I’m dealing with something that is new to me and I’m kind of seeking someone who can tell me whether or not my expectations are way out of line, or if I need to compromise them; my concern is that it’s a problem where any compromise I can think of leaves everyone miserable.
My longtime boyfriend and I (pronouns = she, her, hers) are getting married. He proposed with my own key ring because the moment was so right and the location so deeply meaningful for us that he went for it sans ring. He also knows I’m not a super girly person and have said many times that I don’t need a ring. When he proposed, however, he fell over himself apologizing for not “doing it right” and having a ring. I said whatever, we can discuss that later, right now all I’m focused on is this commitment I cannot wait to make official with the person who matters most in my world. I put the key ring on a necklace and proceeded to wear it nonstop, because I was damn proud of his ingenious substitute and loved what it symbolized.
A few weeks later, the key ring disintegrated in a mineral hot spring. (Pro tip: when they tell you silver will tarnish and you should remove all jewelry, believe them.) I balked at the loss of my symbol and he said we would go out and get a real one together. At this point I became very excited at the prospect of going out as a couple and hunting for something special from an antique store. I’m not a big “real jewelry with real rocks and metals” kind of person, but that has made me excited by the prospect of my one “real” piece being the most meaningful thing I will ever wear.
I found a jeweler in our city who specializes in antique rings and found a beautiful art deco one from the 1930’s for $1k — according to Google this is a bargain basement price for an engagement ring today. People spending money on me makes me a little queasy, so I was really excited to have found a place that had beautiful, unique rings that were ‘affordable’. I guess it may help to point out we live in the Bay Area so our work takehome is higher than other regions. Price expectations across all money-related things are skewed and insane here by default.
He did not see it this way. “That’s so much!” “Well I have no idea how much they cost.””I didn’t realize we were actually going to go get one.” All of these responses have me in flames. My problems as I see them:
– He has said several times now over several months that he has no idea how much they cost. Why then hasn’t he done any research in between saying this? In between saying we will get one?
– His attempt to say he didn’t know we’d actually get one is bullshit, per this letter so far.
– It’s NOT too much in my research. What makes this worse is that I make more than him but this entire time I was under the impression he has a lot of money in savings and is a good saver, barely spends. As of our fight last night, apparently none of this is true! In defense of his “too costly” assertion he stated he doesn’t have enough saved up; my eyes almost fell out of my mouth.
Clearly we have a bigger financial discussion looming on the near horizon. What really irks me is that now I feel like I’m forced to insist he be a man of his word, which means him spending money on me he apparently doesn’t have. And now I feel like even if he had the money, every time I looked at my ring I’d be reminded of the reminding and the nagging and the pushing to get him to even get one. I’d rather not have one at all, but I’m still really pissed off that he apparently doesn’t do any follow-through on what he says or promises.
He’s an idea guy, and always comes up with great vacation plans. He does zero follow-through, so I’m the one who always has to do all the reservations and pay upfront, even though I work 9-5 M-F and he doesn’t have to be at work until 4pm each day. It’s been the same with the wedding at large: we want it this year so I’ve been doing shit tons of venue research and sending him tons of emails filled with links to ones for him to vet. I asked him to start doing the same and you’d think I asked him to grow a uterus and give birth.
I feel like I have to do all the emotional labor and literal actions to see things through. I’m sick and tired of having to make an adult understand that you can’t just say something like “i want you to have a ring” and then not follow through or attempt to change my mind. True I’ve always been fairly indifferent about having one, but now that we’re engaged and he has time and again SAID he wants to get one, I’m super excited and really want one! But now I’ll feel like a greedy nag if I push for it.
He’s the kind of person who tries to change what I want by pointing out things he disagrees with or thinks could be done differently (his way), because he doesn’t like change and doesn’t want to confront having to do something he doesn’t want to. I’m sick to death of this, it’s insulting and I’m not an idiot and will NOT be gaslit.
