7 Reasons It’s OK to Be Desperate to Get Married

You have a say in this too, ya know

man and woman embracing

By many standards, I am That Girl Who Is Desperate to Get Married.

Personally, I think I’m just a young woman who is nearly ready to be engaged, but the world is telling me otherwise.

Right now, I feel like I’m getting hit with an onslaught of wedding-related messages. On the one hand, there’s the barrage of “have a wedding be a bride have a wedding most important day of your life have a wedding get swept off your feet have a wedding!!!!!” advertising. (Fun fact: images of brides can help sell anything, even if the product isn’t related to weddings.) On the other hand, there are the “let’s gossip about That Girl Waiting Around for Her Boyfriend to Propose” conversations that I constantly hear women having.

And in the middle of this, there is me, a woman who feels a lot of guilt and stress about wanting to be married. Because I feel like even though I know in my gut that I want to be married for good reasons, as soon as I talk about engagement, people just assume I’m some antifeminist nitwit who has bought into the hype. I hate that.

I’ve written about engagements and weddings a few times in the past year, and each time I do, women who are in serious relationships, but who aren’t ready to be engaged, lament the fact that strangers cannot seem to get on board with the status of their relationships. It’s always a great discussion and I find myself cheering for these women who are bucking tradition. But every time, I wonder if someone—anyone—is going to come out and say, “You know what? I’m not engaged and I’m not okay with it.” No one ever does though, and I believe a lot of women are too afraid to say they aren’t okay with not being engaged. Because nice women/loved women/smart women/modern women aren’t supposed to talk about that.

After spending the past few months watching friends get engaged, watching friends wait to get engaged, talking to married people, talking to divorced people, reading everything I could get my hands on about marriage/gender roles/societal expectations, and looking at my own relationship status, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m both clear-headed and pissed off enough to write what I want to be the new rules governing our society’s conversations about women and engagement, weddings, and marriage.

1. You have the right to a say in your future. It’s not just that I have a right to know where my relationship is heading; it’s that I get a to have a f*cking say in where my relationship is heading. By accepting the “pop the question” or “put a ring on it” mentality, men are given all the power and it send a clear message that what women want doesn’t matter. But it does matter.

2. You have the right to a say in your future even if you watch Say Yes to the Dress. If you’ve ever watched a wedding show, been a bridesmaid, or looked at a wedding album posted on Facebook, it’s assumed that you’re “obsessed with weddings” and therefore don’t get to have an adult, mature conversation about them. I’m so over watching women’s feelings get dismissed just because we live in a culture that glorifies weddings. Look, I eat yogurt. I like flowers, and I say pretty much everything the girls say in “Sh*t Girls Say.” And these things? Don’t make me more of a woman or less of a person. They don’t mean I’m incapable of knowing what I want in life. And neither does an interest in weddings.

3. Women and men’s feelings about marriage should be treated as equally important. It’s assumed that women’s timelines are ridiculous. That we wake up one day, see a couple friends get engaged, and decide, OMG WANT without giving it any serious thought. But men’s reasons are often treated as logical and smart. How is your worrying about your fertility worse than his worrying about his finances?

4. Women and men are both plagued by cultural narratives. I’ve seen so many discussions about how women are affected by fairy tales or other cultural influences. “Oh, she only wants to get married because [insert some sexist assumption here; be sure to reference Disney].” On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve heard say that they aren’t ready to get married because they are worried about money or job security, or because they want to be able to afford a bigger ring—things that all scream “male provider stereotype” to me. We need to consider the fact that men might be as influenced by fairy tales and gender expectations as women are. Let’s stop blaming Cinderella and take a look at what’s going on with Prince Charming, too.

5. When you’re in a serious relationship, you have a responsibility to create a new timeline that reflects both of your needs. It’s fine to have your own timeline for big life events, but we should all expect those timelines to change when we get into a serious relationship. It’s just unrealistic to expect that you and your partner will be on the exact same page about everything you want for the future. And I don’t think you’re doomed if you’re not on the same page. You simply have to compromise. (Something they recommend you learn to do before getting married.)

6. You have a responsibility to not let the idea of how things “should” be get in the way of really healthy, necessary conversations. Apparently, the acceptable window of time for both parties feeling ready is very small. If she’s ready too soon, she’s desperate. If he’s not ready soon enough, it’s never going to happen. If he’s ready before she is, there is something wrong with her. Yeah, I’d been fed that bullshit for a while too and honestly, it really got to me.

The truth is, my boyfriend and I had a lot of long, emotional conversations as we negotiated and created a new timeline that both of us were comfortable with. While the conversations were incredibly productive, I felt so guilty every time we had them because this wasn’t how things were “supposed” to work. I was supposed to “let things happen” or “be patient.” He was supposed to be ready at the same time I was. But once we stopped fighting the very idea of having these conversations and arguments, I felt like we took our relationship to a whole new level. And I’m pretty sure that learning to shut out others’ opinions and communicate about what we really want will help us immensely when we are married. (Oh and for the record, talking—and even fighting—about your future isn’t as unromantic as people might think. It’s not exactly fun, but there’s something deeply emotional about saying, “I’m willing to rearrange the plans I had for my life for you,” and having someone say the same thing back to you. That’s a hell of a lot more romantic to me than hiding my needs for a year so I can be surprised with some sort of hot air balloon spectacle.)

7. You have a responsibility to stop shaming women who want to get married. So. Back to That Girl Who Is So Desperate To Be Married. I’m not sure this girl exists. But if she does, I think we created her—by constantly reinforcing unrealistic romantic ideals and then judging any relationship that fails to live up to them. We praise women whose men “got it right,” while simultaneously shaming women for “sitting around waiting” and “nagging him to marry her.” And we don’t empower each other to challenge the social mores that strip us of our right to have a say.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, when we deny how we feel so that we can avoid “pressuring” significant others (or when we say that we “don’t care when we get married,” even though we do) it just ends up complicating things for people who truly feel that way. (If you ever wonder why no one believes you when you say you’re fine not being married? This is why—because there are so many women who have decided to say that to save face, that it ruins things for those of you who actually do mean it. It’s like we’re making other women cry wolf.)

So whether you’re cool with your relationship status or want it to change, you’re allowed to own your feelings without guilt and judgment from others. Because if we don’t owe that to each other (though let me be clear, we do) at the very least, we owe it to ourselves.

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  • Wow, I love this post! Off to vote and go to work, but can’t wait to come back later in the day for more discussion!

    • KB

      Thread hijacking!!! GO VOTE GO VOTE GO VOTE!!!!!!! It totally makes a difference! Even if you’re cynical about the presidential election, think about the small races for delegate and representatives – you matter!!! AND, wedding-related, you have the power to recognize civil marriage is a right for all people! GO VOTE!!!!!

  • Claire

    I want to stand up and cheer for this post! Based on my own FB feeds and conversations with many friends (both women and men), this is a conversation that is very much needed. And I don’t see it happening anywhere else. So thank you, Rachel and thanks APW.

    • Same reaction here. I just want to give a huge round of applause and a standing ovation to this post. While I’ve crossed the line to married life the sentiments here are so familiar to how I felt leading up to my engagement.

  • Amy March

    Yup. Single and ready to be married, have babies, buy ahouse and move to the suburbs. And frustrated with it.

  • KEA1

    Holy crap. THIS. This is me. This is what I need right this very moment and have needed for YEARS. THANK YOU!!!

  • Melise

    This is a great post! I’m 23, and I got engaged a couple of months ago after dating my man for a year. Most of my friends haven’t gotten to meet him yet, and I think a few of them were a little shocked to hear we were talking about getting married. We did plan and talk and cry a lot before we got engaged, because marriage is a Big Deal. But surrounded by couples who were older than us and had been dating longer than us, I found myself feeling guilty and confused for wanting to get married and, even more, for wanting a wedding. Even now, I sometimes feel weird being excited about my wedding when I talk to my (not married) friends. I had to ask myself multiple times if I wanted to get married because I love my guy or if I just wanted to pin wedding things on Pinterest. And every time I had to kick myself and say “No, silly! This guy makes you smile like a maniac and dance around the room with glee and you can’t wait to spend forever being awesome together!” My friends asked “are you sure you don’t want to wait a little longer just to make sure?” But we are sure, and it’s okay to be excited and happy about it!

    • This was something I forced myself to think about when we were in the ring-shopping stage. I, too, love weddings, and wanted to make sure that that wasn’t the reason we were getting engaged. I asked myself, “If all we did was go to city hall on our lunch break, would I still want to be married to him?” It made me sad to think about our wedding being such a non-event (for me. I needed something bigger than just signing the piece of paper.), but I knew I still wanted to be married to him, even if that’s how the wedding went down.

      • Katie H

        This is a great way to look at it. I have also thought for a second “is it the marriage that I want or just the party?” And I know its the marriage, same as Melise said – he makes me crazy happy and giddy and over the moon in love. After I read your comment, Molly, I know it even more. If all we could do was go to City Hall, I’d say “what are we waiting for?! Let’s get married!”

    • Jenna

      I totally agree with you. I’m 20. Living with my boyfriend of (almost) four years. And a lot of people, especially my mother, was shocked to find out we were discussing marriage, which was over a year ago. I also feel guilty when I talk about marriage. And I get a lot of looks where people are assuming that I am pressuring him to commit. It actually started completely opposite way, which is another conversation (our mothers tell us to to get caught up with the princess fantasy, so when we find someone compatible we’re too scared to talk and take the commitment!!)

      I get very excited about weddings, which confuses a lot of my friends that are very, very not ready to commit. And a lot of people say that I am “obsessed” with weddings because I am not technically engaged. But, we have a solid relationship that involves lots of very, very honest communication. And at the end of our lives, that’s really all that matters. However, the very same friends that make me feel ashamed to want to commit, turn around and say how lucky I am to have someone. I want to scream and say, being with someone for sooo long from when we were sooo young (15!) takes a TON of work. We’ve grown up together; matured and found out how we want to be our own person, together. And that is
      CERTAINLY not easy as they would like to believe.

      BUT, that doesn’t mean I can get excited at the thought of having a “true love.” Or
      wanting to have a romantic party with all my favorite people there to celebrate with me. This is why I love this site and the book. It makes me feel soooo much better about “not doing things the RIGHT WAY.” Thank you for talking about this. I greatly appreciate it.

    • grace b

      I agree with you a lot on this. My boyfriend and I have been together a year (and living together that whole time, we met through an “intentional community” program and when it was over we moved to a new city together) and whenever I mention to friends about us getting married they are always shocked. I feel like it’s almost a cultural taboo now to be engaged/married young. When we did our first ring shopping trip together I found it to be simultaneously romantic and terribly overwhelming! Since then I realized that A LOT of what I thought about the “time line” of getting married was so shaped by the culture of my peers. My friends are waiting longer than me, they can’t envision getting married so soon, shouldn’t we wait? My boyfriend and I talked it over and we compromised with waiting another year until we are more settled into our new city. But as I’ve been telling everyone–I don’t NEED a certain chain of events to happen to be ready to get married, I need to be ready in my heart.

      Love reading about other young couples on here.

      Fabulous post Rachel!

  • Emilie

    I’m lost in pre-engaged land right now and one thing I find most confusing is, as a feminist, am I SUPPOSED to initiate conversation with FH (nagging?) so I have a voice in the decision or am I supposed to relish in my non-married status. There are so many mixed messages out there. It’s hard to sort through. Especially when he’s hearing all those mixed messages at the same time.

    I think another layer of what’s going on here is responses to “marriage-obsessed-women” who are presently in very committed relationships vs. “marriage-obsessed-women” who are single. Generally I find that women in both categories are dismissed as silly and anti-feminist. Which is interesting to me. I’m not sure if there’s anything wrong with planning a fantasy wedding if you’re not in a relationship (like I sometimes day dream about my future house I’m in no place to own), but somehow to me it seems more reasonable to dismiss these plans since they are, after all, fantasy. But women who ARE in committed relationships are dismissed as if their future marriage/wedding is a fantasy too. Very discouraging.

    • Julia

      I think you can initiate conversation AND relish in your non-married status. Also, you can initiate conversation without nagging, by bringing it up once or twice and then trusting your partner to remember.

      EX: D and I have been together for 4 years and are considering taking a church appointment together this coming July. In our denomination, you really can’t do unless you’re married, so the implicit assumption has been that we’ll get married this summer. But D is very spontaneous and believes that we optimize our benefit if all possibilities are left open until the very last minute. I, on the other hand, am a planner. I know we will need at least six months to pull off a $5000 wedding from 3000 miles away. So last week I initiated conversation. Me: “I’ve been thinking a lot about the church appointment. So exciting! But I don’t think I can come with you unless we’re married. Which would mean we would need to get married in June. If this is what you want to do, I need to know by Christmas, because I want to tell my family in person and there will be a lot of details to take care of while we’re in [hometown].” D: “Yeah, that makes sense.”

      Done. I won’t bring it up again. I know D will remember, and from now until Christmas, the ball is in D’s court. (Which means I get to relish a few more months without Mama Drama, thank GOD. I’m taking advantage of this by spending the upcoming weekend on a vacation with just my mom. I hope we can look back on it and remember we love each other when she insists on cake and I would rather serve u-pick berries.)

      To address another topic in this thread, are all ultimatums nasty? I don’t think so. I think having an already-aggreed-on timeline for big events is essential when a planner and an improviser are in love.

      • Alexandra

        There was a great post about Ultimatums awhile back ( http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/08/engagement-ultimatum/ ) and in the end, a lot of people commented that they did it and it worked. I was one of them. So, no, I don’t think they’re all nasty. Sometimes, you just need something to happen to be happy, and it’d be unfair to not communicate that.

      • AnotherCourtney

        To be fair, though, bringing it up more than once or twice doesn’t mean you don’t trust your partner. My man is a bit absent-minded, and he would probably prefer to have never talked about getting married during those “waiting” months because it was just another opportunity for him to admit he wasn’t ready yet (and therefore, disappointing me).

