Promises and Patience

This is entirely a gut reaction to Meg’s post at a Practical Wedding about engagements and proposals; it hit a trigger for me, and I wanted to share my experience, because it didn’t pan out quite as expected.

The Propsoal. Or, as I like to call it, My Great Shame.

So, we were engaged last July, quietly in the apartment we share. The story goes that Mr. Bear (names changed to protect the innocent) had asked my father a few weeks earlier “for my hand” in marriage; we’ve been dating since high school, and we’re both fairly traditional, so we felt it was a sweet thing to do. We both had wanted to get engaged for a while, but Bear wanted to wait until he finished his undergraduate degree before getting engaged, until life had settled down a bit.

Mr. Bear had begun planning a big night to pop the question, going all out, as he usually does (he’s a showy kind of guy, part of what I love about him). Then, a few days after he picked up the ring, he said it just “felt right.” It was a random Tuesday, a completely, utterly, average day. I was watching baseball and checking my email on my laptop, when he came over and got down on one knee. He asked The Big Question and I just stared at him. “You’re kidding, right?” He went and got the ring, asked again, and I was absolutely speechless. I said yes, and that was that.

That’s what we tell people. And, if I’m honest, it’s close to what happened. But it’s certainly not the whole truth.

As Meg said in her post, it’s the woman’s job as the proposee (as opposed to the proposer) to sit there and wait patiently for this big show with the big rock. Unfortunately, patience has never been my strong suit. He picked up the ring on Friday. By Sunday I was a wreck. I knew he had it, I knew he was proposing, but I didn’t know when. And since I knew he’s the type to do a big show of affection, I felt like I was waiting for a bomb to go off. Every time I opened our apartment door, I expected dozens of roses scattered everywhere; every time he suggested we do something, I was waiting for a scavenger hunt or a surprise dinner… and I seriously, honestly, could not handle the stress. Bear and I fought for two days straight about it, about my obsession with control, about my inability to let this go, about how he needed the moment to feel “right” (all totally valid). And finally, somewhere on Tuesday night, after sobbing for hours, I let go. It was extremely, painfully emotional. I finally consigned myself to let him do it his way. I even slipped a bracelet on my wrist that I usually never wear; I showed it to him proudly: “It’s my reminder to be patient!” I needed to give myself a visual, arresting, daily reminder that I need to patient and let him do it on his terms.

And then, the rest of the story unfolds: I sat down on the couch, fiddling with the bracelet, a weight lifted and trying to let go of the stress, and he came over and asked me to marry him. I did ask, him if he was joking because it was just downright mean to ask at a moment like that. He said after everything we’d been arguing about, and how I’d finally calmed my control-freak self down, he said it just felt right. So he asked me, and I said yes.

He’s still disappointed he didn’t get to do the Big Show for the proposal, and frankly, I regret not letting him. We’ve talked about it a little, and he’s expressed interest in re-proposing, so we’ll see if he does it. Since we’re over halfway through planning the wedding, I don’t know if it will still have the same crazy feeling as it would if it had played out naturally, but I want to give him that, at least. And I want to give it to myself, a do-over, allow that moment of surprise and excitement and happiness and LOVE. And, yeah, I might be shallow, but I want it for other people– because every time I tell about our proposal, it’s a lie, and something inside me whispers, “Liar. Liar. Liar.

The post at Practical Wedding touches on about knowing who you are, and part of who I am is that anxious, stressed out control freak. And he knows that. It kept us from having the proposal we both deserve (not that everyone “needs” that big proposal, but we’re showy people, it’s who we are), but that control freak is still part of who I am. He did propose because it felt right; he absolutely wouldn’t just to placate me, so I know it was still “right”– it’s just a little… off.

So my patience and understanding of his timing was, needless to say, atrocious. However, in the broader view of our relationship, we’ve both been very deliberate and very patient. We’ve been dating for nine years, and we were starting to think about getting married, but we both wanted the timing to be right—I was ready to be engaged probably right after I graduated from college, but he wanted to be financially and personally more stable before we took that next step, so we waited.

I have family and friends who were chomping at the bit, people who were wondering just when we’d make this official, and I calmly brushed them off, told them it was more important to us to do this on our own time and our own terms. We’d been dating since HIGH SCHOOL, so waiting was just part of the game (waiting to get a driver’s license, waiting to turn 18, to turn 21, to move in together…). Just because we’d dated “long enough” didn’t mean it was the right time. We were both extremely patient with one another about this; it was an organic, measured process. I think we both got less patient in the last year or so, but that’s part of becoming ready, right? So we waited, and now it’s absolutely the right time for us, and where we are in our lives. I might have ruined a big fancy proposal, but the engagement feels very, very right.

12 responses to “Promises and Patience

  1. I came to your blog from your post at APW and I had to respond to your wonderfully honest story because mine is not that different. Also dating since high school and on our 10th year – and in the last 1-2 years I got impatient. I held it in for a long time but finally it started to spill out in angry/emotional talks… I’d be patient for a few months and then out it would come out again. I just didn’t understand. If after 10 years he still couldn’t say the words, when would he? Then I came home from a trip visiting my mom, who recently moved across the globe from me, and I felt so alone. My closest family had all moved away and he wasn’t saying the words to officially make him my new family. So one morning it exploded out of me, I got really upset, I was crying hysterically and since he still couldn’t give me any explanation WHY, I stormed off into the shower. He came in and hugged me while I sobbed. Then he got out and I realized what was going on. My heart sank. He got the ring and proposed. I felt awful. I felt like I had cried and pouted the proposal out of him (although I didn’t know he’d bought a ring). I’m ok with this now, we haven’t had a do-over (didn’t even occur to me honestly) but I do feel bad. And I don’t tell this story honestly either. Then I also feel that “liar liar liar” voice and it bothers me. Not suprisingly, I’m a control freak too. I wanted not to be this time.

