain the limbo that is a long-term relationship that hasn’t yet entered the engagement stage.

          • Class of 1980

            You sound like you are irritated with what I wrote. The term “long engagement” could apply to you.

            I’m just trying to validate people who don’t feel they have a right to declare themselves engaged unless they are wearing a ring or actively planning a wedding.

            If they have agreed to get married, there is nothing in tradition or etiquette to prevent them from saying they are indeed engaged.

            I know married couples who were engaged for years before they got married.

            If you don’t want to say you’re engaged, then you don’t have to. But at least know that you have every right to say you’re engaged if you want to.

          • I’m not irritated, but I disagree that you would consider that by my description, my partner and I are “engaged” – he certainly doesn’t see it that way!

            By that logic, since we’re committed to each other and living in a long-term partnership, we’re just already married.

        • Hoppy Bunny

          Nope, it was pre-engaged, although I see what you mean–it did sound like I was saying we’d proposed to each other, which hadn’t actually happened. We weren’t sitting there planning for a decade, we were simply enjoying each other’s company, which was very nice. We both eventually knew it was something we wanted to do despite our wiley wiley ducks, but it took a while for him to move from the “I never want to get married, let’s be hippy life partners” camp to the “actually marriage sounds nice” camp.

          Being engaged now, I can say there was a definite, huge, palpable shift in our relationship dynamic when we actually get engaged and started moving forward with our relationship (instead of waiting for the right time to do so). It feels a bit like the difference between watching a horse race and actually betting on your horse, and seeing it win. So I still say we were pre-engaged. And that being hippy life partners for a decade was great, but it turns out it wasn’t for us. Go hippies.

        • MARBELLA

          No offense Class of 1980, but it doesn’t really matter what you would call it, because it is not your relationship. Isn’t that the whole point of this? Not to label other people and box them into what you think is appropriate? I was what you could call ‘pre-engaged’ for several years, and it is a totally different thing to ‘engaged’.

      • meg

        I would ALSO call that engaged. Fuck the ring. Fuck “being able to afford” to get engaged or a wedding. I would rant about that here, but I’ve already ranted with historical source material in the book, so maybe just read that ;)

        • Class of 1980

          Oh, we’re using the real “F” word now? Well then …

          Fuck DeBeers.

          Until their marketing campaign in the early 20th century, no one required a ring to call themselves “engaged”.

          Knowing history can sometimes free us of so much useless baggage.

        • Edelweiss

          I’m actually really glad this discussion came up (not too detract from EFF RINGS question). I misinterpreted what ore-engaged meant and it gives meva new context for past posts.

          That being said, I think some other commenters arevalso trying to qualify another distinct phase they’ve experienced. For us we had to process the HUGE decision to commit to ourselves for life privately and internalize what that meant to our relationship before we were ready to share that info publicly and deal with all the well-intentioned Nosey Nellies in our life. We knew we were going to get engaged almost an entire year before he bought the ($150 pearl) ring.

          I guess maybe that time could be considered “secretly engaged”. And it was lovely, but it was completely different than when we became publicly engaged. Right or wrong, the outside world views us as more official now and that has shifted the dynamics in how others deal with us as a couple.

          I would just add, for us, but particularly for my partner, having the comfort of that “secret engagement” buffer was very valuable in giving us a more solid foundation before entering the public wedding planning realm. I recommend it for other introvert or /those with wedding hesitations but not commitment hesitations. It wasn’t perfect, we did have differing timelines of going public, but overall it was wonderful.

    • Lucy

      If you ever were pre-engaged you would know it is definately a thing. I feel so strongly about this topic because I was in this state…whatever you want to call it…for months. Where my partner and I were discussing marriage, talking about it, knew that we could see ourselves together for the rest of our lives but not quite ready to make it official. Sometimes there is some emotional work or milestones that people need to reach before they can jump into engagement with both feet.

      I don’t see anything wrong with calling it something. I don’t think it is something you go around telling people, but it deserves to be recognized because it is a difficult time. I think it also can be a really important time of growth for the couple as well. I don’t think it is as simple as “you are engaged or you are not”. It is transitional, like becoming an adult. Yes, techincally when you turn 18 you are an “adult” but some people take a while to make the full transition and others do it all at once. I think of pre-engaged as that transitional phase from “boyfriend/girlfriend” to “life partner”. We need to leave room for those in this transitional stage to talk about it because it makes you feel like a crazy person when it is minimized and hushed.

  • Moz

    I got nothin’, I just love the acronym EFF RINGS, nice one :)

    My first comment for the year and it’s officially redundant!

  • I really like the idea of beginning to work through the tough questions now. We asked our closest friends and family to suggest some topics for us to discuss, and I also found some online. When we did get engaged, we had already worked through a lot of the tough issues, and we knew it was the right decision. Can you imagine how hard it would be to be in the middle of wedding planning and premarital counseling and find out you have irreconcilable differences?!?!

    Like another reader, I hated the idea of the modern proposal being like “surprise! I’m finally ready to marry you!!!”. Talking to my partner about this was really helpful. We talked about how we did want to get married one day, and what that marriage and family would be like. We talked through issues. We even talked about what a proposal should be like! All these things helped. Don’t be scared to talk to your partner. If he can’t handle that, he’s obviously not in the right place. Chances are, he has a lot of emotions of his own regarding your future, and it would do both of you some good to share those. Even tell him how the facebook posts are getting you down!!!

    But then, please, go be happy for your friends! You’ll get your moment in the sun soon!

    • Yes to talking. It’s totally OK to say “I understand and like the place we’re in right now but these ring posts are making me feel a little stabby. Can we talk about that for a few minutes because I really want to focus on how happy I am that friend X found a totally rockin’ future spouse.”

      I’ve had several conversations like that. The pre-engaged state, for me, has had a lot of ups and downs. But focusing on staying present in my relationship, feeding it, growing it and appreciating the awesome has really helped. Also, taking to heart and owning the fact that there isn’t a finite amount of engagements in the world. Someone else’s ring isn’t “my ring” that got “stolen” from me because we aren’t there yet. We’re good, I’m happy for them and I know they will be happy for us.

      • Hoppy Bunny

        Yes to hashing it out with your partner when the bad feelings start up. Yes yes yes yes yes.

  • Diana

    First of all, I didn’t even realize that getting engaged over the holidays was a thing. And now I’m one of them. Oops. But I thought it was considerate that my partner of almost 3 years proposed (while walking the dog, nothing elaborate, but super appropriate…and yes, we had had the non-romantic but very practical and necessary discussions throughout our relationship about if we were going to get married, or be satisfied with a domestic partnership. A couple of months ago I let him know that I wanted the legal rights) on Friday before Christmas because he knew that we would want to celebrate with our families (we were traveling and were going to see his family Saturday and mine on Sunday).

    But, being together for 3 years (living together for almost 2) and going to over a dozen weddings together, we got that “when’s your turn?” question a lot, so I feel ya, sister. And yes, it is about timing. And it’s personal. Meaning, it’s about when both of you are ready. And unfortunately in heterosexual couples, I think the women get that question a lot more than the men. (One way that really deflated my balloon was when I told people I was engaged and they jokingly said “took him long enough.” Again, totally inappropriate, but I at least wanted to give you that warning.)

    Also, as for the facebook post… I have to admit that I am guilty of that. I was SO excited to be engaged that I wanted to share my news with the world. (Obviously I called the people closest to me or told them in person first.) Please be excited for your friends. They are not trying to rub your face in it; they are just more excited than they expected to be. And there was something really nice about all of the random friends that I don’t interact with on a daily basis expressing their joy for us. (My fifth grade teacher was one of the first to comment!)

    • Alyssa

      You are guilty of nothing, you shared happy news and you had every right. Don’t make me send you the post on shame-blasting! :-)

      • Diana

        Ooh, I haven’t read the shame-blasting posts (I’m new to the site, and SO glad that I found it a week after getting engaged!) but I will definitely go find and read. This website is like having the cool older sister I never had explain weddings to me. Thanks!!

      • pew! pew! :)

    • For those of us who have said “took him long enough” or “about time” . . . at least from my angle, I always mean that to be a “we know you two are perfect for each other.” I see it as a compliment and not a dig on the couple. The photographers who did our wedding are dear friends of mine from high school, and they waited 10 years to get married. We lost touch at one point after high school, and I ran into them at a baseball game (I was working there). There was definitely shock on my part that they weren’t married yet. Again, not a dig, but just an acknowledgement that the couple are two people who are so right for each other.

      • Diana

        thanks, I like that explanation. I HOPE that’s where people are coming from, and not judging how long it has taken two people to feel ready (or to want) to take the marriage step.

      • Hoppy Bunny

        That’s a great place to come from, but the phrase “took him long enough” implies that it took him “too long” and the couple has “done it wrong.” It is not NEARLY as fun to hear as “I am so happy for you, you guys are perfect for each other.” So if that is what you mean to say, that is a much better way of putting it :D

        • Jo

          I agree w/ Hoppy Bunny.
          Plus, I hate the whole business of it being up to HIM. I’d be a lot more comfortable with the dig “It took you guys long enough” (ie, it took BOTH of you long enough to realize that you’re perfect for each other).

        • Kyley

          Yeah, I’ve been with my SO for 8 years (anniversary in 2weeks!) and will likely have to wait a while more to get married for various reasons. I already dread hearing the “took you long enough.”. I know it will mean “we already saw your relationship as legitimate as official marriage” but it still sounds judgey.

      • When I got engaged, I heard a lot of “it’s about time.” We’ve been together for 3.5 years and living together for 2.5 of those. But I always took it as, “We’ve been waiting for this to happen so we can celebrate with you!!”
        Of course, it helps that I have a family who is really, really into the celebrating. :)

  • Julia

    Thanks for this post. I am in a similar state as the letter-writer with my boyfriend of almost 4 years. We live together and have had many long discussions about marriage – both whether it is important and why it is important as we’re both not religious and are anti-establishment/paternalistic traditions. It’s important to us, and we do both want to get married, but he is wary. Not of being with me, but that being married somehow changes people for the worst (think of the saddest example of someone’s parents you know – not talking but not divorced, that kind of thing). Despite being very happy in my relationship and having many clear signs of total commitment from my boyfriend (he bought a house for us to live in together), I get a terrible pang of jealousy (that I am completely ashamed of) when a friend gets engaged. Alyssa gives great advice here and since it’s a new year, I hope I can take some of it in the spirit of renewal that a new year brings, even if that means reading APW a little less and not browsing venues in our city.

    • Parsley

      So, when I was pre-engaged, I was also an ordained minister, so I was doing weddings all the time. And at one point when I really wanted to be engaged, but my partner wasn’t ready yet, I went through a period of feeling really sad sometimes in the planning of these weddings. On the day of the wedding, every time, I was able to just be present and be happy for the couple I was marrying, but it was hard at times. I’m mentioning this because I think that we can’t blame ourselves for that pang of jealosy or sadness or whatever. That’s a perfectly natural reaction. Hopefully, we can find a way to take care of ourselves so that when called upon to be present to those peope in our lives who are in the happy engaged or wedding day place, we can show up joyfully. But meanwhile, you feel how you feel, and that’s okay.

      • Class of 1980

        You should not be ashamed of the pang of jealousy. It’s a valuable tool in self-knowledge.

        That pang of jealousy is a road sign pointing you to what you want. When I feel jealous of someone, I stop right there and look it in the face. It’s telling me that I’ve just discovered that something means enough to me to go out and get it.

        After all, we don’t feel jealousy over things we don’t really desire.

        • I really love this and hope I can adopt it a bit into my daily life. Thanks:)

    • meg

      Go dig through Reclaiming Wife and find some posts for him. Being married totally changed us for the better… all that cultural noise about it changing you for the worst is bullshit (unless you let it).

  • even better than the “Oh, so no engagement ring from the holidays?” is someone asking my mom “So what does her ring look like?” Thank goodness I wasn’t there, because I would have been mortified for her when she found out I didn’t get one. I wasn’t expecting one, but apparently everyone else was!

    • meg

      HOLY SHIT. OH NOSSSS. I’m so embarrassed for the person that asked that question. I hope they are embarrassed for themselves!

    • Or better than that, the well meaning but seriously misplaced “expecting anything sparkly for Christmas?” FROM MY MOTHER.

      Momma, I love you. Please stop.

      • Mari

        randomly, the only person who commented on impending engagement this christmas was my boyfriend’s coworker who I’ve never met and he’s not that close with. she flat out asked him if he’d gotten me a ring. I was like, um, who is this random person who even cares?

    • For almost two years before we got engaged, every time I would see one of my good friends from high school I would catch her checking out my left hand, just curious as to whether I might be engaged yet. I promised her she would be one of the first to know when it did eventually happen; I would be excited to share my joy with one of my oldest friends. But until then, stop starring at my hand!

  • Anna

    OHMYGoodness THIS! Has the whole world gone batS*&% crazy??