This is probably insanely long and I’m not even sure anymore what my question is. I guess I am hoping for advice as to whether or not my expectations for a ring are worthy of pursuing, or if I need to just drop it. I’m prepared for anyone to tell me I’m being stubborn and selfish — if this were a letter from someone else I’d probably say as much myself, but now it’s me and it’s just how I feel. The not keeping his word is the core frustration here — it’s like I can’t trust what he says and that he’ll do it without me reminding him or him changing his mind and reacting like I’m insane for bringing it up again.
Anyway, feel free to tell me this is all par for the marriage course and that communication is key as well as compromise. I already asked him to come straight home tonight so we can talk more and try to get to the heart of it. This whole letter makes him sound like a trash monster but I hope the internet can trust that I love him and he is more than just this debacle. Debacles, plural? Probably.
Between A Rock And A Hard Place
Dear Rock & Hard Place (My nicknames for my beloved MFA thesis advisors btw):
I’m not sure what your fiancé’s plan is, exactly. It seems to be:
“Hi, I have less than $1K in my bank account. Let’s plan a wedding in the Bay Area* this year, by which I mean, you plan it and I’ll be here to poke holes in your plans and complain that things are expensive.”
Um, great plan! Great! Everything is great! Super great!
Engagement rings are just symbols and patriarchal traditions blah blah blah and the wedding industrial complex blah blah blah and you don’t need money for a wedding, check out this Pinterest for the time I wove my own dress out of the leaves I raked myself and the recycled cake I baked in a mason jar from kitchen leavings blah blah blah. Symbols have meaning. Engagement rings obviously mean something to him, since he constantly apologized for not buying one and kept promising you’d pick one out. And they mean something to you, something that you got excited about. Except right now your engagement ring (or lack of one) kinda means “I am full of great ideas but always a bit disappointing in the execution. Still up for it?”
I believe 100% that you would have been cool with no engagement ring if he hadn’t kept bringing it up. You would have picked out some kind of rockin’ single purpose wedding ring down the road, maybe. It’s also not ridiculous to think “We’ll pick a ring out together!” means “We’ll pick a ring out together” the same way “Will you marry me?” means “Will you marry me?” The whole thing was his idea, so, how are you wrong for getting excited about an exciting thing? He created this problem! It’s not cool to get someone excited about something and then be surprised and annoyed when they are actually excited! And then to gaslight them! “I didn’t think we would actually get one.” Okay, buddy. Sure.
To tell the truth it’s the vacation planning thing that made me yell “No!” as I read your letter. Anybody can have good vacation ideas. Not everyone can get you both to your destination with your luggage intact and decent lodgings and three good meals a day and a plan for taking in the sights. (What if you met somebody who could do the second part, too? Is that a scary question?) Anybody can say “Let’s get married!” in a beautiful romantic moment. Not everybody can say “Ok, wedding planning terrifies me and I don’t know what I’m doing, but I want us to do it together, so where do we start? Is there a textbook? Do I Google it?” Not knowing how to do something isn’t a problem. Not knowing and then shitting on the other person’s ideas when you come from a place of ignorance is a big problem.
If this guy is smart he’ll quietly save up a little money and then go and buy you that fancy-ass ring and propose to you in a scene out of a motherfucking romance novel, again, not because you need a ring to be married but because it’s a way for him to demonstrate that he pays attention and can follow through. All the evidence you have now is that he doesn’t really follow through, and that seems like an annoying trait to build the rest of your life around. I feel like I’m regressing back in time, ruining Feminism while wearing a pillbox hat and wagging my finger all, “Don’t get married until he puts a ring on that finger, Gurl!” and it’s not like you’d need to sell it if he broke the engagement and left you after despoiling your “honor”, but there is something here in “Hey, are you committed to this, bro? Committed enough to save up a little $ and make a budget and Google some easily findable things before you promise something to somebody? Committed enough to research banquet spaces for an hour before you leave for work each day until we find something that works with our budget?”
