#1073: “Promises and symbols and weddings, oh my!”

Hi Captain,

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

465 thoughts on “#1073: “Promises and symbols and weddings, oh my!”

    1. I divorced this guy, too. Having to do all the emotional and financial labor of the wedding and the six year marriage basically ruined most of my 20s. Don’t be me, either.

    2. Same. Doing all the wedding planning now leads to doing all the household planning (grocery lists/shopping, bill paying, finding and furnishing your next house/apartment, family planning, freaking everything) in the future. While a wedding is like a single project-management dealio, going forward your huge risk here is that it will be only you working on all the project management on all the things.

          1. Yep, same here. In fact, the more I read the comments about others who have divorced this guy, the more I realize how much emotional labor I still put into dealing with my ex and his relationship with my daughter.

          2. Huh. Me too. That just occurred to me. I did all the wedding planning, lo these many moons ago. 18 years ago. Now that I think about it, I distinctly remember getting annoyed with him because he wouldn’t contribute. But I was young and dumb and I sucked it up and just got everything done on my own. And… now I’m divorced as of 5 years ago (and EVERY DAY I celebrate my freedom) and have nearly full custody of three little kids. Not because he’s abusive, or because I’m naturally super duper maternal or whatnot, but because 1) I care more and 2) I’m way more capable of getting shit done. And there is a LOT of child-related shit to be done in my world.

            LW, this is the very tiniest tip of the iceberg. He is clearly showing you how the rest of your joint lives would be together.

        1. Having to do all the emotional and practical labor of child-rearing is CRUSHING. Don’t ask me how I know, I’m just extrapolating from 50%, which can be crushing enough on its own at times…

          1. You are correct. As a woman who has had nearly full custody of 3 kids ages 8, 10, and 13 for the past 5 years, it IS crushing! Good thing they’re cute…

          1. This is me 100%. ex didn’t get off the couch to propose, after 7 years when I said I wanted a divorce, he said “ok” and sat on the couch, Never got his own lawyer or showed in court. I packed his boxes for him.

        1. Haha, my version of this guy is divorcing me. Guess how quickly that’s going?

          I’m still doing all the emotional labour re child rearing. Meanwhile, this week he emailed me “guess whose gloves I took to work” with a pic of the child’s gloves on his desk. I nearly replied before thinking WTF, I DON’T CARE.

      1. WHILE being told you’re doing it wrong, and forced to comfort your poor (literally) helpless manchild. eek. Been there on multiple first, second, third dates, left that after giving the traditional three chances. So I’m still unmarried. YAY!

    3. I’ve divorced this guy and narrowly managed to avoid marrying him a second time. Thirding the “don’t be me.”

    4. I divorced this guy too. The only thing he did for the wedding was rent a tux. And it did not get better. Big ideas (“let’s buy this fixer-upper house”) and no follow-through. Don’t do this to yourself, LW.

      1. Ha! Me too! I even sold his business when we moved I sold the house organized my friends to paint he has no friends. I basically realized I had 2 kids and one was constantly sabotaging my happiness. All the while playing ‘clueless’. He’s not clueless. If this was a job would he pretend to an employer that ‘oh hey I didn’t think you actually wanted that deliverable I promised…’ Look at it that way. This guy is all talk no substance.

        1. I remember the moment when I realized that my poor, helpless husband who just “wasn’t good” at making appointments or paying bills on time or cooking his children a meal with some kind of plant matter in it had managed not only to hold down a challenging job, but also excel at it. Talk about your epiphanies…

          1. Oh yes – “You can survive in a war zone, but you can’t make a f*ing call to a f*ing service hotline? Honestly?”

            Somehow this nicely ties in with the many discussions on emotional labour and how the work of caring about stuff is so often delegated to women.

      2. You have many twins in the world Willow (and so does your ex!). Friend of mine had this same thing happen except I’m pretty sure he didn’t manage even a tux… She was a particular fan of “I have no job because I won’t search for one, but also can’t parent our child while I’m at home all day”

    5. I also just divorced this guy last year. Imagine having this discussion once:

      Him: “I want the thing.”
      Me: “Ok, come help me do/make the thing.”
      Him: “But I don’t know how to do/make the thing.”
      Me: “All I did was read the instructions on the box. Here, I’ll show you.”
      Him: “But you do/make the thing so well. You do it.”

      Now imagine having this discussion several times a week for 20 years. Welcome to the fifth circle of Hell.



        The soon to be ex wife of the man who used this to get her to do everything.

        1. Inorite!?! It’s not a compliment; it’s a cop-out. So, combine that conversation with:

          Me: “Come make/do this thing with me.”
          Him: “Oh, I’m not in the mood to make/do this thing.”
          Me: “Ok.”
          Me: [Made/Did the thing.]
          Him: “Oooh, can I have some of the thing?”

          Seriously, how did I do this for 20 years? Ugh.

        2. A friend of mine was furious when this happened:

          Husband of friend: Honey, the baby’s diaper failed! There’s poop on the floor and the baby!
          Friend: Rats. OK. Please clean it up.
          Husband of friend: But honey! You do it so much better!

          1. @the gold digger: So much!
            Actually, I have a kid’s book about 2 puppies, and one day they have to clean up their room. One puppy is like ‘I’m not good at it. She is much better at it so it’s better if she does ir right?’. Their mom says it’s time to practice then, and makes the puppy who said this clean up all on his own.
            I wonder how that would work against the ‘you do it so much better’ arguments.

      2. Now imagine him asking you if he can take credit for the thing and then, when you bemusedly answer “yes,” ACTUALLY TAKING CREDIT FOR THE THING, telling everyone that he had made the thing, basking all the compliments for the thing while you stand there nodding while people tell you how good he is at doing the thing.

        That marriage didn’t make it two years. Thank god (NO SERIOUSLY THANK GOD) for birth control.

      3. OMG, this.

        Imagine, he’s in the kitchen, I’m on the couch with a bad migraine and this conversation ensues when I ask him to make me the one food that doesn’t make me feel more sick. Not a dramatization or exaggeration.
        “How do I make this frozen mac & cheese?”
        “Um, in the microwave? Instructions are right there on the box.”
        “But how long does it go in for? Do I need to remove the plastic?”
        “Read the box, it’s right there no the box.”
        “But don’t you know? You’ve done this before.”
        “Read the instructions on the box. That’s what I did. You can do it too.”

        Or, he’s watching TV or playing video games. I’m doing chores.
        Me: “Hey, the lawn needs mowing. Do you want to mow the lawn, or clean the kitchen and bathroom?”
        Him: “I’ll mow the lawn.”
        “Great, thanks.”
        a week later:
        Me; “The lawn is getting really long. You still planning on mowing it?
        “Yes. I said I’ll do it! You don’t need to hassle me.”
        “Okay, it’s just that you said you’d do it last week. If the grass gets any longer it will be too long to cut effectively and will clog the mower.”
        “Yeah, yeah. I’ll take care of it.”
        another week later:
        “Hey, so the lawn is basically a field. We’re those people in the neighborhood.”
        “Fine. I’m going.”
        10 minutes later he’s back inside and says “Can’t mow the lawn. The mower is broken.” The mower is not broken. The mower is clogged because the grass is so high, and he didn’t adjust the blade height.

      4. “But you do/make the thing so well. You do it.”
        Yeah, and you didn’t pop out of the womb knowing how to do it. You learned, at some point, and he can too! Christ almighty.

      5. Oh, I know that game. It’s something kids pull when they’re teenagers. Also, the “do a half-assed job so they’ll get fed up and do it themselves” battle of wills. Sorry, NOPE.

    6. I’m divorcing this guy rn. Although he wasn’t the idead guy. He was just the “provided financially but no other support” guy. That sounds harsh to put it so simply like that but for the sake of time & adding to the convo – don’t do it.

    7. I divorced this guy too. Seriously, LW, if you think you’re doing all the emotional labor now … it will NOT get better when you’re married. I left because I was exhausted and bitter and angry, and that was only two years in! Please don’t make the same mistake.

      1. Damn straight he has I stood by and let my friend marry him….worst decision ever! LW Don’t marry this man pleaaase!
        It may seem scary but there are many grown ass men in the world who can make a promise AND follow through. Yours is not one of them, unless he actively steps up and changes himself.

        1. I not only let my friend marry him, I officiated their wedding when she asked me to because he hadn’t gotten an officiant like he was supposed to. At the actual ceremony, one of her attendants had to stand up on his side because he’d failed to communicate to his groomsmen that the wedding was happening out of state and she had all 3 of her attendants while he just had a best man. He constantly took on more debt and responsibilities that he didn’t fulfill and he resented her for taking care of those responsibilities because it made him feel bad as a man that his wife was working constantly to keep them afloat while he had these big ideas but absolutely no follow through. (They are now divorced. She is married to a man who treats her well and follows through on his commitments. He is doing exactly what he always did in these situations and not following through on anything.)

          LW. My dear, dear LW. Do not marry this man at this time. If he is all talk and no follow through about things like engagement rings, wedding planning, etc, what evidence do you have that he will follow through on bigger, more expensive things like saving for a house, caring for children if you have them, caring for elderly/disabled parents if that happens, caring for a pet day to day (not just when it’s fun and games but when it’s cleaning up poop, going to the vet, giving baths, walking when the weather isn’t great out), or any other thing you might wish to undertake with a partner? The fact that he gaslights you and makes you feel petty and selfish for wanting him to uphold his end of the deal THAT HE MADE, that he’s misled you about the state of his finances, that he pushes for a wedding date in the 2018 calendar year but doesn’t want to do any of the leg work to make that happen… I’m not saying he’s a bad person, or that you shouldn’t care for him, but I am suggesting that marriage at this time would probably only lead to more frustration, resentment, gaslighting, and eventually having to make all of his arrangements for a divorce, too.

    8. I’m in the process of divorcing this guy. Process obviously means I have to do it all and initiate all conversations about it and sit through panic about forms etc. I had to find him a housemate when I moved out. Also ruined my finances and ability to work out how much emotional labour is the right amount and wasted almost all of my 20s.

    9. I’m still married to this guy, but questioning it more and more. In 9 years it has gotten better, in that he now reads the back of microwave or oven ready made food for instructions before asking me how to cook it. It has not gotten better in that he wanted a house, but doesn’t do any of the upkeep for it like yard mowing, toilet scrubbing, etc. It has also not gotten better in terms of communication, as evidenced by a major mental health crisis for me (to the point where my doctor recommended I utilize FMLA) and even though I use my words and say “What I need from you to feel supported is X” he still is emotionally unavailable and basically just saying “I love you” more. With some regularity we have the conversation around “I can’t take care of all this alone. I feel X and Y. What I need to keep this working is A and B.” He says that he’ll do better, but his words don’t match his actions.

      This guy probably won’t change. Unless he can show for several consistent months that he has changed (not that he’s putting in the effort, but real change) consider if you want to spend the rest of your life doing all of the emotional labor and feeling like this. Don’t be like me and wait until you have a mortgage and car payments and it would be difficult if not credit destroying to separate to really ask yourself if this is the life you want.

      1. I’m in the same boat. 13 years, 5 married. He doesn’t work, I do. He hasn’t had a job since he finished his masters 5 years ago. I work all day, come home, make dinner, empty the dishes from last night, load the new dirty dishes and clean up from dinner. Every. Night. And he asks why I’m cranky and I say it’s because he won’t help. But he still doesn’t help. And now he really wants to have a baby. Um, I already have a child, it’s him!!!

        LW please don’t marry this guy. I planned my own wedding. And bought my own engagement ring.

        1. Be careful, Liz. If he continues to not work and you decide to divorce at some time, you may be liable to pay support. I barely missed having to pay support to my ex when we finally got a divorce. We had been married for a lot longer than you have been (23 years) and he had actually worked until the last 2, but he was suffering from depression and could have claimed that he was unable to work and I would have been on the hook for support for the next 12 years. He didn’t ask, thank God, mostly because I would have forced him to PROVE he couldn’t work and he would have had to look for some kind of job and he didn’t want to do that. But to protect myself I had to give up a huge chunk of our assets, including signing our house over to him and getting nothing in return. It was worth it and it would have been worth paying support to leave, but it was a shock. Make sure to protect yourself.

    10. I have also divorced this guy. I should have listened to the signs through the whole process, but especially when I cried at the rehearsal (not happy tears).

    11. Moi aussi! Lessons learned: 1.Don’t ignore red flags, or tiptoe around them, thinking that they “will get fixed”, and 2 take good care of yourself; don’t put all your emotional eggs (and work) into one Relationship Basket.

  1. LW, I agree with the Captain that this is not a good sign, and at bare minimum you need to slow down big time.

    In case you have to call the wedding off/break up:

    I have seen this process from the inside, as a would-be bridesmaid. The bride’s situation had a lot in common with yours (her fiancé refused to speak to her about their finances — it turned out he had been concealing some enormous debts), and the way wedding planning was going was making her have serious doubts about the future of the marriage. But calling off the engagement felt very scary too: announcements had been made, deposits had been put down. She was worried that calling the whole thing off would be very embarrassing to her as well as costly.

    I say to you: the people who love you and would have attended your wedding would not want you to marry someone who wasn’t right for you just so they could attend your big party. And if you’ve gotten to the point where deposits are down, forfeiting some money now because you don’t feel good about this is going to sting, but it’s a lot less expensive than a divorce.

    That bride did call it off in the end, and things were hard for a while, but she is in a much better place now, dating someone whose priorities align much better with her own, and the people in her life are sincerely relieved and happy for her.

    1. This part here, “it’s a lot less expensive than a divorce,” is the basic thesis of what I was thinking while reading this letter.

      Yes, you CAN get divorced if a marriage doesn’t work out, but it’s expensive and tiring and a colossal hassle, even if it’s not near the social no-no it was a few decades ago.

      I would feel VERY hesitant about making life-altering promises (like marriage vows) to someone who has repeatedly demonstrated that he can’t/won’t keep his word.

      1. expensive and tiring and a colossal hassle

        Indeed. Three words: “community property state.”

        1. YEP ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Please slow down, LW. I wish 25-year-old me had. Might have avoided this six-figure divorce.

          1. That is exactly why I brought it up. The rules are complicated but anybody getting married in California or the other community property states should know what they’re getting into, especially if the partners are entering into the marriage on unequal financial footings and/or with unequal earning power.

      2. This. This right here times a million. —-> I would feel VERY hesitant about making life-altering promises (like marriage vows) to someone who has repeatedly demonstrated that he can’t/won’t keep his word.

        A vow is precisely and exactly one’s given word. Which you already know he can’t or won’t keep.

        1. I can vouch for this as somebody who did just that. Worked out about as well as you’d expect. And divorce is pretty effing embarrassing, too, FYI…

          1. Seriously. You think calling off an engagement is embarrassing? Try getting divorced after less than two years.

            (Note to anyone holding off on a divorce out of embarrassment or social pressure: DO IT. Yeah, it’s embarrassing, but this is your life we’re talking about. Don’t let naysayers and haters (who may exist only in your mind) stand in the way of your happiness.)

    2. Also, as a somewhat older poster here, I remember when a lot of my friends and peers were getting married. I also remember that several (as in, more than one!) cancelled their engagement. I’m sure it felt huge and scary and embarrassing at the time. But now, a decade or more removed, it’s hardly thought about or discussed. They have also partnered up and married other people and had fabulous weddings! I post this comment only to say that if you DO decide to call off the engagement, it’s not the end of the world.

      1. I’ve recently called off an engagement, and received similar advice to this leading up to it. I was very scared of the reactions, as I knew it’d come as a surprise, and I thought I’d end up getting berated or ostracized (my jerk brain assumes the worst). But all reactions have been supportive – the worst is folks who are sad, but still want the best for me! So I can second this even as someone going through it right now.

    3. Marrying someone because you’d be embarrassed to not marry them is a really bad reason to marry someone.

      1. It is, but it wouldn’t feel that simple. Presumably there were lots of good reasons you wanted to marry them to start with, then something happened and you don’t want to anymore, but thinking about not doing just feels so awful. It can be hard to tease out exactly what’s causing “I feel awful when I think about calling it off”. (I haven’t been married/engaged, but I have experienced the “do I really not want to do this or do I just not want to tell anybody” thing)

    4. My brother called off his wedding nine days beforehand.

      And yes it was horrible and sad and upsetting and the bride was heartbroken and it cost a fortune and I have. Never. Been. Prouder of him. The bride to be was a trainwreck and a financial leech and borderline emotionally abusive, and he looked at how it felt planning a wedding with her and thought…nope.

      Would it have been better if he’d seen the red flags earlier? Yes of course. Has he regretted it for one single second since? I don’t think so.

  2. Wow…good advice, obviously! I feel like I should share the general advice “remember you’re getting married, not planning a wedding.” Is he making any effort on the marriage front at all? Or are you going to be the one getting the license, etc. It sounds like it would be you…and that’s just more info to consider.

  3. This is really great advice, and I totally agree–slow way down, LW, because if you don’t even know for sure how much savings/debt/etc your partner has you really shouldn’t (LIKE REALLY SHOULDN’T) even consider joining yourself legally to them. Some (maybe most? I am not an expert) debts he accrued before and debts he incurs after marriage will stay his, but if he is bad with money now, he is not going to get magically better when his bad-with-money-ness affects another person. In fact, he might get worse. Some people do.

    Also: you are allowed to want a ring. The ring you want is pretty reasonable! Rings often go with the whole shebang! You get to want the piece of jewelry you wear as a symbol of your commitment to be the prettiest thing you’ve ever put on your finger. Anyone who says otherwise should not be listened to.

    1. Agreed on all counts. I married a man with some significant debt, who is not great with money, and who is not great at planning things, but I did so knowing all of that and knowing I was okay with being the person who plans things and manages our finances. This works for us (so far) because we were really honest about this up front, and because I am kind of controlling and love planning, and because he is willing to let me be the authority on those things, and because he contributes to our household in other ways which really work for us.

      LW – spend time now opening the lines of communication and being really honest with each other (and yourself) about what you want for the future, and how you’ll each contribute to it. Being the one who does and plans things doesn’t have to suck, but if your SO can’t change his MO to something more grateful and supportive, it probably will.

      1. I’m the same way with money – my spouse doesn’t want to manage our finances (big picture wise) and I don’t want him to frankly! He came into our relationship with some debt and a shame box of unopened mail. At his request I opened all the shame mail and organized/culled it, and then he screwed his courage to the wall and slowly called all of those debtors and paid the bills. Took about a year. I generally stayed out of it except for cheering him on and playing Evil Wife to one debt collector who was insisting on immediate payment over the phone.

        Today, probably another year later, he’s an active participant in our budgeting and is starting to get interested in more long range plans. And a lot of that is because I sewed up the things that could hurt both of us (like our mortgage) but otherwise didn’t do things for him.

      2. I had to teach my spouse-to-be how to balance his checkbook. No debt, but just no idea how money worked. When we got married, we agreed that I’d manage the finances and he’d do the laundry (until the baby came along, but other chores were swapped in). I do the planning of vacations and the managing of the paying of both our student loans. He makes sure the dishes get done and the cat litter is changed. Someone doesn’t have to be good with money in order to contribute to the relationship. Just as long as they do contribute.

  4. If he doesn’t have money to pay for a 1k ring (which is, from my limited knowledge of such things, a great price for an engagement ring) then he has in no way prepared for the cost of a wedding. In the Bay Area?! That place is crazy expensive. And the planning that goes with it have caused a lot of stressed out couples that have very hard conversations in the process. Find out what his financial plan for his future is like before you take any other steps forward for sure.

    1. One thought: it’s possible that family might be covering some wedding costs, so it could be that money hasn’t come up in the same way when talking about wedding costs?

      1. Maybe, but you still gotta know all the dirty finance details. Needing money doesn’t stop after the rings go on.

        1. Yeah, there’s a huge difference between
          “I can’t afford $1000 but have been able to hide this from you until now”
          “I have a budget for everything, and something that expensive doesn’t currently fit in my budget – let me work the numbers to sort out a timeline”

          It is critical to talk about this before getting married. Your partner’s debts become your debts, and that can become a really expensive decision. If things are particularly bad then any money lost on deposits might seem like a cheap mistake…

          1. Just FYI, it’s not necessarily true that your patterns debts become yours, at least legally. It varies by jurisdiction.

          2. @Muddie Mae Suggins:
            Fair point, although I think debt sharing surprises more people than it should.

          3. I’ve had exes’ debts incurred long after two divorces follow me. One was in the form of some legal filing that while groundless, required action on my part to avoid being made financially liable. Other klingons were dings on my credit record that I had to correct & phone calls/collection notices to my house that neither ex had even ever heard of. Credit/debt agencies apparently mash any & all associated names together to locate any warm body they can stick with the debt. The exes didn’t care, but obvs I did & had to deal w/the fallout.

            Also, I married this guy twice. Way way better to postpone/cancel marriage (or any legally binding activity) than get stuck being the bag holder. 1st husband said all the words but did none of the action. Eventually I got sick of it (15 years of trauma and rage) and got him to move out so we could ‘work on things’. At first he just wanted his servant back, but I said only after he went to self-managed counseling. He refused and spent the following nearly-20 years sadly proving I was right to bail. I’d have been stuck with a multiple DUI felon, unemployable, alcoholic, paying for wrecked vehicles etc.
            I had enough warning signals that I should have never married him, but I was young & optimistic. YMMV, OP, but waiting for actions to match words won’t hurt.

    2. Also I see a lot more red flags in this than others are seeming to see. OP is saying that there’s lot of things where he’s trying to change her mind on stuff subtly by being negative about her ideas. This is huge. This is not just about not being able to afford a ring. This is about someone who gives the appearance of being something he’s not. Not necessarily penny pinching, but able to save.

      Somehow this guy has convinced her that he easily had $1000 in the bank (which is not a lot of money, even if he can’t afford to buy a ring with it because he needs it for a cushion if he has a problem with the car, for instance.) Something about the way he’s acting made her think that “wow I found a really cheap gorgeous ring, and it’s $1000 which is seriously amazingly cheap for antique deco. And my guy has money in the bank so $1000 is fine and dandy.” Why did she think he had money? What had he done to make her think that, and now what else has he told her about himself directly or indirectly that is also not true?

      Think about this OP. You’ve been subtly convinced to finance stuff whilst he’s letting you think he’s saving money in a bank for future use. And that’s fair. He saves, you spend and when you need money voila savings. But it’s a huge big lie.

      Back in the boonie days a friend of mine got married to a Catholic. They had this required marriage counselling thing and one of the things she showed me was this questionnaire where they asked stuff about how you view money and other stuff and facts about yourself. And they were supposed to be able to answer about themselves AND each other. Maybe google one of those pre marital counselling questionnaires and see if you find any red flags in your knowledge about him and his history/actions.

      I’m more worried about the fact that he’s seriously gaslighting (I have savings, I am a good saver.) About things that will completely derail your life if they’re not true.