        But I think part of the conversation is HOW to have the conversation. To some people, the best way is to mention it and trust that it will happen. In my relationship, we talked about it all the time. We agreed that talking about it did not equal pressure to propose (which is what society tells you it means), so bringing it up did NOT mean I was disappointed. And when you’re SO excited to marry someone but society tells you to stop being desperate, it’s important to have a safe place to be able to talk about it, if that’s what you need.

        Emilie, I think you can do both, too. It’s only nagging when the conversation is unwanted (for example, my absent-minded guy loves my reminders, but he’s quick to tell me when they get out of hand and become “nagging”). Feel him out and see if he’s open to the conversation, but remember that just because he doesn’t start the conversation doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to talk about it. It might just not be on his mind at the same moment it’s on yours.

    • Rebecca

      Emilie, I’m also pre-engaged and really struggled with finding a balance in discussing it with my boyfriend at first. I think the key is: Why are you initiating the conversation?

      For me, it was very hard not to initiate because I felt like nagging: why aren’t you ready yet; I’m ready; what more do you want; etc. But that was really unproductive – it made him feel nagged and want to withdraw.

      So now there are several different ways I handle it.

      One has been a check-up on the relationship as a whole, serious discussion-y approach. In it I explain how I feel about it and listen to what he feels and ask whether there are particular things that he might find useful. For example, at one point he pointed out to me that we were fighting a lot and this worried him about the future (as in, what if we have a major fight and don’t want to be together any more?). We handled this by talking about fights in the past that we’ve gotten over and ways that married couples we know have handled fights, that kind of thing. Another time he mentioned that he felt he was bearing the brunt of the responsibility in planning things, etc. – he does a lot of the cleaning around the house and makes sure things are organised and is generally the planner. I have kept this in mind and tried to take a more active role so he doesn’t feel the burden is on him. It’s important when this happens not to think: “If only I were ‘good enough’, he WOULD want to marry me.” (And I’ve told my boy that that’s something I sometimes hear, even when he doesn’t say it, so he is happy to reassure me.) We also check in about timelines for engagement and marriage and how he’s feeling in terms of that. In that way, you can feel you’re on the same page with your plans even if you’re not on the same page with your times. :-)

      Another is the casual approach. When something comes up that makes me think, “I’d like that at our wedding” – or the opposite! – I’m learning to bring it up casually. This doesn’t have to lead into a When Are WE Getting Engaged discussion…it can just be, “Ooh, I like this song. This one could be a first dance song.” He can engage with you or roll his eyes, but as he’s learned I’m not going to make it A Big Deal, he finds it easier to engage and discuss (“Yeah, but it’d be hard to dance to”). It makes me feel like he’s moving in the quote unquote “right” direction and thinking about engagement, yet doesn’t pressure him.

      And finally, there’s the “reassure me!” approach. The important part of this, in our relationship, is for me to say, “I know I’m being silly, but sometimes I have silly days. Can you reassure me that you ARE committed to me and that this WILL happen some day?” And he says yes and we have cuddles. Because I’m acknowledging that my need for NOWNOWNOW is silly, it doesn’t feel nag-y – you’re not making it HIS problem, you’re making it in some ways YOUR problem. Because while it’s okay to be ready before he is, it’s a couple problem, not a her-problem or a his-problem.

      For me and my boyfriend, this has worked really well, and I am feeling much less irrational and much more comforted as I’m learning to do it that way. Hope it’s some use to you and yours! :-)

      • Coco

        I am in a similar situation with my boyfriend of 7 years. We have talked about getting married when we are both done school and have jobs, which will be in a few months. I do the “casual approach” of bringing up a wedding and marriage as well, but I too have days where I really need extra reassurance from him that he is still on board. I am much more of a planner than he, so I actually want to have some kind of plan (for the wedding, finances, etc.) before we even announce our engagement. He is more of a do-when-you-need-to kinda guy so it is a struggle for me sometimes, even though I know he does want to be married.

    • Copper

      “…as a feminist, am I SUPPOSED to…”

      I would feel like feminism had come a long, long way if we could all (myself included, don’t mean to sound like I’m in any way above this!) stop asking ourselves what we’re supposed to do as feminists, as women, as lesbians, as whatevers, but instead ask how to achieve our own goals in the best possible way. If we could see ourselves and be seen by others as individual humans who have goals and flaws and all sorts of stuff instead of as representatives of a whole body of other people, that would be amazing.

  • BB

    AWESOME POST!!!! (FYI reading this post to “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd in the background makes it THAT much more awesome!!!)

  • Brefiks

    It’s definitely true that we don’t hear enough about women who want to be engaged and aren’t OK with it (from a sane, feminist perspective.) Thank you, Rachel for bringing this up.

    What brings the sanity in your piece is that you want to be engaged and want to be married, but you don’t seem to feel like the only way to make that happen is “a hot air balloon extravaganza” that the guy initiates but that you hassle him into when you decide you’re ready. Has anyone else come into contact with these folks? “I told him he has to propose by X date?” They’re endemic on other wedding websites. It just seems like such an odd way to exercise agency (or not) in a major decision about your own life.

    • Those people who say “I told him he needs to propose by x date” might have a longer story behind it. It might have been something that did come up after months or years of discussion and back and forth, or as a compromise based on other commitments. Not everyone’s willing to open up the details that lead to that timeline.

      I’m someone who gave my husband a timeline, after lots of discussion. We’d had three years of both expressing the desire to be married, and him expressing future events that he emotionally needed before he’d be ready (live together for a year etc) and after each milestone was hit there was always more … nothing. He was clear that he wanted to marry me and would get really excited talking about it, to the extent of talking about married life and our wedding, but no proposal. At one point he wanted to make a big life change that required some huge compromise and sacrifice on my part to support him, and what felt like making a life long commitment to him. I needed the same from him so we talked and agreed on a timeline that made sense for both of us for a proposal.

      • Christina

        I can really relate to this. I have been with my bf for almost 6 years. We have lived together for 3. We have had many, many discussions about marriage, he knows how highly I value it and that I will not continue in a relationship forever that is not a marriage.

        We had a great conversation this summer where he set himself a deadline but it was definitely in conjunction with me saying a very ultimatium-ish “if you don’t want to marry me I don’t want to be in this relationship”. That deadline is right around the corner and I am having a hard time not saying anything to him right now. I won’t say anything unless the deadline has come and gone but I am so worried he won’t propose and I will have to leave him. I love him but who wants to be with someone who can’t commit to them? And at some stage if you give yourself an ultimatum as he has done and if he goes past it and the only thing that finally makes him propose is the very real threat of me walking out the door, well, do I even want to be married to him?

        And not that it should matter but we aren’t high school sweethearts who are in our early 20’s. We are in our 30’s. Enough.

        Sorry for the rant, but THANK YOU for giving me a place I can voice these feelings because I definitely couldn’t mention them to anyone else.

        • Ashley

          I just wanted to say I’m in a very similar position to you and I feel like i’ve been here forever. It’s an incredibly hard place to be. I just want to give you a virtual hug and say that I really hope things work out for you in the way you want them to, in a way you’re happy and can feel good about.

        • Taylor B

          That’s such a tough place to be. At the end of summer last year, we’d been together about 6 1/2 years, living together for more than 4 years. We had been talking about marriage for years, and I had been ready to be engaged and prepare for marriage for several years. My partner kept saying he wasn’t ready. (And he had always been adamant that he propose, which I respected). I went from impatient to frustrated to sad and finally to something that felt a lot like lonely. One night I just started crying and explained that it was starting to worry me that I felt so ready, and he didn’t. I knew his reasons, and they were legitimate family history things, but I explained that it felt like our partnership wasn’t really as strong and healthy as I felt it was if he wasn’t in the same place I was. I told him I didn’t want to give him an ultimatum, but that I was feeling pretty down about the whole situation. He set a deadline for himself (4 months out) and proposed within 6 weeks. What changed? He said he woke up a few weeks later and realized he was ready.

          This post and the comments following it are going a long way to healing how difficult that pre-engaged period was. I feel for you, and hope you and your partner find a way forward that gives you what you need. Whatever happens, it’s good that you are listening to yourself. Take care, and let us know how you’re doing!

      • Heather

        I’m finally reading all these comments over a month later and dying to know what happened with you ladies.

        So. I hope you are all feeling more positive, at the very least!

    • CPM

      I didn’t give my fiance an ultimatum, but I was honest with him about how much his delay was hurting me, and asked him to give me a timeline. It was really important to me that he be the one to propose, because we’d been talking about marriage for 3 1/2 years and I needed to know that he was doing it of his own initiative, not because I wore him down or pressured him into it. It was a quasi-surprise. I had an idea of when it might happen, which helped me prepare emotionally for engagement– going from “I’m ready for this thing that won’t happen anytime soon” to “I’m ready and it’s imminent” was more difficult than I expected!

      I must admit that in my most desperate moments, I did consider an ultimatum. But I always decided against it because not-marrying him still sounded better than marrying some hypothetical other person. However, we are both young enough that fertility issues haven’t come into play yet… if I were older, things might have played out differently.

      • Rachel

        “I had an idea of when it might happen, which helped me prepare emotionally for engagement– going from “I’m ready for this thing that won’t happen anytime soon” to “I’m ready and it’s imminent” was more difficult than I expected!”

        This has been huge for me–until a few weeks ago, I knew I was ready to get engaged but thought it was several months away. Turns out, my boyfriend had been looking at rings and wanting to pull off a big surprise but couldn’t keep it a secret (and it would have been a real surprise–happy but hard, I think). After a long talk and some joint ring window-shopping (!) I realized I need these few weeks to sit with this new stage of our relationship, feeling like we share this wonderful secret that we’re waiting to share with the world, together. There will still be a quasi-surprise but I already know this emotional preparation will allow me to say yes with an even fuller and happier heart.

    • Marcela

      I was a “you have to propose by X date” person. We had been talking about marriage for a few years by then and there were some big life changes that were on the horizon. I needed a bigger commitment before I felt OK with completely changing my life for him. One day last year he asked how I felt about maybe, possibly, we-don’t-have-to getting engaged in the next three months. I told him that I would be happy with that but only if he actually did it (He had made these kind of claims in the past). He said he would and I got up and put a big old circle on the calendar for him.
      Doing this was how I did exercise agency. How is being clear about my needs not exercising agency?

      • Kristen

        I wish I’d been able to read this post two years ago because maybe I’d have been able to handle the pre-engaged state without issuing an ultimatum. I actually wrote the post on giving an ultimatum to get engaged and I have to say the comments I’m reading here make me feel even better than the great ones on my post.

        In the past, I’ve spoken about being an A Practical Wedding reader in mumbles and embarrassed admission to my friends – because in my world just reading wedding blogs is over the top and too much. This post reminds me how much more support I’ve gotten here in the last two years and how there have been tough life moments for me during that time, completely un-wedding related, and I’ve thought back to some of the stuff I’ve read here to feel stronger and more able to handle anything. I feel super lucky to have found this place and a community of folks who really just want everyone to be happy. This is a place where you are given permission to be happy, and no one is going to laugh at you for it. To someone like me, that kind of support is priceless.

        • “This is a place where you are given permission to be happy, and no one is going to laugh at you for it.”

          Wow…that point really stuck out to me because I just realized how difficult that is to find on the Internet (or in real life). APW is the best.

    • Instead of a “propose by X or we’re through” I told him “propose by X or I’m going to propose to you.” Because I thought he needed to be in charge of the proposal, but also I REALLY WANTED TO MARRY HIM. Ultimately he made me really really believe that he wouldn’t feel emasculated if I did the asking, and I beat him to the punch by ONE DAY. And we have several awesome engagement stories now. So that’s handy.

    • I didn’t give him an ultimatum, but I did initiate a very frank discussion. I left my job, family, and friends to move across the country with my partner, who made it clear that–for him–it was a permanent move. We were in a serious, committed relationship and did discuss the future regularly (if hypothetically) though marriage was never specifically part of the discussion.

      Two years after the move with no evidence that we were moving concretely toward marriage, I scheduled a State of the Union talk. I gave him two weeks notice and a list of topics on the table for discussion (inviting him to introduce topics for discussion as well). The advance notice was key for us, because I knew that I’d spent all of this time thinking deeply about these topics and wanted to give him the chance to do the same. On the scheduled day we spent hours talking our way through Marriage, Children, Combining Finances, Home Ownership, and more. The conversation was emotional and productive, but nothing was truly resolved. I explained that I wanted to get married, and offered up my reasoning (as best I could) behind that desire. I admitted that I didn’t know if I could stay in a relationship if marriage was not an option. He told me that he wasn’t sure if marriage was right for him, and didn’t know how long it would take for him to figure that out. At the end of the day we decided to let everything rest for an unspecified amount of time, and revisit the conversation later.

      I gave myself six months to think on it, before planning to initiate the conversation again. He proposed the same week I intended to bring it up. We talked a lot about how our views had evolved in that time, and now feel really comfortable having these State of the Union talks much more often.

    • CB

      I wouldn’t blanket criticize the “by x date” thing. Sure, some people may be trying to be manipulative which is a bad plan. But I think that most people are just trying to communicate their needs. For example, if you honestly do not want to continue a relationship with someone who can’t decide to commit within a certain timeframe, you should be upfront about that.

      Additionally, a lot of the time the “by x date” has nothing to do with pressure and everything to do with expectations. My BF and I talk about marriage all the time and decided earlier this year that we were ready and wanted to get the ball rolling. We also decided that we’d both like for him to do an official proposal. Knowing a rough “by x date” helps me feel calm as I wait for the proposal.

  • Laura

    Thank you for posting this! I especially liked your point about “women crying wolf.” It’s really unfortunate that so many women who really want to get married feel as though they can’t communicate these feelings to their partner.