I know there can be compromise here, but I’m not sure that you should be the initiator of it. Forgoing the ring feels like setting a depressing precedent of you saying “naw it’s cool fam I didn’t really want that anyway” while you kick dirt. And you break up, he’ll tell the story that it was because you wanted a fancy ring and he couldn’t afford it, even though if you break up it will really be because he expects a life where he gets to be the “great idea guy” and you get to be the “does all the work and pays for things guy.”
My advice to you, dear Rock, is sloooooooooooow doooooooown. Slow alllllllllllllllllllllllllll of this down.
Stop all venue-googling and take 2018 wedding dates off the calendar. Two reasons:
- If he only has that much money in the bank, that’s not a crime or a mark against character, but it is a sign that you need to do some serious budgeting and saving, together before you throw $ at a party. Where did he think a 2018 Bay Area wedding budget was coming from? What are his expectations of what you would spend and how that would all go? Until and unless you are 100% transparent and cool about finances, do not marry. At all.
- It’s not fair for you to do all the work. Even when all is happy and you are a great team, wedding planning is like having an annoying 2nd job where you only spend money. It’s a ton of effort and a recipe for daily decision fatigue. If he’s appalled at the idea of putting time and effort into this, then, cool, it means that he’s not ready to do it.
No, seriously, stop doing any work about the wedding until he initiates some work about the wedding. If that makes you say “Well, if I do that Captain we’ll never get married” imagine me looking at you all professor-like and saying “Hrmmm, I see” while I stroke my beard** with one hand and the elbow patch on my tweed blazer with the other. A fun thing you’re both excited about won’t happen unless you do literally all of it? How interesting.
If you don’t already live together, don’t join households now. Acquire no jointly-owned pets. Open no joint bank accounts.
When you talk about it, the conversation could be “I’m really excited about getting married, but I only want to plan a wedding when we can both do it together, so if you’re not into researching venues with me right now, let’s table all of it until you’re ready to dive in.”
The conversation could be, “Hey, what kind of venue do you think you want? (MR. IDEA GUY!!!!!) How much do you want to spend on it? How will we afford that?”
Or, “I don’t know how to walk back this ring thing or what to do about it. I honestly wouldn’t have cared if you hadn’t kept bringing it up, but you did, and now I do. I definitely don’t want you to be stressed about affording something, but I do think we need to talk seriously about money before we go any further with planning anything. How do we make this all fun again?”
See also “Um do you think we’re really ready to get married, this all seems to be stressing you out, howabout we just date more is that cool.”
I believe that you love this guy, that there are ways that he delights you. I believe that it feels so exciting to experience the way the world smiles upon a bride! I believe it can feel scary to realize that something is way more expensive in reality than it was in your head, and to just feel daunted by the whole thing! I also believe that there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know about him (like the true state of his finances)(how the hell he thinks y’all are gonna afford a wedding where you live) and a lot of stuff that you do know about him (like his lack of follow-through and planning)(the way you have to do all the work)(how frustrated that makes you feel). It’s okay not to get married, even if you kinda sorta said you would and you changed your Facebook status already. It’s okay to have very long engagements. It’s okay if the process of planning an expensive and complicated party and determining what traditions and symbols are truly important to you become a test of whether this is the right thing to do at all. It’s okay if your story someday is “I loved him so much but we had really different priorities, and getting engaged is when we really figured out that it wouldn’t work.”
Symbols have meaning. Does this one mean what you want it to?
*The area around San Francisco, California, USA. It is very expensive to live there.
**More of a single witchy chin hair that appears, full grown, out of nowhere. Wtf is aging.
Moderation Request: If you think engagements and weddings are altogether silly maybe just peace out of this discussion? The translation of “I don’t really get why people care about any of this stuff” is “I have nothing to add here, but I thought I’d talk anyway!” There will be other posts, other topics, other days. Thank you!