      1. She mentions that boyfriend “rarely spends” and that’s what gave her the impression he had money saved up. Which means he’s either mean with money, blowing it on something not obvious to her, or that 4pm job pays shit/no longer exists.

        1. She posted an update to this thread – he works in restaurants and makes a lot less than she does. I’d scope out the update before throwing out more assumptions, the pay discrepancy between “works in tech” and “works in restaurants” is all too real.

      2. Please be careful about labelling $1000 “not a lot of money”. I own my own place, but have lots of debt and a not-great-paying job, and live in overdraft much of the time, and $1000 is a shit-ton of money to me.

        Everything is relative.

        1. THANK YOU. Certainly misleading your SO about finances is not ok, and she absolutely should know about his finances before they marry, but there’s a lot of reasons you wouldn’t have a grand to spend that have nothing to do with whether you’re responsible.

    3. So the only people who get married in the Bay Area are people who have significant disposable income? We live in London where you can easily drop £10K on a wedding; but you can also have a fabulous wedding for way under £1K. I’m confident that the Bay Area is no different. Weddings are made of people.

      My question is whether he *has* done any wedding research, whether he has ideas where he wants to get married and how it can be within the common budget.

      And I’m giving him a break for the ‘I didn’t know we were going to get a ring’: If he’s got $1K in his savings account, of course he would not feel that a $1K is ‘a bargain’. ‘We will get a ring’, to me, would mean ‘let’s make a date to go to a couple of jewellers and see what’s out there, and discover what I like’, not ‘I will pick something that you, my fiancé who I know doesn’t like jewellery all that much will pay for’. It’s such a personal thing, and a thing you should do _together_. I don’t think my then-finance (now husband) would have reacted well to ‘by the way, I’ve picked out a thing for you to spend a significant chunk of money on.’ Nor would I, had the shoe be on the other foot.

      1. The only people who have weddings of any size to speak of in the Bay Area are people who have significant disposable income. Or, I suppose, big savings. Or a willingness to incur credit card debt. My pleasant and homey wedding (no one would have called it fabulous) *in a suburb of a much cheaper area* cost well over $10K, sixteen years ago. Even if you just want a few dozen people and a cake, you are going to wind up renting a room to put it in, and that comes with either rental charges or food and beverage minimums and those add up fast.

        I know that London has a reputation as a high COL city, but the ways that come through in London can be surprisingly different than the ways it comes through in the Bay Area, and I want to defend the LW’s budget concerns some.

        1. I know that the Bay Area is an expensive one, but no city can survive without teachers, street sweepers, supermarket shelf stackers, cleaners, restaurant staff or [insert people who make minimum wage or less], and they live *somewhere*, and they have weddings and other family events *somewhere* on money scraped together.

          People *choose* to spend money on weddings. And if they that’s their disposable income, that’s their choice, though I’d still like to take them aside and make them consider what other lasting dreams they could fulfil with that money. But when there’s pressure involved to spend $$$ because ‘that’s what engagement rings/dresses/venues/dinners cost’, and people drain their savings or take on debts to fulfil society expectations, I’ll push back. A fabulous wedding is one where everybody invited has a great time, and which everyone can look back on with fond memories.

          That’s the price you need to keep an eye on.

          1. Yes to this!

            I had a cheap-ass wedding but there was still *SOME MONEY* involved for stuff like, a place! Chairs to sit in! Accessible bathrooms! So that those people invited CAN be comfortable and have a good time! I do not think “you don’t need any money for a wedding you silly money-spending person” is a useful piece of advice.

          2. The Bay Area is in the midst of an ongoing crisis concerning the fact that the area is unaffordable for teachers, street sweepers, supermarket shelf stackers, etc. The state and city housing agencies there have been helping people move to Nevada.

            The US has a SERIOUS problem with income inequality that has been causing problems for a long time and is going to keep causing problems. “A wedding in the Bay Area costs many many dollars” is the benign end of a problem that has many far more dangerous aspects.

  5. Oh my god. DO NOT MARRY THIS GUY. Don’t. Please. I beg you. I’m sure you love him! But this letter made all the alarm bells go off. I am a feminist, and I also have a lovely husband who proposed with an engagement ring because I think shiny things are fun and then who jointly planned a wedding with me because it was OUR DAY, not mine, not his, OURS. We had a blast. You deserve someone who will take on the burdens equally without shitting all over your ideas and desires. You do not deserve to do all the emotional labor forever! Hold out for someone better.

    1. Yes! These things do not have to be “par for the course” in this situation! If it’s not the dynamic you want, don’t participate in it! I promise there are alternatives. I also got a shiny ring and jointly-planned wedding and a fairly equitable share of emotional labor. It’s not as rare as patriarchal narratives would have you believe.

    2. I just got out of this relationship and I cannot even tell you how overjoyed I am never to do his emotional labor again (or all the household labor while he told me how bad I am at adulting). I stayed because I loved him, and it was super draining. Love is not enough.

  6. Pre-marital counseling could be a good venue for you two to talk through some of this stuff with a third party, which could make it easier/more structured to approach difficult topics. If you have a faith tradition you could ask your clergy member, or find a couples counselor in your area. There are also lots of resources/guides/workbooks out there online. If you are going to move forward with getting married, this is the time to work this stuff out, and there are tons of resources available for just this stage of a relationship. Best of luck!

    1. I second this entirely. These conversations can be really hard, and getting married can involve a lot of them because there’s a lot of, well “due diligence” that goes into merging two sets of finances, households, and so on, and with that comes awkward conversations about things you don’t really talk about while you’re dating. Sometimes a little help from an experienced professional can make these conversations more productive.

    2. I would be rather cautious about faith based pre-marital counselling as a way of approaching this. YMMV, but in my experience they don’t necessarily raise or support the concept of equality in mental labour and decision making.

      1. I think it really depends on what faith tradition/denomination you’re talking about. I mention it because it’s one (often) free resource that’s out there for people if they so choose. But of course folks should choose the resource that best fits their needs.

        1. I personally had great experiences with both Catholic pre-cana and my Methodist led counseling. There were obviously spiritual bents to them (“will you support each other’s relationship with God?” kind of things) but the actual core of both programs was just to get the couple talking about things in a mediated environment–not even to get you to a “church approved” agreement, just to get you on a similar page.

          eg: Both on board with having kids AND you both want 3 off them AND you’re both thinking of starting like yesterday? Cool, probably don’t need to talk about that. Neither of you want kids ever, for sure, forever? Cool, probably don’t need to talk about that. You’re not sure about kids, one partner thinks 3 would be nice but not until you’re in your late 30’s and the other partner thinks one is probably enough but they want to start young? That’s something that you guys should really talk about.

        2. I know a few clergy members (of various religions, some Christian, some not), and not a one of them will perform a wedding without premarital counseling. It’s a matter of conscience for the clergy people (the short version is, none of my clergy friends are willing to officiate a wedding of people who aren’t entering into the vows with all the necessary information about each other and marriage in general), but it’s also a good idea for the prospective spouses to talk about things like money, children, and life planning in general.

          Whether they have that discussion with a spiritual leader or a secular therapist or with no one except each other, the LW and her BF *NEED* to discuss these things before they take any more steps toward getting married.

          1. Yes this. I’m a rabbi, and I would never do a marriage without a little counseling. I want to make sure I’m not creating a union that will be damaging for one or both of the people involved (abusive, massive deal breakers, not protecting each other from shitty family, etc.)

          2. Yep. My parents are retired pastors, and they didnt require that people seeking to be married have pre-marital counseling *with them*, but they did require a couple to have pre-marital counseling *with someone.* Secular counseling would have been A-OK. Sex, child-raising, money, and labor-sharing are things where people’s expectations aren’t necessarily aligned, and it can be hard to talk about them kindly and clearly. And they also are really common flash points in marriages and LTRs.

      2. l8rg8r is right. “Faith-based” doesn’t have to mean “conservative faith-based.” There are moderate and liberal religious people out there who have a lot of experience with people who need help thinking about their marriage before they get married. I mean, jeez, they live in San Francisco, after all. If I can find some in the conservative Midwest, which is where I live, the OP can for sure find some there, if she has any interest in that.

    3. Yep, I came here to suggest this too. Before my husband and I got married we did a few pre-marital counseling sessions, and it was great. We went into it without any specific issues or problems, but we actually did identify a few things with the therapist that I’m really glad we talked about. We’ve been married for a few years now and been through some hard stuff, and the things we learned about each other and ourselves in therapy have helped in very concrete ways.

      I think couple’s therapy is particularly useful for situations like this, where you feel like you’re not being heard, or you don’t know how to say something or ask for something. Having a neutral, trained third party there can help you say what you really mean, and help your partner understand your perspective, and vice versa. It helped us figure out the reason and pattern for a couple of recurring arguments, which was so helpful.

  7. >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.

    Please think about what you would tell a friend of yours who said these things.

    He’s all ideas and no follow-through, no stick-to-it-ness, no concrete work. He makes you responsible for that even though you have less time available during the day when things are open.

    This tendency extends to emotional labor and other work, in general, especially if it’s in any way hard per his definition.

    He whines/gripes about change, or about things you like and he doesn’t. He lets you believe falsehoods especially if they make him look better in some way.

    He is not going to change. This will be your life with him. Is that OK with you?

    1. This. Imagine a future with this guy. Think of all the things that could become your responsibility because “you’re so good at this kind of thing!”

      -Paying bills
      -Decisions on moving, buying a new home, which home to buy, which lending institution to use, etc.
      -Repairs/arranging repairs for your home
      -Repairs/arranging repairs for your vehicles
      -Repairs/arranging repairs for your tech (laptops, cell phones, iPads)
      -Health care for your pets
      -Tax prep
      -Long term financial planning
      -Vacation planning

      If you choose to have children:
      -Any arrangements for the baby’s room/clothing
      -The primary load of the child’s day-to-day care, diapering, feeding, burping, getting up during the night, etc.
      -Any arrangements for the baby’s healthcare, including making appointments, taking the child to the doctor, picking up prescriptions, etc.
      -Any arrangements for childcare
      -Any arrangements for the child’s preschool/schooling, including teacher conferences, discipline issues, prep for school projects
      -Transportation/purchasing for any activities the children participate in (ballet, soccer, piano, swim, etc.)

      Life with a partner who is unwilling to do the work of living is EXHAUSTING, LW. You haven’t quite begun tht life together and he’s not willing to shoulder any of the burdens. Things will not get better from here.

    2. So…maybe this is me being cynical, but after reading all this, I’m starting to wonder about the proposal. Had he already been planning to propose? Kinda sounds like no. It is starting to sound like he was seized by the opportunity for a v cool proposal story without really considering what follow-through would look like. My guess is that he’s under the impression that one “pops the question,” and then a few months later, one puts on a tuxedo and goes to the church and gets married. I would be very hesitant to marry someone with such a childlike understanding of how things work. LW, don’t marry a man-child. You get you a grown-ass man.

      1. You are definitely not being cynical here. My college BF, who I (of course) thought was the love of my life, and I were once talking about the timeline for an engagement, and he was freaking out because “getting engaged basically means I’m already married.” Like, no, my dude, it doesn’t, there’s a WHOLE LOT that happens in between a proposal and a wedding, and you are not going to Lose Your Freedom the instant you get down on one knee.

        1. Anyone who thinks getting married is “loosing freedom” shouldn’t get married regardless. Doubly so when it’s a dude, given the massive increase in status and privilege married men get.

          1. Yeah, also this. Dan Savage has a rant about bachelor/bachelorette parties, saying that you shouldn’t need “one last night” of freedom; committing to a lifetime with someone you truly love should feel like the start of an adventure, not the death knell for fun and excitement.

        2. Cluelessness has surprising depths sometimes. True story related to me by a friend:
          Best man: “So do you want to give me the ring to hang onto the day of the ceremony, or the day before?”
          Groom: “I guess you’ll get it from Bride on the day.”
          BM: “Why would Bride have it?”
          Groom: “Well, she wears it all the time.”
          BM: “You already gave her her wedding ring?”
          Groom: “Um, yeah? I asked her to marry me and all.”
          BM: “…that’s the engagement ring. I’m talking about the wedding ring, the one you put on her at the actual wedding.”
          Groom: “I have to buy her ANOTHER ring?! She doesn’t even have to get me anything!*”
          BM: “…Yes, she does. She buys you a wedding ring as well.”
          The story ended with the best man frog-marching the groom down to the jeweler.

          * I know, I know, you don’t *have* to have a wedding ring, or an engagement ring, or anything. But if you haven’t discussed it with your partner, go with the assumption of tradition.

  8. When your fiancé says “I didn’t think we’d actually buy one,” what I hear is “I wanted to create a narrative where I looked like a good guy for saying I’d buy a ring without having to follow through, but it backfired on me and now I’m mad.” I feel like in his mind, he was thinking he’d tell everyone “Oh, I begged her to let me buy her a ring, but she said no,” only then you said “Okay, if you insist” (as you had EVERY RIGHT TO DO because HE OFFERED) and now he can’t tell that story. This doesn’t say great things about him as a person, IMHO.

    1. The narrative of the good guy is one that rang so loudly to me here. My mom had a rough childhood and was left with a lasting feeling that whenever she asked for something – all she heard was no. Her response to this was that when she became a mom, she would did not want to say no.

      Well…..as it turns out my parents are not in the 1% and over the years I’ve had lots of “normal but pricey” requests. Things like “can I go on this international school trip?” or “can I attend this private university?” And every single time the first answer has always been yes. in other cases I’ve had conversations with my mom where she would say – if X, then you’ll get Y. So many of these conversations were then followed by an assortment of gaslighting of why that yes is actually a no and how I was ungrateful for expecting xyz to begin with.

      It took me years to realize that the expectations that I had for those things – regardless of how expensive their cost – was not a sign of me being greedy or obsessed with material things – but rather having very normal expectations based on previous conversations. Long term one of the many unfortunate aspects of all of this is that I have no basis on how to have normal and/or rational conversations about money. Every request or conversation feels like a test balloon that could result in a straight forward conversation or a huge emotional event.

      Dynamics about money between parent and (even adult) child can be rooted in different issues than between partners – but gaslighting specifically around money can really turn perspective upside down in a way that particularly cruel. My mom told me that if I deferred my grad school acceptance by a year then we would go on a trip abroad. Cheap – no. Are engagement rings or weddings cheap – nope. But it’s wildly unfair to be told this will happen, and then have someone say “oh this definitely isn’t AND BY THE WAY, don’t you know how expensive this is?????”

      1. That sounds truly horrible to deal with. The whole song and dance of yes but only if certain conditions were met oh you actually wanted to do the thing sounds really tiresome.

        1. It was definitely tricky to live with growing up and even now that I recognize the pattern – it makes me dread assorted conversations with my mother. It’s a dynamic where it’s really hard to have any conversation about money without having to prep for a “what are we really talking about here” longer talk.

      2. Holy hell. I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE. My parents are objectively wealthy (although of course if you’re not sleeping on a mountain of gold and jewels nightly you’re not actually -rich-) and my father especially always made a big point when I was growing up that parents earn money for the good of their children, so I can ask for whatever I want, etc. Except if I asked, the bullshit would inevitably start. ‘Why do you want that? Does everyone else have that? How long do you think it would take you to earn the money for that, at the minimum wage job you’ll inevitably have your whole life once you’re even old enough to work? Isn’t that a stupid thing to want? I’m not sure that all your cousins have one of these, so it might be a nonsense request. I dunno, maybe you’ll get it or you won’t, are you sure you’re not stupid to want that? ‘ Until I either withdrew my request or got really upset, at which point it’s all eyerolling because why I am getting upset, we’ll go buy the thing, Jesus, girls are so sensitive.
        For big promises, I was always gaslit into believing I misunderstood them. My sister and I were to get brand new cars once we graduated high school. But really it was college. But really it wasn’t brand new cars. But really we meant at least a fancy degree. Well, Jesus, why would you think we’d buy you a used car for graduating in something we didn’t even approve of? At your age you think money grows on trees? I mean, not that I was still expecting a free car by then, but you get the point.

    2. That’s a very interesting point. He made this beautiful romantic gesture and made these lovely romantic promises…but apparently the OP is supposed to be happy with the promise alone. He really was hoping/assuming she wouldn’t actually hold him to the promise.

      Personally, I adore my engagement ring. I would never have thought I’d want one, but it gives me pleasure every time I look at it – not bad for bit of gold with a pretty rock (an emerald, actually) in it.

      1. I’m the breadwinner in my relationship and always have been, so I knew when we decided to marry, and then got engaged, that the bulk of the expenses for the wedding etc were going to fall on me. I paid for my engagement ring and our wedding bands, and I offered him an engagement ring (I think bling should be distributed equitably in a marriage), but I never would have gotten weirdly resistant if he’d said yes (he didn’t want one, but has started wearing one of the set of silicone “weekend rings” I bought, which I find very endearing).

        I got to design my ring, like really design, not put together from prefab components, and it is everything I wanted in a ring. I smile every time I look at it. 🙂

        1. Same – we were living together and pooling money for most household stuff when we decided to get engaged (which, it was a discussion, not a proposal). And I like limited jewelry, so… discussed things, he commissioned a jeweller to make it (because I loathe talking to strangers and making phone calls), and we paid for it out of our joint account. It was the most astoundingly pragmatic sharing of responsibilities and to this day I find that romantic because it suits us so well.

    3. “I feel like in his mind, he was thinking he’d tell everyone “Oh, I begged her to let me buy her a ring, but she said no,” only then you said “Okay, if you insist” (as you had EVERY RIGHT TO DO because HE OFFERED) and now he can’t tell that story.”

      Exactly this!

  9. There is a saying among writers: “everyone has ideas”.

    Him being the “idea guy” and you being the “logistics and money guy” is not a 50/50 split: it’s a 0/100 split, because you have as many ideas as he does. You as a couple are just using his ideas instead of yours to make the split seem more equitable than it really is. He’s not evil, he’s not abusive, he’s not some creature from the Black Lagoon sliming up your world: he’s just happy coasting along contributing the absolute bare minimum, and sweet-talking you into seeing that bare minimum as a 50/50 split.

    Everyone has ideas. Him being the one to contribute ideas doesn’t mean that he is pulling his weight. He may not realize this if he grew up in a very privileged environment.

    Also, if both of you are at about the same career and income and expense level and you can save money on that, where is his money going? Is he paying back significant debt you don’t know about? Sending money to family? Is he an epically extravagant spender? Does he buy new clothes instead of washing the ones he already owns? I’m not saying any of this is evil, but you should know something of his finances by now. The fact that he doesn’t have money isn’t the issue; the real question is why.

    1. This comment just made a bunch of things in my life really click into place for me. Thank you.

    2. “Him being the “idea guy” and you being the “logistics and money guy” is not a 50/50 split: it’s a 0/100 split, because you have as many ideas as he does. You as a couple are just using his ideas instead of yours to make the split seem more equitable than it really is. ”

      This? Is brilliant.

    3. And to extrapolate the writer thing further, because I’m a writer and this is hella true:

      You know what you call a writer who does the legwork & execution on someone else’s ideas? You call them a ghostwriter, and it is the *number-one* most thankless job a writer can have. You don’t get your name on the book, but more importantly *you don’t get to use any of your own ideas.* Bringing your own ideas to life is the fulfillment part. A ghostwriter fulfills *other peoples* dreams.

      Don’t sign on as a ghostwriter.

      Unless the price is right of course.

      I know this for damn sure because, though my name is on the book, I wrote two of my mother’s novels (to publishable quality, b/c she couldn’t) before I wrote one of my own. I know the difference between bringing someone else’s ideas to life & my own. I’ll never look back. I don’t regret doing it, but she’s my MOM and I will not do it for anyone else for a million bucks. I dunno, if you have more than a million let’s talk, but I assure you I’ll have a sinking feeling in my stomach the whole time…

  10. I am so glad I’ve finally read CA long enough to have an idea what the advice will be, and I agree 100%. Sloooooooow wayyyyyyyy down, LW, and see if he will step up. I dated a guy like this. He was so terrible at planning ahead that even when I suggested we discuss vacation plans he didn’t feel like talking about them so I basically asked where he wanted to go and when he could go and then made all the plans. After I broke up with him it was such a HUGE relief to no longer bear the burden of All the Planning. I hadn’t even realized in the thick of it that I was bearing that burden and it was only when it was over that I realized how much I’d changed and how much I hadn’t liked myself when I was dating him and how much energy I’d been expending on something that just wasn’t working, because of course I loved him and figured love would conquer all.

    TL;DR: do not marry this guy until he can have an adult conversation and can put in at least 50% of the planning time and energy.

    1. Oooh, I dated him, too. He wanted to go abroad. I planned a trip to [foreign country]: flights, hotels, etc. I asked him the whole time for input. What country/countries? Were there things he wanted to see? Oh, no. Whatever.

      We went. We had, I thought, a good time. On the way back, he told me that he wished that we had gone to [other country]. There may have been murder in my eyes.

  11. Yes Yes Yes to everything the captain said. But also, there is a textbook! If you do plan a wedding now or later or whenever, I found the book “A Practical Wedding” by Meg Keene super useful during my own process. There is also a blog, but I found that difficult to weed through sometimes and appreciated the offline tool personally.

  12. LW, you are doing a ton of work to minimize your own feelings and doubts all the way through your letter. Your feelings and doubts are valid! They don’t need to be minimized! You should give them way more space to breathe and live, honestly. You can trust your own self on this. You don’t need to minimize, or explain away, or discount any of the many, many, way-more-than-the-ring-issue-but-also-yes-the-ring-issue issues you talk about here.

    1. Can I just emphasize Jaydee’s observation?

      “LW, you are doing a ton of work to minimize your own feelings and doubts all the way through your letter. “

      This is such an important point. I’ve learned the (many) hard way(s) that this is a red flag indicator for me that I AM being gaslit. Including to being previously married to someone about whom I could have written this.

      Please, please. Please, do the very hard work of taking in the advice here. This doesn’t get better – not without significant emotional labor on HIS part.

      1. Yes. He wants to be big, but he’s small, so he’s trying to seem big by making you think you’re even smaller than he is.

        But you’re not small.

        You’re big.

        1. Yes!
          As Storm Large sings
          “Everyone tells me I’m too much,
          Maybe it’s just you’re not enough for me!
          Can’t you see…I’m the kind of woman I’m supposed to be!”

  13. 1. Not that this is the important thing here, but $1,000 for an engagement ring is very reasonable IME.
    2. If he has bad finances and has kept it from you until now that is a bad, bad sign.
    3. If you think you’re doing all of the emotional labor NOW; I promise you that it is not going to get better after you get married.

    I’m sorry, LW. This is supposed to be such an exciting time for you and now there’s all these doubts and red flags. Luckily, you seem like a very sensible, capable person who doesn’t take any shit. You deserve somebody who is just as capable as you, and works towards making you happy, whether it’s planning the wedding or buying that ring. Maybe it’ll be this guy, maybe it won’t.