    The post definitely echoes my own experience. I was “That Woman Who Was Desperate To Be Married” for many, many frustrating years of singleness. The overwhelming message that I got was that I should just kick back and enjoy being single. I was always equally frustrated with that response. Of course there were things I liked about being single. The independence and freedom of it were really exhilarating at first. But there came a point where it became very repetitive and isolating and I just wanted it over with.

    During a week of vacation at the overseas school where I taught, one night I came down with really serious food poisoning. I remember lying on my floor, my cell phone only a few feet away, and I literally could not move far enough to reach it. Then I realized that I had nobody to call anyway because my entire social network was out of town. (Calling the equivalent of 911 in that country would not have worked because I did not speak the local language well enough.) The realization that I could have died right then and nobody would have even noticed for days was absolutely terrifying. After that, I found it even more difficult when people told me to enjoy my single life, because in my situation living alone was actually dangerous. (That was not the only time I was sick or seriously injured and had no one to turn to for help.)

    But with the exception of a small like-minded group of friends (men and women who all wanted to get married too), I felt like I wasn’t allowed to voice these sentiments. One “friend” even once had the nerve to demand why I wanted to get married: “And you’re not allowed to say that it’s because you’ve ALWAYS wanted to do it!” Realizing that no response was going to be good enough for her, I repeated, “I want to get married.” And she flipped out. “YOU JUST WANT TO GET MARRIED BECAUSE IT’S BEEN BEATEN INTO YOU BY SOCIETY!” she yelled. I mean, she YELLED. (That conversation was indicative of pretty much everything that was wrong with that friendship. It also effectively ended it.)

    I just wish people could be okay with the idea that not everyone in the world wants the same things they might want. If you’re happy being single, and a lot of people are, all the best to you. If you want to get married or if you are frustrated with where your relationship is sitting, you should be able to voice your concerns without flurries of indignation at such audacity. I don’t think it’s right to treat anyone as though they’re somehow missing an appendage because they’re single. But neither are people who do want to get married “sellouts of the feminist cause” either.

    • rys

      I hear you! I wasn’t a “I want to get married person” for a long time. Throughout my 20s, I was pretty content with my single state. Sure, I’d love to have someone to date, but marriage itself wasn’t the goal. Frankly, it’s still not. But being partnered is the goal. And that was hard to admit to myself and to others. It still is: some days I’m ok with being single and wanting more and some days, well, it’s rough.

      The article I come back to over and over again both to give me hope and to reaffirm that it’s ok to be want more is Sara Eckel’s Modern Love column (published last fall). As she notes, “My friends and I had no interest in shopping or pedicures, but that didn’t stop us from feeling wildly embarrassed that we longed for love. Admitting that you wanted a husband — much less that you were distraught you didn’t have one — seemed like a betrayal of feminism. We were supposed to be better than this. (Not that any actual feminists said it was so awful to want a relationship. The e-mails we received from NOW and Planned Parenthood focused on reproductive rights and equal pay, not dating and marriage.)” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/fashion/sometimes-its-not-you-or-the-math-modern-love.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

    • Anonymous

      I emphasize with your situation, and I commend your honesty about your needs and desires.

      I don’t mean to single you out in particular, but yours was the thread of single-and-wanting-to-be-married that jumped out at me. I hope you might have insight into what I perceive to be the negative end of the spectrum. Specifically, I have a friend who intensely desires to be married. Unfortunately, she seems to have developed a pattern of dating men who aren’t particularly well suited for her – for instance, one guy talked down to her, and another’s life goals didn’t align with hers whatsoever. I think that she pushes intimacy before it’s warranted. There are clear signs of incompatibility, but she works really hard to fix the man and fix the relationship. She wants so much to find that person and marry him that she tries to make this guy or that guy be what she wants, rather than waiting to find someone who fits naturally. The relationships don’t work out (at least thus far) – and even though I hate to see her get hurt, I can’t help but feel relieved that she isn’t saddling herself to these guys for life.

      I generally try not to express negative opinions of friends’ significant others or to pass judgments on their relationships, because one never really knows what the interior of another’s relationship looks like. However, since this seems to be a pattern, I feel like perhaps it is my friend-duty to say something. I think it would be healthy for her to take herself off the relationship merry-go-round for a while and learn to find some peace and contentment with her single self. I don’t want to be insensitive to her deep desire to be married, however. While there were times that I wanted to be married, it was never really a driving desire, so I don’t fully know how to relate.

      Is it my place to speak up? And if I do so, how can I be constructive but also compassionate to where she’s at?

      • Laura

        I’m not sure if you were replying to me or to Rys, but I feel like I can comment on your response because I used to have the same self-destructive habits as your friend. I was very good at falling for guys who were completely wrong for me or who were emotionally unavailable for whatever reason.

        I can’t speak to your friend’s motivations, but what was happening with me was that yes, I really DID want to get married – but I didn’t want to do so at that exact second. At that point in my life I was actually still really enjoying aspects of my singleness (it hadn’t gotten old yet the way it did later). But I never had much luck with guys, so I’d gotten it into my head that if I was ever going to find a guy who was willing to marry me, it would take a long time to convince him. Like, years. So I didn’t necessarily need to get married that second, but I DID need to find a guy as soon as I could so I could start working on him. (Oh, my goodness, how sad is that?) So off I went on this exhausting, vicious cycle.

        Finally, two things happened at once to make me realize how unhealthy this was. First, I got tied up in an emotional entanglement with yet another emotionally unavailable man – and oh, what a piece of work he was. He was a self-loathing, workaholic, alcoholic asshole of the first order and he completely tore me to shreds. Around the same time, I dated a man who persisted in trying to win me even though I never had any feelings for him. He proposed to me over and over, but although he was a lovely man I just knew somehow that he wasn’t for me. I ended the relationship because I couldn’t bear to string him along and break his heart more than I already had.

        The contrast between the horrendous alcoholic I had loved with such wild abandon and the gentle yet unrequited love of my ex-boyfriend was too great for me to ignore. I resolved right then that I was not going to get involved with anyone again until I had the maturity to accept the appropriate, functional love of a man who wanted to commit to me. Someone I wouldn’t need to cajol or convince. It took a long time – four years, actually. And that was hard. That was when being single got really old really quickly.

        But I just decided that, as much as I wanted to get married, it would be better to be single for the entire rest of my life than to be married to the wrong person.

        I’m glad to say my story has a happy ending. My FH and I are completely devoted to each other and trust me, there has never been any need to convince him about the forward motion of our relationship.

        As for your friend, I think there is a difference between condemning her choices offhand and expressing legitimate concern. Honestly, just repeating what you said above seems reasonable to me. I sort of wish that one of my friends had said something similar before I went through that terrible experience with the alcoholic. I’m lucky that I learned my lesson, but I probably could have learned it without all that heartache if a friend had spoken up sooner.

        Good luck!

        • rys

          I got caught up in the election and, gasp, didn’t check the thread again until now, so apologies for a late response, if in fact, you were looking for one from me :)

          I think speaking up is warranted, so long as it’s always framed constructively. From your description, it sounds like your friend may be substituting temporary intimacy for long term desire, and it’s not (to me) unreasonable to ask some gently probing questions. Start with the positive: What do you like about this guy? How does he make you feel good about you? What qualities does he bring out in you that you like? I think that can lead to a set of deeper conversations about desires and needs in a relationship.

          I’m certainly no expert — still single over here — but I appreciate my friends who encourage me and reassure me, and sometimes that means pressing hard topics. It also means not responding categorically. For example, 2 years ago I had something between fwb and a casual relationship. Initially my friends were very supportive because they recognized that I needed something in my life, but they also asked questions that let me evaluate where it stood and when it outlived its usefulness.

          If you live in the same area as your friend and thus see her with the men she’s dating, it can also be good to decompress after an event. Maybe she’ll tell you why she let him get away with rascally behavior or you’ll talk to her about how his talking down to her made you uncomfortable. Framing conversations about concern rather than condemnation as Laura said is, I think, key. If she’s letting them call the shots (be it in bad behavior, life goal incompatability, or whatever else) because she’s scared she’ll be single and alone forever (I know that feeling well!), then giving her time and attention may help in that she’ll feel supported, she’ll feel connected, and hopefully she’ll connect the model of good friendship behavior to what she wants in a relationship.

  • I think posts like these are so important, even for the APW crowd, because there is so much narrative about how things are supposed to be that even those stubborn parts of our own brains buy into it. I hated having to have the conversations with my now-fiance about timelines for engagement and marriage because I’d bought into the idea that it wasn’t supposed to be like that. He was supposed to magically be on or very close to my secret timeline and surprise me at the exact right moment with a romantic proposal! We weren’t supposed to have to TALK about it! Except we did need to talk about it and, while it wasn’t always easy, it eased both of our stress around it quite a bit once we’d done it. More of us need to put ourselves out there to dispel the myths of how it’s supposed to be. So thank you for writing and for posting this piece!

  • Kelly

    Thank you for putting this out there. This is one of the hardest conversations I have had since getting engaged. Suddenly there seems to be this dividing line between me and my friends in long-term stable relationships who “don’t want to get married yet.” Maybe they do and maybe they don’t, but somehow by deciding we’re ready and taking the plunge (we are the first of our friends to get married, at 25, which in NYC is REALLY early!) we have crossed this line that means everyone else has to start talking about it. And when my friends tell me how excited they are for me, they’re very quick to add that they’re not ready yet, though, and have no desire for their SO to propose any time soon.

    If that’s true, and for some of them I know it is, that’s great! After having been in a committed-but-not-married relationship, I know how important validating that choice is, but I wish they could be honest with me. My engagement isn’t meant to be a public anti-feminist statement. But, somehow I seem to have betrayed the sisterhood by deciding this is what I wanted and when I wanted it.

    • KB

      I totally agree, except I think that there’s a dividing line between People Who are Desperate to Get Married, People Who Never Want to Get Married, and then the people in between, People Who Want to Get Married (to Each Other). I have single friends who talk CONSTANTLY about wanting, needing, absolutely MUST find a husband/partner, and other people just shake their heads at them like, “Wow, that’s so sad.” And I wonder if they think that way about me because I really wanted to get married to my now-fiance. I think it’s totally different when you have someone who you want to spend the rest of your life with, and you end up feeling totally judged because you’re really excited for the wedding and married life.

  • I decided I was ready to marry my husband about two years before he felt ready to ask me. Proposing was an important part of the process for him, so I couldn’t ask him without disregarding his feelings. I was understanding up to a point, but when it really started to wear on me and on our relationship– I just told him it was time.

    I said, “Look, I’d like to be planning our wedding by the start of next year. Is that acceptable to you?”

    He said, “Yes.” And in December, he proposed.

    I have to credit an unlikely book for this: “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” by Steve Harvey. The book is far from perfect, but his advice on betrothal is spot on. I was so nervous and scared to have this conversation with my husband, but I followed the advice and it went very smoothly.

    I asserted my right to have a say in the direction of my life. My husband was much more understanding than I expected. Harvey talks about how some women feel that marriage validates the cohabitant lifestyle (he calls it “playing house” vs. having an “official home”), while most men already feel they’ve got an “official home.” That was true in our case. Some people might look at what I said as an ultimatum, but in reality it was just an establishment of boundaries.

    We have a right to boundaries. Calling it an “ultimatum” is just a way to shame women, preventing them from setting limits. Don’t give up your power! It’s your life too.

    • Caroline

      I’m really curious how much this plays into December pretty much being engagment season. We had a conversation sort of like that. We’ve been talking a lot about getting married next summer. I pointed out that if we wanted to get married next summer, we really needed to announce an engagement by the new year, to give beloved ones who live far away enough time to make plans to come out here. I’m not waiting round for a proposal, as we plan to just decide we’re ready to announce it together, but the ball is somewhat in his court, as he is the one who is a little less ready due to struggling with cultural man-pressure to have all the ducks lined up to be the primary breadwinner even of you aren’t going to be.
      I bet a lot of folks hve that type of “ok, this is it. By December” convo, which might be why it’s engagement month.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        We chose our wedding date before I consider us as officially engaged. Then I told him we needed to get officially engaged at least 9 months before that date. This gave him a window to propose of several months, from June to the following February.

    • anon

      I’m also languishing in pre-engaged purgatory. I downloaded the Steve Harvey book from my library based on your post, and devoured it in one sitting today. Holy crap!! Some parts aren’t great, but honestly my partner exhibits a lot of the man-behavior Harvey describes. The chapter on proposal is empowering and amazing. Sometime soon, my partner and I will be having a (small t) talk about this, but a talk nonetheless. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • meagan

    YES. A thousand times yes. I want to exactly every single word of this. I was in the same position and it was more stressful than I can articulate. Thank you for writing this post! We need to continue having these conversations, not just on APW but in all parts of our lives and communities.

  • I was that Girl Desperate to be Married. It went on for a year. I was scoffed and scorned. I was ready to move on to the next Big Life Moment, and make a public commitment to the man that I was already wonderfully committed to. But because I actually talked about marriage, and engagement with him, I was considered to be pressuring him into it by his friends and his family. Jokes were made at his expense about how I wore the pants. His friends’ girlfriends/fiancées/wives NEVER brought up engagement before they were asked. For a woman to mention it was unsightly.

    I was made to be ashamed of my actions, how it wasn’t right for me to bring up engagement. I didn’t understand why I shouldn’t be a part of the conversation. It was my future, too, shouldn’t I have a say as to when the time is right to me? Shouldn’t I make my opinions and values for an egalitarian relationship known? Weren’t these important conversations to have BEFORE we got engaged?

    To some of our friends, no they were not. To him, he listened. He listened and valued what I had to say. He let the anti-feminist talk of some of this friends roll off his back.