    • It’s so good to hear that we’re not alone! It’s the only part of wedding planning that has really irked me– and there’s no real way to explain it quickly. People always ask about the proposal, and I do give a semi-honest version (it was at home, it just “felt right”, it was pretty mellow), but even if I WANTED to explain all the mess in the days before, there’s no good way to do it quickly. And half the time, I’m explaining the proposal to people I barely know! Oy.

      I emailed this blog post to Meg at APW (I wasn’t sure if she would read every last comment), and apparently APW will touch on this more, which is great. She said something that really helped give me perspective–

      “The only point of the proposal is to decide you want to spend your lives together, and you did that. You can throw some awesome magic romantic moment later, and it will be SO MUCH LESS STRESSFUL.”

      It’s so true. We did what was needed for the proposal, and it’s done. I don’t need to explain to OTHER people what happened, it just happened. It’s very “us”, and I’m okay with that, as long as he is. We can be romantic for the rest of our lives; this was one moment, and as long as we did what was right for us, than the rest of the world can shut up.

      Good luck with that little voice; I’m going to try and shut it up, and I hope you can, too.

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  3. Thank you for your lovely “fangirl moment” (ha ha) over at APW :)

    I don’t know how long you’ve been reading, but our engagement story involved me giving Nate an ultimatum and moving out of our flat just over a week before he proposed. (It wasn’t “propose or I’m moving out,” more “stop partying so hard or I’m leaving you.”)

    Anyway, we don’t tend to tell this part of the story either! But it’s who we are, and part of the commitment we made to one another.

    Real life doesn’t fit into neat proposal stories, and that’s ok. I don’t think you need a big re-proposal, you need to come to terms with the one you had. You have the rest of your life for big moments… although if it’s important to you, do it. That might be part of the moving on.

    • I got engaged last summer, and I’ve only really caught up on archives through your wedding, but not through the engagement (yet, lol).

      It’s so good to share stories about proposals that aren’t all hunky-dory; especially with something like that ultimatum (sounds familiar, I must say), making a choice to marry someone is about the true and important parts of a relationship, not just about roses and champagne and Big Proposals.

      I think I’m absolutely coming to grips with our proposal, which I think is why I tried telling other people about the messy story, but I don’t think I’ll do that again for a while…. Not that I’m not ready, but that most people aren’t ready for it! Hate to sound cliche, but they can’t handle the truth. :)

      I’ve realized I don’t want a re-proposal, after all… Even if I have to gloss over some parts, our story is our own, and we are okay with it. I don’t know if he still wants one, but it’s up to him, I guess. :D And what’s important is that we’re starting to plan our lives together.

      Thanks for the support, and for your stories and advice on Project Subrosa; your writing is wonderful, and really captures the experiences of your life. So, thanks. Oh, and since I don’t think I’ve said it– Talia is absolutely beautiful. :D

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  6. OMG, I loved this post. I am going through this right now – stressing out and fighting with my boyfriend about WHEN IS HE GOING TO PROPOSE?? And then I think “god, I am ruining our relationship by trying to get him to propose”. I know he has the ring and WILL propose, it’s just he hasn’t yet. And I feel like a CRAZY PERSON. It’s good to know that other people have been there too!

    • I absolutely know EXACTLY where you’re coming from, and here’s my advice– CHILL. OUT. Seriously. I know it’s hard advice to hear, but coming from someone who did kind of ruin her fiance’s plans for a proposal, just trust me. The guilt and freaking out I did AFTER his proposal was not worth it. I feel like I ruined what could have been such an important moment for us. Just relax, forget about the ring, and keep on living your life. What I had done (that actually made him decide to propose after all) was picked out a bracelet that I rarely wear, slapped it on, and decided it would be the thing that reminded me to be patient. I could look at it, fiddle with it, and just BREATHE. I have no idea if that would work, since he proposed five minutes after I put it on, but the idea helped me.

      Keep it together, try and stay calm, and just RELAX. Best of luck!

  7. Thanks for sharing the whole story… it’s so good to hear about other real people. I spent a lot of time waiting, pre-proposal, for my lady to just agree to the whole marriage thing in the first place. I think that it’s lucky that that mess all came pre-proposal and it’s not mixed up in it, because that’s easier for the story telling…

    • Ahahah, I bet it is!! Having the messy stuff in the middle was hard for me to deal with for a while. Talking about it here and on APW helped me clear my head, and now I feel so much better about it. :)

  8. Awww. I just came over from the non-fairytale-proposal APW post. Here’s [part of] what I wrote there:

    Our proposal was romantic but far from ‘traditional’. The wording was formal, with full names and the word Honor, but we were on the phone, a couple thousand miles apart, after nearly eight years dating, and would’ve been content to be happily un-married, “living in sin” life partners forever. [We thought–we were awfully surprised by how much being engaged made us giggly and happy!] I had said months before, as we were falling asleep just after dawn on New Year’s Day, “Maybe we’ll get engaged this year…” And he’d asked twice, early in the relationship, to which I’d answered Maybe. ;-)
    Good times! We enjoyed just-being-engaged for a long time, then moved to the “thinking about what we want” stage, then finally I was like, Okay, we need to plan this for sooner, JUST in case we decide to have kids, cuz if we do, we need some solely-married time first, and we’re getting older! ;p
    (So, there’s one example of actually enjoying a really long engagement–but it is likely, largely because the first ~1.5 years of engagement had life continuing on largely as it had before; we’d been living together & spending holidays with each other’s families for years.)

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