    1. And think about this – if he doesn’t have $1000 immediately available for a wedding ring, he doesn’t have $1000 immediately available for other things – like, say, the rent. Yikes!

      1. Yes, if you live in the Bay Area, you could be facing a $1000/mo rent increase on 30 or 60 days’ notice. If you need to move (if you don’t have just cause eviction and your landlord wants to upgrade and double the rent) you will need about $5000 or more for move-in money at a new place. If he doesn’t have $1000 accessible on short notice, guess who will end up paying the whole thing?

      2. He may be irresponsible with his finances, or he may just be one of the millions of people who don’t earn a lot of money and live their lives anyway? He’s better off than the average American if he has $1K in the bank.

        ‘Yikes’ isn’t wrong, but I resent that you seem to present it as a reason not to marry him.

        1. yeah my partner and I have definitely had periods where we regularly had less than $1000 in the bank, and that was between the two of us! I agree with folks who say there’s a problem if he LED HER TO BELIEVE he had that much, but it is weird to watch people act like not having $1000 in disposable income is some kind of threshold for responsible adulthood.

      3. I know this is old but I just have to push back on this. I budget carefully and have savings set aside for very specific instances (my lost a job fund, medical event savings, new car savings, vacation savings, etc.) My bills are totally taken care of, but if I had to suddenly come up with $1000 that wasn’t in one of my savings categories it would take a bit of thinking (do I cut back on discretionary spending for a few weeks/months, or dip into one of my other funds right now). I can comfortably pay my bills, have a good credit score, and save for the future, but coming up with $1000 unexpectedly would take some time or sacrifice somewhere.

  14. When getting ready for a long-term commitment like marriage, it’s important to look at the partner you have now, not the version of them you imagine having in the future. So, LW, I urge you to apply the oft-recommended Sheelzebub Principle: if nothing about this relationship changes, how long do you think you want to stick with it? 5 years? 10? 50?

    You have a partner who likes to come up with a big idea, then peace out while you do all the planning and execution to make that idea a reality. Are you OK with continuing to do that for the rest of your life? If you imagine yourself 10 years from now, nagging your partner into following through on something he said he’d do days or months before, or doing every bit of planning for that big 10th-anniversary trip, how do you feel? Is that frustration an acceptable price to pay for the good things he brings to the table?

    There will be trade-offs with any partner, just like there are with any long-term choice. But you’re the only person who can say whether they work for you. Some people don’t mind being the planner/reminder in their relationship. That’s fine! That works for them! It doesn’t sound like that’s a role you’re happy filling, though, and I strongly recommend that you avoid making any long-term, legally-binding, difficult-to-disentangle commitments to a relationship in which that’s your role. Marriage won’t change that dynamic, and it won’t change how you feel about it either.

    As for the actual ring…if you’re looking for permission to be upset about it, I say go for it. I’d be upset too – you were promised something, and you got excited about it, and then it got pulled away from you without explanation or apology. That sucks. I think the financial stuff and the fact that this is just one more example of an ongoing trend are probably the bigger problems relationship-wise, but you can be mad about this too.

  15. I wonder how old the LW is, as well as her boyfriend. To me, an Old (going to be 50 in less than a month), this sounds SO 20something. And I remember it well. I remember that “urge to merge” and wanting to be with The One, and live happily ever after. And then I remember how the first time that just so Did Not Work Out Whatsoever, and how crushing it felt. And finally, it just felt like… well, life. Life happens. Sometimes you choose well, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you choose badly, and you live and learn and move on.

    The advice to slow down is *so* spot on. What was super difficult for me was to stop having expectations. By that, I mean having expectations of my own that were laid down on top of society’s expectations to “get off the shelf” and marry in my 20s, be a grownup, etc. This is extraordinarily hard to do. For me it took days, weeks, months, silence, writing, planning, getting the voices of society out of my head, tuning into my own voice, and listening to my own truths. It took TIME, and lots of it.

    Captain’s advice is, as usual, spot on. I honestly would say expect some heartbreak in all this. This guy just sounds SO young, so immature, so almost with-it that he’s almost passing as a marriageable guy, but not quite yet. The LW too, sounds like she has her own issues to sort out, especially her own and society’s expectations of marriage. Best of luck both.

    1. Thank you for that, I am a late 20something still on the shelf and i needed to hear that a lot today.

    2. +1 from another almost-50 Kate. It’s definitely fine to be single, put yourself first, and strive for an equal partner.

  16. Yeaaah I agree. This isn’t about the ring. It’s deeper than “symbols”, even.

    This line at the bottom, where LW suspects this is “blown out of proportion and par for the course” is alarming. It sounds like someone, maybe fiance or maybe just the general patriarchical chorus of gendered expectations, is trying to get her to expect less. Don’t fall for it.

    Expect and demand a partner who will be a goddamn adult and follow through on their word. Do not let yourself be pushed into doing all the wedding work because, ladyparts. That will lead you to doing allll the work on alll the things forever while he gets to excuse himself from anything but the fun parts, while taking credit for the ideas.

    Surely you’ve heard stories of “”employers”” trying to hire programmers or writers or artists by saying something like “I have this great idea for a website/video game/novel, I just need to actually make it”. This fiance is that. “I have this great idea for a vacation/wedding but I need you to actually plan it” is not a viable deal.

    1. And it’s going to turn into “a great idea for a life plan together but I need you to make it happen.”

      1. Yes! Life plan, that’s the word I was looking for.

        From this letter, LW’s fiance is the life plan equivalent of “my business plan is hire a ghostwriter and take all the credit”.

  17. (Sorry if this is a double-post, the page acted weird.)

    Please think about what you would tell a friend of yours who said these things.

    He’s all ideas and no follow-through, no stick-to-it-ness, no concrete work. He makes you responsible for that even though you have less time available during the day when things are open.

    This tendency extends to emotional labor and other work, in general, especially if it’s in any way hard per his definition.

    He whines/gripes about change, or about things you like and he doesn’t. He lets you believe falsehoods especially if they make him look better in some way.

    He is not going to change. This will be your life with him. Is that OK with you?

    1. “He is not going to change. This will be your life with him. Is that OK with you?”

      This^. Times a million.

    2. Yeah. Just imagine a whole lifetime of having to plan every. Single. Thing. And then put up with his complaining the whole way through.

      1. I lived that and hated it. It hit the point where I didn’t even want to take a vacation because I’d hear “You have to plan this. You’re SO good at it,” then once we were there I heard every single thing that was wrong with 1) the hotel, 2) the food, 3) the location 4) anything else you can think of.

        Living with someone who expects you to do all the work and who still finds fault with what you have done is exhausting. You end up second guessing all your choices while still feeling like you have to make them. I agree with the Captain, slow down, take a breath. decide if this is how you wan to live the rest of your life, because he’s not going to change without a lot of work, probably by you.

        1. I was with someone like this for 12 years. And I was so much happier when I could just *make the plans for myself* without everything getting criticized and cut down, even after I’d done all the work in putting everything together!

        2. One year I said, “I think I’ll go to Seattle for reading break.”
          Then-boyfriend was indignant. “Without ME?”
          “Okay, fine, you can come too.”
          Reading break (February) then becomes Easter weekend because TBF doesn’t have a passport and can’t cross the border until he gets one.
          I ask him if he’ll book the transportation; he claims not to know how. (I didn’t either before taking this trip. And this, by the way, was in 2007; the Internet was available.) I book the tickets.
          I go to book the hostel, and he complains that he doesn’t want to sleep in a dorm. Private room, twice as expensive, but fine.
          We finally get there, he looks at me and says, “So what are we doing today?”
          He at least had the grace not to complain that we went to the theatre three nights in a row, because that’s what you get when you go on vacation with a student playwright, but yeah.

          1. I actually think that some people, willfully but perhaps not fully consciously, exclude themself from both the planning and execution phase of any kind of a project, simply to reserve themself the privilege to complain about it later.

            (English is not my first language, but I hope that sentence made some kind of sense.)

      2. Yep, been there, it sucks away your soul. And you eventually start doubting yourself, because true introspection reveals you could almost always have done everything a little better, so you start thinking maybe he’s right and you don’t know how to do anything right…

      3. Plan every single thing and then expect him to come through with money he says he has but doesn’t and doesn’t tell you about til you really, really, wheedle it out of him by putting his back against the wall and trying to hold him to his agreement. Especially if this happens after you’ve already spent money on something.

        Not a good picture.

        If not get thee to a pre marital counsellor, get thee to a financial one. Do not, not, not, not merge finances with this person until you know that they’re not going to spend the part of the money you brought in without letting you know about it.

      1. A lot of comments to this post are being eaten, idk why! I’m unearthing them as fast as I can.

        1. My doubleish-post appeared a few posts up-thread too. I swear I refreshed several times before reposting, and the text was still in the post box so I edited it some.

        2. You might want to check your spam filter settings, I can imagine words like “wedding” “engagement ring” repetition of the word “money” and other words showing up a lot here might trip the “MAKE MONEY FA$T” post detector or ad spam detector list.

    3. I was going to comment but honestly, this is the crux of it. This is him, this will be your life with him.

      *inserts the “You in danger, girl” gif from Ghost*

  18. Oh dear. I’m just going to add extra emphasis to the point that you *must* not get married without having a very clear discussion about finances. You both need to put your finances all out on the table, because once you are married, his finances *are* legally your finances and vice versa. Make sure you have a plan for how you are going to handle money together (even if that plan is mostly that you keep it all seperate, which is a legit thing to do, you need to understand that you wlil be just as responsible as him if he fucks up his end!)

    1. Yes but keeping it separate is not going to shield her from certain debts if he runs them up. Her separate account as his wife is going to be counted as assets against any debts he runs up. Separate is good if you have minor issues between you, but not if one is a total spendthrift and the other isn’t.

      He didn’t tell her he doesn’t have the budget for $1000. He told her he doesn’t have $1000 in the bank. Either he’s terrible at communicating which is okay, or if any one bad thing happens, he’s going to be relying on her 100% for support.

      1. ….that’s literally what I just said? Even if they keep things separate she will still be responsible if he fucks up his end. That’s my point.

  19. I think that the captain did a beautiful job unpacking all of the symbolism and meaning going on here because for some people, yeah a ring is just a thing on your finger, but our actions, expectations, the way we communicate those expectations and have them mirrored back to us by our partner, it turns little things into symbolic things, sometimes **big** symbolic things. Right now a ring, or the bare space it’s intended to inhabit, has become a symbol of some things from the LW’s writing I get the sense have been somewhat troubling for a while. This was an awkward but ultimately potentially far less damaging way to find out you didn’t realize his financial situation!

    I hate the whole “save up x number of months of salary for a diamond ring” that our culture tells us is the traditional way to get engaged and all the nasty baggage that comes with it (the ethics of the diamond trade, assumptions about gender roles, assumptions about the economic ability and financial capacity “required” to consider marraige, all that ugly stuff) but with that said, traditions often have a practical function, and in this case that function is partially a gate check to see if the proposing party can hold their financial stuff together for a while.

    You can’t save up money for a ring without an emergency savings because savings will get eaten up by an emergency at some point over that x number of months, you can’t save up money if you’re not able to budget or are living beyond your income, etc. Now there’s tons of **other** reasons saving can be hard. You may have higher priorities like children or your debts or whatever else, maybe you’re not in a position to save up money due to your economic or physical circumstances, I understand all of that and that is all very valid, but I’m talking about the practical function behind the idea here, the reason this concept gained cultural traction beyond just clever marketing from the diamond industry. It’s a sort of shorthand for saying “I’m stable enough in my finances and can make long term plans well enough that saving up some money for something important to me and my partner is doable in my life right now” and that ability has strong implications for your relationship.

    So with that in mind, there’s another symbolic layer here too, the inability to conceive of a way to acquire a ring for a sum that should be doable in a fairly short time of planning is indicating concerns about financial responsibility, stability and suitability. That’s the one socially redeeming thing the price of an engagement ring does.

    Now, there is another potential layer here. I grew up poor and I lived lean through half a decade of marginal employment, and an almost great-depression-era-like dislike of spending money has been hard pressed into me and many people of my generation that graduated at the height of the great recession. My initial thought was “holy cow a thousand dollars is a lot for a ring!” It may be worth unpacking that, is it a matter of “can’t find a way to afford” or a matter of “is having cognitive dissonance between the ghastly idea of spending that kind of money on a ring and really wanting to do something meaningful for you” that is leading to any feet dragging here? But the context around this says it’s probably not that simple.

    1. You put all of this so well – ” traditions often have a practical function, and in this case that function is partially a gate check to see if the proposing party can hold their financial stuff together for a while.”

      For some people $1,000 for a ring would be really reasonable and for some it would be LOL, WHAT NOW. The fact that it’s a super-stressful amount of money for the boyfriend is an indicator to dig deeper into expectations and finances. Something is not congruent here.

      1. “The fact that it’s a super-stressful amount of money for the boyfriend is an indicator to dig deeper into expectations and finances. Something is not congruent here.”

        Yes, even more so when you put that $1000 in the context of Bay Area cost of living. One-bedroom apartments currently average $3600/month in San Francisco and $2300 in Oakland, so even if he/they have a *really* good deal on a rent-control apartment, that’s very likely less (maybe even substantially less) than one month’s rent. If he’s getting this stressed about the equivalent of +/- a couple week’s rent, it makes me wonder what else is going on with their finances, and – if they live together – who’s paying the rent. I don’t mean to judge (heck, I don’t have as much savings as I would like either – it all goes to rent!), but it’s a clear sign that they need to have a larger discussion about how they divvy up the load – both financially and in terms of emotional labor.

        This guy sounds so much like my Vader ex who, coincidentally, I split up with after we got engaged. In the Bay area. And he expected me to both pay for everything (which was one thing when I was making more than him; not so much after he landed a job that paid substantially more than mine) and do all the work, while he came up with the cool ideas. He never changed in the 7 years we were together, and when I ran into him when I moved back to the Bay Area 15 years later he still hadn’t changed. As others have said above, how long are you willing to accept him as he is?

        1. Your numbers are so helpful! My husband and I got plain gold rings with a pretty Celtic design that were about $100 bucks, while paying rent that was under $500. So the OP & I aren’t as different as I imagined…

      2. This incongruity can get really annoying down the line, too, like if your spouse balks at a PLANNED and SAVED FOR replacement of a 29-year-old furnace because “well, this one still works, technically.”

        Technically. Mmhmm.

        /vent 😂😢

        But they grew up in poverty; and that can change you.

        1. Many times we assume that this person we love is operating from the same cultural viewpoints as we are, and then we discover that it’s not the case at all. It’s good to discover this BEFORE you get married. Really, really it is.

          I broke an engagement once because I discovered that he was 18k in credit card debt(not student loans or car. Credit card) and he was planning to pay it off with his inheritance when his grandma died.
          First, morbid. I’d rather have the grandma than the money.
          Second, he wasn’t the favorite grandchild in a fairly large clan, and she seemed in decent health to me?
          Third, maybe our ideas on money, security, and family needed a really deep discussion.
          The engagement did not survive the discussion.

          I eventually did get married to someone else, and I SHOULD have had that really thorough and deep discussion on values then as well, because though I thought we were on the same page, we were actually not.

          It’s scary and hard to discuss money and what marriage really means to you, but, I promise that hashing out symbolism, expectations, budgets, and household chores in advance of actually tying the knot is a good thing!

          1. Reader, I married that guy… I didn’t know about the cc debt until his dad paid it off for him/us as a (very generous!) wedding gift. It was $17K, not $18, but still. And it had been spent on hobby stuff – car parts, and fish tanks, stuff like that. Not, like, putting himself through college. I was so young when we got married I wasn’t even properly appalled when I found out he’d had that kind of debt and had been basically, dodging debt collectors when we were dating/engaged. Only later did it occur to me.

            This will shock you, but he was NEVER good with money. One of the very many reasons I was ecstatic to divorce him 5 years ago and get a better job was that I could finally, finally start saving for my retirement and the kids’ college funds. At the age of 35. I had/have full custody of 3 little kids in a moderately high COL area, but have been lucky enough to be able to make setting aside an amount of money every single month for the past 5 years a serious priority. I still relish the freedom to do so.

    2. I am a grad student in a relatively low cost of living area and I got mental sticker shock too (even though 1K is well below average for an engagement ring). If the boyfriend wanted to not spend that much money on a ring right now for whatever reason, he could have done the mental/emotional work and researched “inexpensive engagement rings” or “alternative stones” or whatnot rather than setting up this dichotomy where he was performing SADNESS about not doing the engagement “right” but completely unwilling to perform any actual work to figure out what an engagement ring his fiancée would like would cost or take any steps towards getting her one. Even months later.

      That’s the huge concern to me. All sorts of things can be talked out, but it sounds like he’s not interested in talking or thinking about things at all beyond “let’s go on vacation!” or “let’s have a wedding” and she is supposed to magically make everything happen in a way that leaves no cost or effort to be his responsibility.

      1. Yeah. If the boyfriend was thinking about proposing, why didn’t he research engagement rings beforehand? Then he would know the general price range. Even if $1,000 is more than he wanted to spend, he wouldn’t be surprised at the cost. So either he did absolutely zero research before or after the proposal, or he…is lying? Trying to make LW think that she’s being unreasonable to get out of something he doesn’t want to do?

        I can’t think of a good explanation for this, and I’m side-eyeing real hard.

        1. All I could think of is that if I were guy, I’d be all, okay the key ring got trashed dammit, Light bulb over head, I’mma find or have an Etsy jeweller recreate that key ring so perfectly and I’mma give it to my gal and she’ll think I’m amazeballs and I only spent 50 bucks. Including shipping YAY me. The point is he had an out. He had ways to make this an amazing thing and spend nearly nothing, but no, idea guy had no ideas except to push it on her and she tried her damndest, yeh it’s about a week’s rent on the Pacific coast. AND if he said “OMG sure, gotta save that though, or even whoa a grand are you kidding?” and she expected that. Great. The problem here is still the fact that she thinks he’s a great saver, and at this point he’s shown ZERO evidence of that.

          Seriously she needs to see a bank statement. if this is about dissonance re spending that’s one thing, but I don’t get that vibe. I get the “he really doesn’t have it AND he really doesn’t want her to know he doesn’t have it.”

          1. Spot fucking on about Etsy. If a thousand dollar engagement ring was out of this guy’s budget (which is fair!), he could hightail it over to Etsy or somewhere similar and pick up something lovely and unique for less. This would be how an adult handles things. (Also, I get the vibe that LW would be 100% okay eith this.)

            This guy is in love with the idea of himself as a romantic, thoughtful guy, while wanting to do none of the work that goes into actually being that guy.

      2. And the gate-check may not be “can you save up x dollars”. Poor people get married. The gate-check may be “can you figure out how to Do A Nice Thing yourself without much money?”

        My engagement ring was $80 at an estate sale and it was this stunning, ethereally lovely thing that suited me perfectly because my then-fiance looked at how stressed I was when we went looking together at regular jewelry stores, and went and asked Team Us for advice, and they helped him find something perfect in his price range. And lo and behold, we’re still broke, but I’m married to a man who takes the time to notice how I’m doing and uses his wits and resources to figure out how to help when I’m not doing well.

        Which, for me, passes the Sheelzebub test.

        1. 100%!

          Dude could be like “tell me about this ring, it sounds lovely, what if I can find something like it in my budget!”

          That’s not how dude is handling it.

          1. Exactly. There is actually no shortage of Art Deco engagement rings out there, with prices ranging from a couple hundred bucks on up, depending on the size of the stone or whatever. (We actually got one as a graduation present for our niece, who wears it as a pretty ring with a cute little diamond, of course, not an engagement ring. It’s just this lovely little ring.) Or he could get a ring with a small stone now and commit to upgrading the stone later. Or…I mean there are lots of possibilities here, and Dude ain’t comin’ up with any of them.

        2. My engagement ring was a gorgeous ring with my birthstone (issues with diamond sourcing) that I still like but at the time loved.

          Until he told me it was a $30 ring from Wal-Mart.

          Here is the thing: the price was awesome. He scored a gorgeous ring for $30 that I want to wear!

          But Wal-mart is the ONLY store he shops at. So it meant that he didn’t even go out of his way beyond one aisle at the store he stopped at daily.

          He told me all this making noises of getting a nicer/more expensive ring, which never happened and I never really pushed on. I still love the ring and the stone, but it went from being a symbol of thoughtfulness and live to me just being an afterthought while grabbing groceries and toilet paper.

          I know that’s not exactly what happened and he really did intend… but following up really didn’t happen with him at all.

          It also didn’t fit and I learned that opals don’t do well with heat so the process of resizing it would be several hundred dollars becayse of gem removal and re-setting, so I wore it with a bodged up spacer bar that was never comfortable on my ring finger.

          Now I’ll wear it on my thumb and it is still a pretty ring and makes me shake my head and smile.

          The next person he proposed to, he gave his mother’s wedding ring. Which he had had the entire time.

          Symbols can be awfully powerful!

          (Speaking of, my grandma left me her rings when she passed 20 years ago, and I have started wearing them on different fingers because I realized such gorgeous, thoughtful rings – custom made for the engagement ring to be the stone set in a rose surrounded by rose leafs and the wedding band of leafs and thorns, because her name was Rose and she was as sharp and pointy as she was loving – belonged where I could love them every day instead of tucked in a box in a bank where they might never come out from. The symbolism in them means the world to me.)

          1. Oh I absolutely agree the context was what made it.

            My cheap ring said, “I will step up when you need me. I will reach out for help and advice, from people who aren’t always you, when I’m in over my head. And then I’ll meticulously steam open a box of Cracker Jacks and glue it back shut so you can have your moment of confused and gleeful surprise even though I, personally, hate surprises.”

            There are a lot of things that a cheap ring can say.

          2. Ugh this reminds me of a similar thing that happened to me with a college boyfriend. When summer break came, we headed home to our separate states. He sent me a small package in the mail one day. It was a cheap bracelet, not really my style, but it had my initial on it and was sent with a sweet note from him about how he saw it and thought of me and a cheesy lovey dovey line that made me so joyful in the way cheesey lines do in a new relationship. I wore that bracelet so proudly. For a while I was wearing it every day.

            About a year later, he told me that his dad was the one who spotted the bracelet and also the one who told him to write the cheesey line, which he had included cause he thought it was funny. Suddenly it went from a cute, sweet, romantic gesture to an off-handed joke that I was too dumb to see. The bracelet was ruined. I never wore it again.

            The context behind a gift can really make a lot of difference.

          3. @ thatjillgirl – Aah, I used to date a guy like that! He sent me a lovely red scarf in the mail when we were LDR and said it was “just because” and later admitted it was a scarf his mom had and didn’t want anymore…

          4. All I have to say to this story is WOW. He gave you a no-effort ring when he had a much more emotionally-significant, equally-no-effort ring already in his possession. Wow.