    We are now engaged, and to be married next August. In our discussion before he proposed, I learned why he hadn’t yet. He wanted to make sure I was stable, and the major stresses in my life were passed. He wanted a couple months of bliss before, and just after our engagement to enjoy the high of this chapter. He didn’t want the moment to be spoiled by school or big work stresses. It made sense. Talking about this made my mind at ease for why it was taking so long.

    If I wasn’t desperate to be engaged, and willing to talk about it, sometimes forcefully, I would never have learned how much he valued my mental well-being. More pre-engaged women should be Girls Desperate to be Married. It opens discussions with our partners.

  • PAW

    In the book, Meg described the Bridezilla concept as, “making you crazy, then calling you crazy,” and it strikes me that the narrative around women getting engaged is quite similar!Props to you and APW for bringing this discussion out into the open!

    (We were quite lucky, really. There was certainly some consternation from our friends group as to why we were getting married so early in our lives, and why we couldn’t just wait, but it was blessedly free of gender bias (as far as I could tell). It was just a, “In your twenties? … really?” sort of thing. It was kind of a surprise to us, too, though, so I couldn’t really complain.)

    • meg


  • Anon

    Biological clock is no joke!!

  • Amanda L.

    “It’s just unrealistic to expect that you and your partner will be on the exact same page about everything you want for the future. And I don’t think you’re doomed if you’re not on the same page. You simply have to compromise. (Something they recommend you learn to do before getting married.)”


    When I was pre-engaged, I struggled really hard with this concept. DH had more baggage than I did (mainly a painful divorce). I had to work hard at not equating his slow trek to proposing to him not loving me enough. Thinking back on it, that time is a good reminder that we will not always be in the same place in our relationship, even though we are now married.

    Also, this topic always reminds me of a little exchange from the movie ‘The Happening’:
    Mrs. Jones: [to Elliot and Alma] So what’s with you two? Who’s chasing who?
    Alma Moore: I’m sorry?
    Mrs. Jones: Ain’t no time two people staring at each other, or standing still, loving both with their eyes are equal. Truth is, someone is chasing someone. That’s the way we’s built. So, who’s chasing?
    [Elliot raises his hand]

    • Copper

      We hear from pretty much every corner that ANY REASON is code for “he just doesn’t love you enough.” Saving for a ring he’ll feel proud of? just doesn’t love you enough. Waiting on his divorce to be finalize? Just doesn’t love you enough! Waiting to graduate school, for his lease to end, for you guys to live in the same city, for (insert practical, non-magical event here)? Nope, not enough love there.

      It’s soooooo freaking easy to fall into that thinking, no matter how much you think you trust someone, because that message seems to come from everywhere. And falling into that thinking leads to acting like you don’t trust him, like he’s not being reasonable. And this is a big part of where the pre-engaged crazy comes from, because once we have fit our partners into a neat little box (labeled Guy Who’s Just Not That Into Me), we stop hearing them as well.

      • Ashley

        ” It’s soooooo freaking easy to fall into that thinking, no mater how much you think you trust someone, because that message seems to come from everywhere.” SO TRUE. I do trust my partner and I know how much he loves me but while I patiently wait for him to propose I can’t tell you how many times i’ve become a pudding of crying mess becuse I have convinced myself that something he’s done PROVES that he DOES NOT love me and we’re NEVER getting married and he’s just stringining me along!! (Most recent, and I believe memorable, was when I was supposed to drive him to work and he arranged a carpool with someone else to save me the trip and I literally lost my mind about it, convinced he was was desperate not to NEED me and why couldn’t he just WANT me to drive him.)Seriously? Who am I? But I feel like everyday i’m getting messages from society that it wouldn’t take him this long if he loved me etc etc. It is HARD to stay sane. HARD.

        • Ashley

          My spelling and grammar in this comment are terrible! Apparently I was just so excited to comment that I forgot to re-read and edit. Whoops!

        • Hannah

          YES! It is so. freaking. hard. You are not alone!


        I want to exactly this a thousand times, or marry it, or something. You are soooooo spot on!!!

  • Daynya

    I can certainly relate, and I strongly disliked feeling this way. I hated feeling the ‘shoulds’ about the whole engagement process. I hated the way others acted about me wanting to get married. I hated the way I felt when I brought it up at home, like I was being a nag, or being disrespectful of his space, or whatever. I just felt uncomfortable for a long time. I did my best to be patient, and act like everyone told me I should be acting. But one day, I snapped. We had been in an accident, and we were trapped in an ER out of state, with absolutely no belongings, and no one we could call. I was forced to sit in the waiting room (in my bathing suit ONLY) by myself, while my guy was back getting examined. I was so upset that I could not be with him because we weren’t married, that when they finally let me back there to see him, I demanded that he include me in this process, and that we set a timeline, and that we need to get married because this was just not okay. It’s not okay to feel helpless when it comes to my future. And he agreed. We set a timeline up, and we moved forward with it, and it was great. And once I stood up for myself, and had the confidence that I did have a right to be a part of this decision, I felt so much better about the whole process.

  • Excellent post, and really good to see #5 after being at a wedding last weekend. My husband and I were sitting at a table with two other couple friends–one married, one engaged, and one dating. Someone said, “You’re next!” to the friends who are dating, and I felt immediately awkward for them. My husband and I dated for about eight years before we got married, and we talked about when we wanted to get married (after we were able to be in the same state and both finish grad school). Whenever people asked when we were getting married, it felt like unnecessary pressure. I have no idea whether or not my friends are talking about marriage, and I think it’s kind of weird to force a timeline upon them. We need to respect people’s feelings about approaching marriage (or not!) and whatever their relationship path needs to be.

  • Granola

    Oh man, I am so glad to read this post. My little sister called a week ago and told me she and her boyfriend are looking at apartments (currently they both live at home while they work and go to school.) She was nervous to tell our parents and asked whether I thought they should do it together or she should do it by herself.

    I told her that when I moved in with my now-husband, we were on the same page that it was leading to marriage, and that’s what I was comfortable with. And while their situation was their own, if that was a path they were also walking, then telling our parents together could be an act of team solidarity about their life together. I wanted her to know that I had talked about those issues and hopefully feel comfortable doing the same with her boyfriend.

    I think there’s a big difference between an “ultimatum,” which has the connotation of a stick used to coerce someone into doing what they don’t want to do, and a request for being on the same page. A “kick in the pants” rather, which I think of as a push to do something you have been planning or know is right but you’re putting off for no good reason.

  • Oh thank you for this. While I am not “desperate” to be married a lot of this rang true, especially the part about women crying wolf. Last month I was at my boyfriend’s (younger) sister’s wedding, and if he and I had received a dollar for each time we were asked when we were getting married, or each time we were told “you’re next!,” we’d be able to pay for his tuition. He likely had an easier time of it than I did, because when I told people–especially baby boomer generation people, like his mother’s friends–that we would be getting married at some point, but that we were in no rush because the BF is in school, and I’ve just started my career, and we both want a bit more financial stability, and we’re 100% secure in our relationship, and we already live in domestic bliss with two cats and things are great, well, they’d just give me this sort of sad, bemused look, and be all: “Well, don’t worry, he’ll get around to it soon.” And then I’d be all: “No, it is fine.” But then I’d feel all I DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, which just made me feel even more pathetic, and it was just dreadful it really was. So not only is there this shaming if you want to get married, there is equal shaming if you are okay with not being married/engaged yet. The whole thing is super frustrating and I feel like I should share this post with the world for realsies.

    But on a happier note it did let me think of a lot of things I should have said to the questioners–of course I came up with them a little too late to use, but maybe I’ll use them in the future? Some examples:

    “We’re waiting until humans colonize Mars/the Moon, since we are hoping to start our new life together as settlers on a new planet.”

    “We’re currently learning to speak Klingon and we’re waiting until we’re fluent, since we plan on having a traditional Klingon wedding.”

    “We’re waiting until George R.R. Martin finishes the Game of Thrones series, as a form of protest.”

    From lemons, right?

    • LK

      Hahahaha, I love these responses! I dated my now-husband for five years before we got engaged, so I got my fair share of these comments. My go-to response became: “Oh, I just haven’t gotten around to proposing to him yet.” Followed by laughter or blank stares, which I met with an equally bland expression of my own.

      I’m sure my point was lost on at least half of the busybodies, but it made me laugh at least.

  • KB

    “You have the right to a say in your future even if you watch Say Yes to the Dress. ”

    I’m pushing the “exactly” button like 25 times. I hate hate HATE being judged because I like wedding-related things. Just because I watch wedding shows, read wedding magazines, and/or peruse blogs for pretty, shiny things does not make me an airhead, a twit, a bimbo, or an anti-feminist person. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I am ONLY excited about the wedding and I’m so desperate to get married that I’ll take any guy that looks at me twice. Yeah, we’re excited about the wedding – but we’re also excited about premarital counseling and reading the building-a-better relationship books (sidenote: my pastor recommended reading “Getting the Love You Want” as like his #1 book for all those delving into a partnership/marriage). Truth be told, I’m more excited about talking about getting a puppy. Or a place big enough to hold a backyard grill. None of these things require a marriage license, but they sure are a hell of a lot nicer when you have someone to share them with.

    Bottom line – I don’t have to shun the superficial nice things to show that I’m deeply committed to building this relationship.

  • Kara

    I think you got it right, especially #7. I watched my brother get his heart broken by a girl he really loved, because she was desperate to be married, caught up in a narrative that I think was made much worse by the conservative college they both went to. He needed time to get his act together and get a “real” job, which he was pretty open and honest about. Her continual pressure really was overwhelming to him and didn’t let their relationship take its natural course.

    Incidentally, she got married (to someone else) less than a year after they finally broke up.He hasn’t dated anyone seriously since then.

  • Ashley

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am not engaged and i’m NOT okay with it. There I”ve said it outloud. It’s real. I do talk about this with my friends but it’s hard to shake the feeling that they’re just secretly pitying you and praying you’ll just get engaged already. I don’t know if that’s my hang up or the truth, it’s probably a bit of both. It’s really hard to explain what a hard place this is to be. It’s hard to explain how heartbreaking it is to see those damn hearts on facebook without feeling completely pathetic. (so hard that I actually left facebook for awhile, because it was literally making me miserable) Thank-you for doing such a great job of articulating how i’m feeling. I’m going to print this post and put it up on my wall and send it to everyone I know.

    • Emily

      All of the Facebook engagement announcements were getting to ME not too long ago, and I’m already married.

    • Kelly

      Hang in there! I know how hard that is, and it’s a totally legitimate feeling. And it’s okay to talk to your partner about it. In the lead up to my own engagement, there were a couple times I just couldn’t take it anymore, but sitting down and saying “I want to get married and it’s hard for me to wait” led to a lot of great conversations about how and why we were making that decision. Hugs and rainbows and you’ll make it through!

  • Debra

    Thank you APW. Just can’t say thank you enough.

    I’m here. In the exact same position. Almost three years into a relationship (two living together) with a wonderful man who makes me laugh, gives amazing hugs, does the laundry and makes me glad to get up in the morning and go to sleep next to him at night. (We also drive each other crazy in the usual little ways, lest you think the last sentance was barf-wothy.)

    In the last year, all of the following people have asked me point blank when we’re getting married: my Mom, my Mom’s friends, my aunts, most of my friends, my hair dresser, a former colleague I ran into at a formal work event, my best guy friend from college (who helpfully offered to give my wonderful man a “talking to” wha?), and my gynecologist (I’m 36).

    Number of people who have asked him: 0.

    I want to marry him. I want to have kids with him. I do not want to be the crazy bridzilla hosebeast who has to con or cajole or nag her husband to the altar. I also don’t want to be the poor meek spinnster woman who waits around for a man to make a decision and change her life. I don’t want to be pitied or reviled for how I feel. I’m not, nor do I desire to be, a cliche. Why are these the only narratives we have available in our society today?

    I love your comment that our biological clocks are a real thing. That timelines are not too much to ask for. That give and take means give and take. If we’re equals in this relationship, then we should be equals in deciding to make it legal, deciding how and when to become parents, and all other affairs of the home and heart. That doesn’t mean we won’t make compromises or decide to wait or decide to not wait. What it means is that we make those decisions together. We make those decisions based on what is best for us, both of us, as a family.

    And just because we make those decisions together doesn’t mean we miss out on the romance and fun of a surprise engagement or beautiful (to us) wedding. It means that those milestones follow the hard work done behind the scenes. And maybe more of us should be sharing that behind the scenes work. So that our friends and family and (one day) daughters and sons know that life isn’t and shouldn’t be a disney movie. That big decisions require big discussions and struggle and disagreement and growth. And that’s what we celebrate during the milestones in our lives.

    • K

      Just wanted to say that just because men do, I think, get asked directly less often than women do, that doesn’t mean they don’t get pressure in other ways. My now-husband’s friends may not have asked him when we were getting married, but they started referring to me as his wife well over a year (maybe even 2?) before we even got engaged.

      • Rachel

        For my boyfriend and I, it happens most often with strangers. When it happens, I get really sad because I want to be married (even though I know its not time yet). At the same time, for my boyfriend, I kind of enjoy it, because it is a clear example of how societal expectations influence both partners. Often, it is must clearer to see how societal influences could influence me (friends and family getting married, I like wedding blogs, etc) but hard to see those pressures on the other side.

        On another note, I 100% agree with the article when it says just because I read wedding blogs and watch Say Yes to the Dress doesn’t mean my desire to get married is societal pressure. I just want to get married to my committed partner, gosh darn it! period.

    • Vanessa

      I appreciate everything you’ve said here, but I also want to give you 10 points for the use of “hosebeast”. Gotta love a good Wayne’s World reference :)

  • YES. All of it. Particularly this:

    “Oh and for the record, talking—and even fighting—about your future isn’t as unromantic as people might think. It’s not exactly fun, but there’s something deeply emotional about saying, “I’m willing to rearrange the plans I had for my life for you,” and having someone say the same thing back to you. That’s a hell of a lot more romantic to me than hiding my needs for a year so I can be surprised with some sort of hot air balloon spectacle.”