    After the 4th person grabbed my left hand on the first day back at work, and realized there was no sparkler and offered their condolences, I thought, “k, APW has got to cover this soon!”

    Like Alyssa said, I try and ignore the blurry ring pics on facebook and remember that these friends are just super excited to be getting hitched. And I am really, genuinely, excited for them.

    One thing to add: I talk about it with my boyfriend. He’s getting less-than-appropriate remarks from acquaintances on the subway too! It helps when we share our, “OMG you’ll never believe what so-and-so said to me…” stories. And we laugh about it and then continue living our fabulously wedding-stress free lives!

    • I cannot believe that people actually GRAB YOUR HAND expecting to find you engaged. That’s so rude!

      • ElisabethJoanne

        And then, once you’re engaged, near-strangers grab your hand to look at the ring. I imagine it’s like pregnant women who get their torsos patted by strangers.

        Next time it happens, I really want to charge them with battery, which is what it is to grab a stranger’s hand without permission. And if it happens in SF, I’ll request David prosecute.

    • Shelly

      Seriously. My boss said something to my single co-worker this week about “no ring, huh?” accompanied by a sad face…and I wanted to smack her on my co-worker’s behalf! I gave my best “what-gives-you-the-right” scoff, followed up with a swift change of subject.

      I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t peered out of the corner of my eye to see if she had any new jewelry simply because it’s a popular time of year for engagements. But I hate the smug/condescending tone people seem to get when they pry into your business.

      • Alyssa

        Tell them you got an engagement piercing and you’d be happy to show them if you would accompany you to the restroom…

        Okay, fine, don’t do that, but LORDY, people suck sometimes.

        • Jennie

          BWA HA HA, that would be awesome. I wish I could come up with these kinds of things to get people off my back. Alyssa, you are fantastic. It’s hard to remember that it’s not a contest, that I am not any less wonderful and that he does not love me any less because he hasn’t yet done this one little thing.

          PS: “I’m not the boss of you.” was utterly awesome.

        • Class of 1980

          And Dallas is the worst place in the world about rings and diamonds. Right, Alyssa? ;)

          • Alyssa

            GOD YES.
            And when I got engaged I worked at a dance studio that was FULL of very wealthy parents, as well as some high profile ones too. (First time I saw a black AmEx, I about passed out.) I had my hand yanked so many times, I thought it’d get dislocated…

    • I was not aware that this holiday-proposal assumption thing was an actual thing!

    • meg

      THEY GRABBED YOUR HAND? They did f*cking not. Oh my god.

    • What about those of us who didn’t have a ring? Blessedly, I didn’t get too much guff for that. I’m just not a bling kind of lady. Even our wedding rings are super simple.

      • I didn’t have a ring either (we decided to put that money towards a longer honeymoon), and our wedding rings are also super simple and you should have seen THE LOOKS and THE COMMENTS we got for that! OMG!

        • Mari

          This is what I want to do but yes… not looking forward to LOOKS and COMMENTS…

          • Don’t worry too much about them…when I think about our 3 weeks in Tuscany: totally worth it! :)

          • Jo

            I don’t have an “engagement ring” and I have yet to have a single person comment on it with either surprise or negativity. The few conversations it has ever inspired have been opportunities for me to share my beliefs on the matter and they’ve always been completely respectful and appreciative conversations.
            It might help that the people who know that we’re planning a wedding are the friends and family who we’ve had the occasion to tell, so the people who don’t know us well enough to understand don’t even know and that works just fine for me. Frankly, if those people who I don’t speak to enough for them to understand end up making comments, they’re just not people I speak to enough to care about.

      • Jovi

        Haha, I didn’t have an engagement ring either. We just didn’t feel the need for one. When we told people we were engaged, some people asked to see the ring and were surprised but understanding when I said we would only have wedding rings. Others were too polite to ask, but dang near broke their necks stealing glances at my left hand throughout a conversation, as though maybe the ring was really tiny or transparent and they’d missed it the first four times they looked.

    • bts

      Wow. People actually do this?!

      And just for a moment, it’s worth mentioning that not *everyone* uses a diamond ring to mark their engagement (I didn’t want one, and I’ve been married for 2.5 years, so it was actually, you know, a real engagement). I understand I was in a minority, but plenty of people get engaged without a ring or with some kind of placeholder and then pick one out later together, so this seems rude not just on the level of assuming that someone else should be getting engaged over the holidays, but also on the level of assuming that you can understand someone else’s relationship by looking at her hand. Why not just ask a woman how her holidays were and then trust that she’ll tell you if she has any big news to report?

    • A

      Is it weird that I feel a little insecure that NO ONE is pestering me to get engaged to my boyfriend of 3 years? Are ALL of my friends and family just ultra socially-aware and awesome? ….. or…. *do they not think we’re a good match*?? Seriously, not a single person has ever so much as hinted at any impatience, or waggled any eyebrows, or grabbed any hands. It feels crazy to admit that this is sort of bumming me out!

      • Just be glad. My friends didn’t say anything to me, but it was because they understood where we were and aren’t the pressuring types. My family, on the other hand?? And acquaintance? Crazy aggressive. No matter what the reason, I would have preferred silence on the issue.

  • Lady, I understand exactly where you’re coming from! My boyfriend and I have been together almost 7 years, and about 2 years ago I got wedding blog fever and decided that I wanted to get married YESTERDAY. I didn’t even care about the wedding part (although let’s be honest, I totally daydreamed about my perfect wedding in a field, etc), I was just convinced that I was ready to be married and needed to do that thing ASAP.

    Unfortunately for my scheming, the boyfriend was not on the same timeline. We had a lot of really good conversations about it, the end result being that I’m now quite happily still not engaged. It’s still something that I’d like to do eventually, but I realised that I could very easily miss out on several amazing years of our relationship due to being a grouch and dropping awkward hints and leaving ring websites open on his computer. I’d rather spend this time having fun and enjoying our relationship for what it is, regardless of what it’s called.

    I would talk to your guy about it. Hopefully your desire to get married is due to a desire to strengthen your partnership, have a meaningful commitment, etc rather than a party and a ring (although those are great too!). Talking about it will allow him to understand your feelings, and while it won’t just magically convince him to get married (or it might, who knows?) it will probably allow him to address some of those concerns and help you guys think about a vague timeline that works for both of you.

    I think that women (myself included) have this fear that if we talk about weddings, we’ll scare away our partners, so we do weird things like hide Off Beat Bride under the couch (he found it… so embarassing). But it’s crazy to just expect that our partners know all of our secret thoughts, so TALK!

    • Meaghan, you’re so my girl. Amen to all of this.

    • Class of 1980

      I think once you been dating a while, you should be having a lot of lazy conversations about what you hope for in life. There shouldn’t be any surprise five years down the road that the person never wanted to get married to anyone ever.

      Of course, this is assuming you’re dating someone you could even see as a spouse. ;)

      • Well, I don’t know about that. We started dating young, and at the time I think we both were very intent on being “untraditional” and generally obnoxiously judgemental about the “normal” way of doing things, and I think that we both stated a general apathy towards marriage. Things have changed, and while it’s something that I’m interested in, he’s still kind of ambivilant to the formality of it.

        Just think – I could potentially lurk around here forever and never get married. And I’m okay with that, because I would rather be in this relationship, unmarried, tthan married to some other random person for the sake of being married.

        • Class of 1980

          Sounds to me like your conversations have been helpful. You actually both know where the other one stands. Right?

        • I completely agree – we were both really young when we started dating, and while we’re both still a little hesitant about marriage, it just wasn’t an issue for years and years because we had high school and then college (and now grad school) to finish, and other worlds to conquer.

          Now, seven years on, I do think of what type of a husband/father he would make. We talk about marriage often, and we know for sure that we’re in this for the long-haul, papers/rings/hand-clasping ceremonies or no. But those happy, heady first few years? Who could possibly care when you’re 17?

  • Oh, also? I would totally take a break from all wedding-related things for a while (even APW, sorry guys!). I used to be glued to this site, and then I realized how unhappy it was making me. This is my first time on here in…. at least a couple months (I still skim through on RSS, but I don’t lurk in the comments any more, except today apparently. It was just getting to be too much.).

  • Oh my god, you don’t know my friends. If someone catches on fire the FIRST thing they would do is post it to Facebook!

  • When I was pre-engaged, I had the same feeling as you. How much more “wedding joy” could I take? So, I kept reading APW but skipped the Wedding Graduates. I stopped reading Offbeat Bride. I didn’t get the book until I was engaged, and while Alyssa is probably right about reading it beforehand, it felt important to me to wait. Not being exposed to oodles of Wedding Porn did help take the sting out a little.

    • Abby J. (formerly C.)

      Can I get a holla for this? I’m recently married and honestly all the wedding announcements and wedding pictures and wedding graduates are a bit much for me, 1-month post wedding. So, I’m in the process of getting myself off all those annoying wedding mailing lists, not reading OBB anymore, and I skip the graduates posts on APW.

      I’ll write my own grad post someday, just…not right now. I’m oversaturated with wedding right now.

  • Red

    My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over 2 and 1/2 year (3 years July 1st), and have been living together for 2 years now. Marriage is very much on the table (we’ve talked wedding party, location, time of year, honeymoon, that we want cupcakes instead of just a massive wedding cake, etc).

    But he’s my boyfriend and that’s fine… for now. I definitely want to get married and I’m not thrilled with his timeline (another 4 years… we’re 30 – I WANT BABIES!). But honestly, neither of us are in an immediate rush, there are other things in our life we need to sort out prior to all of that stuff. We get the questions ALL the time though “no ring yet?” “WHEN are you two going to FINALLY get married already!” I know we’re “adults” so dating is a different game from what it was in our college years but I didn’t realize that dating someone for under 3 years and not being engaged yet was an issue. Our parents are divorced and remarried to other people… mine divorced when I was in college – I am in NO rush to jump in to being a Mrs., I want to do all I can to make sure he’s the right partner in crime for the life I want to live. I can’t guarantee I won’t go down the divorce road myself in the future, but I can do all I can to make the right choices to help steer clear of that fork in the road.

    Funny story though, I bought my bf a PS3 on Black Friday (his was broken and there was a killer sale going on) with the agreement that I got diamond earrings for Christmas since I didn’t have any yet. I’m nothing if not practical after all. So when the bf went to purchase said earrings the sales woman actually confronted him and asked him if he was SURE I wasn’t expecting a diamond ring for Christmas instead. And then told him when he gets his big boy pants on (her words) to come see her again to purchase that ring. He put her in her early 40’s and I personally think that the whole situation is hilarious.

    Talk about how society is wired though and HOW messed up it kind of is. The holiday is Christmas, not “Get Engaged Day” but yet that’s what it has come down to and it’s a shame. I mean no disrespect to those who did just get engaged over Christmas (yay! Congrats!!!) or those who did before; just more that people are putting pressure on dating couples who don’t get engaged at Christmas like there’s something wrong with them.

    So EFF RINGS, enjoy your boyfriend and like Alyssa said – be happy that you are still sunbathing by the pool of Wedding Planning enjoying the weather rather than already wading into the sometimes chilly water at this moment.

    • Teresa

      While I think the putting on big boy pants comment was completely out of line, and if one more person asks me when I’m getting engaged and/or assures me that my time is coming soon I’m going to have a major melt-down, I almost understand why she asked whether or not you were expecting a ring. One Christmas, after my sister and her now-husband had been dating for about 4 year (and she really, really wanted to be married and he kept saying it would happen, but not yet) he gave her a ring. My sister saw the box and thought it was THE RING and was so crushed when it was just a ring, completely not intended to be an engagment ring. She spent the rest of the morning sobbing and he had no idea what he had done wrong. Now that I am in a similar state of mind, just kind of freaking waiting…sigh, I really understand the feeling. If you had thought there might be a ring coming, and saw a small jewelery box under the tree, you may have truly been crushed when you opened it. I also completely see where it is crazy to ask a stranger a question like that, but I bet my sister would have really appreciated it the jeweler had told her husband that that was a really bad freaking idea!

      • Haha, the first Christmas my now-husband I are were together, we’d only been dating for 8 months. And my final gift was a small ring box and I started to shake. At that point, I knew I wanted to marry him, but totally wasn’t ready yet in any way, and we were at his parents house and I had this terrible fear that he was proposing and I was SO RELIEVED that they were diamond earrings that I started to shake and took 20 minutes to calm down enough to put them in.

        So I think I take a stand on the side of the jeweler minding their own beeswax. No one knows the status of someone else’s relationship, let alone a stranger who you are trying to sell something too.

        And I still wear those earrings basically every day, 3 years later…

      • Red

        Yeah, I can definitely see why she said it and I don’t know what B’s conversation with her was like. But it did seem pushy to put it that way, and isn’t someone I’d want him buying THE ring from, I can see her telling him what ring to purchase instead of letting him make the decision. We get it ALL the time from family, friends, coworkers about when he’ll finally man up and ask and they give me that look of pity when I say I’m not looking to get engaged right now.