        3. actually, that made me tear up a bit. it’s this kind of guy and his actions who is the gem, not the rocks they are or aren’t able to put on our fingers.

      3. Yes, that’s exactly my thought. I absolutely got sticker shock too, but if that’s what is behind boyfriend’s thought process, there are much better ways to be self-aware and process it than “Oh never mind, just never gonna get you a ring.” The LW seems incredibly reasonable, and I bet would be fine with an approach where the boyfriend says he can’t quite afford a ring like that, but would an X-budget ring be okay? Seems LW only researched above a specific budget because the fiancee never admitted his own budget.

        Communicating about a budget and figuring out what he can afford and if GF likes anything within that budget requires emotional labor and planning, which is why I’m inclined to guess it never happened in the first place.

    3. “traditions often have a practical function, and in this case that function is partially a gate check to see if the proposing party can hold their financial stuff together for a while”

      Absolutely, and I think the big state-occasion wedding serves a similar purpose: if your bloke us willing to do a decent chunk of the wedding preparation (even though he maybe does not care all that much about table decorations or seating plans or whatever, but he knows it’s important you you/your mum/his mum, so he does it properly), collaborate with his future inlaws, and stand up the front and say his vows and do the first dance and stuff with good grace despite perhaps feeling like a bit of a noodle, then he has most of the emotional skills required to look after children.

      1. Wow, you are totally 100% on the ball here I never even thought about how much a traditional wedding really “tests” in those terms.

        If the engagement ring tests the ability to make a financial plan and achieve it the wedding itself, done in traditional form tests: Ability to accept help graciously, cooperation with parents and in-laws, ability to compromise on the guest list and value what’s important to YOU equally as what’s important to themselves, everything you mentioned.

        I find “unpacking” traditions fascinating because there’s often meaning to our rituals of life, both intended and that evolve functionally over time.

    4. I think you make an interesting point about the empty space being a symbol now…. because the ring (and its space) WASN’T a symbol, until he made it one. He basically shouted “YOU NEED THIS, IF YOU DON’T HAVE IT IT MEANS I’M A BAD PERSON”, and then…. proceeded to do nothing. So now, he basically is literally saying he’s a bad person. If he hadn’t made a big deal about it, it wouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

      Though I’m happy for the LW that it did come up… it means she can take the time to re-evaluate

  20. I don’t think weddings are silly, but I think there is a whole barrel of unexamined assumptions here – that $1K is a bargain price for an engagement ring, that weddings are huge affairs requiring months of planning and venue-picking, that wedding planning is an activity the couple should do together involving making a lot of important symbolic choices, etc. I’m not saying those things aren’t true or reasonable or culturally expected (in some cultures), just that not everyone shares those assumptions.

    So, I think listen to the Captain’s advice about his tendency to suggest things and then not follow through, but I also recommend:

    1) Having a series of conversations about money and spending and expectations — like, is $1000 an amount of money that boyfriend throws around all the time, or does spending this much feel strange to him? You both live in a very expensive area — is that very different from where your boyfriend grew up? Did people in his family typically have the kind of wedding you’re envisioning, or did they just get married in their church/have a wedding in the backyard/have a civil ceremony without a very expensive celebration being attached? Or has he always expected to have the same kind of wedding you’re envisioning, but just have really unrealistic ideas about how much that costs? Find out before proceeding.

    2) Having a conversation about gendered expectations around wedding planning. If he’s on a “this is the bride’s (mother’s) show” script, and you are on a “this is an expression of who we are as a couple” script, you’ve got problems. Try to get on the same page, and be sure to listen for “I don’t want to plan X because I don’t really want to do X/spend money on X” — that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but it does mean you need to work out some kind of compromise.

    1. Eeeehhh, you’re not wrong that wedding planning can involve a lot of assumptions on many sides, but I think the problems here go way, way, waaaay deeper than that.

      When LW has gotten to the point of saying, “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.” I’m not sure compromising by, say, finding a nice backyard, as in the age-old tradition of the family of Fiancé, is going to be the right work-around.

    2. $1K is a bargain price for an engagement ring

      San Francisco voted in a $15/hr minimum wage in 2016. Using the old DeBeers ad copy of two months’ salary as a guide, someone in an entry-level position “should” be prepared to spend $4800 on a wedding set. I did not get the impression that LW was working as a Starbucks barista. So yes, for this part of the country, $1K is a freaking STEAL.

      (Anecdatapoint: I live at the other end of the SF Bay, and used to take the bus past a jewelry store with a sign in the window that said “If she asked for an engagement truck, you wouldn’t argue.”)

      1. LOL “engagement truck” is soooo Gilroy! (Or Santa Rosa.)

        I want an “engagement laser cutter”. Unfortunately, I’m not dating anyone.

          1. Mr. Logic got an engagement leather satchel that he actually has on his person way more often than his wedding ring.

        1. OMG – I pretty much thought of this exact thing the other day (are you another TechShop Orphan?)!

      2. So, people are not divided into “people who can spend 4.5K easily” and “baristas.” That’s pretty dismissive of a whole lot of people whose financial situations don’t allow them to spend like this.

        Boyfriend is 100% being passive-aggressive and lazy. That may be a dealbreaker problem by itself. I am just saying, IF the OP wants to continue talking to boyfriend about this, one reason why people who theoretically have enough money to do X may get very upset and freaked out by the idea of doing X is that they grew up with a very different set of expectations around money. If mom had a $200 ring from Walmart, and boyfriend is now in software and can technically afford to spend $4K on a ring, it is still probably going to freak him the fuck out to do so. The kind of wedding OP wants may not be the kind of wedding anyone he knows has ever had. Etc.

        If that’s the case, he is still being passive-aggressive about it all, and that may be enough to end the relationship. But if the OP wants to try to figure out what his deal is, that might be profitable for her to explore.

    3. It’s entirely possible boyfriend wants a low-key, low-frills, low-cost wedding or actually doesn’t want to get married at all but feels like he has to because they’ve been together X no of years and what if LW decides to bounce if he doesn’t propose?

      He’s not telling her that. He’s being incredibly passive-aggressive by refusing to do any of the work and pissing on the work that she does. That’s a whole extra problem.

      1. Heck, he could have had the money and then given it to starving orphans, or secretly be resizing his grandmother’s ring, or, or, or…

        …doesn’t matter. What matters is he’s being mean and opaque.

  21. LW, you are not “being stubborn and selfish” — at least not in a bad way. I mean, if you don’t look out for yourself, who will? (Probably not this guy.)

    I’m hearing you say that you are doing all of the work in the relationship and that you’re sick of it. This behavior isn’t likely to get better with marriage. I’m not saying dump him, but I think that the advice to slow down on the wedding planning is good.

    Marriage takes working together. Right now it sounds like you’re at A, he’s at C, and instead of compromise (both of you working towards B) you’re feeling like you have to choose C and call it compromise.

  22. I’m a super progressive feminist, and I know the wedding industry is problematic and stuff, but I want a ring, and a pretty princessy dress, and a wedding in a nice venue with a big dance floor, with a sit-down dinner and bacon wrapped scallops passed around at cocktail hour, and DAMNIT I’M GONNA DO THAT when the time comes of course. It’s okay to want things! It’s okay that these things mean something to you!

    In fact I had a nightmare the other night, where my boyfriend and I had this rushed, half-assed wedding just so we’d be married. I kept trying to tell myself “you’re marrying the man you love, that’s what matters” but it was just . . . so . . . bad. Like really bad. Like I was sad in the car leaving wishing we could have a do-over because I felt so cheated out of the wedding I wanted.

    Don’t let anyone cheat you out of what you want. The ring you want sounds amazing, and not at all unreasonable, he should want to find a way to make it work.

    This dude seems to be all talk, but doesn’t want to put in any effort to make anything happen or budget for anything. CA is 100% correct that you need to be on the same page about money, and he has to put in the work to make things happen. He may be subconsciously thinking “mlehhh wedding stuff is women’s work, I’m no good at that stuff” but it’s 2018, couples need to plan their weddings together!

    1. I am also a super progressive feminist, and I wanted all those things too, and I got them, and I am super happily married, because you can have it all! My MIL (before she was my MIL) tried to shame me for wanting a pretty ring (and we’re not talking the hope diamond, here) with the whole “it’s symbolic, it shouldn’t matter what it looks like!” to which I replied “Yes, it’s a symbol that I plan to wear every damn day so I’d really like to look down at something nice” (she also once told me that my husband would never marry me because he was a free spirit just like *her). I digress…

      *she was a free spirit who had been married like three times, so…yeah.

      1. Yep, it’s symbolic. I love my engagement ring because it symbolizes how thoughtful my husband is. He knew that I have ethical concerns about diamond mining, dislike large rings, and love antiques and sapphires. So he took his grandmother’s worn art-deco ring, had a jeweler reset the diamond in a new ring made from a mold from the 1920’s, with two smal sapphires setting off the diamond. He even correctly guessed my ring size. Every time I look at my ring I admire its beauty, but I also remember how much love, time, and thought went into the choosing of it.

      2. To me it’s MORE progressive to say “I want this because I want it”, because it’s sort of– subverting the paradigm? Rejection of something just because it’s expected is still, to some extent, letting it control your behavior. Saying “I can’t do this because culture says I should” is a step above “I must do this because culture says I should” but a step below “I want what I want and damn the expectations”.

        It’s a microcosm of the whole “no one should be judged for feeling like they want a lifestyle that doesn’t reject traditional gender roles, if it’s their own choice of their own free will, you’re not a gender traitor because of your life choices” thing.

    2. As a similar super progressive feminist, I’ve circled back around to, why is it bad to want a sparkly ring and a pretty princess dress? Why is it bad to like make-up and enjoy clothing, that thing we wear every day on our bodies and use to a visual expression of our personality? Perhaps because those things are coded female, and somewhere in The Feminist Discourse, we decided feminine = oppressive = bad, which is *kinda* true but also lacks subtly because damn it, corsets help my boobs/spine and this fabric is so nice against my skin.

      I’m happy to see more and more feminist thought tackle the idea that “princesses are inherently bad” and that maybe you can be a feminist and still drop some money on shiny eye shadow and awesome boots.

      1. I think the problem is: in the traditional wedding the bride gets a dress and a ring etc while the groom just stands there in a tux and says I do. There’s no established vocabulary of groom wedding expression. So it can devolve into “just let her have her day” which is an unbalanced way to start a marriage.

      2. I think there’s a bit of a Cool Girl happening – women who are super obsessed with their weddings (“bridezilla”) are pretty routinely mocked in pop culture. People use the cost of weddings as a stick to beat millennials with and the blame for those costs get tagged to the bride. And so on. Then if you feel like not being brushed aside as a silly frivolous woman, it’s natural to feel like you have to reject the entire shebang.

        1. And there’s this entire internet narrative where having a cheaper, simpler, smaller wedding that you did yourself makes you somehow morally superior. If you bring up engagement rings on Reddit you will be clobbered by the Cheap Ring Olympics — “MY fiance proposed with a $50 ring from Target!” “Well MY fiance proposed with a $30 ring from WalMart!” “MY fiance proposed with a ring he made himself out of copper wire!” “MINE proposed with a bit of string he found between the sofa cushions!”

          And it’s like…. who cares? Just. You work out in your own relationship what is important to you and what you want. The fact that I want an engagement ring and it has to be one of a short list of unfortunately expensive metals because I’m allergic to all the others doesn’t mean I “want a wedding more than a marriage”. UGH.

      3. I think it’s less “feminine = oppressive = bad” and more the fact that liking things that are mired in gender expectations will always be weighted in socialization and therefore easier and more pleasurable than fighting against those expectations. The choices can’t be considered comparable, and therefore rhetoric that says you can do either, feminism!, is missing an essential nuance. Because it’s sorta a strawman to pretend that the feminist narrative was saying “princesses are inherently bad” and not “princess narratives do a ton to contribute toward patriarchal gender socialization in a way that will never be equitable to the type of hero narratives boys get nor the values therein,” and I think it’s really telling how foundational the patriarchy is that people will consider feminist negativity to be of equal narrative power, when it’s clearly so easy to reduce feminist thought to “oh they thought princesses were bad!”. No way everyone who loves make-up and skirts and dresses and shoes and everyone who feels less energetic about it would be the same data sets if those things didn’t have the same cultural expectations surrounding them.

        And I like the way I look in make-up, and I want a pretty pretty sparkly dress.

    3. I was finally able to put into words why I wanted a Wedding – me, who is super practical and no-frills everywhere else in life:

      Because when you have that Wedding with the bacon-wrapped scallops and the dress with elaborate beading (pro-tip: beading looks gorgeous but is not that comfortable), you are making the statement, “Our story matters. Our story deserves to be honored with fancy things and a Momentous Event to mark our milestones.”

      And that’s what it is to me – it’s not about the things themselves, it’s the statement that We Matter that I wanted.

      1. +1 – We didn’t do a wedding (courthouse, 2 friends, called fam after), but we threw a BIG party on the 10th anniversary of our first date. I did a little of the big picture planning (there must be dancing) but he did most of the details. It was very like a wedding reception, and awesome.

      2. We’re struggling with this because we’re not rolling in money and just want to be married, please – plus on the list of “things that money could be used for instead” is “starting a family when we can’t reproduce for free.” But goddammit, we want our huge lesbian wedding where family will listen to us read awkward self-written vows and also I want to be a pretty pretty princess on my goddamn special day. I don’t want to skulk off to the magistrate like we’ve got something to hide. (Also one of the two magistrates is a homophobic jerk so we’d have to, like, hide outside until he went to lunch.)

        So, yeah, what I’m saying is that I agree with you that that feeling of “our story is as important as anyone else’s” is certainly real.

        1. PS I proposed with a gift shop ring that she wears every day, and then she counterproposed with a ring that I HATED. (Our friends wore wedding bands while they were engaged and I think she got me a band because of that, but to me an engagement ring needs to be different than a wedding band because it’s a different symbolic stage etc etc). So I asked her if we could have a different one and after shopping for a day we wound up having one made for $400, which makes it the fanciest thing either of us owns that isn’t a computer.

  23. It is a Rule of Life that anything that is a problem during engagement will be worse when you are married (because he can take you for granted) and worse to the nth power if you have children.

    Does he WANT this marriage? How does he see the division of time and responsibilities?

    This period of engagement is a dress rehearsal for the rest of your lives together.

    1. Division of time and responsibilities: not just about marriage, about everything in your shared lives

    2. Yes, this is the thing. For most people, getting married is the first step (or maybe the dozenth step) towards a life in which you do a lot of work together. Maybe you have conventional life projects, like buying a house and raising kids. Maybe, instead, you want to hike the PCT or sail a boat around the world or start a goat-cheese empire. But you probably have plans of some kind that you want to do together, and those plans require work. If it’s kids, ohmigod they require so much work, way more work than planning a wedding or a vacation. So it’s worth paying very close attention to whether your potential life partner is acting like someone who’s going to do their fair share of that work. Because I know a lot of women who have woken up five years later to realize that the guy who didn’t do the wedding planning is also not doing his share of the childcare…and that is a much, much harder problem to fix.

    3. This. If a couple can’t handle the planning involved in the first day of their marriage, a day which you have A) lots of time to plan for, B) usually lots of people supporting you for, and C) is ultimately up to you how you want it to be, how the hell are they going to handle all of the unplanned things that are going to get thrown at them for all the other days of their marriage after that?

      If one half of the couple is doing all of the work because the other half won’t, that’s kind of a giant red flag.

  24. LW, I hear that you are *ss over teakettle for this guy, and I’m very happy for you! That said, I think you’re not very well-matched. Problems that manifest this strongly and this quickly over planning the wedding will get only more complicated when you are in a household together.

    And it is much, much easier to get married than to get un-married.

    I hope you can work on some pre-marital counseling and I whole-heartedly agree with the advice to call the wedding off for the time being.

  25. I married this guy and I’m currently divorcing him. Believe me, it doesn’t magically get better after the wedding. And once kids arrive? FORGET IT. If you’re doing all the emotional labor now, guess who’s going to be doing it all in the future too? Take this experience as the gift it is and think long and hard about what your life will be like if you continue with this man. I wish I had heeded all the warning signs when I had the chance.

    1. Oh man, this. Big capital letters and highlighter THIS. I dont know if you plan on having kids LW but if you do, trust me (and many dozens of anecdotes and also studies done on this) any discrepancies in levels of emotional labour expended tend to dramatically widen once parenting is involved.

      But also there are other events that can crop up like: caring for a sick or elderly relative or step parent, keeping a household together if either of you are sick, maintaining friendships with your social circle, moving house, etc etc. I definitely think its worth having that conversation about emotional labour now, and really thinking twice about getting married until you’re sure its something he can tangibly improve upon and *long-term* sustain. Also the dynamic of him not only recognizing how much work you do for the relationship, but also constantly criticizing you is giving me big flashing warning signs.

    2. The pre-wedding behavior is literally that guy on his best behavior. If you don’t like his best behavior, don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s going to change in a good way.

  26. LW, I strongly second the Captain’s advice to make your fiance get involved in planning and follow-through before you get married (not just with the wedding but with anything). I am basing this just off my own experience, but this behavior likely won’t change and at some point you may find yourself fed up, frustrated, and with a massive case of decision fatigue. My husband is an Idea Man. He is also terrible at follow through and decisions. Our relationship is marked by incident after incident of him getting excited about a trip/hobby/idea/whatever, and then losing interest or getting overwhelmed and leaving me to actually get the metaphorical ball across the goal line lest we waste money or approved vacation days or whatever. This won’t change. I mean this with all possible friendly Jedi hugs, but stop enabling it. If you don’t, you may find yourself in my shoes – having a conversation about changing the venue of your wedding 5 days beforehand. (For the record, I did not kill him and we are married.)

    This isn’t about the ring or the wedding – it’s about a pattern of behavior and whether or not you want to dance to that tune for the rest of your life together. You may reflect and decide that works for you. If so, great. But please, please take the time to make an informed choice and make changes if you need to so you can also be happy and fulfilled in this relationship.

    1. Yep. I gauge how interested in something my husband is by how much stuff/research he’ll do about it.

  27. LW, I agree with all of the Captain’s excellent advice – definitely have a conversation about your and his finances. Do either of you have debt? Do you have a plan for paying it off? Do you have savings? How much savings? How much are both of you willing to spend for your wedding?
    All of these questions need to be asked and answered by both of you before you move forward with any wedding plans or life-combining plans.

    Also, remember that while we all have the capability for change, and we will all change during the course of our lives, some things don’t change. The things about him that currently annoy you, will probably continue to annoy you if you marry him. Can you live with his lack of follow through? It seems from your letter that you are currently overwhelmed with wedding planning on your own and frustrated by your fiance right now. Perhaps that’s situational, but it sounds like something you have had problems with in the past, in terms of vacation planning. Maybe consider if this frustration is going to be something you can mitigate through communication and laying down some ground rules about how the two of you go about making future plans, or if it’s going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    I wish the best for you!

  28. You are not “high maintenance” or “demanding” or “unreasonable” for expecting your partner to live up to a standard. Note, i’m not saying you need to expect him to live up to SOCIETY’s standards. A lot of society’s standards are stupid and arbitrary and based on commercial interests. An engagement ring that costs 2 months’ salary? That’s not about building a happy marriage, that’s about building up DeBeer’s pocket book. (This by the way is the absurd but “standard” expectation for spending on an engagement rings, this is not news, it has been a thing for literally decades. It’s the first result when you google it. )

    It’s not unreasonable for you to get excited about something they’ve promised you.

    I think it is worth spending some time thinking about what your standards are for a relationship. Not what society says you should have, but what do YOU want. Do you want him to plan a vacation sometime? Or even just a surprise? Do you him to learn how to spell the word google? Having standards and expectations for your partner is not unreasonable. It is necessary.

    What’s going on here doesn’t sound like it is working for you. What’s going to work for you isn’t necessarily going to be what society or tradition thinks should work for you — but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept no effort at all in lieu of traditional expectations.

  29. Lady who got married to a guy a year and a half ago here! In my experience, wedding planning was 10% generating ideas and 90% budgeting, figuring out how plans work in reality (yes the campground is beautiful but any accessible toilets are a mile away and we have five million grandparents coming), and what we each wanted vs. willing to compromise on, etc. If he’s dragging his feet on doing basic research….that concerns me for when planning gets more complicated and stressful. It also involved a lot of frank conversations about money. That he’s already hiding his financial situation (or otherwise not willing to openly talk about it), that’s also concerning.

    1. “wedding planning was 10% generating ideas and 90% budgeting, figuring out how plans work in reality (yes the campground is beautiful but any accessible toilets are a mile away and we have five million grandparents coming), and what we each wanted vs. willing to compromise on, etc”

      This! Thinking about what you want is easy, actually planning a wedding takes work! There’s a reason there are professionals who make money doing it for people.

    2. Gut who got married to a lady a year and half ago here in the Bay Area. I have to agree that wedding planning was so much more budgeting and figuring out in reality. The ideas happened in two days. We ended up moving our wedding up a year(!) because things fell together, and we both realized that we didn’t actually want to spend 18 months on this project. In the end it was a fun shared experience that was made better by both of us pulling our weight, and finding compromises with MIL and expectations and such. (Ok, we won’t elope, if you can live with only 80 guests, and 40 of them are our friends….) By the way, the two engagement rings I bought (….long story) cost a grand total of $25, but we were both on the same page about the symbols. (Hmmm…spend $1k on a ring, or fly to Europe for a honeymoon? No question there), and in the end, I worked hard to convince here that $500 for wedding bands was worth it because I really *wanted* to get them for her.

  30. This is my experience, ymmv.

    So in 2012, I proposed to my then long term boyfriend Comicbookdude who said he wanted to spend his life with me. I asked on drunken impulse but I’d been talking about marriage and he’d been stalling for a better time, when we had more money. I had no clue he’d say yes but he did, he gave me a plastic Pink Lantern ring as a substitute ring. Cue ringing our families (his went nuts, they loathe me) and our friends popping champagne and lots of excitement. He wanted to book a wedding and a comic con honeymoon. It went how you’d expect for the first 48 hours.

    Until we got to ring shopping. Comicbookdude put the trip off, and was really uncomfortable the whole time. I wanted a simple gemstone ring under $100 dollars (He was a small business owner in a tight financial spot) but he was really picky about the styles he liked vs which ones I liked. He complained about the prices. The jeweller looked so sorry for me. I remember feeling this confusion that what was meant to be a romantic moment felt so difficult. As a cool girl in a modern relationship, wasn’t I meant to be chill about the ring? He bought me a ring but it wasn’t one I’d have chosen, it didn’t feel right.

    That was a microcosm of our relationship dynamic, where we wanted different things and had very different approaches to life. Comicbookdude loved me but didn’t want to get sacrifice his current lifestyle of living at home and near 24/7 commitment to his business. I loved him but I was so focused on my future that I was in denial about my present situation – a bit lost in my career and scared of living alone.