    F*CK YES. Matt and I are in the midst of these “how are we going to arrange this life together” conversations, and about to move in together, and the openness and honesty are worth so much more to me than the looming spectacle of some grandiose proposal. If he proposes in some unusual way, fine, but without these foundational pieces, what is that worth?

  • Catherine

    Oh my goodness!!! Thank you so so much for this post!!! There are so many woman in the same boat – I am probably their self-proclaimed leader!!!

    For as long as I can remember, I watched every Disney movie I could get my hands on – Beauty and the Beast happens to be my favorite film of ALL TIME! I knew from a very early age that I was created to be a wife and mother. It’s something that has stayed with me throughout my teenage years and into college. I am just shy of 23, and just got married last month **Squeal and Jump with Excitement!!** Anyway, I was engaged at 21, and my husband (then boyfriend) and I both knew we wanted to get married. He would have gotten married in college if we could have. Whenever I looked at this man, I saw the white picket fence, the golden retriever laying my the fireplace and babies running around in their footie pajamas. I couldn’t help but smile…. like ALL THE TIME! It’s what I was destined to be, and to hell with anyone who thought they knew better.

    I would constantly get unsolicited comments like “wow, you are way too young to get married! Why would you ever want to do this??!”, or “why don’t you live with eachother or get established in your adulthood before to test it out.” Oh right, and my personal favorite, “OMG! You’re not preggo, are you??” And you know what I said? I said “You know what Bizzotch! I am head over heels in love and I know without a doubt that I want to be married and this man wants to love me and be with me forever. So, sorry – but you don’t get a say in how I choose to live my life!”

    Thank you so much for this post, and giving a very intelligent voice to those of us in the boat with you!!! Society still views us as having the “wondering womb” syndrom (It’s a real disorder that 19th century doctors would give woman to describe raging hormones and “womenly” desires that seem “irrational”). We are who we are and everyone beautiful and just trying to find what will make them truely happy and fullfilled in their life. Why is that a bad thing?

  • Kate

    THANK YOU! I am showing this to my boyfriend tonight. I always feel bad asking him about these things because his mother nags him about when we will get married all of the time, and I don’t want him to feel like I am nagging him too. But the thing is, I am the one whose life is involved in this and who actually needs to know and be a part of this conversation–I just wish she would give it up so it wouldn’t be a sore topic with him.

    Seriously, any advice on what to say when people bug you and constantly ask when you are going to get engaged? We get it from my friends and his family and it drives me nuts. I just want to scream “it’s none of your darn business!” but then I will look like a crazy, desperate lady. And it really sucks because I want to get married yesterday, but he wants to wait until he is more financially secure…and I really don’t want to explain that to nosy people so I always just say “we’re not in a hurry.” Gahhhh.

    • So I got pretty lucky; not a lot of people asked me this. But I could tell last Thanksgiving when Eric and I were with his family that they were definitely curious because from the outside it seemed like “What are you waiting for?” (And I didn’t blame them for being curious! They are his closest relatives, not random acquaintances, you know?) What bugged me about this was that *I* really couldn’t answer that question and it put me in a super awkward position. So…I told him that. I was like, “Look, YOU have your reasons that you want to wait and that’s fine, but it’s not my job to explain them, so I’d appreciate it if you’d let your family know what your feelings/thoughts/plans on this are, instead of having them look awkwardly at me/us whenever talk of the future comes up.” So he talked to his mom alone and let her know how he felt about it, which I really appreciated because it took some of that awkwardness off of me.

      I just hate the idea that the person wanting to be engaged is supposed to smile and politely say, “We’re just not ready yet” when he or she is totally ready.

      • This is awesome, and I am doing the same thing with regard to A Baby. While driving to our most recent large family function a few weeks ago, I turned to David and said, “Whenever someone asks me if I’m pregnant, when I’m going to get pregnant, or any sort of assumption related to pregnancy now or in the future, I am going to call you over and you are going to field those questions. I’ll stand beside you, but you are going to do the talking this time. Ok?”

        He readily agreed, privately thinking that I exaggerated the interest his family has in our future kids. Within the first 15 minutes after our arrival I was waving him over. He was totally caught off guard and stumbled his way through an explanation about waiting until he was finished with grad school, and wanting to enjoy being newly weds first (we just got married in September!). After the fourth or fifth time, he was thoroughly irritated.

        But it gave me a night off from the agony, and opened his eyes to the invasion of privacy I was regularly experiencing. (Not to mention, he is really the reason we’re waiting. I am mostly ready to roll).

        • Laura

          You know, the way you handled that was kind of awesome.

      • CB

        So smart!

      • Rachel

        oh my goodness! This is so, so so true. Also, it is a good approach to keep in mind as those situations happen.

  • This? Such an awesome post. I want to exactly it hundreds of times.

  • Kate

    A million thumbs up – this post speaks so much to what my boyfriend and I going through together right now. I’ve never had such huge, emotional, honest talks with someone. It’s so hard to shut out everyone around me who thinks that you’re only in love if you get engaged within 12 months of dating. HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT, SOCIETY?? Anyway, I’ve been reading APW for a couple years and this is my first comment. It must be my favorite post ever ;)

    Thank you thank you, a million times. Totally sharing this with him so he can see we’re (and I’m) not alone with all this complicated stuff.

  • Becca

    I’m really amazed at how many posts on APW lately seem to be talking directly to me. I’ve come through the other side of most of what this post talks about. But man, when I was in pre-engaged land, and we were seriously talking about marriage but still wanted to keep it on the downlow until he’d bought me a ring to “make it official”, it sure drove me crazy. I am a feminist, I was guilty in the past of judging women who appeared to be obsessed with marriage; and there I was, wanting so badly to just explode with excitement over my soon-to-be engagement and looking at wedding pinterest boards on the sly every evening after work. And feeling guilty about that, because I shouldn’t want to be married this badly, right? AND getting antsy because now-fiance was taking too darn long for my comfort in getting that ring he promised. I wanted to be engaged, I wanted it to be official, now.

    I bottled all these emotions up because I didn’t want to reveal myself as That Girl Who Is So Desperate To Be Married (though some part of me knew that girl was an illusion, that it was unfair to apply her to myself or anyone else, and if someone DID think that girl was me it didn’t matter anyhow). I am learning to accept my current over-the-mooness about this whole marriage business, and it feels a lot better than pretending to be all cool and stoic. I love my fiance. I want to marry him, and he wants to marry me. If I can’t be excited about our upcoming wedding, what CAN I be excited about?

  • Katie H

    YES YES YES YES YES!!!! I love this post! “Let’s stop blaming Cinderella and take a look at what’s going on with Prince Charming, too.” Perfect.

  • Jennie

    I just came to this exact conclusion after reading APW during my lunch breaks for the past year and a half. I was making myself crazy with these ideas: “I WANT to get married, but if I talk about it I’m a nag. If he finds out, I’m desperate. If I don’t say anything, he might never know how important this is. Either way, I’ll never be happy!” It was really rough. Finally, I broke down and just sobbed to my S.O. and explained EVERYTHING. It really was a turning point in our relationship. Now, he’s so much more honest about his feelings about marriage. We still aren’t engaged, but after talking about his concerns, I feel much more comfortable and confident that it will happen soon. He knows that I’m ready. I know that he wants to marry me — just not quite yet.

  • Kate

    I used to be in a similar position to what many of you have described here. My advice to those of you who feel like you can’t talk about marriage with your boyfriends is simple: Get a new boyfriend. That might seem harsh, but from my experience (which I’ll admit is limited to my life), you’re just so much better off with someone who’s on the same page. I was with someone for a while who made me feel shame for bringing up marriage. I just really wanted to have a conversation about it with him. Mostly because I’m something of a serial monagamist and at some point I decided I didn’t want my whole life to play out that way- breaking up every 2 years. I wanted a life long commitment with someone, and not necessarily with him. I thought we might be wrong for each other but wouldn’t know until we could talk about it. But he was this macho person who needed to propose. This was a bad situation, because what I wanted to do was talk with this boyfriend like an adult. He thought I wanted to marry him and was being pushy. He ended up proposing and we broke up two weeks later. Because when he was finally ready to talk about it I realized he wasn’t at a level of maturity that I wanted in a partner and we weren’t compatible for marriage. Next person I dated ended up being my husband. We talked about marriage on our first date. In the abstract of course, not in reference to the two of us marrying, just to see if we were on the same page. I hope somebody here will learn from my mistakes. If you are with someone who is so immature that they can’t talk to you objectively about marriage you are with a man boy. Dump him and find someone else. You’ll end up better for it. Oh not to mention my husband is better than that boyfriend in basically every conceivable way a person can be. Maybe you girls who are waiting around for someone to let you have a conversation really just need better partners. Sounds harsh but it’s true.

    • Emily

      From reading the other comments, I don’t think it’s an issue of “I can’t talk to my partner,” I think it’s an issue of, “I’m afraid if I do, I’ll be seen as a nag,” or, “I want my partner to reach his/her own conclusion without my influence.” Not being able to have an adult conversation with your partner is DEFINITELY a red flag, but I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with in this post.

    • Ashley

      I don’t think it’s fair to assume that they we all need to “get a new boyfriend” speaking from the perspective of someone who does have trouble talking about this with my boyfriend. It’s not that he refuses to talk to me about it but that I hesitate to talk to him about because of the stereotype of “the girl who is desperate to get married”. We do talk about it and he knows I want to get married. He has his reasons for waiting and I respect his wishes as I want him to respect mine. We have had many many grown up conversations about it. It doesn’t mean that’s it’s always easy, frankly, a lot of the time it’s HARD because of the cultural implications of looking like you’re waiting for a proposal. If our relationship exisited in a vacumm I could likely wait much longer since we are commited and living a life I am quite happy with. It’s the pressure from the outside that I think makes it harder on BOTH of us. I think that’s part of what Rachel was saying in the post, this ideal that if he doesn’t propose to me on my exact time line I need to get a new boyfriend is part of the pressure I’m trying to not give in to. I agree that being a relationship without communication is dangerous and unhealthy but I really don’t think that’s the case for the majority of the commenters.

    • Actually, Eric and I talked about marriage during our first conversation too. Doesn’t mean that we got on the same page at the same time when it came to a timeline. There’s a huge difference between “if” someone wants to marry you and “when” someone wants to marry you and I think a lot of the commenters here are dealing with the “when.”

      Look, I agree that sometimes you owe it to yourself to move on if you don’t want the same things as your partner, but I don’t think we can all just cut ties the second one person in the relationship is ready for something and the other one isn’t. If someone is frustrated that their boss didn’t give them credit for a job well done, she doesn’t quit her job that day, right? She talks to her boss. She gets promises of a raise in writing. She asks what she can do to improve the situation. Big life decisions that involve more than one person or party usually involve some back and forth, and telling women to “just get a new boyfriend” ignores the cultural reasons a guy might want to propose/is waiting/feels like he’s not ready and it puts the blame on her for sticking around to try to understand what’s going on with him. Because women totally need another thing to feel like they aren’t doing right.

    • Sally

      I agree with this completely, and I also think it’s the elephant in the room here that everyone is avoiding. I can’t imagine being with someone long-term who was resistant to the idea of marriage. Seems like a huge red flag. It’s one thing to not know where you stand at six or eight months. But a year? Two? Three? How are you with a person for that long without knowing his long-term plans? How could you move across the country for someone who hasn’t made it clear that he wants you in his life in a permanent way?

      Thank you for articulating a very tough truth.

      • I think it’s clear from the comments that a lot of women are uncomfortable getting an answer from their partners that is more specific than something vague like “not yet but soon” because they accept that they have to be nice and patient, they don’t want to be That Girl, etc…and so that voice in their head telling them to not bring it up or not to nag him is how one can be 2-3 years in and not sure where things are going or when they are going there.

        • NAHNAHNAH

          I think there is also a difference between a general “soon” and an “I’m not ready yet, but I think I’m getting there. Here’s what makes me think I’m getting there… [list].” The second is much more healthy to both, I think.

      • Rachel

        I knew from a couple months in that my boyfriend wasn’t sure if he even wanted to get married. I knew I wanted to get married.

        In my case, my boyfriend moved to a different country for me, 5000 miles away from home. Commitment isn’t the issue. But commitment is different than marriage, though for some people, they end up happened on a similar timeline.

        Now, more than a year later, we’ve made progress on a lot of “ducks” — financial stability, careers, grad school, etc. And we’ve made progress on talking about marriage. For me, personally, as long as we are continuing to have conversations, this is progress. And as long as there is progress, I can deal. This doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly difficult to feel like you are in limbo emotionally. Reading APW helps, but at the same time, it is sometimes a torture.

        Why do I stay? Ultimately, it is what I said before. Our conversations aren’t done; our relationship is still moving forward, and we most definitely haven’t reached the end of the road. We’re meeting other (mutual) goals. The conversation is still open. (Potential) marriage is only part of the complexity of a committed relationship. Even if I know that marriage is a make or break issue for me, we haven’t reached that point yet.

    • oh, meredith

      I think this is one thing that definitely depends on the relationship, and the people in it.

      As Rachel points out, women should feel empowered to recognize and voice their needs within a relationship. The subtle line of thought that a woman is “pushy” or a “nag” if she desires marriage, and a distinct timeline for it, is really destructive. Feminism is, in my opinion, about choice for women, and equal opportunity. It is also about the examination of subversive gender biases and narratives.

      The importance of Rachel’s points are that it is impossible for a woman to honestly evaluate her relationship if she feels shame for having certain desires within it. It is completely acceptable to want marriage, or to want to know where the relationship is going. It is also within a woman’s bounds to initiate conversations about it. Empowerment, anyone??