    • Anna S

      I can guarantee that no one would be getting repeat (even initial!) business from me/my man if they said anything about “big boy pants.”

  • Barbara

    I don’t really know what to say except for, EFF RINGS, I feel you.

    After his brother’s wedding this past October (where we started tallying the times we heard, ‘When’s your turn?’) and the holidays (where literally everyone in my family, including my 12 year old cousin and sister, asked me why I hadn’t gotten a ring), I feel deflated and jealous and just confused. Boyfriend and I have been together for 5 years, and both of us know we want to be married. He just isn’t ready, and I constantly have to remind myself that that is ok. Add to that fact that we were both raised pretty conservative Mexican Catholics, so we don’t want to live together until we are at least engaged. Soo frustrating.

    In any case, this comment was not helpful. Just wanted you to know that you’re not alone. I find that lurking around APW and hearing everyone’s stories makes me feel a lot better at the end of the day.

  • My boyfriend and I have been together for 15 months, before AND after the holidays all the usual suspects asked so are you getting a ring for Christmas? Where’s the bling? Let me see your hand?! Just checking! I’m not offended by these questions, although they have to be boring for the asker. I even repeatedly told people Matt and I had already said no holiday engagements. too cheesy (but totally exciting if you are celebrating one!)

  • EFF RINGS! haha, I love when the acronyms are creative. :)

    Anyway! Dear John, being pre-engaged is tough. All I can really offer you is to be open with your partner and how you’re feeling, learn how he’s feeling, and remember how freaking awesome you are together with or without a ring! The engagement madness that’s going on around you is, well, maddening–but don’t let it make you lose sight of the faith you have in your relationship and the love you have for your partner.

    ….and you know, that whole paragraph I just typed is all well and good, but I realize how much easier it is said than done! Let yourself get upset once in a while, but don’t let it ruin your day, and try not to project it onto your partner too much. Grab some sympathetic girlfriends and have a grump session over a bottle of wine… and then put it out of your mind and enjoy your relationship, and [try to] be happy for those around you who are experiencing some pretty exciting life changes.

    Seriously, above all, just be open and honest with your partner, and ask the same from him. I just got engaged last week after six and a half years of dating (WOO!) and I can tell you that what kept me most sane is talking to Josh occasionally about our future–whether he still saw marriage as part of our roadmap, stuff like that–and letting him know that I love him dearly and wanted to marry him, but that it was more important to me that he be ready. And now, here we are, finally post-engaged. :) It’ll come! In the meantime, hang in there, enjoy your relationship, and remember that Team Practical is here when you need us. <3 <3 <3

  • Rachel

    This time last year, I decided I was ready to be engaged. I didn’t even know anyone who got engaged over the holidays; I simply decided I was ready. I put it out there with my man, and we had a short discussion that revealed we were essentially in the same place but he wanted to work up to a “proposal” moment. And three months later he proposed on top of a mountain, and now we’re 2/3 of the way through what feels like the longest engagement ever. The key for me has been turning what *could* be thought of as “waiting” into DELICIOUS ANTICIPATION. I fantasized about what the proposal would be like, and now I fantasize about how it will feel to dance that first dance with my husband (!!!) and I get all joyful and teary.

    So yes, focus on the here and now and your already wonderful relationship. But since you probably can’t stop yourself from thinking about getting engaged sometimes, try savoring about it as a future you’re deliriously excited about instead of impatiently waiting for.

  • Kashia

    The funny thing about watching other people get engaged is that sometimes it makes you crazy. I went through a whole phase where I wanted nothing more than a ring on my hand. Thankfully my boyfriend at the time did not comply. (TOTALLY THE WRONG GUY!)

    Now that I’ve been engaged and planned the wedding and am married…I’m left wondering “What was the rush?”. My husband and I knew we wanted to get married eventually, but all the expectation from other people artificially shortened the timeline. If there were more examples of people who wait longer than a few years to get married, (or if we had had the guts to just tell everyone around us to eff off and let us make our own adult choices) I think we would have just kept living together because everything was good and we would get married when we were good and ready.

    I’m thrilled to be married to the guy, but retrospectively I wouldn’t have rushed through the dating/committed but not yet engaged part. (Hard to do when your Mum keeps saying “sh*t or get off the pot”. No joke.)

    • Kellyh

      Wow. My mother’s words exactly!

  • Karin

    I know EXACTLY how you feel! My little sister got engaged, and my boyfriend (of 2 years, we’ve been living together for almost 1.5) and I decided to do Christmas together this year, since it was just easier, and we figured it would give us a dry run for when we DO get engaged and eventually married and actually need to work out the logistics of holidays with two sets of divorced parents. While my family understands that we want to be ready financially to take on planning a wedding (and I’m currently working on my nursing degree, so we want to wait until I graduate to get married), my sister took it upon herself to flaunt the fact that she has, not one but, TWO engagement rings and point out that I “merely” have a boyfriend NOT a fiancee, like she does.

    I also would get crap at work, since I was working for a while at the same place as my boyfriend. People would constantly ask why we weren’t married yet, one guy even going so far as to tease me and say that he saw my boyfriend had “the ring” so I should be prepared, and one girl on a regular basis would say “seriously, just get married already! it’s not like it’s a big deal!’

    It’s incredible how people make other people’s business their own and say such inappropriately disrespectful things. I know that, when the time is right, he will ask me, but I’m working on being more confident in telling people that that time is not yet. I don’t think I need an internet detox, and I definitely don’t need a detox from APW because of posts like this :-)

    • Class of 1980

      All-purpose phrase for the busybodies:

      “It’s none of your business.” … or if you want to be polite … “That’s a private matter, but thanks for your concern.”

      • Jo

        Another good all-purpose response concept:
        “Thank you, I think he/she’s perfect for me too! I’m glad you like him/her/me!”.

  • “First off, start thinking of these posts for what they really are—great news from friends. Just like any other aspect of their personal lives, their news has no reflection on your relationship (hint: remember this when your friends get divorced as well, which will shake a girl up in a different and more horrible way), their engagement has no reflection on your possible future engagement. These posts are a reminder of something that you’d like to have, one day.”

    Can I just say that this is valuable advice not just on an engagement level, but on a baby level as well. I and my husband got married in 2010, as did a bunch of our close friend-couples, and now…they’re all getting pregnant. And I’m not (or rather, I was, but I had a miscarriage). And my Facebook feed? FULL of pregnancy updates. It’s pre-engagement-land (wherein we’d been together forever but everyone got engaged before we did) all over again, and I just have to keep telling myself that these updates are great news from friends. That’s it. They aren’t posting these things to make me feel bad or sad, and their baby news doesn’t mean I won’t ever have baby news of my own, and that while I feel sad knowing they are having babies when I would have been having one too, it doesn’t mean I should sit around grunting to Patrick, “Oh, great, another pregnancy post.” And yes, the hide feature can be nice, but when they’re your close friends, you don’t want to hide everyone — you just have to live with it. And embrace it. Because hey, I’m *happy* for them, I really am! And I hope to be as happy as they are someday too.

    Ramble ramble ramble…

    • Wait until their baby come and they will start posting about how they never sleep ;) (this comes from a mother of 3 1/2 year old twins, so trust me :)

    • meg

      Also, you’re TOTALLY allowed to grumble and bitch. Just privately. In your living room. To your partner. As Alyssa tells me sometimes, “Hello! That’s what husbands* are for.”

      *Or wives. We just have husbands.

  • Amy

    I’ve been in pretty much this situation for a while now, and while sometimes I deal with it just fine, at other times I really don’t.

    My boyfriend and I have been together for over 4 years (almost 5 now, actually) and were friends (of a sort) for over 5 years before that. I’ve been fairly sure that I wanted to marry him after only a year and a half of dating, so I’m sure you can imagine that as the five year mark approaches, I am getting more than a tad impatient.

    And of course, those feelings don’t get any easier to deal with when so many of our friends are getting engaged and married (and when you realize that most of our friends are, in fact, younger than we are).

    I walk a fine line with some of this stuff. One of my best friends got engaged back in July and asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. I have been overcome with very real and very genuine joy for her and her fiance (whom I am also friends with and have known almost as long). And I absolutely hate that amidst that genuine joy is that nagging sense of envy. I hate it so much that I try to pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does. I think I overcompensate somewhat. I don’t ever want my friends to think that my own situation makes me less happy about theirs, or that they can’t gush about wedding plans to me without worrying that it will upset me, because frankly I *love* planning and I *love* weddings and I *love* LOVE. (I suppose I wouldn’t be on this blog otherwise, would I?)

    But at the same time I do need an outlet to vent and share my feelings, too. My boyfriend and I are going through a lot, because he’s unemployed and looking for jobs and has said unequivocally that there will be no proposal coming until he finds a job and is no longer “leeching off of” me (his words, not mine). So the pressure of him needing to find a job (first and foremost for his own mental health and his own finances) is combining unpleasantly with my own urgency to get engaged (and not just for my own timeline, but also because my father has a fairly rare form of cancer and while he is currently beating the odds and doing well it is always present in my mind that if we wait too long, my dad might not get to be there).

    Anyway. Sometimes a girl just needs to have an outlet. And maybe a few words of encouragement that it’ll all work out.

    • PA

      Oh, I just want to make you a cup of tea and sit down and say, “Okay, talk”! *hugs*

      That sounds so frustrating – there are few things as lonely as feeling like you aren’t entitled to your emotions, somehow, and so should not say anything about them. It sounds like there’s a lot of similar sentiment in this community; I hope being able to write about the issue has helped!

      It sounds like both you and your boyfriend are at a fragile time right now, both feeling a little bit battered around the edges. It sounds like you’re handling it with grace, and a LOT of self awareness! I hope it gets better soon.

      • Amy

        <3 Thank you for your kind words. My boyfriend and I have definitely been through a lot, especially in the last year or so. My dad's illness got pretty intense and serious last January and things didn't really get much better until May/June, which is around the time that I started expecting a ring at any point and wasn't seeing one. My boyfriend went back to college a bit later than most of my peers and told me that he was waiting until he was done with school before proposing. It turned out what he meant was done with school and had a job.

        He has some really good reasons for sticking to that, and I understand those reasons and I am trying very hard to respect them, but the whole situation has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

        (I'd note that he has already told me a number of times that he feels just as committed as if we were married already, and that his reluctance to get engaged is partially that he doesn't like the idea of a long engagement and partially that weddings cost money and he has none right now, not that he doesn't want to get engaged or doesn't feel ready emotionally.)

        • PA

          That’s a trait I have certainly seen before! Women and men both want to be self-reliant and self-supporting, but men and money (in particular), there is a whole social structure built up, very difficult to untangle. As a self-reliant, self-supporting woman, it can be difficult to be on the other side of it, too (especially when it seems to hold you back from other things). I wish you luck!

          Also, I wish your whole family luck as your father works to heal <3

    • I don’t think you should feel guilty or ashamed about that “nagging sense of envy.” I think it’s totally normal. They even talked about it on Friends. Remember? When Monica got engaged? Or am I totally dating myself…

    • Bethany

      Thank you for posting this. I just found out that my best friend got engaged today and immediately after feeling like shit for having a small nagging bit of envy, I thought “APW! There will be something helpful there!”

      Because this girl, my best friend, we’ve done college together, landed in the same city afterwards (not on purpose), we both were fired the same week (totally different jobs). She had her final interview today for her dream job and landed it and I was thrilled for her, over the moon. My final interview for my dream job is tomorrow. We’d discussed the whole marriage/engagement/waiting/timeline stuff together in the past. So when she texted to say her boy had proposed after dinner tonight, I was thrilled (perfect timing for her and I adore him) I also immediately felt like “crap, they started dating over a year after we did and we’re not near ready yet. What’s wrong with my relationship?”

      Seeing another APWer had that hint of envy helps a lot.

    • This is exactly how I feel. Thank you so much for posting this and letting me know that I’m not alone out here in pre-engagment land.

  • I think we should all take a facebook break. Then maybe we’d be more zen and actually get some work done!

    • Kyley

      I got rid of Facebook for 8 months once, and I really loved it. Now I get rid of it the last two weeks of each semester so I can grade and write my own papers. Sadly, it always pulls me back each time.

  • “Oh, so no engagement ring from the holidays?” … This is one of the first totally inappropriate questions people start asking. It’s followed by things like “What do you mean he didn’t spend four months of his salary on your ring?” “You aren’t having your wedding at night?” “How do you not have colors?” and then “Aren’t you having kids soon?” and (now I’m assuming) “Do you really want to breastfeed after the baby gets teeth?” “Why are you rocking him/her to sleep every night?”, and so on and so forth. Maybe you can just consider it good practice for the future decisions of your baby family. Because, whether people believe it or not, the decision to get engaged is (hopefully often) one made by BOTH of you.

    • I “exactly”ed this, but I just want to verbally (or, in writing) “exactly” this because EXACTLY. People really need to learn how to shut their faces when things don’t apply to them.

    • meg


    • Mari

      jebus, are we up to FOUR months of salary now?!! sometimes that crap makes me want to cry.