    Our engagement lasted two months before a big fight led us to an ultimatum and he admitted that he didn’t want to get married. All the issues we had swept aside, his parents, my anxieties about my life, the finances, they all came up. Giving the ring back was so incredibly sad, because it was a symbol of the best intentions we had and couldn’t deliver on. I grieved hard.

    I’m glad we didn’t marry. He is living the life he dreamed of, his business is a huge success and he has written his first novel. He still lives with his parents and hasn’t committed to a partner. I found my calling and met a guy along the way who I now have a happy home and a dog with. We aren’t bothered about marriage but when discussed living together, my guy took my hand and promised to be a partner to me in every new unknown thing, to love me and care for me always no matter what. And he has. He’s surprised me a couple of really lovely gemstone rings, always with generosity.

    You deserve someone generous with their time and love, who feels excited to be planning things with you, even if planning is scary and new.

    1. “You deserve someone generous with their time and love, who feels excited to be planning things with you, even if planning is scary and new.”

      I love this sentence. This is how I feel about my husband. No matter the thing, I know he’s in it with me. LW, I hope you can find someone who does the same for you. I’ve ditched friends who act the way your fiance is acting, because I was tired from doing all the work myself and never being able to please them in the slightest.

  31. Something I’ve learned from reading Captain Awkward is that when people write in with a romantic issue, they put what they THINK is the problem in paragraph 1, but what’s REALLY the problem shows up in paragraph 4 or 5.

    Or, in other words: LW, please don’t feel petty if what brought up all these doubts was a ring. That ring hints at problems the way a tiny hole in the floorboard hints at termites.

    1. I love this insight. It makes me want to format all my problems as CA letters and then just read paragraphs 4 and 5 to figure out what’s really bothering me.

      1. I do this sometimes. Usually in the process of writing the letter in my head, I can figure out exactly what the Captain would tell me to do. Doing it is often another story, but it helps.

        1. This. I do this all the time in my head and I never have to write in to the Captain because by the time I’m done I know what the Captain would say. Because it turns out my problem isn’t completely unique and is actually pretty minor compared to some of the letters the Captain has answered.

      2. I’ve done this. My letter went from “how do I make myself smaller for this guy” to “well shit, i guess i should break up with him, can you give me advice on disentangling myself?”

        100% worth it. Once you put it all down AND try to keep the word count low… you can see stuff you knew in the back of your mind but didn’t want to be an option.

    2. So very much this. I often find that I shy away from thinking about big problems, because I don’t want face that the answer might be “we need to break up”, and end up thinking about the smaller problems instead, but slowly including more and more of the big problem. Now I recognise the tendency more, but whenever there’s a *new* problem, I can fall into the same pattern. And it’s helpful, in that if I ask for help *at all* I often get the help I need, even if I inadvertently used a stalking-horse to get there.

  32. I did not think that a ring mattered to me, and I also researched antique rings and found a few that I liked and shared them with my best friend. My (now) husband enlisted her help to pick the perfect ring and found one that I love and is beautiful, and I still get compliments on it nearly 10 years later. He paid attention to what I wanted and did the research and found the exact right moment to ask, and just the memory of that whole thing makes me light up.

    When we planned our wedding, we had serious discussions about venue and price and numbers of guests, and we had a serious talk with my parents and his about what the expectations were on cost and who would pay. I ended up doing a lot of the planning, but he was there to hold my hand and give opinions, and so forth. I knew that he was just as excited at the prospect of standing up and committing to spend the rest of our lives together as I was.

    I think what I’m hearing from your letter is that your guy is great with GRAND IDEAS and GRAND GESTURES. He picked the right moment to propose with what he had at the time! That’s amazing! What a great idea! And then when it comes to the nitty gritty details, he’s kind of flaking out, and I think you should trust that. Trust that he’s always going to be the GRAND IDEA and GRAND GESTURE guy, and you’re going to be the detail person, and decide whether that’s a division of labor that works for you.

  33. The overpromising part of this is interesting — he set the expectation himself and then went to great lengths to maintain it even when it clearly wasn’t realistic for him to deliver on it. It’s reminding me of a thing that happened in my own relationship recently.

    In our case, I was the overpromiser (persistently telling my broke partner that I could pay for him to go to his sister’s shockingly expensive destination wedding when it actually wasn’t reasonable for me to afford it). When we eventually laid all the cards on the table about it, what emerged was that I was desperately trying to avoid any situation in which I had to witness him feeling sad about not having a thing, especially if I felt like maybe I could have done something about it. The constant beguiling thought in my head was that maybe if I could have done more financially, then I wouldn’t have to do more emotionally by being present for the sad feelings. (I know. I know. I’m working on it.)

    I just wonder, if you poked at this, if you’d find something similar there: that paralyzing fear of needing to say “actually, no” because saying it leads to scary emotional labor.

    1. I’m a terrible overpromiser in my professional life. This comment has really given me something to think about.

      1. Ooh, I can imagine that. Seems like overpromising at work is its own odd situation, because so many jobs put people into situations where they either have to lie optimistically or deliver unpleasant news and do the emotional labor of listening to the reaction. (This avoidance-through-overpromising thing got me into some real messes when I was working in customer service and social services.)

      2. I have found that at my work people respect ‘realistic with x, y or z suggestions on how to solve the problem’ more than overpromising.

    2. “The constant beguiling thought in my head was that maybe if I could have done more financially, then I wouldn’t have to do more emotionally by being present for the sad feelings.”

      Oh. Crap. I needed to hear that today.

  34. I think Maya Angelou is very appropriate here: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” It’s about the ring, but it’s not about the ring, you know? Your fiancee is showing you who he is. If you can be married to someone who doesn’t follow through, won’t plan, and tries to minimize his workload by gaslighting you, then go ahead with your plans. If you can’t, then I think you know what you need to do.

  35. I have experienced not calling off a wedding when I should have and I didn’t speak up for the reasons you’d expect: embarrassed, worried what people would think, worried what people would say. Not calling off the wedding is probably one of the biggest mistakes and biggest regrets of my life.

    It took me many years to untangle my life afterwards, too. We split up shortly before our third anniversary and it took an additional five years for the divorce to be final. Five years where neither one of us could move on with our lives! If I could do it all over again, I’d call off the wedding when I first realized that I didn’t want to marry that person.

  36. LW, you are NOT a stubborn, selfish trash monster, so just stop that right now. You didn’t want a ring, but then you were promised one and got excited, and that’s ok! It’s ok to be excited about something you didn’t think you wanted that you now want! And $1,000 for an engagement ring is legit bargain basement, and I feel like your guy is really (maybe unintentionally?) gaslighting you with with the whole “Oh, that much? I can’t afford that!” and “I have no idea how much rings cost”. Come on, dude. I hate to generalize, but most guys who plan to get married someday know that ring=$$$$. That just feels icky to me, and I’m sorry what should have been a happy occasion for you has turned into a larger issue of some concerning revelations about your potential husbands values and financial situation.

    1. Also, it would be 100% okay for him to say $1000 is more than I can swing, my budget is more like $XXX, is that okay?”

      It’s NOT okay to gaslight the LW like “you didn’t actually want a ring (even after I promised you a ring), did you?”

      1. Absolutely! I don’t think that the cost of the ring is the issue at all, the ring was just the catalyst for all of the other issues (the gaslighting, lack of transparency about finances, realization that you’re with an idea guy who isn’t actually interested in execution, etc..).

  37. Big Ideas But No Follow Through Guy (or lady) is a person I’ve started getting less and less patient with in my life.

    It used to be something I wasn’t judgemental about; I’m a fairly relaxed, more-or-less self-reliant oriented person, and the only character flaws that really bothered me in people were violent tendencies and serious prejudices. But now that I’m in more than one context where I have to rely on others– the work just doesn’t get done if I’m the only one doing it– people who commit and don’t follow through f*** up my whole day, and important tasks are left undone, some of which are genuinely urgent (as in clients are then sent to an ER to get needs met because we’re so behind even though that’s not what the ER is for. )

    I have zero problems with people saying no to a request to fill hours, or do a household chores, or drive someone someplace. Generally, if I’m not paying them, they’re free to say no, and it’s nothing I can’t handle. But once someone says, “yes, I’ll do that!” Or, worse, volunteers to help without my asking: follow the f*** through!

    Ughhhh. Just, no additional advice, I just feel your pain. Especially the part where the person has other great qualities. 100 percent of the time, I’ve had this argument with people who I genuinely like and get along with. It makes me feel like the bad guy.

  38. This is why engagement can be a good thing: you find out whether or not your boyfriend can actually go through with it, or if you should. Kinda been there, done this myself and … don’t elope. Test the waters for a while and see if this is actually doable.

  39. If $1000 is too much for a ring, you two still need to have that conversation and not this back and forth about what you agreed to and whether or not you really wanted a ring.

    I’ve been married almost 12 years now, and we each have a career and we have three kids and one of the things that I *most* appreciate about my husband is that he does what he says he’ll do. The logistics of life can get pretty complicated pretty fast, and it’s important to have a partner that you can say “hey, this hurt my feelings” or “hey, I could use some help here” to without paralyzing self doubt.

    I’d like to echo the advice here to slow down. He may be lovely, but the traits that you describe can be wearing over time.

  40. LW, I feel you on being in a relationship with an Ideas Guy.

    Pro-tip. Ideas Guy isn’t actually really a thing. Trust me on this – everyone is an Ideas Person. Even people who feel like they don’t have great ideas and who have low confidence in their ability to have good ideas… still have some ideas. Because what makes an idea “good” or “bad” is the execution. That being the bit that you do.

    What you have is not an Ideas Guy. What you have is Bad Planner, or a Disorganised Dude, or a Wouldn’t It Be Nice-er.

    Which is okay. It’s okay to have one of those. I should know, I married one! But you need to both be on the same page with things. And you need to be able to have conversations about budgets and expectations and plans and how things are going to work.

    In my case, what that meant was Spouse did not plan the budget, but he did give me free reign to re-allocate his wages and amend his weekly budget to allow us to save what we needed. He did not do the googling and researching of furniture hire, but he did listen to me when I was debating the merits of them and fielded phone calls and quotes which he wrote down and brought to me as they came in. He did not research the celebrant options, or make the bank transfers to various suppliers, or write out the invitations. But he did work out the colours and theme, hammer out the perfect ceremony script with the celebrant and was the one who took responsibility for chasing up when BRIDESMAIDS kept flaking on sending measurements for their outfits for so long I almost didn’t have time to sew them.

    He also took on responsibility for all of the housework instead of half of it, as well as cooking more of the meals, and cut back on social engagements in order to be home earlier to provide emotional support during stressful times.

    It’s okay to not be any good at planning. So long as you know you’re no good at it, own it, and respect and recognise the work done by the people who are the planners. I’m not sure it sounds like your guy’s there right now. Maybe he might be, one day. Hell, we were together 15 years before we got married partly for financial reasons but also partly because *neither of us* was ready for the kind of work that planning a wedding involves, and we knew it. And that’s okay. We were, at the very least, both mostly in the same place as each other at the same time, even when that place was *years away from being ready for the marriage we have now*.

    It’s also okay if you and your guy aren’t in the same place as each other. It’s okay if you decide that you don’t want to wait around for your guy to go through big shifts in attitude, maturity and approach-to-life. It’s okay to love someone, but know that they aren’t the right person for you or aren’t in the right place to be with you. It’s okay to love someone, but choose to look for someone who is on the same team as you.

    Step one in working out where you are in all of this, is going to be talking to him. About what expectations you both have, about what direction you both want, about what future you both want to build, about how you each plan to accommodate each other in the spaces where your plans and priorities don’t align. Because there will be spaces like that – there always are – but how you both deal with them is the deal-maker or deal-breaker here.

    1. This is a great comment. I especially like the last paragraph.

      This letter kind of reminds me of that terrible movie where two best friends wanted to have their weddings at the same venue on the same day. One of the friend’s relationships got stronger throughout the process of planning the wedding, but the other one’s process showed all the cracks in their relationship and they ended up not getting married. A long engagement process will show whether your relationship will hold up long-term or not.

    2. This was lovely to read, and your husband sounds like the best!! You’re totally right, owning your faults and working with them is so much better than throwing yourself dramatically onto the chaise-lounge and wailing that you’re just a hopeless case.

    3. THIS. I also married that guy, and we’re happy in our patterns. BUT (and I think this is key) – the time I spend planning counts as household time. As in, the time I spend balancing the household budget or coordinating with the daycare or making the week’s meal plan is matched by him folding laundry and dealing with the litter box and doing child care. It’s work, it counts as household contribution, and total household contribution is split evenly.

  41. My best friend was engaged to this guy. She had informed a couple would-be bridesmaids about her taste in rings and her sister had gone with the would-be fiance to pick one out – something similar to what you describe, in fact: a beautiful antique that was a fraction of the cost of a new ring. She knew the proposal was coming….eventually….but it kept not happening. Because he was hiding the fact that he couldn’t scrape together several hundred bucks – and hiding the fact that he’d gotten fired AND had a drug addiction and a mountain of debts. He ended up buying her a cheap tacky ring, nothing like the one he’d had help picking out, and they got engaged. VERY FORTUNATELY she found out about the lost job and the drug addiction and numerous other lies a couple months before the wedding, and called it off.

    I don’t say this to imply that your boyfriend is hiding something big and scary like a drug addiction. I say this to demonstrate that you shouldn’t get engaged to someone who 1) isn’t willing to be open and honest about finances and priorities and 2) isn’t putting any effort into the life he claims he wants the two of you to build together. It was never about the ring – she didn’t really even bat an eye at it – but the whole ring process was a pretty good indication of how the rest of their relationship would have gone.

  42. I know it probably goes without saying, but I want to stress this: there are partners out there who will do the emotional labor of a relationship/living together/wedding/vacations. I say this because I spent all of my 20’s with guys who did just the barest amount of emotional labor lifting on the day-to-day things, and figured that this was just going to be My Job forever if I wanted to be partnered (or that I was an evil shrew person for having expectations and wanting things.)

    I’m planning a trip to Japan this spring with a new boyfriend. He’s never been, doesn’t speak the language (I’ve lived there, and speak enough to get around.) He has every excuse to sit back and let me do everything. While he’s let me take the lead, he also pushed for us to sit down together and find places to stay, figured out a schedule, when we should go get our passports taken care of, asked for ideas on things to do (and then chose what he’d like to do), and has been very involved and engaged.

    I never thought something like this was possible; honestly, truly, I thought equitable “planning” labor like this was always going to be the trade-off I made for partnering. It is a *giant, physically palpable relief* to have someone share the burden. You deserve that, and it is possible…. heck, it’s maybe even possible with your current fiancee. Just don’t sell yourself short like I did for years, and live with this kind of inequality that makes you unhappy because you know no other way.

    1. Yes! Same here. I definitely dated a few of those guys before finally finding one who happily pulls his weight in emotional labor and planning. They exist!

      It doesn’t help that “useless idiot husband” is basically a trope – I imagine there are a lot of people-who-date-men out there who just figure that’s how it is and they better get used to it.

    2. My boyfriend is the planner and reminder in the relationship, there was one time early in the relationship that we were going to a mutual friends’ lifecycle event, and he RSVPed FOR ME. It was SO NICE.

  43. Seconding everything the good Captain has said and the folks upthread as well. LW, I really recommend you peace out of doing ANY of the work for either wedding stuff or vacation stuff until your boyfriend starts seriously showing up like an equal partner in this relationship. Right now he is not doing that at all. It’s not really about the ring here. The ring ought to be a symbol of love and commitment, but to me right now it sounds like it is a symbol of Boyfriend being “idea-guy-with-no-follow-through”.

  44. Oh dear. I think that there needs to be long and careful thought on how you want to live the rest of your life. From your letter, it sounds like this is a pattern. “I’m not going to contribute to the planning process. I’m not going to do any of the leg work. I am going to complain bitterly and make you feel like crap if it’s not perfectly, exactly what I had in mind in the first place (but didn’t communicate clearly)” If you are okay living the rest of your life like this, marry him. If not, whether you love him or not, cut bait while you still can. I have learned from bitter experience that without a ton of work, on his part, that his history, as described, he is not going to be willing to put in, this kind of behavior doesn’t change. Unless you are willing to be 75 and still doing all of the everything that actually takes effort, you will hurt less backing WAY off until he demonstrates that effort and a sustained change of behavior.

  45. LW, much of this letter had me going “What? WHAT? Noooo.” and then invoking the Sheezlebub Principle (if you are the only one doing all the emotional and actual labor in your realationship in 5…10…15 years, is that cool with you?).

    But the thing that stuck with me, that I had to scroll back up and re-read four separate times, was him saying $1,000 for an engagement ring is too much. It reminded me of a happy hour with coworkers who complained that $10,000 was too STINGY for an engagement ring and showed insufficient planning on the part of the proposer. I myself blanch at the thought of carrying around something worth more than my student loans on my finger, but the point is that there is a WIDE range of price points for an engagement ring and your research is correct, $1,000 is absolutely on the low end. Well done you for finding something you love that won’t cost you a bunch extra to insure!

    But what really got to me was him not knowing that. My dude, are you telling me you were thinking about marrying a woman, that you were complaining that you felt bad you didn’t get her a ring, actually picked out a time to go ring shopping, and never once in that presumably more than 24 hour interval fucking typed “Engagement Rings” into Google? Or idly mentioned it to some coworkers or family or friends who did not then immediately bust out with their own info? Like, being an “ideas guy” is one thing, but something about that absolute lack of either planning or engagement or even basic idle curiosity into (for a dude who seems to care about you NOT having a ring) the one single part of this process that he seems to acknowledge as “his” really disturbs me.

    The pattern of him also not helping with planning but poking holes in whatever you come up with also is a big red flag. Sure, right now it’s about venues and invitations and whether or not to have a unity candle. What is this going to look like when you start trying to get a mortgage? Or doing home maintenance like getting a new roof? What does (god forbid) you getting cancer or another serious illness where he has to be the one to take care of you AND keep your lives going look like? When my mom got cancer her doctor had to sit my dad’s ass down and explain that no, she couldn’t do his laundry and make him dinner after she got home from chemo, and that if he kept having temper tantrums about it and pushing her past the point of exhaustion she would probably end up dying. So I think about things like that a lot.

    It may be that your dude is the kind of guy who has been coasting for a while without putting a lot of emotional effort or thought into his own life… but who is going to straighten up once the wedding’s over and you start sending out the thank you notes that he may or may not be up for helping you write. But, and I say this based on experience, really think about what you’re going to want to live with 35 years from now if he continues as he is.

    1. “When my mom got cancer her doctor had to sit my dad’s ass down and explain that no, she couldn’t do his laundry and make him dinner after she got home from chemo, and that if he kept having temper tantrums about it and pushing her past the point of exhaustion she would probably end up dying.”

      Oh wow, I’m so sorry your Mom and you had to deal with awful behaviour like that.

      1. My dad did exactly the same thing, expected my mom to still do all the things while going through chemo and radiation. It was the neighborhood friends of my moms (all women) who came over and got things done. Dad didni’t lift a finger. Even after people told him mom was not physically capable of doing all that labor.

  46. I just want to add to the chorus saying please don’t rush into anything. Why does it have to be this year?

    Take your time to figure out of you’re on the same page as far as all the things that go into planning a life together – finances, lifestyle, etc.

    Is minimizing your wants and desires a pattern? I don’t know if this is the case with you, OP, but sometimes jif you share a lot of beliefs and values, you don’t notice until later that they don’t treat you well around your areas of differences. I have found I’m happier with somebody I have some differences with, but who treats my feelings with respect, than with somebody with whom I share so much in common, but who can’t handle the few differences we do have.

    There’s always going to be a difference in priorities, but taking an interest in what makes your partner happy is a reasonable expectation in general. I’ve been in this situation on both sides. I do *not* like celebrating Christmas, but putting a few candies in a stocking, and eating the candies in my stocking go a long way toward making a loved one feel cherished, so I do it. (I’m not really celebrating ‘Christmas’. I am making a loving gesture to somebody I care about.) On the flip side, I was the one telling my partner “I may not like jewellery, but if you buy me something in gold as a symbol of our relationship, my feeling of security of being loved will be immense.” I got the gold ring, and I know it doesn’t mean to my partner what it means to me. But what it does mean to my partner is my happiness. And he values my happiness, even if he doesn’t value relationship symbols.

    Caring for something because it’s important to your partner, as long as it’s mutual, is a HUGE part of making long term relationships work, in my opinion.

  47. A lot of folks are mentioning that there are some conversations that are important to have before you tie the knot. I am analytical as all get out, so of COURSE I went full bore on this, and had my now husband go through a book: The Hard Questions: 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”

    It had us talk about money, family, kids, aging, retirement, the whole kit and caboodle. It is not at all romantic to be so dang practical, but we did it. And every once in awhile, my silly goose of a husband will, as we are watching a relationship fall apart on TV, turn to me and say “they should have answered the questions!”

    You don’t necessarily have to answer 100 different questions or be as detailed and procedural as we were, but it certainly brought some things up for discussion that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise gotten around to hanging out on the couch.

  48. So many good comments already, but basically, what the Captain said. And I believe someone mentioned marriage counseling. My Catholic friend got married recently and told me about the marriage counseling he did with his (now) wife and I was impressed. Looking quickly, the Catholic Church provides a list of MUST-HAVE conversations you should have with your partner to make sure you’re on the same page and can apply to pretty much everyone.

    Must-have conversation topics: Finances (any big debts? will you keep separate accounts or joint? how will you split bills? who’se paying for the wedding? what’s the budget?) is on there, of course, but also children and parenting (do you want them? Do you want relatively the same number? etc), careers (whose career has priority, etc), conflict resolutions skills (how do you deal when the two of you disagree? Is that dynamic sustainable, or is it you (or him) always giving in?), cohabitation (if not already an issue, but it encompasses things like how are the household chores going to be split?), and a couple other topics.

    And from what I understand, it’s better to have an explicit, honest conversation about this with your partner even if you’re fairly sure you know the answers (don’t want to get the “I thought we’d have 5 kids and you’d quit your job and stay at home and cook, clean, raise kids and we’d start going to Church every Sunday even though I haven’t walked into a church the entire time you’ve known me but, you know, not kids NOW, in like three years” sprung on you).

    1. It occurs to me that this sort of conversation is a great way to drill down and find out if your partner really wants to be with YOU, or just wants you to fill out the “spouse” slot society has told them need to get someone into.

      1. That’s a really great insight.

        I will forever and always cheerfully endorse premarital counseling. My husband and I have always been two peas in a pod had never (and still have never) had a fight, etc… but having all of those discussions brought us so incredibly close together. I’ve never been really able to put my finger on why it felt so intimate and wonderful. I think that’s it. We were really, truly discussing a share future with the actual individual we had chosen to be our Person. It felt very real, and very profound.