      As far as the ultimate fate of the relationship, that will ultimately depend on the woman (or man!) and her partner. If marriage is a non-negotiable for one person and the other doesn’t want it, that needs to be discussed. And as you point out, if it’s a conversation one partner is unwilling to have, that’s important – and needs to be honestly evaluated. But I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution.

  • Laura

    Annnnnd, hi. This post, of all APW posts, brought tears to my eyes. I think they were both catharsis tears and frustration tears.

    For the record, I think there is a difference between really wanting to be engaged/get married/have a wedding/be a bride/etc and really really wanting to [have all that crap over with already so you can] have a marriage with your partner. I would go to the courthouse tomorrow, if society and our families [who, you know, matter] told us that was how it was supposed to work, instead of the long, drawn-out, expensive, and emotionally fraught process of engagement-then-wedding-planning-then-wedding.

    ALSO. To hell with “being patient”!!! Arrgh argh argh.

    • Becca

      Same here! As excited as I am about having a wedding, I’m way more excited about being married, and would go to the JP’s office right now if my fiance were on the same page – but he really wants a wedding with all the bells and whistles, though he says he’s just as impatient as I am to be married, and wishes we could pull it all off a lot sooner… so much for cultural narratives and stereotypes!

  • KM

    “Oh and for the record, talking—and even fighting—about your future isn’t as unromantic as people might think. It’s not exactly fun, but there’s something deeply emotional about saying, “I’m willing to rearrange the plans I had for my life for you,” and having someone say the same thing back to you. That’s a hell of a lot more romantic to me than hiding my needs for a year so I can be surprised with some sort of hot air balloon spectacle”

    THIS. As stressful as my (many) conversations and arguments about [where we are and where we’re going with eachother] with my now-wife have been, they are vital and, yes, romantic because we are saying YOU MATTER TO ME. OUR LIFE TOGETHER MATTERS, and it matters enough to hash out the details until it fits for both of us.

    APW, i adore you.

  • Elena

    Ohh, that’s so so so important for people do be able to have that conversation. I went though a 3 year relationship, where I patiently waited. I talked openly that I want a family with kids in the future, and took my partner’s silent nodding as an indication that he wanted the same. As we were reaching 3 year mark I asked him directly – “Do you want a family and kids in your future?” He responded – “I don’t know. I have never thought of it.” I’m still very disappointed with myself for not asking this question earlier.
    When I first met my fiance, we started this conversation right away, before we even met in person (we met through a dating website). And then we continued talking about it on a regular basis.
    We set a wedding date over cellphone text messages without any proposals, and then went to a store later that day and bough rings (he wanted an engagement ring for himself too) on our shared credit card. When we got back home, he pulled the ring off my hand, proposed to me, put it back on. Then later that day I did the same with his ring. He was the one playing the role of “that boy who is desperate to be married” :)
    But we’re not putting labels on each other, or trying to play roles enforced by society, we’re just happy to be together and learn how to make each other happy while not sacrificing our own happiness.

    • Laura

      I liked hearing you talk about your fiancé as the “Boy who is Desperate to be Married.” When I first started seeing my FH, he was very open about his desire to find a girlfriend. And not just with me; his friends knew it, his family knew it, his coworkers knew it. And that blew my mind. Of course I snapped him up as soon as I could! :)

  • Ashley

    So our wedding is in one week, but this post totally threw me back to earlier this year when I was on the couch w/ my SO, crying “why don’t you want to marry me now?! what are you still unsure of?! I can’t help but feel like you must have doubts…” It was awful, and torturous and it made me feel like a crazy, desperate, pushy aggressive person. We discussed marriage and timelines several times and, even though he couldn’t articulate why he wanted to wait, I needed to know how he felt about me now and how he felt about our future together.

    Not only that, but point one “You have the right to a say in your future” combined w/ the traditions in proposals just made me angry – very angry. I am very used to having the primary say in when and where my life is heading. The processes of becoming engaged was a big reality check. It was no longer just my decision but OUR decision; I didn’t want to start our marriage with it feeling like our future was his decision ONLY. I was not going to have my feelings and opinion not heard. He didn’t have to agree and one no vote on either of our parts would stop us moving forward – but I need him to give me insight into his side of this joint decision.

    For me, this dynamic seems to be the same with all our upcoming big decisions – like whether or not to have kids, if so how many, and when; how are we saving for retirement; what to do about our parents care as they get older. We have discussed these in general, just like we discussed marriage in general before being engaged, but the nitty gritty of timing and specific actions are much tougher. These decisions are what make up our life together and while we agree on the direction we are still negotiating the exact route. I like precision and planning, he likes general big picture directions – this balance makes us work and also makes us each a little nutty.

    Finally, at the end of the day I am prone to the illusion of control in my life; and more specifically “you can’t tell me what I can or can’t do”. I grew up with parents who said I could be and do anything I wanted. Fundamentally I agree, I can act in a way that will help me live the life I want; but, for me, I try to remember to leave room for the fact that the universe, or God, or however else others understand that concept, has some influence on the final outcome. I put in my best effort and live as close to what I think of as my best life, but that doesn’t guarantee a partner, a family, a house, or a specific job Sometimes the magic happens when I don’t get what I want and sometimes I miss out on something I really wanted. Learning to wait or be patient is tough and finding the balance between waiting and acting will be one I continue to work on in several areas of my life.

    In the end, I believe we are designed to live where we bump up against each other quite a bit and that is what makes us grow. Learning to work with someone else to decide on my future and his together has been just that – a growing experience for both of us. While it was hard and I didn’t like the feelings it brought up then or now, it gave us both valuable insight into ourselves and how we want our relationship to work.

    • Ashley

      I’m commenting like crazy today but this subject is just so close to my heart, I feel like I have a ton to say.
      I just wanted to say that we have the same name and we might be the same person, lol. I could have written almost this entire comment with the slight change that i’m still waiting for the proposal and still having the “Why do you still have doubts ” conversations. But the whole part of being in control of your life? Me to a tee. I just recently had a small meltdown because there is so much that’s out of my control right now (up for a promotion, waiting to get engaged etc.) But I truly agree that “sometimes the magic happens when I don’t get what I want.” It’s important to remind myself that, often.

      Anyway, I just wanted to agree 1000% on what you’re saying here.

      • Ashley

        Hugs to you – I always find some relief knowing others go through similar tough feelings.

    • Kate

      “In the end, I believe we are designed to live where we bump up against each other quite a bit and that is what makes us grow.”


  • Cass

    “How is your worrying about your fertility worse than his worrying about his finances?” – Heads up, this continues even after the wedding. Both partners get to have a say in when their baby family grows! A woman isn’t baby crazy just because she looks at photos of her friends’ babies, and not every man wants to avoid having kids because he hasn’t saved enough money.

  • WOW, just THIS to the whole post. I have gone from not caring whether I ever marry, to OMG this man, right now, must have life with him complete with vows and family names to honestly, I just want a life with him. Married or not, I just want to spend the rest of my life growing with him. He’s working hard to figure out what he wants, and I have definitely felt the pressure to leave it up to him, to have him sort it out on his own, to decide what he wants – we’ve actually taken a break from the dating to let him do this. Fortunately we’re still talking, and I send him posts from here every so often, so I’m looking forward to reopening this conversation from and becoming more involved, because the powerlessness – drives ya crazy.

  • Lauren


    That is all.

  • Jen

    This post is wonderful. My fiance and I had a many conversations about wanting to be married before we considered ourselves engaged. We fought about it too a little. I wasn’t satisfied that he wanted to marry me at some unidentified point in the future. But I truly think that it helped understand eachother’s needs and wants in this arena much better and led us to an unofficial compromise that made the tranisition to engaged so much easier. It was scarey to bring it up at first, but we need to have these conversations.

    I will talk about whether or not I should buy a new laptop for 6 months (which is generally considered to be a prudent thing to do), why is it silly and unfemine to talk about how and when you want to be married.

  • Airplane Rachel

    Woo to the hoo! Exactly is right! Rachel, you said it so well and APW, you are awesome.

  • I’m pretty sure (even more sure now) that I’m not the only one who had many different emotions, thoughts, concerns, cultural expectations swirling around in my head during that pre-engaged phase. honestly, I think pre-engagement is seriously hard. Whatever your timelines, those conversations and those decisions you make for yourself during that time are TOUGH. When we were pre-engaged, I became marriage obsessed. We both knew it was coming at some point but it wasn’t formal. It was all I could think about. And seriously, why not? It’s a HUGE step and a HUGE decision.

    APW- This post was awesome! And i wouldn’t assume women here know it all. This is one of the most thought provoking articles I’ve read in a while and I’m married and thought I had it all figured out. Fantastic post!

    ps. (Tough is the most bizzarly spelled word I’ve ever seen, if I’m even spelling that right).

    • Erin

      I completely agree. There are so many pressures put upon us today from society, our loved ones, and often, ourselves. I have been struggling in the pre-engaged state for about a year now, and honestly? I feel like I have a multiple personality disorder. Thank goodness people can’t actually hear the internal dialogue I have with my various “selfs” (feminist, midwestern pragmatist, girl who wants to plan her wedding and effing get married already.. the list goes on).

  • Copper

    Thank you for posting this right before the holidays. Next weekend is my first holiday event of the year with my partner’s family, and I expect the poking about “when are you guys going to take the next step” will probably be one of the big stressors on me this season. I’m already so tired of being judged for the way we’re doing things (I helped pick my ring, I basically know when it’s coming, the timing is heavily influenced by very practical considerations, which is apparently Not Romantic Enough for other people), that I needed to be reminded of some of these things right now.

  • This is so good. I didn’t even realize I went through a lot of those things -wanting to get married but pretending I didn’t so I could be the “cool girl that is laid back and doesn’t think about marriage” and then deciding to bring it up but feeling bad about because I was being “that girl that is obsessed with being a disney princess bride”. I didn’t realize how there was pressure on me from both sides to feel shitty no matter what.

    Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) there are posts on APW that are so good I forward them to my FH to read because there are amazing peices of advice (ie: “learning to shut out others’ opinions and communicate about what we really want.”)

    Thank you for this post!

  • Cindy


    My boyfriend of nearly 5 years and I will be discussing timelines and future plans this week for the first time in a year. And it’s because these APW engagement posts are speaking to me, and giving me the confidence to start that conversation again. Thank God.

    Our last conversation about it was so emotional/overwhelming, and frankly, it freaked the s*** out of me. My thought was that if you love each other, want the same things, and have been dating a long time, shouldn’t it be easier? I really needed to hear that this is sometimes the way conversations like this go and that’s ok! (Seriously…where is the Disney movie that shows the prince and princess discussing how she’s ready to get married while he’s worried she’s going to be overbearing like her mother?).

    • Julia

      It’s called Pride and Prejudice, and is, as yet, not owned by Disney.

  • Mandy

    This is the best post I have ever read on APW, and I am so glad you guys ran it.

    I felt all of the things Rachel talks about for the looong period of time in which I was ready to be engaged before my (now-)fiance proposed. And like a few other people have commented, it ended up being a “hey, I want to get married on (date) so if you want to be the one to propose, you should probably get on it” thing (at least, after it was a crying-a-lot thing). Which worked perfectly for us, and I refuse to feel guilty/controlling/naggish because I asked for something that is important to me. We worked together to negotiate a timeline that worked, because we are both adults with an equal stake in this relationship.

    What has made me really, really sad, though, are all the assumptions people apparently made about us during the years we were together and not engaged. If I had a dollar for every time someone (usually a casual acquaintaince at best) said, “What made you change your mind about getting married?” or just “What changed?” or “Oh, but it was so great that you had an unconventional relationship!” Even my best friend said that last thing – how great it was that I was comfortable with not being engaged. Except I was not comfortable with it at all. I spent a lot of time feeling upset and angry and anxious, and I couldn’t TELL anyone how I felt because then I would be the woman who was desperate to get married. And I’m a liberal girl with liberal friends in a big city, and that just wouldn’t fly. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

    Anyway – I’m glad that’s all over. But thank you, Rachel, and I wish so much that this post had existed a year ago!

    • Ashley

      I know exactly how you feel about the assumptions that people made about you before you got engaged. Not long ago someone introduced us as “This is R & A, they’re never having kids and they’re never getting married.” I wanted to barf and cry in the same minute. For the record we aren’t having kids but we very much ARE planning on getting married. People can be incredibly hurtful. I like to think they don’t know it, but sometimes I wonder.

  • Nicole

    This past weekend, I found myself looking at engagement rings with my partner for the first time. This week, APW is doing engagements and proposals week…. I can’t thank you enough for the impeccable timing. Even though I thought I was ready, finding myself in that store brought on a barrage of mixed feelings about expectations and commitment and what the hell this was all “supposed” to mean.

    You all are helping me think through what’s important to me, my partner, and our relationship. This space is incredibly valuable and I appreciate such thoughtful and considerate posts and comment.

    Thanks for creating a space where it’s ok to WANT to get married and it’s also ok to NOT WANT it. Cheers to being true to your own relationship.

  • “When you’re in a serious relationship, you have a responsibility to create a new timeline that reflects both of your needs.”

    that. so much so.

    and sometimes that means adding entirely new things to your timeline, not just moving them around. marriage was definitely not in my plans before i found out that it decidedly was in my wife’s. so, from the point of view of “the guy” (with regard to the “i’m not sure about this” aspect of the male cultural narrative) that is a shocking adjustment to make.

    and, while i tend toward male stereotypes in behavior and relationships, i am decidedly femme, so i never had to deal with expectations from anyone that i ought to propose. i can imagine the combination of uncertainty and that expectation could be debilitating. that is, while i was *thrilled* to say yes to my wife’s proposal, i’m not sure i would ever have made it to a point where i was so certain of the idea of marriage that i wanted to be the one to initiate the engagement. and that in no way means i wasn’t ready to get married…it just didn’t have a specific place on my *timeline*.