      • Class of 1980

        Don’t cry because society is idiotic. Eff it.

    • MDBethann

      It doesn’t stop with the engagement ring. I actually had co-workers ask me after Christmas if I was ready to elope yet (they were both guys, so maybe that has something to do with it?). I figure the first question after the wedding will be “when are you having kids?’

      • Amy

        Dude, somebody asked me that AT MY RECEPTION.

        • OH MY GOD. What is WITH people?!?!

      • Sometimes I’m so glad to be from the land of repressed prairie Canadians. Everyone is culturally trained not to be so damn nosy. Makes life easier.

  • Christine

    This is such a great post…not just about how to feel when you’re not yet engaged and EVERYONE else is, but also about how to feel when you’re not anything that other people are. For a little bit there I was feeling a little jealous of my friends who were pregnant (or whose girlfriends (yes girlfriends, not wives or fiances) were pregnant) and then i started to think about how much I don’t want to be a pregnant bride or have to worry about my kid on the honeymoon or whatever else. Also a trip to DisneyWorld very SERIOUSLY reminded me why I’m not ready for kids :) Anyway, the point is to focus on where you are right NOW! because that’s what really matters and it is fun to be engaged, but it’s also really fun to not have to worry about wedding planning, or the future, or the stupid guest list.
    Plus you get to think about how much fun it’s going to be when you DO get engaged, and you don’t have to be one of those girls who just posts a picture of an engagement ring without any explanation like that’s all you care about. I think that’s tacky but maybe I’m just venting because who wants to see a bunch of blurry pictures of other people’s hands (even if you are already engaged) (and seriously, make sure your nails are clean if you do that cause gross…).

    • Jenn

      Exactly. I’d tried to think of the other things I could be besides “fiancee” or “bride” or “wife.” And I fell a little in love with idea of a single 50-yo me who had a cool small house and traveled all over the world by herself (a little Dorothy, a little Blanche, if you need specifics).

      I also tried to look at all the people who WEREN’T getting engaged. Or having babies. Or whatever else. Those people are cool, too.

      • Class of 1980

        Yeah, I relate. I’m 53 and divorced.

        Although my psychic tells me the right man is in my future (God, another psychic post) … I don’t really feel like anticipating it.

        I feel the strongest urge to make myself the happiest damn person I can be. I feel like having time alone to please MYSELF without worrying about anyone’s opinion is just what the doctor ordered. Right now, this need is stronger than the urge to merge.

        And really, I don’t want to meet someone unless I meet them in the midst of already being really really happy.

        It would be great to have someone that really “gets” me. It would be great to have that support. But I only have that wistful urge at moments.

        I am happier now than ever and if I never meet anyone, I will still be happy. I guess some of this comes from a lifetime of always having a boyfriend and/or being married … and feeling limited by their lack of vision or reluctance to go along with whatever I wanted.

        The freedom is intoxicating now and I’ve been drunk with it for several years now. ;)

  • NeedlesAndPens

    I can completely relate to struggling with feeling happy for friends at their engagements. My boyfriend and I were together for eight years before I proposed, and there were plenty of times when I felt upset at seeing other people’s engagement news. I took it really personally, like it meant there was something wrong with me or us. Sometimes I still feel embarrassed by how difficult a time I had being happy for some of them.

    Since becoming engaged, I’ve become hyper aware of how everyone has reacted to the news. Almost without fail, my friends and family have been over the moon happy. One friend, however, really seems like she’s just dialing it in. While she may ask some cursory questions about planning or wedding ideas, there is no honest joy, support, or curiosity in her voice. I don’t expect everyone to be as interested in my own wedding as I am, but her obvious lack of interest and, maybe even resentment, has been very painful for me and created distance between us.

    I don’t say this to make you feel bad about how you’re feeling. Feelings are neither good nor bad, they simply are. I’m just piping up to offer the perspective of someone who is feeling like a formerly close friendship is suffering because it seems like she can’t be happy for me — or other friends of ours who are engaged — or even convincingly pretend to be (which honestly might be enough).

    • Newtie

      I also had that experience of having (in my case, several) very close friends not be able to conceal the fact that my engagement made them feel really sad/jealous/etc. I was expecting this reaction, and totally GOT IT on a logical level, and because the three people in question are among my dearest friends, we spent a lot of time talking about how they were feeling and I reassured them they didn’t have to pretend to be happy for me if they weren’t feeling it…. but to be honest, it did sting way more than I thought it would that they couldn’t just be happy for me. Again, I realize that’s not logical or “fair,” and I’m way happy I have wonderful friends and I would never want them to be “fake” for me. But it did make me really think about how much I want to make sure to be enthusiastic and joyful when other people share their good news. I was very surprised at how much I wanted/needed people to share in my joy at the very beginning of my engagement.

      • Class of 1980

        I think they can be happy for you, and sad for themselves.

      • Like Class of 1980 says, it’s okay for your friends to feel whatever they are feeling, but I also want to affirm that it’s okay for *you* to express to them what kind of support you need at this time. In my opinion/experience, it’s pretty natural for close friends to fear being left behind or to feel possessive or jealous at the news of an engagement, *but* making the engaged person the sounding board for all these feelings can really do damage to the friendship. Maybe your friends are just used to sharing everything with you freely and don’t realize that their ambivalent feelings are really hurtful to you in this joyful time. I would suggest balancing being the reasonable listening ear (because so often the engaged party is the one who has to reassure that she’s still the same! things don’t have to change! her friends aren’t losing her!) with also speaking up and asking your friends to rejoice with you.

  • Anon

    Wow, this post is what I have been waiting for when I check APW every morning. My boyfriend and I have been together for over 7 years, and have lived together for the past year. Just bought a house, got a dog, and settled down. This year, my younger sibling and my very close cousin both got engaged. When the holidays rolled around, EVERYONE shifted their focus to us and expected another engagement. I get it, I really do – we’ve settled down, couples who have been together for less than half (or a quarter) of the time we’ve been together are getting engaged, etc. But it put insane pressure on us. Believe it or not, my parents showed up the weekend before Christmas to stay with us for a few days, and my mom cornered me and asked “When would be a good time for *boyfriend* to talk to dad this weekend about marrying you? You and I can go shopping to leave them alone to talk about it.” They brought this up totally on their own! Neither I nor my boyfriend gave them any indication that he wanted to have that conversation that weekend, they just decided it was time. And basically, it ruined the entire weekend. When I tried (repeatedly) to tell my parents that they should not expect that conversation to happen right then, they just wouldn’t hear it – they even stayed an extra day waiting for my boyfriend to ask. He didn’t, and then my parents turned it around on me like “Why isn’t he asking? Is he not sure about you?” It was AWFUL.

    Ultimately, though, all of this has brought us to a point where I talked to my boyfriend about timelines and how long I am willing to wait. Not an ultimatum, but open communication about my own feelings. Basically, I have been ready for the past 4 years. For the past 3 years, I’ve been telling myself, if he doesn’t propose, I just need to move on. I am finally communicating to my boyfriend that I feel this way – that we know each other well enough to know if we want to get married, and if he doesn’t want to marry me, I need to get on with my life and find someone else. He gets that and has committed to making a decision in the next few months. While this should probably be the most stressful time in my life, I have kind of found some sort of pre-engaged Zen – either he will propose and it will be wonderful, or I will respect myself enough to leave, and ultimately I will end up being happy in a new relationship down the road. Either way, I have reached the end of my rope as far as waiting around for a proposal. Maybe that has to do with all the other family members and friends that just got engaged, or the pressure suddenly put on me by my family, and maybe not – either way, it is what it is. I am ready to move on with my life – hopefully into marriage with the man I love, but if he can’t step up after 7 years, then I will open a new chapter of my life on my own and move on without him.

    • meg

      They stayed an extra DAY? Oh my god. And also, good for you. I’m sure the right thing will happen and it will be joyful!

      I will say though, the friend I am possibly the most proud of for 2011, is my friend who finally left her partner. They’d been together almost a decade, she wanted to get married and have kids, he basically was never going to commit to either. It was just a perpetual open question, and it was not healthy for her at all. And she finally did the really hard thing, and left him. It’s been a hard year, but she’s healing, and I’m so so proud of her. I’m sure the new chapter will be amazing for her, now that she’s worked through the really hard part.

      I’m in no way predicting this for you, or saying that one has to get married to have a healthy relationship, because you don’t. You can commit to each other without getting married and be totally happy (we know so many long term couples like that). But I am saying that if there are some of you out there stuck in a unhealthy pattern of a person who refuses to commit to you, and you know need to do the hard thing, protect yourself and leave… all the blessings in the world.

      • Sarah

        That sounds so awful. I don’t know what will happen for you but I think you did the right thing by laying your cards on the table and communicating clearly.

        My ex-boyfriend knew I wanted to marry him and he couldn’t decide. There were all sorts of mixed messages. He got a great job across the country that was his dream and I encouraged him to pursue it. We would do the distance thing. I told him I would move with him only if we were engaged because I didn’t want to uproot my life for someone who wasn’t my future. It was an excruciating period and it caused me huge pain. He knew how much it hurt me. I had trouble focusing on things in my life because I didn’t know if I would just be leaving to marry him. I was starting to resent him and feeling incredibly rejected. Finally, I decided that mixed messages were a message and that by not deciding he had made a decision. It was very hard but it was absolutely the right thing.

        Two weeks later, I met my husband. He is wonderful and he knew I was the one for him from the very beginning.

        Be brave and trust yourself.

    • I have some super mixed feelings about this. I think it’s incredibly brave and important that you have had that conversation with your partner, because it’s so important to be on the same page regarding marriage and communicating our needs, and how do our partners know how we feel if we don’t tell them, right?

      It’s very hard though, to be waiting for that moment after you’ve issued a timeline. Backstory: I did that this summer when my now-fiance was getting ready to go back to school after about 13 years in an amazing career: I told him that if I was ready to make the commitment of supporting him financially and emotionally and to put his dreams first (for the timespan of his course) I needed to have some serious commitment from him, and I’d been ready to get engaged for 2 years and was still waiting. So we talked, and he said it made loads of sense to him and committed to asking me by the first day of school.

      It was really, really hard after that. Obviously this is all in my own head, but I started to feel like him asking me to marry him was a “deadline” and an obligation rather than something he genuinely wanted to do. Prompted our biggest fight ever. I told him if he asked me within that deadline I would hands down say no. (He asked a month or so after, by the way

      All this to say, be aware that waiting out a period like that where it’s all on your partner can be hard on you emotionally, and it can strain a relationship. And not to let yourself go crazypants while waiting it out, because however it turns out is okay, and to just hold onto your pre-engaged zen.

    • You know your own situation better than I do, obviously, but I have to ask – is he not ready to get married because he’s not sure about YOU, or just about the concept of marriage? I only ask because the details could be me exactly – 7 years, dog, house, I’ve been ready for a few years. When I first started feeling like I wanted to get married, and he said he wasn’t ready, I was CRUSHED, because I took it to mean that he wasn’t able to commit to me. It took my boyfriend pointing out to me that the dog, the house, the act of being in our relationship every day IS committing to me, marriage or no. It’s something we’ll probably do eventually, but not getting married doesn’t always mean a lack of commitment.

      Anyways, good luck in whatever you choose!

      • Kellyh

        I have to chime in here because I, like Meaghan, am on the same timeline. We’re at the 7 year mark. A few years ago I began to feel that we were overdue on the wedding front and fell into the morass of pre-engaged crazy. Since then we’ve had endless difficult conversations about the whole situation because I was not willing to just wait without talking about it. We’ve come out the other side after coming really, really close to breaking it off for good. We’ve talked the thing to death and he knows exactly how I feel. Even more important, I’ve done the soul searching to know that I’m in the relationship because I want to be and not because it is too scary to leave after so long. I know I am strong enough to leave if I decide that this isn’t right for me.

        Yes, if I’m completely honest my happiness for my newly engaged friends (4 people shared their news this week including my high school ex) is marred by a tiny twinge of envy/bitterness. Just a tiny one though. Mostly, I’m just happy that my relationship is strong and we’re on the home stretch of way too much long distance and there are other important milestones in the year ahead to look forward to (like graduating from grad school, woot!).

  • Kelly

    Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone! I was hoping to get engaged over the holidays, but alas, not yet. Found out that a close family member is going to propose soon, and am forcing smiles because I honestly want to be happy for them.

    Loved when Alyssa said that waiting “does not mean that the rest of your life is on hold.” That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling, but no more! Going to go today and start learning that new language (seriously have had a Rosetta Stone in the corner) and planning my vacations!

  • LifeSheWrote

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. It came right when I need it. I’ve been with my wonderful man for 4 years next month and a year and half ago he moved to frickkin Georgia for me (seriously, he deserves a medal. And I don’t mean offense to Georgia natives, but I’m just saying it was a big step). This holiday time with family/friends was wonderful and a bit rough with the CONSTANT QUESTIONS ABOUT MARRIAGE. As an everyday APW reader, I do think about marriage and the future and OUR future a lot – but if he’s not quite ready to do the whole “let’s announce to the world that we want to be together forever and throw a big party” thing (that I do want to do, you know, at some point) then holy shite, I’m going to focus on the happy everyday now.