      2. When I got married I discovered that my husband now thought of me as his other half…which meant I was supposed to know what he wanted(“if you really loved me you would have KNOWN”) and also that we as a team were supposed to be being great to others the way he had been great to me when we were dating(now that I was his other half, he didn’t need to do those things for me anymore).
        It wasn’t discussed. It was just a state change that he assumed made sense to both of us. It took a while for me to even see what had happened and recognize the changed pattern.

        It would have been so very useful to know his feelings on that ahead of the wedding.

    2. That inventory is so helpful – it also addresses relationships with families of origin, problems with drinking or other habits, and other things that crop up on CA often.

      The real point of it, though, is “have you talked about these things? how do you communicate about things that can be tricky?”

      I totally admire your 100 question process, too. 🙂

    3. My then-fiance and I went to one of these through the Catholic church, a weekend retreat with a lot of other couples. At a session on Finance, they had us write down on a piece of paper what we felt we could spend without feeling like we should “check in” with the other. She and I wrote down the exact same number. A couple across from us? She wrote down $40. He wrote down $400,000. Seems he had ALREADY bought a dairy farm. Without telling her. “We’re going to be farmers!” he announced proudly.

      After her very loud protest of disbelief — understandable, I thought — they were asked to step into another room to discuss things. I think it was a good thing she learned this before their wedding. If, indeed, they got married after that.

      Now, he obviously was a “planner” but in this case, that’s not a good thing. What he wasn’t was someone who talked about money with his fiance, a trait he shares with the LW’s sweetie. Whether you wait for counseling or metaphorically step into that other room before hand, is up to you, but it seems like that conversation needs to happen.

  49. Ergh. It’s kind of painful to say this. But it seems like, for this guy, the idea IS the thing? Maybe the idea of proposing occurred to him and he rode that wave. But marriage IS the follow-through part. If he doesn’t want to do the follow-through stuff, it seems like he doesn’t actually want to be married. Like, if you did no wedding planning at all, do you think the two of you would ever get married? If it were on his shoulders, would it ever happen?

    I strongly advise you not to push this one through, LW.

    1. I was thinking the same thing.

      LW, do you know if he planned to propose before you went to the special place, or did he just decide to do it on the spot? If it wasn’t planned and was spontaneous combustion of romantic bliss so happy together in special place, you both need to examine how much he genuinely wants the wedding and the marriage.
      Does he really want this or did he get carried away in the moment and now he’s getting cold feet?

    2. In a strange way, it reminds me of a piece of writing advice: that for some people, talking about an idea makes them less likely to write it because it feels ‘done.’ They’ve expressed the idea (in conversation form rather than novel form) and gotten that jolt of satisfaction and maybe the approval of the people they told it to, and so they don’t really NEED to write it.

      (This isn’t true of everyone, obviously, nine and sixty ways, etc., but it certainly is for me. The more I talk about an idea, the less likely I am to sit my ass down and put it on paper.)

      I think this is true of some people for a lot of areas of life. My mother in law seems to be entirely happy to have the idea of moving to Hawaii every few years, looking up real estate online and daydreaming, and then not doing it. That’s fine. She enjoys it. It’s certainly a hell of a lot cheaper and less effort than actually moving to Hawaii. It would not be fine, though, if her partner really wanted to move to Hawaii and she kept dangling it in front of him and then yanking it away. Another friend gets a giant kick out of new business ideas, which he will tell us all about on the regular–and he has literally never even begun to put one in motion. That’s also fine (a little tedious, at times, but we all have topics on which our friends tolerate us being moderately boring from time to time), but it wouldn’t be if he was getting a potential business partner all fired up and then dropping it.

      I wonder if some of that is going on here? He had the Idea that it would be very romantic to get engaged in this way. But now, when you’re gearing up for like, Actually Getting Married, his itch is scratched? I dunno, but worth thinking about.

  50. In regard to the finances, Michelle Singletary writes about such things and one of her pieces of advice is to always, always have an open and honest discussion about money. Is one of you a spender and the other a saver? you might be able to reach a compromise, but not necessarily. Is one of you deeply in debt? it’s best to know before getting married. She advises talking with a financial counselor before marriage if there’s even a chance of a disparity.

    The (strong) possibility of him being in financial straits, along with the big ideas/no follow-through pattern, would make me very nervous. It’s been said that genius is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration – so the ideas may be great, but someone needs to do the grunt work. And it shouldn’t always be you – what happens if you get sick or busy?

    Slow down – if you can work things out now, the chances for the marriage are better.

  51. Agh I was rage typing so intensely that I lost my partially written comment and had to start over! My dear LW, I am a feminist (who happens to be planning her own wedding right now), and your letter made me go FULL HULK FEMINIST BRIDE OF DESTRUCTION. You are NOT being selfish or spoiled or anything else, and I am LIVID that your fiance is trying to gaslight you. I have very little to add to the Captain’s absolutely brilliant advice, but I have dated someone who had no follow-through and was financially irresponsible, and that shit is EXHAUSTING. Please do not marry this guy until/ unless y’all are on the same financial page AND he shows that he can be more than just an idea guy. Being the woman behind the idea guy is tedious, thankless, and not what feminism is about, regardless of how some dudes expertly attempt to frame their case as such. I have so much sympathy, empathy, and incoherent rage on your behalf. If nothing else, please know that you are not the one who is out of line here.

  52. Oh, LW. Did you manage to find my ex-boyfriend in the 7 months we’ve been split up? Big internet hugs if you want them, my heart really goes out to you as I was in almost exactly the same situation. I’m sure the other commenters have noted this, but it seems like part of what is so upsetting is that the ring is just the most recent and visible and disappointing example of an ongoing relationship dynamic that you do not like.

    I really hope that as you guys continue to talk, you don’t focus on just the ring and whether he ‘can’ afford it. It’s possible that he panicked because $1k can be a lot of money to someone who doesn’t spend much, and maybe he has $20k in savings but he’s mentally earmarked that for other stuff he considers important. This sounds like an example of how he jumps into stuff (…like an engagement?) full throttle without stopping to think through how to make it happen, and leans on you to make it happen. Does he ever make other things he wants (fancy toys, gym memberships for himself etc) happen? Because that could be telling about what he deems important and a priority in his life.

    1. Does he ever make other things he wants (fancy toys, gym memberships for himself etc) happen?

      Ohhh great question there.

  53. The ring is a red herring. It is not about the ring, and don’t let anyone’s opinions of the relative merit of engagement rings as a tradition persuade you into backing down here.

    This guy has shown you that he will make grand pronouncements and plans, and not follow through with any of it unless you roll out the red carpet for him to skip down. And if it inconveniences him, he will make you feel bad about *his own actions.*

    You already are “sick to death of this.”

    This will only get worse if you get married. More so if you have kids. You might think you’re able to stomach carrying all the load of emotional labor in this relationship, but picture small kids whose dad makes big promises about fun things they’re going to do together and never follows through? While your emotional labor load increases exponentially?

    This letter reads to me like a guy in a red shirt determinedly heading down the deserted spaceship tunnel while the ominous music was playing. Please if you do nothing else, take the Captain’s advice and DO NOT MARRY THIS GUY anytime in the forseeable future.

    1. Oooh, that’s a really good point of ‘how will his big-idea-no-follow-through behaviour affect the kids’.

      That would super suck to have to not only do all the emotional labour of running a family with kids (which I have no doubt will fall to LW if this dynamic continues), but also have to comfort the children’s hurt feelings over their dad’s careless behaviour.

      1. Exactly! Guess what I end up doing a lot with my kids when my STBX disappoints them yet again? Ugh I cannot wait to divorce this man.

  54. Oh, LW. I feel for you. I really do.

    Engagements and weddings have a way of introducing stress to the chillest, most in-love couples you can imagine. And once families get involved, it can get even more fraught.

    Personally, I believe this is because (at least in the U.S.) we sublimate a lot of emotional stress into fighting about rings and color schemes and seating arrangements rather than wrestling with the ways that marriage affects a multitude of relationships and dynamics… not just between a couple, but rippling out through families, friends, coworkers, and the culture at large.

    All of that stuff is big and messy and difficult and weird and unexpected and sometimes painful and most people don’t have words for it. It’s compounded by the pressure to create a ‘perfect’ day, preceded by the perfect story, the perfect proposal. No messy feelings allowed, or it’s all ‘ruined’. We aren’t supposed to talk about any of it, so we fight about the trappings.

    I mean: I had a raise-your-voice, break-down-crying fight with my parents in Costco about… what kind of butter to serve with rolls at the reception. We fought about BUTTER. (We were not really fighting about butter.)

    Right now that seems to be where you may be at: the realities of all the symbols and narratives are sinking in, and your (and your partner’s) discomfort is making all that perfection feel pre-ruined. Compromise feels wrong because then you can’t hang on to that perfect feeling/memory. The lure of wiping your anxiety from your mind and pretending that you are above being worried about any of this is enticing, because then you can hold on to the perfect narrative for your love story (as long as you keep your mouth shut about any reservations, stress, frustration or division… forever).

    I want to be clear, I’m not dissing on you or anyone for this. The most self-aware people I’ve ever met have struggled with this pressure for perfection around weddings, where 5 minutes ago their love story didn’t need to be perfect. It didn’t even need to be a ‘love story’. I get it. I have been there myself. And I have nothing but empathy for you. Let the one who has truly cast of all cultural baggage be the one to cast the first stone.

    My advice is this: get very clear on what you want and how you want your future to look. Not just the engagement and wedding, but marriage. Go get a book or a checklist of “things to talk about before you get married”. And when you know what it is you want, communicate it explicitly to your partner. Then ask him what HE wants.

    At that point, watch out for a few immediate red flags:
    * He cannot tell you explicitly or clearly what it is HE wants, because he doesn’t know. (This may show up as “Whatever YOU want, baby!” or “I don’t care, as long as we end up married!”)

    * He is unwilling to do the work it takes to get clear on what he wants. (This may show up as him being TOTALLY WILLING but then a week and a month and a year later, he still doesn’t have an answer because he’s just been busy/stressed/whatever. Try setting a time for a follow-up conversation. See if he follows through.)

    * He tries to convince you that what you want is bad or stupid or wrong or unfair or selfish or unreasonable or impractical when you know that is not true.

    * He pivots to how unexpected it is that you have wants! And are blindsiding him with this! (No you are not. You are telling him what you want. It should not be that shocking.)

    Either way, look into some legitimate couple’s/premarital counseling. And I mean serious, dive-deep counseling, not 3 meetings with a minister and a discount on your license fee. Discuss your families and communities of origin. What sort of marriages did you see growing up? What were you told? What was concealed? How was labor (included emotional) divided in the household? How was money dealt with? What message have you both gotten about marriage and partnership growing up?

    A lot of people think that after dating someone for a few years and loving them deeply, you’ve got what you need to make a marriage work. It’s not true. We have buckets and buckets of expectations about marriage and family that we can’t communicate because we aren’t even aware that we have them: we think This Is The Way It Is. So you both need to dig into what it is you expect out of this, and find out where you are on the same page and where you are not even in the same book.

    Another red flag: he is unwilling to do this work with you or have these conversations. Imagine how that plays out when you disagree one day about something major. If your options going into the marriage are compromise (which in your case sounds a lot like ‘do what he wants’) or walk away, then those will be your options for a long time. Do some up-front investigating now before you merge your life with someone who may have very different ideas about what your life together will look like.

    That is all the good advice I have. The only thing left is: yeah, sorry, he DOES sound like an immature and selfish trash monster and I hope you don’t end up marrying him.

    1. This comment is everything.

      Also, am trying to figure out how to have the deep-dive convos you describe with my husband of 7 years….

  55. As much as we’d like every relationship to be 50/50 for things, in mine I am definitely the planner. Especially given the assumption that the woman is planning joined with my personality, our wedding was not 50/50 planned… and our vacation plans are generally not 50/50. But there’s a big difference between someone being stressed out / overwhelmed by planning and someone actually making things *harder* on you.

    Wedding planning was stressful and I did a LOT of research and the bulk of the early work. But… even though it was stressful and not very fun (except maybe cake tasting!), my partner stepped up, and did a bunch of less researchy things (faxing deposits, designing invitations, picking music, etcetera). He also came to every appointment and was super on board and helpful while actively visiting sites, eating potential food, etcetera.

    If I’m super charitable, maybe your man is similar – maybe planning is just NOT his jam and sending out emails full of links will never happen. Is he onboard otherwise? Does he have other ways he could step up? Is this a non-planner or someone who simply doesn’t follow through at all? I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt here, but the way you describe his behavior in the letter is very concerning.

    And you know, during engagement I did ask myself “Am I okay with generally being the planner for the rest of my life?” Turns out I am in my own specific circumstances, where I can get him to help me and where he’s not picky so I often get “my way” when planning things.

    Fortunately you already know you need to have a finances conversation. That’s a whole different can of worms I don’t have a lot of advice for.

    1. Oh, yes, I am a planner. I am totally fine when my husband’s and my vacation plans involve me saying “Hey, I’d like to go to this place for x amount of time, and I think it’ll cost $y. Do you think that sounds fun and can we afford it and can you get the time off?” and then going and doing all the planning. But he’s then fine with doing whatever I plan. (I do run things by him before committing). And if it’s something he wants to do more than I do, he’ll take the initiative and make the plan, and I’ll be fine with whatever he plans or I’ll jump in for the bit that I actually care about. (And of course if he actively wants me to plan some part of it, I’ll do that).

  56. Yes to all, and also: if you thought this guy had a lot in savings and it turns out he doesn’t, there is a chunk, possibly a large one, of his life you don’t know about (as clearly what he’s spending on isn’t visible to you). Considering his lack of trustworthiness thus far, this is something that’s worth elucidating.






      1. Actually in CA they are not worth much. A prenup only covers certain things, like property aquired prior to marriage.

        1. YUP. Ask me about my prenup that says “no spousal support to be paid” versus the amount of support I’ve paid in the process of this California divorce. (actually, please don’t ask, just slow down and take your time before deciding to marry)

  58. I haven’t read through all the comments so I apologise if I’m repeating something another wise and lovely commentor has said, but as a Recently Married this one is taking me back…

    Okay I just wrote and deleted a long comment about the intricacies of our engagement ring/wedding planning, which is mainly boring, but bottom line: it’s not about the ring. It’s about trusting this man will do what he says he will, when he says he will: it’s about trusting him not only with that but with your heart and your energy and your finances and basically the rest of your life.

    Stop planning to marry him until you can trust him.

    PS: my engagement ring is not even worth $50. I love it. We decided together to save money for the wedding at the time and get a ‘proper’ one later. When/if we do, I’m sure I’ll love that one too. Because (all together now) **it’s not about the ring**.

    1. I love your comment. My ring was $150, picked it out on Etsy, paid for it, and gave it to him. He kept it in his rear-view mirror for six months “until he was ready.” He then proposed to me spontaneously, the morning AFTER we moved into our apartment on our five-year anniversary. Those idea-guys, it sometimes just takes them longer to get’er’done – but they sure can surprise you! For me, his commitment is shown through his behaviour and gentle acts of love, not necessarily by fulfilling MY expectations – important point there I think for maturity.

      Happily unmarried after three years of “JUST” wearing the ring… we recently decided to build a nuptial cabin INSTEAD of paying for a wedding. Like you said, it’s all about trust. We don’t even really “need” a wedding any longer. But three years ago, I really thought I did… things change as your relationship grows.

    2. Emotional labor true story:

      When I was married before, I would do a ton of emotional labor into figuring out what it was I felt and wanted, and what was my stuff that I needed to work through on my own and what was ‘our’ stuff or ‘his’ stuff, and how to phrase it to him so he would be receptive.

      Then I would raise it to him and he would be noncommittal. So I would say “do you mean x? Does that make you feel y? You don’t know? Ok, how do you want to approach that? Put it off so you can think about it? Ok, it’s next week now, can we revisit the thing? You haven’t thought about it? Oh, this is how this makes me feel, can you tell me how you feel about that? Oh, here’s a bone you tossed me, that’s awesome. I will chew on it. Hey, it’s two months later, can we talk about the thing that you’re still doing that is still hurting me that I don’t feel like I have a right to be hurt over but my therapist tells me [to fucking leave you already – literally] that my feelings are normal, so I would like to talk about it. Oh, you’re making me feel guilty for even asking? Ok, I will drop it for a year. In another year I get another bone? Great!”

      And I eventually realized that I was in a relationship by myself. It felt like I was in a play where I was playing both my role and his role. I’d do all my work, all his work, and then go back to doing my work based on the words I had placed in his mouth and all the additional emotional labor I had taken on from him.

      It was exhausting and devastatingly stressful. I kept doing it because to admit the whole truth to myself would have required that I entertain leaving him, and I was not ready to do that.

      I’m so, so relieved I finally left him. My family tells me that they were saddened for me when I would tell them delightedly about things partners did for me in relationships I had after my ex husband – they would say how nice it was that my partner helped me with something and then say, but Lizards, that’s NORMAL. You SHOULD expect that.

      I see how much you’re doubting yourself. He is gaslighting you and it is evident in this letter. Please know you have a right to others pulling their own weight in emotional labor.

      1. “And I eventually realized that I was in a relationship by myself.”

        OMG yes. I was in a relationship where I was doing 90% of the relationship and my ex was doing 10%. Until I went through some stuff and no longer had the energy. If my ex had stepped up and decided it was his turn to give 90% for awhile until I got through my shit, the relationship might have survived. But he didn’t, and obviously we couldn’t keep going long with neither of us putting effort into the relationship. It’s ironic to me he blamed me for us splitting up because he correctly assessed that I had stopped doing the emotional upkeep for us both – he was technically correct but damn, I had been carrying us for YEARS, he couldn’t make an effort?

        I think most relationships have times where one person gives more than the other, but it has to even out over time.

        1. That thing. Yes.

          Now that ex and I are broken up, I am actually in a relationship with myself, and it’s So Much Better.

    3. It’s not about the ring!

      I don’t have an engagement ring. Never wanted a rock for damn sure, always cared about the wedding ring symbolism but not so much engagement. My husband and I picked out matching gold wedding rings that cost $125 for both.

      Here’s the emotional labor he did for me.

      We were waiting for a certain situation to work out to know if we could get married. It worked out. We were ecstatic. Then, he saw me hesitate and feel intimidated. He knows making final decisions is hard for me.

      So he just said casually, “I know! How about you propose when you feel ready?”

      And then we both felt comfortable and happy and we went on kissing.

      A couple weeks later I came to the point of feeling that not only could I make this decision but I didn’t want to wait a minute longer. I raced over to the house where he was and proposed on the basement steps b/c he only had five minutes, someone was waiting on him (he was a caregiver.) He laughed with joy. It was hella romantic and we love to tell the story.

      He knew what I wanted, he knew what I needed. THAT’s what it’s about.

      1. This is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. I want to have a relationship where things are done with such care for the other person’s wants/needs.

  59. Interesting note on the moderation note: I usually am one of those people, but this letter changed my perspective instantly. The situation with the ring exposing a previously-hidden red flag about Boyfriend’s money management (And perhaps a convoluted, disingenuous scheme to sidestep the traditional ring-buying practice with the purportedly spontaneous proposal? I’m suddenly suspicious.) demonstrates the value of the practice.

    This guy is… maybe not a Terrible Person (but also maybe yes, depending on the balance of willful deception/gaslighting/emotional-and-administrative-labor-exploiting versus unrealistic expectations or executive dysfunction or whatever else) but also maybe not well suited to be a partner to someone? Or to you specifically, LW? “Partner” as in an actual partner – he seems more like he wants a girlfriend/wife who is taking on the role of his mother or personal assistant or something.

    This would all – the inability to believe a partner will follow through on zir promises becasue of a years-long pattern of behavior, the misrepresentation of financial situation/money management issues, his inability to compromise or take on any labor for your benefit qua “he doesn’t like change and doesn’t want to confront having to do something he doesn’t want to” – be a big enough deal to me that I would certainly reconsider the idea of marriage, and maybe even dating him at all. Marriage is a major legal and financial entanglement, and his habits could well cause you legal and financial problems as a result. I know people like to think of marriage as symbolizing love and commitment and whatnot, and that’s great! Those are features of your relationship with another person, which can exist with a certificate from the state or not, while the legal state of marriage is really all about shared legal, financial, and social rights, expectations, and obligations. I cannot stress CA’s bold statement in numbered point 1 enough – you MUST be transparent about the financial and legal implications of marriage and on the same page as each other, else you SHOULD NOT MARRY. It’s a recipe for ongoing stress and misery (and a contentious, acrimonious divorce) if you do not reach an accord in good faith on the part of all parties.

    You sound like you’re doing pretty well for yourself, LW, so I don’t think you need to be afraid that nobody else will be interested in building a life with you if you drop this guy. You deserve to find someone whose goals, values, and habits align with yours well enough that you can look forward to building a joyful life, a life where your partner supports you and helps reduce your stress and domestic workload. I know we often only hear the bad side of things, becasue they are often the most relevant to the question, so I’m sure there’s plenty you like about this guy, but it’s worth seriously considering whether he actually fits with you well as a possible life partner, especially before you consider marriage any further. Maybe he’s willing to put in the work at reforming his habits over the next several years. Or maybe not. Maybe as you’re considering that possibility, you decide it’s not worth finding out. Your concerns are reasonable and valid, and you should continue to listen to what your rational and emotional responses both are telling you as you figure out what you want to do. Trust yourself. I wish you well whatever you decide!

  60. I have an idea: what if you didn’t have the Big Finances Talk? What if you didn’t mention the wedding at all? What if you went about life as if he hadn’t asked?

    I’m not trying to be cruel. But I can’t help thinking about how exhausted you must be. Wouldn’t letting go of not just the ring debacle, but the entire marriage plan, lift an enormous amount of pressure?

    I think you deserve that way more than having to do all the heavy lifting on a finances conversation.

    Once you’ve done that, maybe try it again for other things: he has a Great Idea about a vacation. You go ahead and plan it — for yourself. Or with a buddy who will help with plans. You can then just tell him, “I’m going to be out of town for a few days” and go and have fun. If he wants to do a certain thing, he can make the plans. If (when) he doesn’t, well, you made your own plans, for yourself, like adults do.

    Sure, he’ll sulk. He’ll blame. He’ll cast you as The Witch. Meanwhile, you’ll have gotten some damn rest. If he is the man for you, and he sees you doing things for yourself, because you love and respect yourself, and doesn’t see that if he made an effort then he could get to do those things with you, and step up? With all that rest and perspective, it might not hurt as much to leave the relationship by that time.

    1. Yeah. It’s a strategy very effective with kids. How I taught my 3-year-old to clear his plate after lunch–“I’m not clearing it. It’s your plate.”

      If he has the capacity to learn of a 3-year-old, maybe he’ll catch on.