  • SamL

    I too am very happy that this post made it onto APW.
    I have always a) wanted to be married and b) fantasized and planned my wedding.
    I actually had a friend in University who took pictures of a wedding gown she thought would be perfect for my fantasy wedding and send it to me. I was that into weddings.
    I do not see a contradiction between being a mature and successful, independent woman and wanting a wedding.
    But I do agree that there is a tendency to brush off women who like the commercial aspects of weddings as obsessed, and infantile. There was nothing immature about my desire to be married. And as another commenter mentioned, how different is a fantasy wedding from a fantasy house? And as a woman who does own a house I love, I can still fantasize about the renovations and decorations etc – this may make me shallow and silly but it does not alter the sensible financial decision I made purchasing my house.
    I feel the same way about fantasy weddings.
    I love that you bring up having a say in your future!
    I am married to a wonderful man and we had many “State of the Union” conversations on the road to marriage. These conversations were sometimes painful but mostly not, they involved planning, time, and e,optional vulnerability. Most importantly they then required space to think over what was discussed. We decided to get married together, chose a ring together, and then I let him decide when to give it to me.
    We are youngish and well ahead of our friends in the commitment department. I am watching my friends wade through much of what Rachel is talking about.
    They all ask me how I have my life “so together” and the answer is communication. I don’t know that as feminists we “should” or “shouldn’t” do anything. I do believe that for me, being a modern woman meant knowing how to articulate my needs to my man. Communication and compromise are the most important skills in any relationship professional or personal.
    I encourage everyone, man or woman to flex those muscles.
    I also know from my husband that by expressing my needs and requesting that he express his I actually forced him to think about what he wanted. He feels very caught in the narrative of the “male provider” and he needed help and another perspective to break out of it. I don’t think all men are able to identify themselves as caught in a narrative and a little shake can help them. At least it did in my husband’s case.

  • hope

    Spot on, girl. especially # 4 and #5 about cultural narrative for both sexes, and needing to create a timeline that works for both of you. Best of all was naming the “cry wolf” that happens for content single ladies because other women don’t feel comfortable honestly saying, yeah, I wish I were engaged/getting married right now, and pretend they don’t.

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  • ItsyBitsy

    As hilariously ironic this is, I can’t wait until I’m engaged so it’s socially acceptable for me to post things like this on facebook and everywhere else for the world to read and absorb.

    In other news, I love everything about this whole damn post. Just… awesomeness. Thank you, Rachel!

  • Lady in Waiting :)

    What amazing timing for me to stubble upon this site and particular blog… yesterday my BF and I celebrated our 6th dating anniversary and although we had a great time this weekend the thought on friends and families mind was …. did he ask? I am that person who in the past said all the “right things”and about 18 months ago realized that its okay to have those feelings.

    I guess I have a little ways to go though, on New Years eve last year he said that this year (2012) would be the year and as you can imagine since its November I know the “window” is closing in… so thanks for providing an escape where just because I like frilly & lace doesn’t mean that I am not more interested in sharing my life with the man I want to marry.

    Cheers to you

  • CB

    Point number 6 – Preach! Exactly.

    “some hot air balloon spectacle”” – hilarious

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  • Joanna

    Very insightful! When I first got engaged, I shamed MYSELF about it. Everyone who acted excited was immediately shut off… BY ME. I thought I was wrong to be excited about it, and acted accordingly. Now, two months away from the wedding, I’ve finally decided to let go and feel whatever I want to feel.

  • oh, meredith

    I love love love this post, and am so glad that APW chose to run it! :) The comments are all (as usual) fantastic.

    It occurred to me that this is another corner that women have been forced into. For centuries a woman was expected to “catch” a husband, but to do so subtly. In most Western societies, unmarried women had no status. (Old Maid, anyone?) Now with the massive commercialization of the wedding-apparatus, women still feel pressure to conform to societal expectations surrounding weddings. There is a distinct script for a wedding to be the culmination of every little girl’s secret (heteronormative) princess dreams. That script extends to the engagement, as well – the damsel-in-distress waiting patiently for her prince to sweep her away romantically.

    One difficulty for many feminists, IMO, is that we consciously reject that script, but then don’t know what we should feel or expect from weddings and engagements. Is it unfeminist to want the frilly princess-y wedding? Should we feel guilty if we received the stereotypical sweeping-romance proposal – and liked it? What does a feminist wedding or proposal even look like?

    I am so, so grateful to APW for attempting to normalize the conversation and the wide range of feelings that surround engagements, weddings, and marriage. We (women) have progressed so far in equality, but there is still a great deal of insidious shaming that occurs. Open discussions are one way that we can bring it to light and eventually banish it.

  • This is so me.

    And it’s not helped by the older women in my culture looking down on anyone who hasn’t managed to snag a husband. We’re apparently lesser human beings, lesser women, there is something seriously wrong with anyone who has not captured a man.

    I want very much to get married. And I have voices on one side of me saying that it’s not okay to love weddings and be obsessed with weddings when I’m not even engaged. On the other side are the voices saying that I’ve played my life out wrong because I’m 30 and not married yet.

  • Hannah

    Yes! Thank you!! I love this post so much. Point number 4 is especially poignant. I am definitely “That Girl Who Is Desperate To Be Married” in the sense that I watch Say Yes to the Dress and I have a wedding pinterest board (with some 150+ pins on, I’m not ashamed to admit). The funny thing is I never was that girl before. My interest in getting married increased exponentially after I started dating my boyfriend. Now we’re at a point where I’m ready to get engaged, but he wants to wait another year or two until he feels more financially stable and adult. To him, marriage means having kids and buying a house. And while I do want to do those things one day, I don’t think the progression needs to be quite that linear. Having these conversations about when we should get engaged have been incredibly hard because every time I feel like I am pressuring him. And, as we are all told, pressuring him makes for a first class ticket on the “Desperate To Get Married” Crazy Town Express. Sigh.

    Honestly, I think I spend this time pinning wedding junk and reading wedding blogs is because it appeases the Desperation (to a degree). We have worked out a compromise, which means getting engaged later than I originally wanted, but sooner than he wanted. To keep up my end of the deal and not nag him into submission I funnel all my energy into wedding blogs, etc. I can’t really decide if it’s healthy behavior, but nonetheless…

  • Kelli

    Oh, Rachel. I’m that girl, too, and this post made me want to cry–happy, empowered tears! Thank you for giving me the courage I need to accept the way I feel and talk to my boyfriend about it.

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  • Chelsea

    GREAT ARTICLE! Rachel, as always, you have such a great way of turning thoughts and feelings into words that so many others never seem to get right. It’s message can relate to so many women because it doesn’t have to be about marriage. I was very much in those shores last year. By bf and I dated to 8 years before we got engaged and if I ever said, no I’m not engaged and no I’m not ok with it, I looked desperate and sad. So instead, I played it cool and it killed me. Now, I’m married, and want to start having kids, and catching myself doing the same thing all over again. Why can’t we just say,” this is what I want, and my feelings count just as much as yours”….and not be ashamed, or embarrassed, or feel bad to say it.

  • Lynn

    Oh. My. Word. I just started reading APW tonight, I’m not a huge blog reader and I’m definitely not a blog commenter, but I had to comment on this. (Ironically, I thought long and hard about which email address to link to this comment because those feelings of shame in not being married and not being okay with it are definitely there. My inner monologue was all, “well what if he proposes tomorrow and somebody finds out you were going crazy waiting? How embarassing!”)

    Finally, FINALLY, someone put into words what I’ve been feeling. Reading through the comments actually brought me to tears – tears of elation that finally I see that I’m not the only one dealing with a pendulum of feelings that swing between (1) downright happiness that I’ve been lucky enough to find someone I want to spend my life with and (2) absolute dejection and self-doubt because, shit! if it’s taken this long, he obviously doesn’t want to spend his life with me.

    Just reading this comment thread has actually made me feel a lot better. My BF and I have been together for 11 years, living together for the last two (another detail I thought twice about because, gasp! people who know me might be able to put together who I am!). We’ve had many discussions, conversations, and yes, out and out fights about when we’ll get married. He has said time and again that yes he wants to get married to be and yes it will happen on my timeline but just please be patient. Easier said than done.

    But I am encouraged by this conversation and one thing I have vowed after reading through all 100+ comments, is that when I am finally married, I will be honest about our story and what it took to get there. No it wasn’t me wearing him down and waiting until he finally came around. No, it wasn’t him surprising me with a 5 carat cushion cut ring from Tiffany before the thought had ever crossed my mind. It was a long, windy, twisty-turny, sometimes scary road to the end. I think we as women at least owe it to ourselves to be honest to maybe turn the tide away from the Disney/rom-com fantasy that leaves so many of us feeling less than.


      +1. I promise for the generations that come after me that I too will be honest about my story and the long time it took to get there (if we ever do get there). Thinking about it makes me feel ashamed for being ready when he wasn’t, because I must clearly not be a special enough person else he would be ready already. And I shouldn’t be ashamed at that – I should instead be honest and break cultural narratives.

    • Fairy

      +2. There is nothing I could say to express this better. Good job.

  • L

    I am The Girl Who Is So Desperate To Get Married.
    I am Not Engaged, and I am Not Okay With It.

    S.O. knows about it. We’ve talked about it frequently over the past year or so, ever since my mom’s second marriage, when he started dropping hints about his intent. Before then, marriage was the one topic I didn’t want to talk about. I had gotten out of a bad relationship of half a decade where my ex-boyfriend told me he would propose to me–and then never did. I couldn’t stand the waiting anymore. So with my current S.O., I asked him not to talk about it, ever, unless he was serious. Because being told you’re going to get something and then to wait–for years–without getting it is just too painful.

    My current S.O. and I are in our mid-twenties, and have been together for almost 3 years. Every time we go to a wedding together (the most recent one being yesterday) it comes up. Getting married. What we want, what we don’t want. how to plan it. We even have a theme. We have colors. We have a venue we’re ready to book. (I’ve been a bad girl–I actually bought my wedding shoes two weeks ago.) Did I mention we’re not engaged?

    When S.O. started dropping hints about getting married (over a year ago), I started looking for rings for him. (I have a hidden document on my computer titled “Plans I’m Not Supposed to be Planning Yet” that has all of my notes squirreled away.) I mentioned my search one day, and he got upset. I was not supposed to beat him to it. I told him it was the 21st century. As the only one in the relationship with a steady paycheck, it made sense that I could at least get the ball rolling and propose first. But tradition is very important to him, and S.O. asked me to promise him that I’d let him propose, not the other way around. I agreed, and the waiting is slowly whittling away at my soul.

    I tried not to say anything to him about it–not to nag, or put pressure on him–but I don’t really have any girl friends that I’m close enough with that I’m comfortable venting about the fact that I’m Not Engaged and It’s Driving Me Crazy. They’re not engaged or even in serious relationships. And the one that is married just suggested, “Oh, just get married, then.” As if it were just that simple. Counting my last two serious relationships (which occurred back-to-back), I’ve been Waiting for the other person in the relationship to propose to me for 8 years. That’s a long time to wait. Especially since both relationships were long-distance. Getting married means being with the person I love every day. Not once a month, or even once a week. Being with them all the time. Falling asleep next to them and waking up next to them. Cooking meals together. Sharing a domestic life. I actually broke down one night on the phone with S.O., crying hysterically about how I’d never wanted anything so bad as getting married, and it was breaking my little feminist heart. I know it put a lot of pressure on him and I feel so bad about it, I’m still apologizing. I needed to get it out of my system.

    S.O. and I aren’t engaged because–to be honest–he doesn’t have a job. I’m finishing up graduate school and I teach at my university so I get a stipend for food and rent and such, so I can provide for myself and put a little away for the wedding that hopefully will happen some day. S.O. has been graduated for a while and has attended a vocational school in the meantime while he has conducted a job search. He has applied to countless positions, all of which he is qualified for educationally, only to get shortlisted for the job because of his lack of real-world experience. He can’t get a job because he doesn’t have experience, he doesn’t have experience because he can’t get a job. It’s a ruthless cycle we’ve been in for the past two years or so, and he’s given up and had to purse a new career because to continue doing the same thing and expecting different results is just madness.

    In the meantime I’ve been having issues with my reproductive system and I am legitimately concerned about my fertility. We want children, and we want them before we’re 30, so that’s leaving us with a smaller and smaller window of opportunity. We just don’t know what to do at this point. S.O. is yet again back in school to train for his (hopefully) new career, and I’m doing my best to get through grad school and hopefully get a full time job. We want to get married, but our hands are tied until he can gain some sort of financial stability and a career path. I know this buys into the whole Prince Charming issue, but seriously I do not make enough money to support us both, otherwise that’s what I would do. Living together would probably take a lot of the stress off of this situation, if we could make that happen. It sucks that the economy is what’s keeping us from moving forward in our lives, especially when we both know what we want and we’re both ready for it. We’re trying to wait it out and keep focus, but there’s only so much we can do. Thank you so much for this Bill of Rights and Responsibility. It’s nice to know we’re not alone.

    Talking about it helps, so thanks APW, for listening. I know this was a long post so I really appreciate those of you who read it. Any suggestions or solidarity are completely welcome. <3

  • I’ve been reading this site off and on for a couple months now and have never commented. A little late on the commenting, but this post just spoke to me so much that I had to. I’m so glad someone wrote this. It’s a hard thing to talk about – it’s “nagging” if you bring it up to your boyfriend, friends don’t get it or just pity you or others don’t get why it isn’t as simple as they think it should be.

    My boyfriend and I have been together for 6 years and I’ve been given a timeline for getting engaged of “definitely within 2 years”. We’re only 22, but we both come from small towns where it’s not at all unusual to get married right out of or even in college. We both have known for a while that we want to marry each other. For us, it’s a matter of him wanting to be settled before he gets married and not wanting an engagement longer than a year. Like others have mentioned, I’m fine being married if we’re not completely “settled” as I think those are things we can work out together but he doesn’t see it that way.