    And this may be my favorite line that Alyssa’s ever written: “And personally, those well-intentioned but deranged friends asking you about your engagement plans can suck it.” THANK YOU!

  • I can totally relate to this question – my boyfriend and I have been together for a little over 3 years. We just moved in together NYE weekend. I know we’re on the marriage path but it’s still frustrating to see all the FB posts/deal with all the questions. This Christmas, his cousin and sister both announced they’re having a baby next summer (as did his best friend and my best friend), the other cousin got engaged, and two other good friends of ours got engaged. That’s four baby announcements and three engagement announcements all in a span of about 2 weeks. I basically did what you suggested. I congratulated everyone then left FB for about a week. I decided to focus instead on the good stuff we had going on. Us moving in together is a big deal for both of us but especially for him. It was a long time coming. He had never lived with a gf b/c he didn’t want to live with someone unless it was the person he was planning to marry. To him, moving in together is the step you take right before you get engaged. I chose to focus on what this means for us and how happy we both are at this particular stage in OUR relationship. It’s tough sometimes but it’s the only way to enjoy where we are while still being happy for those around us.

    • Good for you! And all the domestic bliss one can throw at you!

  • clampers

    Yet another reason why I’m so glad I’m not on Facebook!

  • Jenn

    I hear you, EFF RINGS. In the 5.5 years of my relationship prior to the engagement, I saw not one, but two friends: Begin Relationships, Get Engaged, and Get Married. I focused on those two people and situations so much (in my head) and I mentally ignored all the stories of friends who’d dated as long or longer and were also getting hitched during our not engaged tenure.

    It’s worth noting that I turned 30 (then 31, then 32, then 33) during the relationship but before the engagement. I was “ready” before him, but not by much (but omdg did it feel like an eternity).

    It’s hard to be happy when you’re jealous, but it’s not impossible. It’s harder with FB, because you probably don’t actually care about some of the people flashy their flashy flash in your virtual face. Remind yourself daily that all those people are just people with whom you shared physical space for awhile (old HS/College acquaintances, Mom’s co-workers, 3rd cousins of your favorite barista that you met that one time). While it’s super cool that we can keep in touch this way, but not all of the information is worth making yourself sad over.

    Not to be repetitive, but remind yourself that your situation isn’t their situation and your person isn’t ready to be engaged. Not ready to be engaged, but engaged anyway is SO SO SO much worse than pre-engaged.

    Oh and those two friends with the short turnaround time between meeting & marriage? Sadly, they both had equally quick (and exceptionally painful) divorces.

    • Jenn

      Oh, and I never posted on FB. Because I don’t actually care about most of the people on my friend list. I called/emailed my real life friends and family. Just so I’m consistent. :)

  • Newtie

    I think part of the stress of the pre-engaged state is that, unfortunately, engagement symbolizes validity in our culture. Too many people think it means he REALLY loves you and you’re REALLY committed and serious (and therefore, if you’re not engaged, then he might not really love you and/or you might not be really serious). Before I was engaged, I absolutely knew he really loved me and I absolutely knew we were really committed and serious. Other people weren’t necessarily willing to recognize this because we weren’t engaged. But you know what? I had never lived my life for other people before, and it was helpful, during that pre-engaged period, to remember that there was no reason to start doing so.

    Also, while I’m enjoying being engaged now, being in love and not engaged is also really, really fun. We lived the sh*t out of our pre-engaged relationship (to steal a phrase from meg), and I’m so glad we didn’t rush it. There’s something wonderful about being able to take risks with someone else and really explore your love for each other without having to think about what it all means long-term (and without having to think about seating charts, etc). You’ll only be single together once. Don’t be afraid to relish it!

    • meg

      I think for some of us that pre-engaged period can be painful, because the commitment question is open. We’d been together for 3+ years, were a serious couple, and were happy. But until we got engaged, it was open ended. We were dating. We could break up at any time. I was ready to commit to being together for life before David was, and that was hard. So for us, that period was painful. But things DID change for us after we got engaged. That’s when we committed to STAYING together, which was a whole different thing for us. By which I mean, I think it’s bullshit that engagement represents validity culturally (and you’re right, it does). We’re not at all promoting that idea. But there is some truth to commitment being a key thing for a relationship. You can decide to be a committed couple and not get married, but that decision can be key.

      Also, I agree. I’m in general glad that we didn’t rush it, and I’m glad that we lived the shit out of our twenties, mostly single. I’m glad we were together five years before we got married, too.

  • Jordan Kraynik

    Huge thank you for this post! Seriously. My BF and I just graduated with our bachelors, and the flurry of engagement questions ramped up by 200% the day we graduated. I still have to get a masters, and we want to wait until I’m out of school to begin a married life. Add graduation to all the FB and Twitter posts of engagements, and I start feeling pouty for waiting, despite the fact that BF and I know that for us, its the wisest choice.
    I decided my new response to “When are yall getting married?” is going to be “When I’m done with school!” and the subsequent “When are yall getting engaged, then?” …”Sometime before I’m done with school!”
    Vague and smart-alecky.

    • Rebekah R

      You bet! I have replied to the question “When are you and he getting married?” with “Sometime after he proposes” at least a dozen times. Thankfully, being a smart aleck is in keeping with my personality, so they don’t take it too hard. Good for you!

  • I had a LOT of roommates at college get engaged and drive me absolutely insane with their constant gushing and their intended not remember their actual name because they always call each other pet names (true story, we asked her fiancé once what her name was and he had to pause and think). I vowed I would NOT be that person when I got engaged.

    When I got engage there were no roommates (hallelujah!) but there was the internet and I still remembered those feelings and kept everything to a low dose and in a place where people would have to seek it out if they wanted it. Facebook has a way of throwing crap in your face you don’t want.

    Now I’m in a place where pregnancy announcements are popping up all over and tactless people are constantly asking me if I’m pregnant (one women, I swear, asked while I was menstruating every month for about six months, perfect timing lady!).

    So I’ve hidden at least a dozen people on facebook who keep throwing their pregnancy out there and I’m taking a page from Miss Manners book and replying “I’m fine, thanks for asking” whenever someone asks a totally inappropriate question (answering the question they should be asking instead of the inane one they did).

    Hide people on facebook. You can be happy for them without participating in their happiness. And if someone needs people to gush over an out of focus picture of a ring to feel like they’re worth something, maybe pity them a little too.

    • meg

      God bless Miss Manners. And YES. I agree. It’s so ok to protect yourself, and hide announcements you can’t take. What I find painful about Facebook is it’s public and general, and that can be hurtful in a way that a person to person interaction isn’t. Of course you’re happy when someone you love tells you they are engaged or pregnant. But the feeling of it being THROWN at you UNEXPECTEDLY on Facebook can bring up unpleasant emotions. And I think that’s ok to acknowledge, and privately deal with.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Yes. Hide people on Facebook. Hide people who post too much about the GOP primaries. Hide people who post too much about how great their partners are. Hide people who post too much about how cute their baby’s latest effluence of bodily fluids was. Hide people who post pictures of their engagement rings. If it keeps you from thinking bitter thoughts about them, it’s so much the better. We do not need daily updates on the lives of our 300 closest friends.

      • Class of 1980

        “We do not need daily updates on the lives of our 300 closest friends.”


        It also destroys the mystery of wondering what happened to that boy you obsessed about for years. Now you can go to Facebook and find out that he’s taken a path in life that bores you to tears.

        One woman said she dreamt about a former flame for decades … until she found him on Facebook and discovered that he’d turned into a religious fanatic.

        Obsession terminated in five seconds flat.

    • Jessica

      I swear to God, half the people I know are pregnant or just had babies, it’s insane. I actually don’t mind seeing baby updates (babies are usually cute! you have every right to be excited!) but I loathe and despise the “when are you having kids?” question. My mother in law (who I already have a lot of issues with, outside of the kids thing) has asked me every time she has seen me since the wedding when we’re having kids. We’ve been married for less than four months. I keep telling her not to hold her breath, we’ve both told her there are things we want to do first, my husband has told her not to start thinking about it for years, and she,

      Amusing anecdote- you know how when women are trying to get pregnant getting your period is just disheartening? I told my husband I had my period and he says (and I quote): “That’s good! That’s great news! Yay!”

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Great husband.

  • Ms. Whatsit

    I’ve always been something of a late bloomer, so many of my friends did pretty much everything before I did: first kiss, sex, enter the full-time workforce, find a career, buy a house, get married, have babies. For me, it was really the career thing that I was most envious of (and the house thing too, for a while). I still (at the age of 33) have several unmarried friends, and all of my cousins are unmarried. Only a few of my closest friends have kids. Almost everyone is more established than me career-wise, though. But it really hurt to be 30, a Ph.D. dropout, underemployed, in debt, renting, and dating (but not in a serious relationship), when all my friends and family had at least some of the “markers of adulthood” that I didn’t have.

    On the other hand, I’ve lived a rather unconventional life. Not everyone can say that they got a master’s degree, were in a band with an EP on a tiny label, started a chapter of riotgrrrl, were a professional princess (ok, actually a children’s party entertainer), or sold everything and moved to a foreign country, for example. So I think that the advice of living for the now, focusing on things in your life that you can control, and celebrating what you have and are doing, is spot on.

    Also, I’m going to be honest. I’m not a fan of the term “pre-engaged.” I suppose that I was “pre-engaged” for about 6 months. We had talked very seriously about marriage and decided that we wanted to do it within the next year or two. He asked for my opinion on rings and ordered one. Then he waited to pop the question “at the right time” (his words, which ended up being on a date of personal significance to us, although he told me it wouldn’t be then because he wanted it to be a surprise). The time between the ring search and the proposal (about 2 months) was really, really stressful for me. I felt like I wanted to start wedding planning, but couldn’t, because we hadn’t announced anything official yet. Really, though, we were already engaged all that time, not pre-engaged. The mutual decision had already been made.

    I think the term pre-engaged is hinting at a disconnect between how engagements actually tend to occur today and our outdated cultural ideas about how they “should” occur. Many people who consider themselves pre-engaged are, in fact, engaged. They’ve made a commitment to get married at some future point. The asking and response had already occurred over the course of many conversations. What they don’t have is a ring and a date. And what they aren’t ready for is active wedding planning. And that’s fine. The problem is that we have this idea that engagement is only official after a one-time surprise question (usually from the man to the woman), the presentation of a ring (or very shortly followed by a mutual ring shopping expedition), and the commencement of active wedding planning for a ceremony that will occur 6 to 18 months later. If we changed our ideas about engagement to reflect common practice, we wouldn’t have to have quite so many people defining themselves as pre-engaged when, in fact, they are engaged.

    For those who describe themselves as pre-engaged because they’ve been together a long time but their partners are just not ready to get married or commit to marriage, the term seems to be filled with so much yearning, and implies that it is at least somewhat unrequited. Everyone’s situation is different, of course, but generally, if both people equally wanted to be engaged, they would be. And I certainly know what unrequited longing feels like (for people, places, jobs). I can pine with the best of them, so my heart aches on behalf of those who call themselves pre-engaged in those cases. And, although it’s easier said than done, in those situations I think it’s best to just try and let go. So, I would council pulling away from reading the wedding blogs and books, don’t look at caterer websites, don’t come up with crafty centerpiece ideas, stop dropping hints to your partner. And, yes, try and not think of yourself as pre-engaged. Defining yourself by a future event can only make the present seem so much less important. And the present is the most important, because that’s where we really are.

    • Newtie

      I definitely see what you’re saying, and I do think “engagement” is a more nebulous term than society typically allows it to be. I interpreted the phrase “pre-engaged” differently so I want to share (not to contradict what you so eloquently said but just to offer a different understanding of the word).

      I’d never heard of “pre-engaged” before I joined APW (after I was already engaged), but I like it because 1) I do think it’s usually used with a sense of humor/irony here, even though it helps describe a serious experience and 2) I think it helps define something the “dating culture” doesn’t usually define, or recognize.

      In my life, there was a big difference between having committed, long-term relationships and dating someone I knew I would probably marry some day. There was also a big difference between knowing we’d probably get married some day and actually deciding we were getting married. In my case, we decided we were definitely getting married a month or two before I wore a ring and before we shared it with our families. In my mind, we were engaged then, it was just a secret/private engagement. When we told everyone and I started wearing a ring, it was public.

      BUT – all those years when we were living together, making decisions together, and knew we would probably get married eventually but didn’t quite feel ready to make that full commitment yet? To me, that was “pre-engaged.” This “pre-engaged” was different from when we were dating, getting to know each other, not as committed to one another, etc. Because of this, I like that the term “pre-engaged” exists, because I think it recognizes that there is something more serious than “dating” that also isn’t “engaged.” Right now, I feel like popular culture and relationship language implies that there’s nothing in between the two.