  61. Oh, dear LW, even though I do not live in the United States, some people still demand a big wedding with all the possible symbols and things in here, too. I have been in a state which resembled your situation a lot: I was engaged to a man and we had a venue booked… And then I realized how unhappy I was, that we did not really fit together as lovers. Breaking up the engagement felt terrible. Since I had been bullied as a child I have always been afraid of crying in the public and I remember fighting back the tears many times – and still, now that I look back at that time, over a decade ago, and see what came after the decision, I know it was definetely worth it.

    I second The Captain’s great advice with my whole heart. It is clear that you need to get to know him better – and then there are the red flags, like critizising you, taking back his promises and not being open about his financial situation. I would imagine issues like these would create distrust – and if your union is to survive, he needs to gain this trust back. Luckily you sound like a persion who prioritizes her own well being.

    Does he appreciate the work you do when you plan things? For some people (like my beloved husband) planning things cause a lot of stress and anxiety while some people (like me) enjoy doing the planning – but even though I enjoy doing it, it is still work and being appreciated and thanked every time makes me feel so very good. If you do not get appreciation of the effort you have gone through, your fiancé clearly needs to do some rethinking. My own experiences with behaviour like this are sadly quite negaive: where there was lack of gratitude and acknowledgement in the beginning, there was open hostilitiy after a few years. Dear LW, please avoid this trap and make sure that your fiancé truly behaves in a way which will make a possible marriage a happy one. Belittling, taking back promises and gaslighting are truly bad signs in this stage of a relationship.

    Best of luck to you!

  62. Dead LW, I hear you. And slowing down is the best advice yet! I feel, that there is maturity work needed on both sides… and that starts with you. Eight years into my relationship, and three years wearing JUST the ring (which I purchased for myself from etsy, and he proposed formally six months later). I am far more content now, not planning an expensive wedding, and just enjoying being committed to my partner, as we both work towards our goals. Together.

    I’ve been working on self-differentiation as part of the Bowen Family System theory. I highly recommend googling it – loads and loads of videos on YouTube. Try Jerry Wise or Lisa A. Ramano as they offer insight into how your family of origin has shaped your view/expectations within romantic relationships. “Growing Yourself Up” by Jenny Brown is also a great resource for maturing the inner child. I have learned (very recently), that my more “needy-type” needs in my relationship actually stemmed from the needs of my screaming inner child… Powerful stuff here. Also, why do you think you were initially attracted to someone who can’t follow-through?

    I truly believe to see real change in your relationship, the work will start with you. This is some of the best advice I’ve seen in the help forums, especially for struggling relationships – self-work will reflect back into your partnership. Be the beacon of change. Pulling back from the stress of marriage-planning, and focusing on bringing your best self to all of your relationships will have a cascade effect in your intimate relationship. My fiancé, after three years in counselling, has started reading the same books I read, and is now watching the YouTube videos I’m sending him. His progress is much slower than mine, and that is to be respected, and encouraged… especially for idea-guys.

    Best of luck to you both, glad you working through this together… BEFORE the wedding.

  63. cannot add anything to the awesomeness of the Captain and you lovely commenters, but I will just throw out that You Need A Budget (YNAB) has tons of resources for talking about money for couples. (I don’t work for or profit from YNAB….but full disclosure, I LOVE IT). LW, I wish you all the luck figuring out your situation. It’s not about the ring.

  64. Wow, I don’t think I would marry that guy at all :/

    Me and my husband organised our wedding in 5 weeks, and it cost less than 5k. Including *everything*. Rings, ceremony, reception, food, drinks, dress, band, DJ equipment, taxis between venues, the cake…

    We chose the rings together, and we investigated some things together, and we chose what we wanted together, we designed and sent out the invites together, and then he organised some things and I organised other things.

    We were both committed.

    It is not unreasonable to spend that much on an engagement ring, as two high-earning adults.

    It is completely unreasonable of him to not do any planning for a big involved thing that HE initiated and claims he wants.

    For example, I say things like “I’d like to learn basic Japanese.” And while I’m only mildly committed to this, and very slow about it – I’ve researched life in Japan and cultural differences, I’ve watched short videos with basic phrases, and I watch anime with subtitles. I can count to 10 in Japanese and I know the honorifics. This is to prepare for a holiday in 3 years time. My executive function skills are at the LOW end of the scale.

    Meanwhile this guy… Has done…. Literally nothing? To make a complicated thing happen in 12 months’ time, involving lots of people and moving parts. Even if he had made an appointment with a wedding planner, that would be *something*!!

    Do not tie yourself to this manchild, either legally or financially. You need him to sort out his finances, if he can – the two biggest reasons marriages fail are over a difference in sex drive, or differences in attitudes to finance. Don’t set yourself up for failure, and definitely don’t set yourself up for taking on any of his debts, when you can be quite sure he can’t pay them back and most likely has no plans to.

    Good luck LW, and please be aware that even though you love this guy, he is not marriage material. You may well be happy with him if you do not get married, and you maintain quite some independence from him -but if you do want to get married, there are men who you could love who would be full life partners for you too.

  65. Some people make excellent boyfriends/girlfriends, and absolutely terrible life partners/spouses.

    He doesn’t sound like a trash monster in your letter, he sounds….immature. I bet he’s a happy-go-lucky guy, a romantic, full of fun, spontaneous ideas. Which are all awesome traits in a boyfriend. Irresponsibility and immaturity aren’t necessarily dealbreakers when you’re dating, in fact, they can add to the fun in the right circumstances.

    The trouble is, marriage is a different thing than dating. It’s adulting. It’s buying real estate together, paying bills, dealing with aging parents, maybe creating a whole new human that you’re responsible for. And along with the gloriousness of being with your favorite person in the world, you also inevitably get the hard stuff that goes with adult life.

    That’s what you want to think about now. Think about the part of his personality you just saw. The part that dumps responsibility for his bad choices onto you. The part that makes promises he won’t keep. The part that misleads you about his financial status. The part that won’t take a hour out of his day to help you do stuff that benefits him.

    Is this the kind of guy you want to go through all that hard adult stuff with? Can you rely on him when things get tough? Are you sure he’ll have your back if that means hard work and sacrifice from him?

    I’m not saying he isn’t, and I’m not saying you have to dump him. I am saying that it’d be wise to listen to that little voice in your head and put the wedding plans on hold. The two of you have a lot to talk about.

  66. My husband (of over 30 years) and I became engaged while living in a tent (we were doing a hippie back-to-the-land thing. We’re old!) The entire cost for the wedding, including the ring, dress, marriage license, and celebratory pizza was probably less that $200 (1980’s dollars). This said, I am enraged, ENRAGED at how Mr. Ideas Guy (Mr. Talks-Out-His Ass-Guy) is cost shaming and gas lighting you over the engagement ring. As others have commented, this is a HUGE red flag at the head of a parade of red flags. Please, do not marry him. Sorry you are going through this….

  67. I got married 30 years ago. Back then, (at least where I grew up), guys just didn’t get all that involved in wedding planning. He did have a few opinions about things like the menu at the reception, what sort of tux to wear, etc., but it was really up to my mom and me to do most of the planning. I didn’t mind as I was over the moon happy to be getting married to him at last.

    My ring was $100. It’s a 1/10th of a carat and that was all we could afford. Last year I got a .49 carat diamond ring and I paid for it myself, b/c I always wanted that particular shaped diamond. He helped with the research but I was really the one who picked it out.

    That said, if you really feel angry at his broken promise, and you feel like you’re the one doing all the work, please step back and listen to all the good advice you’ve been given here.

    My mom used to say: Marriage isn’t 50/50. Sometimes it’s 85/15, or 75/25. Just make sure you’re not the one giving the larger percentage.

    1. I hope you mean it isn’t always 50/50. Marriage should be a partnership between equals! Sometimes one partner picks up the other’s slack when it’s needed; my mother has become very ill in the last year, and my father has been supporting her both financially and emotionally. But when my father has had surgery, or when he was laid off, Mom picked up the slack. They take turns. They take creating dinner. If throughout your relationship you are doing lots and lots of work and your partner isn’t, or if throughout your relationship your partner is doing lots and lots of work and you are not, then there is an imbalance and it’s not fair!

      My husband wasn’t particularly passionate about napkin colors. I wasn’t either. But a color had to be selected for the napkins by someone, so he helped me make decisions like that because he felt like a big jerk if I was on the phone and meeting with planners and surrounded by swatches while he watched Netflix. (We had a beautiful wedding where some stuff went wrong, but we ultimately ended up bonded in matrimony, so it probably went all right in the long run.)

      I think there is still a societal assumption that men will not be involved in wedding planning because it’s the woman who “cares about all that stuff,” but it should still be taken into consideration that there’s a lot of stress that goes into planning a largescale milestone event, and I don’t think it’s fair to any gender to just take for granted that “this is how it’s gonna be.”

      Planning for marriage is the beginning of the marriage. It is the first level of the marriage game. If the LW’s fiance is dragging his feet about making decisions (and I mean real decisions, not “I want a beach wedding!” decisions), then he’s showing her how he’s gonna be in their actual marriage. If she’s genuinely happy getting rebuffed on things that matter to her and having to finance her own wedding while getting attitude about all her decisions, then who am I to tell her what to do? But given that she’s writing to an advice column, I’d wager she isn’t. She should listen to that gnawing feeling.

      Anyway. You sound happy, and I hope you are! Congrats on your beautiful ring!

      1. Oh yes, I did mean always 50/50 (and so did my mother).

        I think my husband deferred to me because he 1) was clueless about weddings; and 2) really wanted me to have everything I wanted. He’s a pretty agreeable guy, overall. Nine times out of ten if I ask him what he wants to watch on Netflix, he’ll say, “You choose.”

        Overall, I’d say we’re happy most of the time. And thank you for your nice words about my ring.

  68. If he can’t afford 1K (for Art Deco? An absolute steal), he can’t afford the vastly more expensive wedding.

    And imagine having a child with someone who had Great Ideas, but does no further work–except to criticize the decisions and actions of the person (you) who is actually doing everything.

  69. Hi LW,

    This sounds like such a frustrating situation for you! I’m really sorry that getting engaged hasn’t been 100% happiness and rainbows, and I *totally* understand how “I’m so sorry I didn’t propose properly, let’s get a real ring later, oh wait they cost how much? nevermind!” is entirely different than just not having a ring.

    I wanted to write you a comment because a lot of your letter sounds like my life. I’m also a woman in the Bay Area planning a 2018 wedding to a man who is not a natural planner.

    If we divided our wedding planning based on natural aptitude, I would be doing 100% of the work – I’m a detail-oriented person with an anxiety disorder who loves designing things, and he’s laid-back, big picture person who’s never felt urgency in his life (seriously, before me, he used to time going to the airport so that he would get to the gate AFTER HIS BOARDING GROUP WAS CALLED, CAN YOU IMAGINE??). And yet, he is doing SO MUCH WORK for our wedding, because it’s important to him and he’s super excited for it. He has made 100% of the wedding related phone calls, and there was an entire month where I was like, “I need to focus on grad school this month but catering needs to be decided and save the dates need to get printed, you do it”, and he did it. He has been involved in all the decisions, and even though he occasionally complains that it’s a lot of work, he

    I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m bragging, my point is just that even if planning isn’t in his nature, you’re allowed to expect him to do a lot of the work. You’re allowed to tell him that being an “ideas guy” isn’t enough, and he needs to start following through. There are definitely men out there who will both talk the talk about being excited to have a wedding and actually walk the walk of making their ideas happen.

    1. lol oops I didn’t finish that sentence! typing on your phone while walking is hard! It was supposed to say “He has been involved in all the decisions, and even though he occasionally complains that it’s a lot of work, he is definitely pulling his weight and making sure that it’s *his* wedding as much as mine.”

  70. Besides all the other great comments I read, my own life circumstances lead me to want to say that if you’re feeling the imbalance of emotional labor now, imagine if some real shit hits a big fan.

    My hus and I have been together for 12 years, married for 6. The wedding planning was…Not the most peaceful time of my life. But I tried to delegate what I could and we got through it.

    When we decided to try for a baby and bam! Got pregnant and everything is fuzzy ducklings…until we found out that baby has major heart defects that will require surgery. To understate, this has caused a lot of stress and emotions that have been hard to wade through.

    I CANNOT imagine how shitty it would all be if my husband was an immature man-baby that wasn’t doing his best to support me. We have discussions about how we can support each other since neither of us is a mind reader.

    Over the last few years, I learned to turf some emotional labory things to husband to make things more fair and bearable for me. And CA has also helped!

    Yes, relationships are work and they develop and mature over time. But the work we put into our relationships shouldn’t feel like a prison chain gang or that you’re a freaking girl scout leader arranging everything so your bf-fiance-husband can just show up and have a great time.

    So, maybe think past the haze of wedding planning which is “supposed” to be fun (ha!) And think for a sec about how real being a Grown Up can get and goooo slooooow.

    Best of luck, LW!

  71. LW, my heart goes out to you. I hope you get some time and space to process all of this advice and that you are good to yourself while you figure out your next steps, next conversations with your man.

    I will say this — wedding planning and engagements and all that are crazy stressful times, BUT I do think they’re a chance to see how you and your partner work together, and a small window into how you’ll weather life’s storms together. You’re getting to see how he behaves under stress. You’re getting to see what he’s like as a partner to you. These are good insights for the rest of your life together, for the big projects that lie ahead — buying a house! getting a pet! raising a child! Is the personality and character that you’re seeing here one that you want to be with for the rest of your life? Maybe his inability to follow through is something that, on balance with his other wonderful traits, is something you can live with. Only you can answer that question.

    To share another perspective/example, wedding planning for me was super stressful but through it all, I felt like my partner had my back. I actually enjoy organizing, so I did more of the planning, but he acknowledged my bigger workload and made up for it by cooking more meals and picking up some of my chores so I’d have time to plan our wedding. That made me feel like we were a team! Then a couple of years later I heard him giving wedding advice to his friend, and he said something along the lines of, “Even if you don’t care about the color of the napkins or what food is on the menu, don’t tell her that you don’t care. You care because she cares, and it still takes effort to make those decisions.”

    Does your partner get that? Does he care about you — and care that his actions are causing you heartache and stress and extra emotional labor? He should care about that, and you are not petty or asking too much to want that.

  72. You should break up because your letter indicates immense resentment, I would actually say contempt, toward your fiance. And I’m not saying you’re wrong to resent him; I would resent the hell out of someone who expected me to do all the work, too. But when you feel contemptuous of your partner, what kind of relationship do you have, really?

    I had lots of other opinions and proposed solutions about the ring and stuff, but I just don’t think that’s the heart of it. I think the heart of it is that it doesn’t sound like you really want to be married to this guy, at all.

    (That said, I will ask just one question, not because your relationship turns on it but because I didn’t really understand this part of the letter. You say he doesn’t start work until 4 PM. What time does he *end* work? Because what I would be expecting him to contribute to the couple unit is really, really different if he’s, say, working part-time by choice vs. working second shift. But, again, us adjudicating whether/how much of your contempt is justified really seems secondary to the fact that you feel it.)

    1. He starts between 3-4pmeach day and is home between midnight and 2am, depending on the night of the week and how busy the restaurant is.

      I struggle with letting resentment fester instead of trying to get to the real heart of things. He struggles with putting his foot in his mouth instead of doing the same.

  73. Another point about the “big ideas no follow-through” that could be possible (it was for me): If he does decide to do something, or you decide and he comes to “help”, he will have the “better” ideas and will get to do all the fun creative stuff, and your job will become fetching tools and cleaning up. Been there. And had him yelling the F word at me. Because I was a bitch to work with.

  74. LW here. I’ve read every comment so far and instead of responding piecemeal I figured I’d just post one myself instead. They were hard to read but I appreciate every single one. We had a long talk the night I wrote my letter.

    More background: We’ve been together for ten years collectively (known each other for 17), and have lived together for three. He’s restaurant industry, I’m in tech. He’s 34, I’m 33. I come from a family with a very strong, loving parental team; his parents bitterly divorced when he was two and he’s felt lost in the middle of remarriages and replacement children (his term) ever since. We love doing chores together, buying home improvement thingies at Home Depot together, and making our apartment our home. I’m a sucky idea person when it comes to vacations, so I count on him to come up with something and it’s a snap for me to execute — to be completely honest this very rarely bothers me, but it comes up as a BIG DEAL when I’m already ruffled over something related (no follow-through) and I labeled it as Also A Problem To Fix. He actually sometimes feels hurt that I don’t come up with more ideas or am more involved in planning; it makes him feel like I don’t care. I’m just happy doing anything with him, which is in itself lousy (I read that CA letter, I’m making him do all the labor!). My favorite restaurant is I Don’t Care, Wherever.

    My parents are gifting us a wedding planner, paying for everything to make me feel ‘pretty’ that day, as well as an additional lump sum that could, if we play our budget cards right, cover the whole thing. I’m the first girl in five generations on my father’s side and I have TWELVE cousins, so this is really exciting for my extended family, especially all my aunts who have tried to ZERO success to shape me into the girly girl girl they all desperately wanted. The ONLY reason this wedding will be large is because I have so much family I want there. I’m intimately connected with my great-aunts and uncles, as well as their children, and view weddings as the celebration of two families blending together. We are both “don’t look at me!! Hisssssss” introverts so this whole attention thing is utterly horrifying (and a tad fascinating).

    I’ve been hyper excited about this wedding and eager to have it this year for a couple reasons, some of which were his idea: we’re not getting any younger and it feels like the public acknowledgement of the relationship we’ve already solidified together and want to keep growing; we both have ailing grandparents; it’s been a long time and I’m excited and almost wish it could be over with because I’m way more interested in the marriage — yet at the same time I kind of can’t believe it’s actually finally happening so I’m also super excited about the wedding now too. I’m hyper sensitive to feeling or being portrayed as a foaming at the mouth female wedding monster who cares more about the wedding and is losing sight of the marriage thing.

    The money thing came to a head last night in spectacular fashion. He came home early because his shift was cut again; he’s very worried about making rent. I make twice what he does and told him we’re a team so we should look at adjusting who pays how much rent. (I can hear the groans, I know I know.) He refused, and used the words ‘shame’ and ‘pride’ while I tried not to roll my eyes out of my skull. The reason I pay for utilities and don’t ask for money from him is because it’s below my threshold for depending upon a reimbursement and honestly when I think about the amount I’d need from him it just feels silly and irrelevant. I own a car (in SF, for some godforsaken reason) and he gets up early (he gets home from work at 2am) to move it for me more than once every single day to avoid parking tickets. That to me is huge because I would hate doing that and would probably just pay the ticket instead and never move your car. He shows his love and does things for me that don’t require money, but outside of the car thing it tends to be very spontaneous (vacuuming out my car and installing the new floor mats; laundry; making a multi-course dinner complete with soundtrack).

    I made it very clear it’s not actually about the ring and absolutely not about how much money it may or should cost (two months salary is stupid and fake; I heard the new myth is THREE months!!) but that he has repeatedly mentioned it but then done no follow-through. His lack of follow-through only makes me get microscopic on him, because I perceive him as dropping a ball, so I start quietly shortening the amount of time I’m willing to be patient for The Thing and start reminding him. Which I’m completely in the right to do. His pushback about money is understandable, but he needs to be upfront rather than lash out. His pushback about being ignorant about things is hogwash and I told him I won’t tolerate it any longer, because he carries an internet portal in his pocket every day, it’s called a ‘phone’ for some unknown reason, maybe he should use it sometime.

    I come from a background of having an extremely short fuse, and spent all of high school verbally setting friends on fire simply because I thought of something elaborate and hurtful to say. I’ve since matured but recognize I’ve swung way too far in the other direction, and now wrestle with anger generated from feeling like a doormat. Recently I started an anti-depressant and it’s been really helpful: I take meaningless crap way less personally, and my confrontation skills are getting stronger all the time. His problem is he tends to react negatively upfront, but then will circle back and want to talk it out, get on the same page, confront the miscommunication and break down how it happened so it doesn’t again, and ultimately he’ll suggest a compromise he’s thought of, which usually leans into my benefit because he knew he was wrong upfront. It can be a dumb cycle, but it’s progress and it shortens all the time. I no longer shut down, clam up, and remove myself; I now speak up in the moment, think about my CA scripts, and convey my feelings and needs upfront. We’re both working on it, not that that excuses anything.

    The financial management issue gives me great pause, and I appreciate all the voices telling us to slow down. We’ve already come to that conclusion ourselves, and I’ve let go of my anxious need to have it happen this year. I certainly don’t want to combine finances with him, and already was thinking we’d have a single joint acct with personals on the side. It’s hard because I come from a background that values combining all finances in order to confront and work out all money problems for exactly all these reasons: money is the number one reason people break up. I will not marry this man without working through our finance issues.

    I think part of what hurt him is that I went to see rings without him, even though I thought it’d be a fun girl outing with my friends who otherwise are not involved in the planning but want to be. I replied, “Well since you haven’t made plans for us to go, I made my own! If that bothers you, do something!!” We are going to the ring shop this Thursday, his idea. He wants to see what I liked, so he has an idea of what to get — then he wants to find something himself. He admitted he had this fantasy in his head about how this would play out, but I told him you gotta communicate at least something because if I keep asking about it isn’t it clear I’m eagerly looking forward to it? He is owning his inability to put his money where his mouth is in a mature and timely fashion, but we all know time will tell.

    We’ve set aside a whole day to sit and go over our expectations re: wedding planning. If there is something he 100% does not care about, he will give up his right to an opinion once he declares his non-interest. He gets to decide all food and drink because that’s literally his job and he will be great at it and I trust anything he decides.

    Oh my god, another novel.

    1. Thanks for posting this update/response; even with your clarification, I agree with the Captain that the planning should slow down until you work some of the kinks about wedding ideas vs actual planning & execution — if ailing grandparents are a factor in driving you to have a wedding this year, why not pay them a visit together instead? You all might even more enjoyment out of that since you’ll have more focused one-on-one time with them rather than trying to squeeze in interactions in the midst of a large & busy affair.

      1. Great suggestion, I love it and am going to do it.

        Accepting within myself that it doesn’t HAVE TO happen this year has lowered my personal anxiety a ton, and I’ve come to understand that we need to locate a speed of planning that works for both of us.

        I’ve been very “omg we need to book X now and Y by next week or it’s not going to happen this year!” When I really slow down and look at that, I really have no reason to hurry into it at all, and suddenly I feel very peaceful and unrushed.

        1. If you’re thinking more like “within a year” my dear friends discovered that Superbowl Sunday is the cheapest day of the year at many wedding venues. 🙂

          1. Also, weekdays are much cheaper as well. If lots of his friends are in the restaurant business, you may get a better turnout if you don’t book on a weekend.

          2. And midday weddings that aren’t timed during mealtimes are also cheaper, because you can get away with serving refreshments at the reception. Friends of mine also learned that booking venues as for a “family reunion” rather than for a wedding got them cheaper quotes, too. There are lots of ways to reduce costs if you’re willing to step outside the usual wedding expectations.