    The frustration comes primarily in living 6 hours apart. I’ve told him I will not move for him until we’re engaged, so we went from living together to living 6 hours apart when I got a job in a new city and he started grad school in a different new city. He insists of proposing and wants to do every part of it himself. I feel like I have little control over the future since I will likely move to his city before we get married, but don’t know when and how that will affect my job and career. Though he’s in grad school, he’s not sure of whether he’ll just do his Master’s or stay for his Ph.D. and says he won’t be ready to get engaged until that is decided. I’m over a year into my career and in a job I love.

    We talk about it frequently, sometimes to the point where I know I would be seen as a nag and the guilt from that is awful. I tell him how I feel and it’s so hard feeling like what you feel doesn’t matter. but there’s just not much of a way to compromise on this. Facebook, and my younger brother already being engaged, only makes it worse.

    This post helped a lot in that I can see I’m not alone and that having engagement timeline problems doesn’t mean you’re doomed. Love that this was posted and that there can be a frank discussion about it.

  • Magda

    If only this post had existed (and I had managed to read it) before I got engaged! You’ve really given me a much healthier perspective on the engagement process. Your description of the long, emotional conversations you had with your boyfriend hit so close to home, as my partner (now fiance) and I had a series of similar, very emotional and distressing conversations in which neither of us was able to come to a satisfying conclusion about where the other stood, being so burdened down by what we both thought the expectations of us were.

    In the end, the engagement itself was very fraught with these expectations, and it wasn’t until I read this post and all the comments that I was able to have a very productive talk with my partner about why it was so difficult for us to get engaged. I had known that we had different family backgrounds that influenced what our views of marriage were, and also that he felt obligated to propose to me because that was “the right way” to do things, but I was never able to explain my feelings (which involved feeling very disempowered by waiting over a year for him to propose after we first agreed we wanted to get married, and over four years into our relationship) very well, and when I tried I felt immense guilt for even asserting the fact that I wanted to get engaged. I resigned myself to the fact that when he proposed it would probably because I guilted him into it, and after he proposed I couldn’t stop feeling like that is in fact what happened.

    After reading this, I sat down with him and talked about some of the things mentioned here, and he was really receptive to it, and we talked about how it is important for both of us that we feel free to voice our opinions and that we are able to own those feelings and opinions without guilt or societal pressure (or pressure from each other!) to repress them. It turns out that the main reason he didn’t propose is he kept thinking about it and then figuring everything was fine as it was, and when I’d occasionally have my outbursts, it would get discussed but then pushed under the rug because the arguments were so upsetting. We did manage to get into some of the reasons I dreaded having these “weighty” discussions with him, an issue that goes beyond just talking about the engagement, and it was such a relief to air those things out. The simple notion that I should be heard and allow myself to be heard has opened up a lot of doors that had previously made me very anxious.

    I’m still amazed that I went so long without coming to any of these conclusions on my own. I tend to feel like my partner and I have a very honest relationship and that we are both strongly feminist and believe in maintaining a partnership in which we are equals and pay no homage to gender roles, but this issue has been a wakeup call to me and showed me that I might unconsciously participate in social norms that can end up being downright harmful to both of us. Yes I am a woman who wants to be married, and I sometimes watch wedding shows on TLC, and I want to have kids and do lots of things that some might see as indicating conformity to traditional gender roles, but I can own these desires and not feel ashamed of them, regardless of where anyone thinks they come from, and that doesn’t make me any less of a feminist or any worse a modern woman. I do believe that this is true, but it definitely helps to see it reiterated, and helps me make a mental note to remind myself of it frequently!

  • Kat

    “Look, I eat yogurt. I like flowers, and I say pretty much everything the girls say in “Sh*t Girls Say.” And these things? Don’t make me more of a woman or less of a person. They don’t mean I’m incapable of knowing what I want in life.”

    Thank you.

  • Staria

    I’m not engaged, and I’m not ok with it!

    I’m happy to keep talking about it, and be at peace with where we are. That’s ok. But it’s very hard to know so many people who got engaged quickly, to feel that this relationship is so right for both of us, and to still be asked to wait.

  • Alex

    I love love love this article. I had a big argument with my bf of 2 years this weekend about just this that left me feeling guilty/helpless and needy for expressing what I want. Thank you SO much for posting this.

  • Sarah

    Hey, thanks for writing this. Just turned 31, been living with my bf for about 3 years and told him the other night I wanted to be engaged and was really not okay with us not being engaged. Since then he’s sat down with me and gone over my ring sizes, and tonight we’re going over the kind of wedding band I would like and the sort of gemstones he was thinking of getting to see if I like them. I guess sometimes if you want something you just need to ask, or in this case tell the guy what you want. Hints don’t help, directness does. Wish me luck.

  • Ashley

    Thank you for this article! I have had it saved for MONTHS now, since winter time. I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years. He told me he knew before we even went on our first date that I was going to be the one he married one day (July 4th, 2012 to be exact). October 2012, his best friend made CONSTANT Well, Christmas day came and he gave me a necklace. IN A JEWELRY BOX. I thought it was a ring! I, of course, lost my mind and had a breakdown-crying fit on the way to his grandmothers. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I am in love with the necklace, but there was SO much talk within his family about us getting married of course I believed it was going to happen. We went on a trip for New Years, but nothing.. nada. I think looked forward to Valentines day, my birthday… Finally I decided it would for sure happen BY July. Well, hello September. I told him if I am not engaged by December of this year I cannot promise anything about my mental state! LOL. It is WELL known that we love each other and want to be married to each other. Just like this article, I am in this awful preengaged state where you question everything and constantly think him taking to somewhere is “the day” that it’ll happen. I’m losing it! HELP!

    • Ashley

      Just an added fact, very recently his sister took me to look at rings and try some on. Also, I went and tried on rings this past spring and had the rings I liked written on a business card for the jewelry store. This was hanging on his fridge and is NOW in his wallet. Good news right?????

  • Kaity

    This exactly sums up my feelings. Thank you for writing this.

  • Eh

    I hadn’t seen this until today.

    My ex always blamed my requests to discuss our relationship’s future on my obsession with “my wedding day”. He said it was because of our (slightly older) friends getting married that I even brought it up. He said I wanted a wedding and not a marriage (his friend who is a Minister frequently told him horror stories about the woman that had unrealistic expectations about their wedding day and made comments about how all woman are like that because they dream about their wedding day since they were little girls).

    I would inform him that I was perfectly happy to go to city hall and sign the paper work. His response to that was that a piece of paper would not make him any more committed to me and that he had no plans on leaving me. (I work in health care – at the time front line with seniors and people with disabilities – I know how important a piece of people can be when it comes to legal, financial and medical issues. He didn’t see that getting married would provide us protection if something happened.)

    The first time I tried to have a serious relationship talk with him was after almost 3 years of dating when we decided to move in together. I explained to him that I took that step seriously and that it was similar to us getting married (that is, this isn’t us trying it out – we have to be serious and committed). His response was that there was no chance of us getting married if we didn’t live together and there was no set timeframe that we had to live together before he would propose (he even said “don’t expect a proposal after six months”). (Yes, I know there were tons of red flags.)

    When our relationship ended he said that he felt that our relationship was just on autopilot. We dated for over 5 years (and we had lived together for 2.5 years). When we moved in together I was living in a different city and I moved to his city. Less than a year before we broke up I moved to another city (7 hours from my friends and family and the city we were living in) because he got a job there. He never used any of those events to evaluate our relationship. He just expected that I would move in with him and that I would move far away with him, and that everything would stay the same or progress on a steady course and one day he would propose and we’d get married.

    The funny thing is I am not wedding obsessed at all. I am recently married and while planning our wedding I found it both frustrating and freeing (ok, mostly freeing) that I didn’t fantasize about my wedding day as a young girl. And it’s really good that I didn’t fantasize about my wedding as a young girl otherwise my wedding would probably have been a huge disappointment to my five-year-old self; however it was just perfect for me and my husband.

    • AlyssaMoh

      Thank you so much for sharing this.
      I am in a somewhat similar situation, and I’m wondering what level of objectivity I still have related to “red flags”.

      While I wouldn’t be totally opposed to not marrying my current partner, I do want some input, a say if you will – into what our relationship is and where we are headed.

      I’m mulling over talking to a counselor to work through my feelings on this. I’m torn in many ways, because I have always been an independent person and marriage would bring a change to that. However, should I want to have kids, I realize that it is a cooperative effort and that not having to do everything alone is important as well – and the joy in sharing these tasks.

      • Eh

        Talking to a counsellor is a good idea. Make sure you feel comfortable with the person. I was lucky that my first one was a good one, but then I moved and needed another and had to meet a few before I found one I liked.

        I will say one of the things I repeatedly had an issue with in my relationship with my ex was that I had no say in where our relationship was going (other than flat out leaving). Even our break up was weird – he came home from talking to his counsellor and was happy. He had been mopey and depressed for two months but was against talking to a professional because of the stigma (even though I have a degree in psychology and work in the health field and I’d been seeing a counsellor since before I met him he still couldn’t get over the stigma). I didn’t want to pry but I asked him how his appointment went and he said great and that he’s never met a person that understood him like she did. He then said he didn’t want to discuss our relationship until the next day (after I saw my counsellor). Then I looked him in the eye and said “it’s over, isn’t it?” and he refused to reply so I knew the answer.

        I have no regrets about staying with him for as long as I did. He introduced me to a lot of things and I grew a lot of a person during those years. I probably wouldn’t have moved to the city I live in if he didn’t get a job here, and if I didn’t move here I wouldn’t have met my husband.

  • HankReardon77

    How about an article about desperate to be married and overlooking the signals that say this isn’t the right guy or girl.

  • Morigami

    Thank you for writing something that resonates. I decided at an early age that I’d never get married, but life plans and people change. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’ve known since six months into our now four-year relationship that this was who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. As the wedding and engagement and pregnancy and even second-child announcements come rolling in, it can be difficult in our comparison-culture to not ask, “Why not me?” That question can be a great starting point for reflection and discussion. And another rich challenge that I’m starting to see can be to really live and enjoy and be PRESENT for the pre-engagement, and not put certain actions or emotions on hold for “later”. This can include making space for daydreaming, not so much about “my” wedding or “a” wedding but OUR wedding, keeping in mind that it’s this one person that’s inspiring it all in the first place.

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  • Waiting

    Thank you Rachel for eloquently putting into words feelings that I haven’t been able to express during the many discussions I’ve had with my boyfriend on this topic. I want to share this post with everyone but as someone else said – I can’t until I’m engaged! Maybe I’ll just send it to the man I am dutifully waiting to find the “perfect” time to ask me to marry him.

    • Waiting 2

      Precisely what I have done! (although even to share as an engaged woman… I admit i would fear that ‘People will find out the TRUTH’!)

  • Allie

    YES YES YES YES! Thank you SO much for writing this. I have been struggling with this issue for months (wanting to be married — notice I say “be married” and not “get married” or “have a wedding” — the former implies a life commitment and state of being while the other two just refer to the party!). I’m a smart, highly educated woman and similarly feel the pressure of society saying it’s “uncool,” “unfeminist” and “unacceptable” for me to really want to be married. I agree wholeheartedly with your outlook and “new rules.” Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone and should not be ashamed by my feelings!

  • Rose

    “I wonder if someone—anyone—is going to come out and say, “You know what? I’m not engaged and I’m not okay with it.””

    I got so sick of waiting I (after a bottle of wine.. oops) casually commented that I didn’t think he’d feel comfortable if I proposed to him. (To which he replied “well I’d say no” and I had 4 weeks of panicked desperation crying before confronting him about it (sober) and he had lame excuses… As it turns out, he panicked because he was planning his proposal to me about a month later… I said yes.. so hey ho…)
    But I was definitely that “I’m not okay with this. We’ve had our kids names and the cats we will own’s names picked out since 2007 and it’s 2013 and COME ON ALREADY…”
    Ahem. I also had to really reiterate that engagement didn’t mean we had to get married that year or instant.

    Which is why I’m now itching to set a wedding date – we’ve been engaged a year next month and he won’t talk about a date for the wedding to even vaguely begin planning – he wont even discuss a YEAR to have the wedding in… let alone a specific date.. >_> But we’ll get there.

  • Marie

    I am definitely the girl who is desperate to be married. I have been with my boyfriend for 4 years now, he is 24 and I am 23. I know he is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with and he feels the same way. We have both agreed that while he will be the one to propose it is important to talk about when we would both like that to happen. He tells me he doesn’t want to rush and he is taking the decision seriously which I love, but at the same time every discussion we have I end up feeling like will he ever ask me! I was hoping to be engaged this year but after the last discussion it looks like it could be next year or even the year after. For me I want to be married a bit before we have kids and that timeline is caused by biology and the fact we both want more than one. we also want to be engaged for a bit to plan the wedding, he does seem to be understanding that we may need to get engaged sooner than he planned but later than I want but I just don’t know! The truth is I am doing my best not to put pressure on him as it makes him more likely to not want to and at the end of the day I want him to ask me because he wants to not because he feels pressured to. Which basically means I need to sit back and relax control which is really hard for me, I need to talk to him but not frequently to check we are still on the same page.

    Do I feel bad that I told him that if he waited 2-3 more years to ask I would be worried? A little but i don’t feel bad about making it clear what I want from life too. It is okay to compromise we are already doing that but it is not okay to lie down and not say anything. After all as a couple serious about a life and future together we talk about everything else.

    Anyway sorry for the long post I am just so desperate at the moment, I guess because it is wedding season and my boyfriend’s mum is getting remarried in a month. But I literally cannot wait to call him my husband.