      And of course, people define these things for themselves, and that’s great and useful. Just thought I’d share how I understood the word when I first heard it here.

      • Ms. Whatsit

        Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. I was in a 6 year relationship (5 of which we lived together), in which I never would have considered us pre-engaged. We hardly even talked about marriage, except in the vaguest terms. In retrospect, I know that that was a sign that we were not meant to be a forever couple. On the other hand, we were pretty committed, in that we lived together, had a band together, and he followed me to a new city. But neither of us were ever ready to say we wanted to become a single unit, a married couple. And, strangely enough, we hardly ever got questions from friends and family asking when we would get married. Which now tells me something, too.

        With my fiance, I knew relatively soon that he could be someone I would want to marry. Partially because I was clear that that was what I was looking for when I jumped back into the dating pool. And that’s probably why we started talking marriage within a year of our first date, and made an official engagement announcement at about a year and half in. Also, we’re older than average at 29 (him) and 33 (me). Once we knew that we wanted to get married, we stated the process of getting engaged, which I know not everyone can do because of their life situations.

    • meg

      “I think the term pre-engaged is hinting at a disconnect between how engagements actually tend to occur today and our outdated cultural ideas about how they “should” occur. Many people who consider themselves pre-engaged are, in fact, engaged. They’ve made a commitment to get married at some future point.”

      Nope! On APW we call that engaged. But there are lots of us who went through a period where we were very serious, and very ready to commit to our partners for life, and they were NOT ready to commit to us for life. That’s the period we’re talking about. Though we use the term with a nod to irony, because it’s absurd.

      And yes, we are advising people to try to let go. But I think for some of us (me included once) while we would never define ourselves as pre-engaged (gross) we were going through a period of trying to figure out what we thought about weddings and marriage, before being thrown in the deep end. For me, in particular, that was a really really important period to go through. I knew that chances were good that we would be getting engaged in the near future (or, uh, breaking up, I suppose) and I needed to wrap my head around that before the world was watching.

      • Renee

        Exactly this. YES. I suppose I am engaged, since we’ve discussed it, etc…

        But right now, it’s about marinating in what this all means (for me). As a child of divorced parents, with a mother with whom I have no relationship, sometimes my feelings are…messy.

      • Exactly. If you’ve both decided to get married and you are planning it then you are engaged.

        I’ve heard people say that until you get a ring you aren’t engaged. What if you never get a ring? Do you just jump straight from dating to married? Nope. When we got engaged (with a ring, but that’s beside the point) one person we told actually replied by asking if we had a date (we didn’t yet) and said if we didn’t have a date we weren’t engaged. Um, nope. We were planning on getting married. We were engaged.

        The month or so before that when we were both thinking, “marriage to them might not be such a bad idea” but hadn’t actually decided anything, that would probably be pre-engaged.

      • Ms. Whatsit

        Well, I agree with APW. But not everyone defines engaged and pre-engaged that way. I wish we had come out of the secret engagement closet a little sooner, is all I’m saying. And I would encourage others to, as well, so we can break the only a proposal+ring+wedding date=engagement cultural narrative. And in that vein, it would be good to get clear with your partner over whether they aren’t ready to commit to marriage or just aren’t ready to set a date and plan a wedding. Because I think a lot of people, and especially men for some reason, don’t really make that distinction when deciding to become engaged. Sometimes they say they aren’t ready to get engaged when they mean that they aren’t ready to plan a wedding or they don’t want to set a date until after some particular life goal.

        And, of course, I can see how having time to really make up your own mind about weddings and marriage and the future of your relationship is really necessary. I’m just worried that the ironic usage of that word for those whose partners aren’t ready to commit to marriage yet when they are can become painful and unironic. What if an engagement never comes? I just see so much pain in defining oneself by a future state of being or role that may never happen. Like future-lawyer or future-mom. Or in my case, future professor. When it didn’t happen like I thought, it was hard to not see all those years in grad school as a total waste since it didn’t come to the fruition I had planned. They weren’t a waste. They had a lot of uses both at the time, and in what I’m doing now (completely unrelated to academia). And I think it’s the same with relationships. If you define yourself as pre-engaged and it doesn’t happen, then it sets you up to feel like the relationship was a failure. But it wasn’t and isn’t a failure. It just is what it is.

        And I didn’t mean let go of the relationship (I realize that was unclear) but of obsessively fantasizing about the proposal/wedding. Even my two months of doing that was so stressful as to cause physical pain, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Some people find that fun, though, so that’s cool. It just wasn’t for me, so I’m probably projecting. I’m a tortured piner, and I realize not everyone is. :)

        • Class of 1980

          Love it. AMEN. Why define yourself by a place you might not get to?

      • Hmmmm…

        We know we want to get married. We know we want to get married to each other. We’ve lived together for nearly five years. We’ve discussed the finances necessary to make a ring purchase happen. Both sets of parents are on board.

        But no ring has been purchased and he wants to plan a proposal.

        I don’t feel engaged and don’t consider myself engaged. I, privately, consider myself pre-engaged and, in the company of friends, describe myself as happily getting my ducks in line.

      • Peabody_Bites

        The thing I think is super helpful about the term pre-engaged (as defined by APW) is that it gives those people who are so ready to be married, who are waiting for their loving-and-committed-but-slightly-slower-moving-emotionally partners to catch up, an ironic, slightly jokey term for themselves to use, whether in private or publicly, so that they know they aren’t alone with the craziness which has taken over a part of their previously rational mind and which they are doing their best to keep silent about because they know their partner is doing their best to catch up if they can. If you are bad at delayed gratification, or embarrassed by how much you want to be engaged (in the sense of a mutual decision to be married in the short to medium term), I think that being able use an actual word todrscribe how you are feeling makes all the difference because that time can be so isolating and it suggests a community who are having the same experience. That said, I went slightly a nd very privately insane while I was pre-engaged – and pre APW – but I managed to force myself past it after about six months and engage (no pun intended) with and enjoy the relationship I was lucky enough to have instead of the one I thought I wanted. Now to do the same thing with babies….

        Slightly rambly I’m afraid but for me the key thing is not to feel alone and crazy – you aren’t crazy and you most definitely aren’t alone!

        • Ms. Whatsit

          I hadn’t thought of it that way. Feeling like you aren’t alone is a pretty good reason to use that label. Although I wish there were a different word for that state.

        • meg


    • Mari

      “I felt like I wanted to start wedding planning, but couldn’t, because we hadn’t announced anything official yet. Really, though, we were already engaged all that time, not pre-engaged. The mutual decision had already been made.”

      This. NYE morning, we talked about getting married as if we were ready to plan it. it was the first time I felt confident that we were talking about it from the same place, and were basically saying, yes, we’re going to get married. but the timeline looks like it will be 9 mo. to proposal and another year to a wedding. That talk makes me feel like we’re engaged now, though, and I want to start planning.

      PS. Meg, that whole conversation is due to your book. I was reading the chapter about “traditions” and telling him about all the crap that WIC says you have to have and how it’s not really that long of a tradition. That totally jumpstarted our “here’s what I want for our wedding” conversation.

      • Ms. Whatsit

        “That talk makes me feel like we’re engaged now, though, and I want to start planning.”

        Heh, yeah. I know what you mean. It’s hard when you’re so excited.

        Congrats on beginning the engagement process!!

      • meg


        Also, I’d argue that you are engaged, you just don’t have a ring yet. I mean, you decided to get married to each other, right? You know whats best for you, but I’d argue that less time in the in between stage is better. If he wants to propose, he can always do it with a placeholder ring?? (Not that you need a big ring, but it sounds like he might want one?)

        • Jo

          In general, I am completely in agreement with you, Meg, about how once you’ve decided to get married you’re engaged. Frankly, for my partner and I, after we got used to making decisions in life based on the understanding that we felt permanently committed, we just considered ourselves married b/c that’s how we approach things.

          However, I’d argue that that doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s totally fair and practical. For some people, there are things they keep separate until they pass certain milestones. Some people won’t live together until they are formally engaged or even married. Many people choose not to address other things like sharing holidays or signing gifts jointly, etc that do not affect how they feel about being committed to each other. So what many people are saying seems valid: They’ve both decided that they want to be married, but they haven’t passed an official engagement milestone after which they might make changes in their relationship. They want to identify as “pre-engaged” and that seems appropriate.

          I also think that being in a state where one of you is ready to commit and the other isn’t doesn’t seem to warrant a title that implies something that one of you isn’t sure they’ll get to.

          • meg

            Well, it’s not a TITLE, it’s a term that we use ironically as a short hand for a stage most people go through on APW. I think, usually, when you’re at the pre-engaged state chances are pretty good you’re going to get married. I think when I was there David knew we were going to get married (probably) he just wasn’t there yet.

            I’m just encouraging people to not let this idea of affording a ring and a big proposal hold you back. Getting engaged is as simple as deciding you want to marry each other, wedding industry and Hollywood be damned. (And this coming from a girl who’s very serious about her milestones. David didn’t touch a penny of my money till we were married. Nor did I want to move in together before we were engaged.)

        • Jo

          Ahh, I see. Makes sense, fair enough.

    • For me, the difference between pre-engaged and engaged was the difference between seriously dating and living together. Once we moved in, our relationship was at a completely different level. But the label was exactly the same (because I was just not really willing to use the oh-so-awkward term domestic partner).
      I never spoke “pre-engaged” to anyone else. But thinking of us that way helped me define the stage that our relationship had reached.

  • Sarah

    Funny story, my boyfriend and I went to Puerto Rico the week before Christmas to celebrate my 30th birthday (oh and you think people will ask you about getting engaged over the holidays, try turning 30, going on vacation and being just shy of your 3 year anniversary, oh dear lord the comments and questions I got). Anyway, after we got back I was on the phone with my mom, probably babbling for like 20 minutes about everything we did while in PR (like even the little details, cause I just got back and was still vacation-excited), when she bursts out, “so did you get engaged, cause uh someone asked me.” I wanted to be mad/annoyed but mostly I like that my mom, a) pulled out the old “I am asking for a friend” line, and b) that me getting engaged wouldn’t be what I led with in the conversation.

    • Kyley

      Haha. Moms!

      My .SO and i have been together for 8 years and my mom recently told me “I don’t care if you ever have a wedding, but I would like a little baby some day.” and it was so absurd I loved it. (also, in those 8 yes my family–and his!–have never pressured us about marriage, etc, so that helps keep it funny.)

  • Dawn

    People, even the most well-intentioned of people, seem to be capable of being extremely rude about this sort of thing.

    Although I have yet to receive any of this myself, I still remember the sorts of questions and prodding that my cousin’s now-husband got about taking *gasp* 3 years to propose. It was getting ridiculous how many times he got asked where the ring was. And some people’s response to their becoming engaged was “It took you long enough”. I was pretty appalled that some people thought it was their business to comment on what an “acceptable” time frame is.

    Yeeesh. I hope no one ever tries that on me.

    • The “it’s about time” comments when we got engaged still annoy me when I think about them. Also, it annoys me that I still feel I have to justify why we got engaged when we thought it was right rather then when they thought we should.

  • Renee

    Yes, yes, YES to all of this!

    I’ve had a doozy of a holiday season. My much younger (22 yrs old) cousin got engaged on Xmas Eve. (Side note: I’ve already sent her a copy of Meg’s book) When I called my family (cross-county) to say hello, my Dad played the super awkward game of “Guess who has good news?!?!” as he passed the phone around to about 15 people. After my cousin told me her good news, EVERY SINGLE OTHER member of my family said some variation of “So…when are you getting engaged?” and, truly the most horrifying, “You’re not getting any younger.” SERIOUSLY.

    So, yeah, EFF rings, I feel you!

    We are both older (I’m 35, he’s 45) and we both agree that we want to get married. We’ve talked about it – we also talked about it beforehand, and I knew he wasn’t going to propose at all during the holidays.

    But I started reading Meg’s book because I couldn’t help myself and I found the “Questions you should ask before you get engaged” to be RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME. As soon as I mentioned it, my boyfriend was all “lets do it”. And three hours later, we were done, and so much better for it!

    I was actually so thrilled with that conversation that I don’t even care that we didn’t get engaged. It will happen when it is right for us. And everyone else will just have to deal.
    Until then, I just keep saying, “We’re great they way we are. I’m not in a rush.”
    This tends to keep everyone quiet for a minute.
    And hide, hide, hide people on Facebook! The “hide” feature is your friend!

  • Kathryn

    Oh MAN I so remember how much pre-engagement sucks. Remember, and I’m assuming here that you want him to ask you with the whole ring bit (and I love shiny things too), the time it takes to get the ring and plan how he will ask the question can be a lot longer than us girls appreciate.
    My fiance said one snowy NYE that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and while I knew it wasn’t official (there was no shiny thing, and um, he was tipsy), my mental conclusion was “Great! Okay, you’re into this too. Where’s the ring?”And then it took over a year for him to actually propose. I was going CRAZY because I knew he was leaving for 8 months. He’s still gone… now I get to be engaged and alone, but that’s a whole other post. Seriously though, it took him months to pick out a ring, and then months more for them to make it. Even if the proposal doesn’t include jewelry, popping the question takes planning and that means time. So sit tight. I love Alyssa’s advice to plan non-wedding-related fun things and learn something new in the meantime. Just because your fiance hasn’t asked doesn’t mean he isn’t working on it!

