A few months back, my boyfriend decided he was ready to marry me. We’d dated for roughly a year, were in the process of moving in together, and had written a five-year plan together. The next step was obviously marriage, but I still turned him down when he asked.
He proposed in the bathroom. The proposal was a bit crappy, pun intended. I cut my finger and it was bleeding pretty badly. I went into the bathroom to get a bandage and he told me to sit down on the toilet seat and he would take care of it. He bandaged me up, then took a ring out of his pocket and put it on my finger. He kneeled, sweat pooling on his forehead, then he squeaked out, “Will you marry me?”
I first answered yes, then took it back. My first answer was yes, but while we ate dinner, I thought, “Why haven’t I started calling people yet? Is there was something wrong with me?” I went right back to business as usual after this major event. But what is a normal response in this situation? In movies, there’s extravagance, tears everywhere, fireworks, and hidden family members. This proposal had none of those things.
Most of my friends married their high-school sweethearts. When my friends called to tell me they were engaged, they said things like, “He finally proposed!” Then again, they were all marrying someone they dated for six years—just a tad longer than my one-year relationship. Immediately there was fear of judgment, but why would I think they would react that way?
I didn’t want the notoriety at work. I thought of work on Monday, showing off this ring, sharing details of the wedding, having my coworkers surround me and make me the center of attention. This all caused massive tightness in the chest. Shouldn’t I have been excited rather than full of dread?
I realized I’m not ready due to an existential crisis. I spoke up and said, “I want to keep this a secret for now” which turned into “I’m not ready.” There are many reasons why but it all boiled down to this: I’m not sure of who I am yet. How could I fully commit to another person if I don’t know me?
This wasn’t the first ring he purchased. Eventually, he came clean. He told me that he purchased a ring three months before but sent it back. He wasn’t ready either really and he completely understood what I felt.
Moving in continued. At the time, half my belongings were at his house. Neither of us wanted to regress to living separately. We both still loved each other and wanted to stay together, so we moved the rest of my things in.
I didn’t know I wasn’t ready for the proposal. I don’t blame him for proposing at the wrong time. I didn’t give any inclination that I’m not ready—I mean, we have a wedding budget document together. Things were weird between us for a while and I could tell he was studying me for signs of readiness. When I called him out on it, he said he wanted to get the timing right for the next proposal. I felt sorry for the guy—he was rejected and now was sizing up to do it again.
My bestie told me to wait for a year. In talking with one of my married friends, she suggested I wait at least a year before bringing up our engagement again. But that seems so far away! Is that really how long we need to wait? I surveyed many people, asking when they knew they were ready to get married. Most people gave stupid “I just knew” answers. That doesn’t help in the least. Eventually, we decided that when I’m ready, I’ll be the one to propose.
Confession: I don’t really want to propose. My first thoughts were, “Jesus, what I did I get myself roped into?” followed by guilt for calling myself a feminist and not immediately bucking gender roles. Isn’t this just another example of something a modern woman should be able to do? On the other hand, it’s hard to give up the dream of a flash mob breaking out at Disney world just for you. Currently, we’re still undecided on how a proposal will all play out. While I wait for a solution to arise, I’m going to continue to love him and enjoy the life we’re creating together. Still, you’d better believe I’m hunting for the ring’s hiding spot to sneak fittings.
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