This year, in some kind of adulting marathon, I got engaged and married. The entire experience was one long “WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME??!!?!?!” and so I would like to take the opportunity to tell you some of the things I learned along the way.
The topic of marriage is a weighty one, filled with lots of emotional landmines. So it’s important to start by saying that these are just my own opinions and experiences. And in fact, the ultimate goal of the Weddiquette series is (spoiler alert) this:
Should you choose to get married, the entire experience should be YOURS.
Not your parents, your friends, the bombardment of advertising, the culture, the wedding boards, the expectations heaped upon us over the years. It should be what you and your partner truly and deeply want.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about…engagements, shall we?
My partner (heretofore known as Mr. Juris Doctor) and I had been together for about three and a half years before we got engaged. We spent at least a year before that discussing together and in couples counseling whether marriage was right for us and if we were ready.
A few months before we got engaged, Best Friend: Kindred Spirit and I were having drinks. I was telling her about how it seemed like we were going to move forward and get engaged. And she proceeded to channel the great sages and ask me a question that would set off a cascade reaction of brainsposions.
“Can you let go of the engagement story?”
She explained: We as women are spoon fed this engagement story our entire lives. The perfect setting, the perfect evening, the perfect surprise, the perfect ring.
You know what happens when you hold onto that story? You set yourself up for disappointment. You set yourself up to miss the really beautiful amazing moment that will unfold imperfectly and yet so perfectly.
It took me a minute to even process. I mean, isn’t the whole one knee, surprise thing just…how it’s done? BF:KS was proposing (sorry, I had to!) that there was NO RIGHT WAY TO GET ENGAGED. Our engagement story was entirely our own and that by writing our own script, we would make it even more special and beautiful.
I wasn’t sure yet. Was she right? Was the engagement story real and was it a set up for disappointment?
Here’s where the “Why didn’t anyone tell me” began. I started to ask around. I went to my married friends and said “Hey, tell me about your engagement. Like the real story.”
Adulters. Here’s the face I got Every. Single. Time.
And then, this:
“The night we got engaged, I was so angry at him that he hadn’t proposed yet that we got into a HUGE fight. Then the ring came out in my champagne. Awwwwkardddd”
“Two days before we got engaged, I got super drunk and sobbed all over him because he hadn’t proposed yet.”
“Right before we got engaged, I was a complete wreck because he hadn’t proposed yet and I told him I was going to leave him if he didn’t make up his mind soon. Turns out he’d been planning our engagement for months and I just didn’t know.”
“It was so uncomfortable. It was cold and rainy and he just sort of pulled me under this random awning and got down on one knee.”
“I spent the entire vacation expecting him to propose and then he proposed in our kitchen a week later. I mean what was he thinking?”
“I literally had just gotten out of the shower and my hair was wet. I was so mad at him when he pulled out that ring.”
“I was so tired and jetlagged. I literally said ‘yes’ and then followed that up with ‘can I have some coffee now?'”
Guys. What the shit. Have you heard these stories before? Of course not! That sure as shit isn’t the part that’s going on Facebook. And it’s not the story that they tell when you ask them how he did it.
So…I want to challenge you. Can you let go of the story? Completely? Can you start from scratch as if no one had ever told you how to get engaged? What would you want? What would make both of you feel safe and secure and calm and happy?
That isn’t to say that you can’t have the traditional one-knee surprise. But if you do it, can you go in without expectations? Can you have an open conversation about what you want? Can you get to a place where WHATEVER happens, you will be thrilled – not because the engagement was perfect but because of the decision to make a deeper commitment to your partner?
Wait, one more thing. Can relish being excited and scared at the same time? Because oh lord, was I ever scared.
But that’s for next time.