  • Katie

    Rather than struggling through the pre-engaged phase, I struggled through the “I never really wanted to get married until I met YOU and now I really want to get married only because it is YOU but YOU don’t want to get married again!” situation for several years. I made peace with it eventually (yes, there was mourning) and realized I was lucky enough to have him forever, even if it wasn’t legal or tax-penalized. And then as soon as I had moved past it, he asked me to marry him. Go figure.

    Luckily, I told most folks (including my “My Fair Wedding”-loving mother) early on that we were never going to get married, so the engagement took them all by surprise. And everyone who is important to us found out from us directly, not Facebook. The most frustrating thing was that I did have to ask several friends and family members not to post OUR news on FB themselves!

  • Laura

    A huge “exactly” to this post and all the comments. My now-husband and I were together for 5 years before getting engaged, so I dealt with all the twitchy-making questions and Facebook posts quite a lot in the time leading up to that — and I’m thrilled that APW is having this conversation!

    Besides taking breaks from wedding blogs and Facebook, what really helped me to embrace the pre-engaged state was realizing the boyfriend and I could do a lot of the things I was looking forward to about a wedding, *without* the pressure and the trappings of a wedding. Maybe you’re waiting for both of you to feel ready to get married, but you don’t have to wait to plan a fabulous dinner party together…or take time for a trip to a gorgeous locale…or find an outfit that makes you feel glamorous (wedding dress, shmedding dress) and go to dinner or a show. Reminding myself that we didn’t have to wait for a wedding to honor our relationship in a way that felt special and magical helped satisfy the part of my psyche that longed for a big wedding celebration. (And it’s good practice for keeping the special and magical feelings after you get married, too!)

  • Katrina

    Or even better yet, after all of those months of patiently waiting through all of the rude, nosy questions from relatives about when we were getting engaged, he popped the question and I called my grandmother to share the good news:

    “Grandma! Guess what? Ryan and I have some exciting news –”
    “You’re pregnant?”
    “Um…… no?….”


    • meg

      And hilarious.

    • Miriam

      haha. at Christmas my Grandma told my twin sister (we are both pretty newly married) that she seemed irritable and wanted to know if there was something she wasn’t telling everyone… while she drank multiple gin and tonics. Grandma’s are great.

    • Julia W

      Reminds me of my grandfather encouraging my unwed (but engaged) brother to have kids soon because he isn’t “getting any younger”. I was in the room and was somewhat shocked that this request wasn’t turned to me. I was already married.
      They ended up getting pregnant a month later anyways… (but grandpa passed away before they found out)
      He was probably thinking, “marriage-shmarriage, I want some great-grandbabies!” Just not sure how he knew to ask my younger brother instead of me though.

      Also, just a note of reminder to everyone. We can’t change what people will say to us or post on facebook but we can change how we interpret and react. Many people mean well by their prying questions and hints, they just don’t realize that it came out very rudely. Sometimes we overreact when we hear a question over and over (Remember when you couldn’t decide what major you wanted to chose? Everyone seemed to ask… Or when you would get married, have babies, etc) Take a deep breath before spitting fire at your friend or relative! They may mean well.

  • It makes me sad how much I see/hear of other people getting way up in couples’ business in the comments.

    How did we, as a culture, get to the point where bosses can grab people’s hands to check rings, or parents can come to visit expecting a marriage conversation and get super pushy about it, friends/coworkers are asking about “what no ring” or saying “took him long enough”? I’m all for people choosing to share information about their relationship with the people in their lives, but it’s crazy the amount that the people in our lives think they should have a say in our relationships.

    Just myself and my fiance have had coworkers, bosses & friends dismiss my relationship because I’ve said I was in love at first sight on my end (“oh that never lasts”), push for details of a fight and then advise we break up, or constantly ask about “when’s the ring coming” and family freak out about the idea of my upcoming marriage because I’m “too young to get married and have children” (umm … I’m an adult. I can make those decisions myself). Most of it is not done with any malicious intent …. but really? This is ok?

    The thing that really upsets me though is I wonder how natural this dialogue has become: does sh%t like that ever slip out my mouth when I’m not thinking. Because it has become so prevalent that it’s ridiculous.

    • Class of 1980

      Rude invasive questions and comments are commonplace because not enough of us dare to deliver a smack down.

      If we can’t muster up a “That’s my private life.” answer, the least we can do is silently stare at them until they get uncomfortable.

    • meg

      “How did we, as a culture, get to the point where bosses can grab people’s hands to check rings, or parents can come to visit expecting a marriage conversation and get super pushy about it, friends/coworkers are asking about “what no ring” or saying “took him long enough”?”

      THIS. Manners. They are not so popular these days, but I’m a fan. And 1980 is right, the cold stare gets you far (and is Miss Manners endorsed).

  • suz

    I can’t legally get married (being a lesbian in CA) but I did get domestic partnered in November and then later my partner gave me a ring. We’re both really strong believers that having a Civil Union is NOT the same as being married and we won’t be having a wedding until we can legally do so the same way all our straight friends can (I’m not saying everyone should do it this way, just that it’s what we believe).

    So now we’re totally confusing all our relatives on whether we’re pre-engaged, engaged, or what! We have no timeline for getting married (since it’s really a decision for the courts at this point) and we don’t actively talk about the ring as my engagement ring. We’ve also had many people congratulate us on the domestic partnership as if it’s exactly the same as a wedding (along with a few folks who asked what the heck domestic partnership was!) which we don’t consider to be the case – committed we are, but married we aren’t until we can legally do it just like everyone else.

    I guess my point is just that there are all sorts of relationships and milestones within those relationships and sometimes the labels are confusing to those involved (and those not involved!) and everyone is just trying to live their happy lives and doing the best to ignore people who are pushing their own timeline.

    Also, I will echo other points that the random person who grabs your hand and consoles you for not getting engaged over the holidays is just yucky! who does that?!

    • Class of 1980

      You are engaged. BEST WISHES TO YOU.

    • meg

      AGREED. You are engaged, because this shit is going to happen.

      With all my heart, and tears in my eyes, I’m wishing you a short engagement.

  • Love the acronym. Eff Rings. LOL!

    Alyssa is right, take a detox from the internet (except for APW). I promise it will help, it won’t be easy since it is so accessible but I promise that it will help put you in the right frame of mind and remind you to count your blessings. I was in your shoes two years ago and I wanted to kill myself (figaturtively) with all the posts from people about their damn rings and engagements or the people constantly saying “it’s your turn next”. Made me want to barf.

    Best of luck to you and when he does propose we will all cheer.

    • meg

      You have permission to detox from APW, as needed :)

      • Thanks Meg but APW saved me, our wedding, and our marriage. It pulled me out from deep, dark holes of loneliness. I am forever grateful for it.

  • Kess

    I’m going through much of the same thing right now, but sadly instead of just being jealous, I’m also horribly judgy!

    I’m 22 years old and senior in college. TONS of people are getting engaged that are the same age or younger than me! This Christmas, I only know of 2 but over this past year, I can increase that easily to 8 – and those are the people 22 years old or younger – I know quite a few more older than me. None of them are any of my very close friends, but it still stings a bit.

    I’m uncomfortable getting married until I (A) finish school a year from now, (B) have a job, (C) have the finances to fully support myself, and (D) feel like I could be a completely independent person (aka, know that I could still survive if my parents and boyfriend were no longer around). All these people are getting engaged and I am so frustrated because I’m not ready yet. Because I’m being the responsible one and they’re just being silly and flippant to even think about getting married at this stage of their lives. So I judge them and am quietly sad.

    • PAF

      Honey, I mean this will all due respect. You are still a baby! While of course many people ARE ready for engagement and marriage as very young adults, I think most are not. Think of your 20s as a time to figure out who you are and what you really want in a partner. I know that when I was 22 I had absolutely no clue. Had I known back then who I would end up marrying 10 years later I probably would not have believed it. Thank god I waited until I knew what kind of partner I needed! Just consider yourself a smart and lucky lady for knowing that you are not there yet.

      • meg

        Countersigned. The idea of me getting married at 22 is a horror movie. I was happy at 22, mind you, but happy single. (That said, we have an APW staff member who got married at 22, so there you are).

        Anyway, you’re also allowed to be quietly judgy. As long as you’re quiet.

    • katieprue

      You sound a lot like me! Towards the end of college I got super-judgy about people making those major life changes that I just wasn’t ready for. My initial condition with my (now) fiance was that I would finish school before we got engaged. And then I did. And then I realized that I so wasn’t ready to get married at that time. So we got settled into jobs, got different ones, put some financial stuff in order, and then we just got to that “right” time (for US!) I’m just glad I never pushed too hard, otherwise I would have wound up engaged at 19. To the right guy, but still… It sounds like you know what is going to work for you, and that is fantastic. I try to tone it down on being too judgmental, but hey. I’m a work in progress!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      20% of my college class was married by graduation. Junior year, I attended the wedding of a friend who dropped out to get married and make babies. So, I feel you. It’s hard putting on a smile and reacting politely when evening after evening each new girl comes back to the dorm with a bright shiny ring and an elaborate proposal story. I’m not the squealing, jumping up and down type.

      But, you know what? All those people made the right decisions for them, and are happy and healthy now (or their unhappiness or sickness is not a result of the timing of these life choices).

      And the other 80% – a lot of whom were married in the next couple years, to college classmates and friends – also the right decisions.

      And me – engaged 6 years after graduation, after a graduate degree and its student loans, after the beginning of a career, and with those “most fertile years” behind me (years most of my friends spent making two to five babies)? also the right decisions

      So, be sad. Be judgmental, privately. But be hopeful – not just about romance, but about all that awaits us after college.

    • Hanna

      I went to a wedding of a couple still in college this past summer. Honestly, I’ve never seen a more miserable looking bride. It wasn’t until after a long party bus ride post-wedding (resulting in a tardy and trashed bridal party) did I see her smile. From the conversation s I had with her, it seemed like the wedding was driven more by the “we’ve been together forever, we should get married” than an actual state of being ready to commit lives to each other. It was honestly outstandingly sad to be there.

      However, in contrast, I recently met with an old friend and her now-finance and it was obvious how deep and real their connection was. It was a visibly mature relationship, based on love and respect, not familiarity. I think as a pre-engaged college senior, by comparing these two types of relationships, I strive to make my relationship reach of the level of my old friend, but avoid rushing things like the other.

  • Teresa

    My boyfriend and I are going on six years, living together for four. We decided about a year and a half ago that marriage was for us, and just before that, we filed for a domestic partnership through NYC so that he could have my health insurance. After being asked constantly when we’re getting married and being assured that “It will be your turn soon!” everytime we go to a wedding, it’s starting to really piss me off that no one recognizes that my relationship is already recognized by the law as offical! People just completely shrug it off. Even after it became a choice for your relationship status on Facebook (ugh, it really does hurt to see everyone elses engagement and wedding photos, but I just can’t stop looking!), no one seems to really get what it means. I know we’ll be engaged soon, but how is that more official than our already legal status of domestic partners? There is only one person, one of my mom’s cousins, who rolls her eyes when my family bugs me about it and loudly says, “But you’re basically already married already, you’re domestic partners, right?” She gets extra big hugs from me at family functions! It bugs me that no one else recognizes it, not just for myself, but because for awhile, that was a same-sex couples only legal option in New York. Grumble!

  • Rachel

    Another “me too” EFF RINGS – I’m with you. Going on 5 years together and 1 year living together….we are very happy and waiting together for our right time.

    Just wanted to share my version of the parental shocker: This past May, my parents came to visit us in NYC – one evening, while eating pizza and drinking wine at our home, my father began this small speech: “BF of my daughter, when I went to law school we learned a lot of latin phrases. One of them was ‘de facto’ [and then he went on to explain the legal definition of de facto] and I want you to know that I think of you as my ‘de facto’ son-in-law.” End Speech. We were all speechless.

  • Amy

    This post rang so clearly with me, it’s like I could have wrote it myself. My boyfriend and I have only been dating for 7 months, but are positive that we’d like to get married at some point in the future (I KNOW. It’s been fast. I Know.) We are also disgustingly happy, (“Everyday joy” is a good description!) and I think it’s this level of happiness that prompted questions about an impending wedding starting at 4 months in. (I KNOW.) This culminated is our stating to each other: It’s too soon. We don’t want to rush this. Let’s take our time, enjoy how wonderful this relationship is and let things unfold at a slower pace. Despite this, despite our reminding our friends and family and coworkers and random Starbucks employees that we’re not rushing things, I still got the “So, did you get engaged over the holidays??” question on my first day back at work this week.

