Only Crazy People Get Engaged Without Discussing It First
We're coming up on Valentine's Day, the tail end of yet another insufferably romantic holiday season.
Every social media feed on the planet has been inundated for the last two months with a barrage of engagement pictures showing absolutely stunned brides-to-be. They look so shocked; just absolutely astonished that they're being asked for their perfectly manicured hands in marriage.
I find myself rolling my eyes every time I come across one of these sickeningly adorable snapshots. COME ON, PEOPLE! She had to have known, right? She's been living with that guy for years. They must have discussed this a thousand times, no?
Actually, yes. Romance be damned, more and more couples are talking about getting engaged long before anyone takes a knee. And that makes them SMART. Here's why.
Modern times call for modern conversations
With more couples living together (nearly half) before marriage than ever before, it's no surprise the conversation would veer toward marriage more frequently. Couples are getting more serious and comfortable with each other before they venture down the aisle.
Zola recently surveyed more than 1,000 newlywed couples to get the details on their pre-engagement communication. And as it turns out, a lot of couples are having the marriage conversation way ahead of the engagement. The survey found that 94% of couples discuss getting engaged in the six months before actually doing so. A full 30% of those talk engagement and marriage at least once a week.
Zola also found that 60% of couples said they actually planned part of their wedding before the engagement was official.
According to Dr. Jennifer Freed, a family behavioral specialist, talking about marriage before taking the plunge is absolutely critical. "Most couples go into marriage without consciously addressing issues about blending families, raising children or not, religious or spiritual values, money, chore distribution, health habits, and other fundamental components of a healthy union," she says. "Sharing deeply and authentically about each person's longings and values can bring a couple closer, and help clarify the positive intentions in combining their lives legally."
I asked my resident married friend (RMF) if she and her husband talked about getting married a lot before he proposed. Turns out, the two of them brought the topic up in conversation regularly.
"We talked about our future together a lot, and in definite terms (including what our wedding would be like)," she says. "I knew we would be getting married. But I had no idea of a timeline as to when he would pop the question. I knew he was interested in rings when he started paying closer attention to my married and engaged friends' rings. I was also NOT subtle in dropping hints of what I wanted my ring to look like -- I would find photos on Instagram or online somewhere and send him a screenshot."
Talking about the future is romantic
I live with my domestic partner. He's on my health insurance, and we share a credit card and bank account. Yet, I still feel anxious when we talk about marriage. It's not that I don't want to marry him; I just worry about the romance factor.
I find myself saying things like, "When we get married…" and "I can't wait to be your wife," without even considering the fact that he hasn't even asked me to marry him yet. I know he wants to marry me, but is talking about it spoiling the surprise of the proposal?
Dr. Freed says being able to talk about the future means your relationship is actually stronger. "A great balance is when couples can talk candidly about their future together while diligently focusing on the best they can be in the present." That balance actually sounds a hell of a lot more romantic than wondering, assuming, or feeling anxious about the future or where your partner stands.
"It's too big of a life decision to come out of nowhere," my resident engaged friend (REF) tells me. "You need to know you're on the same page. Plus, most people have an idea of the type of ring they want in their head, and communicating that information and talking about the engagement is a great way to give your partner an idea of what you want without actually shopping together so you're still surprised later!"
It wouldn't be too romantic if your partner got down on one knee, popped open the velvet box, and produced a hideous ring, now would it? You'd feel a lot like Carrie in that episode of Sex and the City when she finds that disgusting, pear-shaped engagement ring in Aidan's gym bag. (I guess it's no wonder she never actually married Aidan.)
Having a conversation about getting married is not the traditionally romantic thing to do, but it's clearly important. Gone are the days of BS betrothals and dowries and in are the days of modern romance; one that involves pooping in front of your S.O. and splitting household bills.
Saying you want to get engaged doesn't remove all the mystery
Discussing your engagement shifts the romance -- but it doesn't kill it. Instead of wondering IF your partner is going to pop the question, now you get to wonder WHEN.
"I knew I would be getting engaged in the near-ish future when I saw my now-husband had ordered a ring sizer on Amazon," my RMF says. "We share a Prime account, so I don't think he thought that one through. However, to me that could mean anything. A few weeks from now? Months? Years? I knew it was coming soon-ish, but didn't give it that much thought. He ended up proposing about five months after buying said ring sizer. When he actually proposed, I was SHOCKED. Like, so shocked I don't even think I smiled -- definitely not that laughing/crying and screaming 'YES!' reaction that I always thought I would have. It took me a good 20 minutes to actually process what was going on. Of course I said yes and was thrilled, but it caught me totally off-guard."
So, don't fret. Talking about your soon-to-be-fiancé is not jinxing the future. Those Facebook pictures with all your friends’ super-surprised engagement faces are probably genuine. Sure, she likely knew her boyfriend was going to ask her. But she didn't know the exact details.
Who says romance has to be so cut and dry? As long as you're getting married to the person of your dreams, does it really matter how the proposal went down, anyway? Something tells me your soon-to-be-fiancé will figure out how to spring it on you when you least expect it. At least they KNOW you'll say yes.
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