    WHEW. Anyway, this post was so timely it’s amazing. Thank you, as always! (Longtime reader here, ie: early 2008.)

    PS I totally have Meg’s book, unopened, in the amazon box in my closet. Wanted to participate in the book buy, but didn’t want to drive myself crazy. :-)

  • Janet

    Serisouly APW, could you get out of my head with these posts?! It’s like your reading my relationships mind or something!

    My boyfriend and I are solidly in pre-engaged land, though we are still living apart due to where our jobs are and other general life stuff. We’ve had many “when we’re married” and “when we have kids” discussions and some serious “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” late night discussions. We’ve even stopped and looked at engagement rings a few times over the last few months, but both of us are a bit gun shy due to past life experiences.

    I have a mother whose been married three times, his mother’s been married three times and his father has been divorced twice. To add to the mess my boyfriend was unhappily married to his high school sweetheart from the time he graduated high school until his divorce was final 13 years later. At first it was youthful pride/judgement and stubborness to prove to his parents he hadn’t made a mistake in marrying his now ex-wife that kept him with her and then financial reasons kept him in a loveless marriage for far too long.

    We’re a month shy of our one year anniversary and people are constantly ask us when we’re getting engaged or married and even when we’re having BABIES?! Apparently the year mark is some sign to the rest of the world that you should be getting married?! I’m not sure if its the “couple energy” we give off or what that triggers this response in people, but at times it can be down right uncomfortable conversation. Though admittedly the funniest was at my Nana’s funeral when we were at the reception and I was holding my cousin’s infant son that a relative whom I had not seen in many years asked me when we [my boyfriend or as she assumed my husband] were going to have children of our own!

    That said, I most definetly want to marry this man, be the mother of his children, and grown old with him and he wants the same with me, but there are times that the idea of a ring and marriage is so completely overwhelming its scary. That said if he asked me tomorrow I’d say yes, but if he waited another six or nine months I’d be fine with that too (anxious at times yes, but ok).

    We know we’ll get there sometime in the near future, but for the time being we are happy to be in pre-engagement land and enjoying the perks of being a couple in love and facing the challenges of career, family, and love head on.

  • mimi

    This was my question, so I guess you can call me EFF RINGS! Thanks everyone for the great advice! I just signed up to take a cooking class with my best friend and will do my very best to enjoy all just being single and live with my boyfriend. I’m also going to talk to him in detail and work on those questions from Meg’s book. I appreciate all the APW love and I’m ending this week much more positively than I started it!

    And Lorna – we have houseguests tonight, so I’ll have to postpone that night out/hot sex plan until tomorrow. And congratulations on your wedding!

    • Edelweiss

      You are making some kick-ass plans lady, Congrats! Please remind yourself one night when you get home stuffed (and perhaps tipsy) from cooking class and proud of whatever concoction you now know how to make – “there is going to be a time in my life when I’ll be too busy to have time for this, wow my life is awesome right now!”

  • Lynn

    Yay for those who’ve achieved “pre-engaged zen!” I was stuck in a serious funk of “unhappily pre-engaged” for a good year or two (been with my BF for 4+ years). I was jealous of all the engagements of people around me, harboring some resentment towards my poor BF for not having proposed yet and feeling generally impatient and doubting my BF’s feelings even though I knew better. Even though we’d both fully committed and were living together, it just didn’t feel like enough to me since we’d already had the conversations and knew marriage was in the cards for us. He wanted to finish school first and his thinking was “well, if we’re already committed and know we’re heading towards marriage, then why rush?” while I had the opposite opinion of “well, if we’re already committed and know we’re heading towards marriage, then why wait?”

    But he started pulling me into jewelry stores a couple months ago to look at engagement rings just to get an idea of what I like even though we know the proposal is still many months out. Ever since then, I’ve been in “pre-engaged zen.” Something about just getting that indication that he was ready to start looking made me suddenly realize how ridiculous I had been for being so anxious and wanting to rush him while he was trying to finish school, save money, etc. I was actually relieved that he didn’t propose over the holidays because I realized I wanted to soak up every minute more that I can of our awesome relationship before we move into the craziness of planning a wedding and dealing with the details, expense and family drama that will come with that (not to mention the insensitive “it’s about time” and “finally” comments regarding our engagement that I know are coming). I regret now spending a good year or two trying to rush things and missing out of the joy of just being together. So ladies, hang in there and just try to enjoy where you are NOW in your awesome relationship. It will happen if it is meant to so don’t let others expectations, friends happiness or your own impatience drag you down to missing out on today!

  • I feel like my close friend could have written this note. (In fact, my dear, if it WAS you, please call me. We’ll get wine and dish. You know my internet handle, YOU KNOW WHO I AM.) But, regardless, I know I’ve been guilty of ribbing friends about this very thing, and I’m not serious and I hope they know that … but this post is kind of a whack in the face that it’s really not OK, even if they’re good natured about it.

    Just like any other aspect of their personal lives, their news has no reflection on your relationship (hint: remember this when your friends get divorced as well, which will shake a girl up in a different and more horrible way).
    This, exactly. I actually had this happen right before my wedding, and it really did rock my world in a not good way, and took me a ridiculous amount of time to process it. I know it wasn’t a reflection on me and my relationship – AT ALL – but it was nevertheless hard to process.

    • Class of 1980

      “I know I’ve been guilty of ribbing friends about this very thing, and I’m not serious and I hope they know that … but this post is kind of a whack in the face that it’s really not OK, even if they’re good natured about it.”

      Go thou and sin no more. ;)

      • I promise I’ve never grabbed any hands to look for rings that aren’t there!

  • Jen

    My boyfriend of 5 1/2 years broke up with me on New Years Day. I thought we were pre-engaged, but he decided he couldn’t marry me. Everyone keeps asking if we got engaged over the holidays. It is super fun telling them that I moved out instead. :(

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Oh, gosh. I’m so sorry. The questions after the break-up can be the hardest part. Feel free to say whatever gets you through this real tough time. I recommend, “I can’t talk about it right now” and walking away/hanging up.

    • Hugs, lady. All the hugs in the world.

    • KEA1

      =( Ouch. I hope that you will find comfort in the days ahead, that you will have many great things coming your way in the days/months/years ahead, and that maybe this will teach your well-meaning friends/family to think twice before asking personal questions. BIG HUGS!

  • I have never been pre-engaged but I think we all know what it feels like when it seems that everyone around us is getting the thing that we want most the world.

    The only thing I can offer is what helped get me through a period of prolonged unemployment. “Abundance is a renewable resource.” Every time someone I knew got their dream job did not mean that somehow I had to wait longer for mine. There isn’t just one dream job (or engagement) to go around which means that someone else having theirs doesn’t diminish the chance for me to get mine. Our chances come in their own time and nothing can speed it up (or slow it down).

    And until that message sunk in, I just blocked people’s news feeds for a while. That helped too.

  • Rebekah R

    Hi all, just throwing my hat into the ring here as far as support goes.

    Honey, I feel ya. I’ve been with my partner just over 4 years now, and last month I sat him down and made him give me his version of the “when I’ll be ready” talk so we could be on the same page for the holidays. My baby sister is married and my parents are starting to get antsy about us, so I wanted to know where he stood so we (let’s face it, I, since I’m the one who’s really fielding the engagement/proposal/marriage questions) could present a united front. Honesty, integrity, and strength. The bare bones of it was that he’s probably not going to be ready for another two years (! I know. Some days it feels like forever, other days I doubt I’ll even have half my sh!t together before then).

    I have a budding-photographer friend who I asked to do a photo shoot of the two of us over Christmas. They are gorgeous photos. I posted my favorites to facebook and titled the album “Not Engagement Photos.” It felt good to ward off the nosy (if well-meaning) questions and comments and to establish that my relationship is still flourishing. Plus, I love that we can have a great photo shoot for no reason and with no pressure. Because, why not?

    Anyway, be strong. Like Alyssa said, be happy for your friends. Be kind to the people who ask insensitive questions because they care for you. Find something special to do with your partner and continue to be honest with each other about where you are in your relationship. Now, I’m back to planning our jaunt to Europe this spring before he starts his med school rotations. (yay!)

  • Lisa Moats

    I am a member of the pre-engaged set. Thanks to Meg for making this state completely bearable, and thanks to all those posts that let me know that I am not alone! For the last several months I have felt a growing anxiety because of no proposal. I am learning to focus on what I have, instead of what I don’t have ( a ring, a marriage).
    What I have is an amazing relationship with the person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life.
    I like to look at this time as opening a gift. I only know that he needs to be as ready as I am to make a marriage work.

  • Katharine

    I have an idea for y’all newly-engaged folks: don’t post the news on Facebook. I wanted to, but my now-fiance really didn’t (he’s super private), so I agreed not to, out of respect for his wishes. Instead we made a few phone calls, then had a lot of face-to-face conversations, just as it came up, over the next few months. It’s been the greatest thing! I’ve gotten to experience the joy of it over and over in person, as I see the news register on people’s faces, instead of in one blast of “likes.” (Which… isn’t the same.) And then you can handle each conversation as it comes–bringing up the news in different ways with different friends according to their own situations, and being sensitive if you know there’s some ambivalence about a friend’s relationship, or inability to marry because of state laws, or whatever.

    The last couple months have completely reinforced for me that while facebook can be valuable for some things, in-person interaction with the people you actually have real, complex, loving relationships with is WAY BETTER.

  • Rachel

    “Oh, so no engagement ring from the holidays?” No, but my incredibly thoughtful partner and I did buy each other the exact same bottle of whiskey and matching lottery tickets. It’s the little stuff that counts :) And it made that comment from his Aunt Fran much more bearable…

    • Copious amounts of alcohol ALWAYS make family holidays a lot easier. :)

  • mary

    I could have written the original post, word for word! and my hairdresser today asked me the same thing (one of a few).

    yesterday I was spending time with my dearest and he was explaining some reason why he thought I was awesome, and he said, “That’s why I married you.” (No, baby. You didn’t yet.)

    It appears that it’s slipped his mind that the proposal and wedding haven’t actually happened yet!

  • Jenny

    I was totally in the same boat a year ago. We’d been together over 5 years and I had always been the one who didn’t know if I was ready, or even if marriage was really what I wanted. But all the sudden I was – and couldn’t figure out why my guy wasn’t on his knee that minute. I’m not sure exactly where it came from, but I’d hazard a guess it was all the friends and even my younger sister around me getting engaged and starting families…all of a sudden it just felt urgent. I remember one particularly bad day when I nearly accused my partner of not wanting to marry me at all. Boy, did I feel like a jerk when he did propose and told me all about the elaborate plans he’d been making for the last 2 years….But Alyssa is right, try and enjoy your “pre-engaged” state as much as you can. Things have a way of getting nuts even when you don’t plan them to when it comes to weddings! And I also 100% agree that a social media detox can be ridiculously helpful to re-gain perspective. Hang in there!

  • Hanna

    I’ve been in the pre-engaged state for a while – at this time, both of our futures and where we’ll have to live to get careers off the ground is so uncertain that an engagement seems impractical. I don’t like the idea of long engagements (I’ve seen too many girls go crazy over details and little things the longer the engagement goes and I do not want to be in that place).

    Anyway, I take this time as something to enjoy, a time to fantasize about the future with someone I know I’ll spend the rest of my life with, without any pressure of planning or specifics. It’s hard when friends get engaged, but I know that it’ll be that much better when it’s finally my turn.

    P.S. Does the term pre-engaged ever bring up Arrested Development memories to anyone else? George Michael? Bland? Pre-pre-engaged? Good times…

  • Ashley

    Thanks for writing in. I am in the “pre-engaged” phase…I itch thinking about the term. But I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years, we have known each other for over 6 years and from very early on in our dating relationship have felt known that we are going to be married, we have done things that engaged people do, including planning talks and pre-marriage class at our church…. But he is not ready to ask me THE question, waiting for his ducks to be in a row ( I read that article

    Thank you for writing, it makes me know that I am sane. It is not ok that people make us feel awkward by asking us when. I want to scream if I am asked one more time, and then ask for their check to be written out directly to me…cause I figure if they have so much to say they must be contributing to union celebration…right?! llol

    Basicly, thanks, Im excited to be out of this phase but I am going to devote more time to enjoying the way things are now, ’cause I love this man and I look forward to hanging with my friend when ever I can.

  • Sandra

    Thank you for that blog. I cried so hard because I am at that very stage in my life with my boyfriend/pre fiance. I too have looked online and pre planned what I would like my wedding to look like. I am only 32 and am in such a loving relationship with my boyfriend and his two children from a previous marriage. He has told me many times that he has this grandiose plan for our engagement/wedding and for me to have patience because he does want me in his/the kids life forever. I just have to get over my own urge to want to be married and be a “set” family. I know he loves me and plans for it but I secretly still plan what my dream engagement/wedding would look like. Reading this helped me feel less guilty about that and worry less about him finding me out and marrying me just because he felt pressure.