    2. Pausing in general and keeping in mind the financial conversations sound like two very key steps.

      As someone who’s made more than male partners in the past – one thing I’d recommend is to perhaps rethink how bills are divided in a context when it’s not about him making or not making rent. If the bill division changed where your boyfriend covered all utilities and groceries, and you paid the full rent might that be a better balance? Regardless of how it’d work, if as part of the larger financial conversation if part of the division enables him to also contribute to savings then that may help starting to transition a conversation to joint finances. Cause if right now he’s paying half of the rent because he feels he has to out of pride and utterly unable to save or adapt to unexpected expenses – then as you’ve recently found out it doesn’t help other financial conversations.

    3. I relate to so much of this so so much, and I don’t blame you for the novel because it is complicated. A woman making more than her male partner, particularly in industries where hers has way higher earning potential, is still so much harder than I wish it were in 2018. But it is. Even if you and I seriously would rather just pick up the utilities bill… it’s there. This isn’t excusing anyone for not having their finances in order, but just wanted to say I’m there with you.

      Also, I wish I could have given myself during the wedding planning procces, (1) permission to change my mind without guilt, and (2) permission to not try to force myself to do things a certain way due to female wedding monster fears. Everyone literally including my own mother has commented on how an engagement seems “so not me” and I had said I never wanted a ring, but it was a totally unexpected gift from someone I love and, as others eloquently said before, a symbol of something more. Give yourself full permission to care – there’s nothing selfish about it. Best wishes!

    4. Now this sounds like a good plan. LW, I’m so happy for you that you’ve been able to reach some sort of plan with him regarding the ring and that you have a very firm intention of hashing out finances before committing to a marriage. It sounds like you all are getting back into a good direction, and I hope everything is able to work out in the end.

    5. Gosh, I am so much less anxious on your behalf, TodaysLetterWriter, than I was before I read this. You both sound like you have good, adequate, and compatible heads on your respective shoulders. You’ve got this. Good luck to you both.

    6. LW, hi! I’m really glad you talked about this!

      In addition to slowing it down with the money… may I suggest talking to a financial planner and a lawyer and looking into a prenup? As many people here have reminded us, California is a community property state, so even if you marry and only have a single joint account with personals on the side, he may have rights to your money. The more information you and he have, the more you can protect yourselves (and each other).

      1. Definitely do this. Separate accounts are very likely to not protect you for assets acquired after marriage–even with a prenup. If your earning potential is high and you’re worried about his access to it, find and expert and get the details.

    7. I’m thinking that aside from the divorce issue, you come from a much more moneyed background than he? As well as a much bigger family. That also might be something worth talking about, just to tease out the expectations you both bring because “that’s the way I was raised so it must be normal.” that can come out in odd ways.

      1. YES YES YES THIS.

        Mister Cheshire was raised in pseudo-poverty by guardians who thought it would make him into a better person (and who were throwing money meant for his care at televangelists).

        I was raised by comfortably upper-middle-class quasi-hippie parents.

        This makes for a lot of misunderstandings even 15 years after we first moved in together. In fact I’d say it causes more fights than any other single issue.

      2. THIS IS CRITICAL. LW, my husband and I are in similar positions to you two – I was raised with a fairly practical approach to money while in his family it was a weapon and source of shame, and among the results of that, he was not able to go to college. In our city that means I’m the primary breadwinner and probably always will be. It was hard. A *lot* of the pre-marital counseling we did and one of our worst fights ever were about money. All in all it probably took us 2 years, with 1 of those years being guided by a helpful professional, to get to a place where we could discuss and manage money together without tons of hurt feelings. And we’re in a good financial position, so if you’re experiencing any financial strain that just makes matters worse.

      3. I’d never realized it but in actuality you are spot on, both regarding familial financial background as well as family size and connectedness.

        It took us a while to be on the same page about marriage, too: his negative background fostered an initial pessimistic opinion of the whole concept, while my nearly perfect-seeming example had me convinced it’ll be just like that if the person you find is the right one, 100%. We both came to understand BOTH our preconceived notions and expectations were skewed (and anecdotal to boot) and have since grown into what we want as a couple organically and in our own time.

    8. This really sounds like he does a lot of work on his side of the relationship, but that you both need some work on how your communication styles clash.

      The ‘cutting down your suggestions’ needs to stop forever, though.

    9. I love my Time_Seer_Man, a lot, but I know that any time I want to talk about anything important, his first answer is ALWAYS going to be “No”. Just right out of the gate. He and our kid tease me about being the Veto of the house, but honestly, his “No” was so frustrating when we first got together that it almost did me in. Now, I tell him I want to talk about (topic) and the outcome I want is (thing I want) early in the day. I get the auto-No, and we go ahead through our day and fume a bit maybe or whatever. Then, that night after kid is in bed and we’re on our own, we can really talk about it. The auto-No is out of the way, and maybe he’s come around to me being right or has his own brilliant compromise that isn’t (thing I want) but (thing we both will agree on). It works for us, and I have so much less stress deciding this is the way I’m going to handle this thing he’s doing.

      1. Have you ever read about Meyers-Briggs personality types? I am an INTJ, and this sounds like the ‘hit and run’ tactic that makes it easier to deal with us INTJs. We need ‘grumbling time’ and changing gears time, and if you stick around you will bear the brunt of the grumbling. But if you hit and run with the change, request, whatever and then give us fifteen minutes to change gears and grumble ourselves, we are much more pleasant to deal with, and it’s helpful to us, too! Because we don’t have to deal with the guilt of dragging you down! Let us grumble and process! Then come back later!

        1. Sounds like my dad, who is an INTJ. Hates surprises, but loves me. When I was a kid, he would sometimes grumble if I asked for a ride somewhere when he hadn’t been planning on going anywhere, but I learned that if I asked really nicely and indicated that it didn’t need to be right now, anytime in the next few days would be fine (or alternatively, that I wanted to make plans with a friend and would he be able to give me a ride in a couple days at a specific time), he would always say yes and would often drive me wherever I wanted to go right then.

        2. This sounds a lot like my fiance. His initial reaction to change can be negative and he’ll exaggerate what makes the change not good, but then he’ll come back and apologize for putting his foot in his mouth and initiate a discussion if I haven’t already. I used to be the same way so I try to both take it in stride while also taking no crap.

    10. Yeah, a guy who gets home from work at 2 AM and then gets up early to move your car for you more than once a day (!) is really, really different from a guy who never pulls his weight. I do feel like the comments here are reacting to someone that sounds like maybe a straw man version of your actual fiance.

      I also want to say that, if I were worried about how I could pay my rent, and my partner, who makes twice as much as me, told me they wanted me to buy them something that cost $1,000, I would have a really sinking feeling, too. He should’ve probably handled some things differently here, but I really don’t think that, from the evidence presented, he deserves everything that’s been heaped on him in this comment thread.

      LW, it seems to me from your comments like you are spending a lot of time and energy second-guessing things that you actually really want because they play into gender stereotypes. I sooooo empathize with that and you have lots of sympathy from me. It’s such poison to feel like your options are to deny your own feelings or to be shamed for having them, because we live in a culture that shames women.

      I think you should own wanting an engagement ring. You don’t need to want it “only because he promised” — you can want it just because you want it. There is nothing shameful in that.

      And I wonder whether dialing back some of that misogynistic noise all around us, that tells you you can only feel a certain narrow band of feelings about your own damn wedding, would make it easier for you to be compassionate toward your partner’s feelings as well as your own. I wonder whether your complicated feelings about the ring — your desire to have one without being a woman who desires to have one — just crashed right into his complicated feelings about money, which is something that it sounds like he has every reason to be anxious about. What would happen if you started the discussion from what those feelings are, instead of all this other stuff?

    11. Thanks for the update! LW, in addition to thinking about this as about financial management, it’s also about money attitudes. I think a mismatch and miscommunication there is an issue.
      He talked about the “shame” and “pride” related to paying half the rent, and my gut feeling is that he is working his butt off to reach that (SF rent?!?!) while you probably value time a lot more than money. (You mention constant Amazon boxes, willingness to pay parking tickets instead of that awful-sounding repacking schedule, that utility bills are not a big deal for you.) It probably seems silly to you for him to care so much about splitting rent, but I can believe that there is shame and deep emotion there. I predict that working through money attitudes with him will also help solve the ring issue. (Though it also sounds like you guys did a good job talking some of the logistics out.)

      I keep thinking of that Everclear song—“I’m Gonna Buy You a Garden.” He wants to make a big gesture and thinks he should but it doesn’t seem realistic and/or he’s conflicted about spending so much money when he’s worried about making rent. Shame is a really powerful motive, and if that turns out to be behind his defensiveness/passive aggressiveness/empty promises here, and you’re able to work through it, then that experience will be something that strengthens your understanding and your future together. Good luck!

      PS One roommate made half what I did and later, when I was making a lot less, one made at least twice what I did. It felt so much easier to be the subsidizing roommate, who said, “This doesn’t have to be equal.” When the roles were reversed, I insisted on paying half, though didn’t insist on utilities.

    12. Thanks for the update, LW!

      Here’s my amended advice: Hold off on a wedding for now. Make sure you both are on the same page about finances, etc. Make sure you both go into premarital counseling so you can effectively communicate about things like finances (where each of you is financially, how you will work together, priorities, etc.). As well as manage expectations you have of yourselves and each other.

      Does this make sense?

    13. LW, your story sounds extremely familiar to me and I think my version is going pretty well so far (wedding is set for September 2018, which is 1.5 years later than I’d hoped when we got engaged, but we’re both very happy about the plans!) and hope yours does too. I’m glad you’re continuing to value the importance of the engagement ring as a symbol to you – as someone who specifically did NOT want an engagement ring, I can tell you that being engaged without one is awkward enough for me (seriously, why on earth would anyone respond to “I’m getting married!” with “well where’s your ring?”), and if I weren’t completely happy with not having one, I think it would be unbearable.

      My fiance and I have recently set up a financial system of one joint account, plus our own individual accounts, and it turns out we were not clear enough up front about our expectations of how that would work. I thought it would solve all our money disagreements, but it has created more where one of us (mostly him) spends money from the shared account on something the other (mostly me) thinks should be personal. We’ve mostly got it ironed out now, but I encourage you to learn from our mistakes and be really specific at the beginning!

      Best wishes, I really think you’re on the right track.

  75. I could write a thesis here but instead I will just say in intentional all-caps: DO NOT MARRY THIS PERSON

  76. I very much understand your feelings here, LW. It’s not the ring at all — it’s the broken promise. I once paid for a vacation for an ex-boyfriend and I when I had a job and he didn’t. I intended it to be a gift, but he absolutely insisted that it be a loan instead, and he promised up, down, left and right that he would pay me back. I could afford it, I was happy for it to be a gift, but he INSISTED. So okay, I agreed that it was a loan. No interest, he could pay me back whenever he could. We parted ways amicably, we’re still friends, and it’s been around six years now. And I haven’t seen a penny nor heard a word about paying me back.

    It’s not about the money. It was never about the money. But I’m really disappointed that he broke a promise to me.

    So I understand the disappointment. It’s not about the ring; it’s about that promise. And yeah, as others have pointed out, it’s not a great sign.

  77. I never comment, but I had to for this one.

    20 years ago when we got engaged, I asked my fiance to share his financial info with me in preparation for joining our finances. I found out he had no money at all and a bunch of credit card debt. The key thing about this story is *how he responded* – he shared with me fully right away, had a minimal amount of embarrassment but didn’t tailspin, and when I put him on an allowance and set up a timeline for when we would have X amount of savings, he cheerfully agreed and lived under our joint “austerity program”. He didn’t sulk or gaslight or accuse me of nagging. In fact, he was grateful, and still tells people about how awesome I was about it all.

    I strongly second marriage prep courses – I’m not a practicing Catholic anymore, but I’m so grateful for those classes! They force you to talk about things you’d rather ignore or avoid. People want to think that getting married is just romance, but it is a practical undertaking!

    I also think that if you are open and honest about it, there are ways to fairly divvy up emotional labor. I am much better at money stuff, so I have always handled the bank account, bills, decisions about investment, etc. But he does all the cooking and shopping. And even if you are good at a lot of things, you shouldn’t have to do it all!

    If you use your words and share your feelings and you get push-back, time to back off and slow down, I agree with previous commenters. You can keep dating and see if he starts to realize how to grow up.

  78. Sometimes a ring is just a ring, and it would be petty to make a fuss over it.

    Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a ring is a lot of things–a financial approach to life, an ability and willingness to make and stick to a plan, a commitment to another person, a physical representation of a relationship. And when a ring is more than jewelry, it’s okay–more than okay, it’s *important*–to recognize the weight it carries, and treat it accordingly.

    Your ring (conceptual/non-tangible as it is, as of yet) sounds like the latter kind of ring. It’s not just a round hunk of metal; it’s a symbol of your relationship, so of course it hurts when your dude treats it casually or like it doesn’t matter.

    And more than that, it’s come to stand in for a couple bigger problems in your relationship. Through the process of getting it (or, as it is, not getting it), you’ve learned that he has a really different financial style than you thought, and that his actual financial style is something you’re not comfortable with. The process has also reinforced that while he might have fantastic ideas, he doesn’t prioritize putting time and energy into making things happen, so those ideas never come to fruition unless someone else does all the legwork–which sounds like an ongoing frustration for you. (Idea guys are a dime a dozen. Implementers are the ones that are valuable–good implementers are so much rarer.)

    Those are real problems! They’re real reasons to reconsider whether you really want to marry this particular guy. If you have concerns about legally linking yourself to someone who doesn’t save money, then you should reconsider marrying this guy. If you want a partnership where the work of implementing plans is shared, then you should reconsider marrying this guy.

    Maybe it looks like sitting down and having a blunt conversation with him, where you say “Look, I love you, but on a practical level I need a life partner who does A, B, and C. Right now, you’re not being that partner. I think we need to stop wedding planning, plan on a long engagement/return to non-engaged dating, and see if we can develop things in a direction where those things are consistently happening.” Maybe it looks like you being Done now and walking away. The details are up to you (and him, he might decide he’s not interested in a relationship where he’s supposed to be a full-functioning partner rather than the beneficiary of someone else’s hard work).

  79. I had a long engagement which gave my now-husband — we were engaged for 5 years. I was probably more like your fiance. In those five years, I matured a lot (graduated university and started work, flourished with some regular therapy), he opened up a lot, and the wedding we eventually had was the best thing ever. I can’t imagine what kind of catastrophe our relationship would’ve been if we didn’t spend those years hashing it out.

  80. LW, you’re pretty sure you want to hash things out, so the best advice I have for that is to not accept dismissal, whether it be in the form of “Why are you making this a thing?” or “But I’m a silly, impulsive man! Why would you believe me when I say things?” Also do not accept vague apologies that don’t recognize a specific mistake and talk about acting differently in the future.

    LW, this is rough; of course there’s more to him than this pattern of behavior. But as you can tell from the tenor of the comment section, things are pretty grim. And if you’re getting a response from him that sounds like the above paragraph, it’s even grimmer. I wish you much strength in the days to come.

  81. LW, to distill your letter to its essence,
    Idea Guy is:
    1. A liar (says one thing, does another)
    2. Lazy – won’t lift a finger to contribute to any of the logistics of partnered life
    3. Stingier than Scrooge: didn’t buy a ring ahead of time, balked at buying one afterwards
    4. Manipulative (the whole “spur of the moment” proposal scenario was manufactured, oh yes, to get you to ay yes *without* an engagement ring)
    5. Exploitative ( you paying for everything?! Hell NO. Got to be kidding, please)
    6. Immature – pouts when you ask him to straighten up and fly right.

    There’s something, um, sociopathic about all of those traits put together.

    And you, by the sound of it are finally waking up to the smell of his brand of coffee, and are already finding it nauseating. As you should.

    You also say that he works, but lives on a shoestring: so where’s his money? Is he hiding it? Spending it on concealed debts? Gambling? Unsavoury activities?

    I wouldn’t even bother trying to find out. I’d run from this hugely unbalanced non-partnership, relieved to have escaped with my freedom.

    1. I respect your right to an opinion, but have to speak up and say I take extreme umbrage with #4. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

      1. Wow, that is harsh, Oaklet – and also *extremely* speculative. You really don’t have the data to make such assumptions. TodaysLetterWriter’s BF sounds a bit flighty, but but jeez, you’ve made him sound like a horrible, horrible person. You are projecting far more into this situation than can be deduced from the letter.

        1. I’ve reread my original letter and cringe at some of the inflammatory descriptive choices I made. I was extremely frustrated and feeling shitty when I wrote it, and some things are not as true as I made them seem. For example, he doesn’t have ZERO follow-through, he has a poor rate of follow-through.

          If he’s a liar then so am I, because I’ve promised on the graves of loved ones to clean the litter boxes TODAY, only to deliberately blow off the chore until he brings it up again days later.

          My letter comes off as very black and white because that’s how I was feeling and thinking at the time; obviously it’s also only one side, written before I truly got the other side’s perspective and thoughts.

          My boyfriend/fiance is not a black and white person. He is all the colors of the wind, including some rainclouds and sometimes a sharp, sulfurous breeze.

          I get the extreme conclusions people can form when they have limited information, and it’s easy to embellish and project when you don’t know anything else about the people. Hell, like I haven’t done that in countless comment sections myself! But the far-reaching insistence that this person is deliberately trying to trap and manipulate me is absurd, false, and hurtful. The “oh yes” is flat out ridiculous. Do you know him, or does he just remind you of someone? They’re not the same person.

          1. I think your “does he just remind you of someone?” comment is one the money here, Today’sLetterWriter. All commenters (including me, of course) reply based on our own experiences. And sometimes that means that we project more than we should.

            That said, while repenting of some of your more “inflamatory” words, make sure you don’t actually gaslight *yourself*, TLW. 😉 In other words, don’t backtrack more than the situation actually warrants. If even half of what you’ve said is basically true, your fiance has made some important errors here, so in your efforts to look at this situation in a balanced way, don’t go too far the other direction.

  82. I see two issues here: Finances and emotional labor/planning issues.

    1. Finances. You need to have a serious conversation ASAP to get a clearer understanding of what his habits/expectations/plans are regarding finances. I think you already know that this is necessary, so I’m not going to belabor the point. Finances are a really important topic in any marriage even in good times. Talk and plan now. And if his spending habits are completely opposite his future plans, don’t believe him. Not because he’s lying or doesn’t want to change, but because changing that much is super difficult! And maybe not really something to expect even if he does his best!

    2. Emotional Labor. I am married to a guy who has some serious anxiety around making decisions. He also was raised by parents who are really good at planning and organizing and who would occasionally ask for his input and then sometimes ignore his desires or get them confused (which isn’t really to blame his parents as that’s really not unusual when planning things as a family). So he subconsciously seems to have gotten the idea that it wasn’t something he was any good at and that it wasn’t something he was expected to do. After quite a few discussions, he’s in counseling, because it’s affecting his ability to plan for things that he needs to do (executive functioning) and we’ve been in couples counseling because OhMyGod I am Not Responsible For Everything. And because we were not able to productively discuss our issues without help.

    So. I have some experience with this sort of behavior. First, you need to start calling it out when he puts all the research/planning on you. On big things (rings, wedding, etc.) and little things (dinner plans? Meeting up after work? If you live together: errands? Calling the landlord when there’s an issue?) Be very clear about how it makes you feel when he does this. “When you expect me to do all the planning, it feels like I am the only one contributing. It’s exhausting to do all the planning for anything we do together. I need you to see planning as your job too.” He’ll probably give you some pushback on this; if he can see you point, though, even if he tries to find ways to not feel guilty (no one is great at being told they’re being a jerk!), good. If he totally denies any responsibility for any planning, definitely consider if you can live with the workload for the rest of your life, especially if you want to have children. Because let me tell you, if you think the emotional labor stuff is hard now, kids add a whole ‘nother layer of crazy. Also consider whether or not someone who considers a major part of life to be not his job is someone who you want to spend your life with!

    If he’s willing to make an effort to “see” this as an issue you need to address together, definitely discuss signing up for counseling, either premarital or preferably regular couples counseling. The thing with the ring makes me think he really isn’t thinking things through when he says them. Hopefully. Otherwise, as you say, he’s gaslighting you! If he’s just… privileged (boys often aren’t expected to do emotional labor but that doesn’t mean they can’t!) and is willing to put the work into changing that, then it’s definitely a good idea to delay the wedding, focus on working out the issues you’ve discovered, and learn a bit more about each other and yourselves.

    My husband has made amazing progress on changing his habits in the last year. It’s taken our therapist’s help, though, and a lot of work from him and from me. I’ve read a bunch of the comments and saw a bunch of people saying they divorced because of similar behavior (not at all criticizing them, if my husband wasn’t willing to change I would have probably ended up there!) and I wanted to give you an example of someone who was pretty crap at emotional labor but has been willing to work on that when it was pointed out. While he still sometimes struggles with executive functioning, he’s definitely tries to be my partner for the emotional labor now.

    1. And of course now I see your update! It sounds like his behavior is perhaps less dire than some commenters believed. I hope that’s the case.

      I think based on what you’ve written, he seems to feel pretty tense around finances, possibly because he feels guilty for not contributing equally and/or for his family possibly not being able to contribute as much to the wedding? So your plan to have a big conversation about it is a good one. And although a lot of commenters have told you that everything should be equal financially, that’s almost never actually the case. But things should be fair; if you’re both working full time and contributing your salary to the household and making any large purchases together, that’s pretty good no matter if he’s contributing less in a dollar amount. And if he’s working fewer hours he needs to pick up a larger share of the housework.

      It sounds like he isn’t incapable of planning like my husband but that you still are struggling to feel like partners in important ways and struggling to talk without talking past each other. Please consider couples counseling if at all possible; it would be a huge help!

      Planning the wedding is probably going to be stressful no matter what, but keep telling yourself: the only important thing is that at the end of the wedding day, you’re married to the man you love. And if you don’t want to marry him, now is the time to find out! Best wishes!

      1. Thank you! I think my long comment helps to give a bigger, better picture, especially as it was not written while upset. I obviously could write forever, and felt my initial letter was long enough as is, ha ha.

        He is the man I want to spend my life with, and I’m still excited to come together as a team and work things out. Just as much as he says he’ll do things and doesn’t do them, I keep promising to stop filling our house with Amazon boxes and crap we don’t need — yet I persist on a near weekly basis.

        And thank you for the counseling suggestion, I’m looking into them.

        1. LW, I hope you get a chance to do some couples counseling, because that whole “I am Man, my job is to provide, I am a Failure” runs deeeeep.

          I was raised by people who thought the patriarchy was bullshit, I went to a liberal arts women’s college, and surround myself with kickass women. My hubby is liberal, raised by somewhat conservative parents in a wholesome suburban American life, and I was absolutely floored when these issues came up in our relationship. In the beginning I couldn’t even process it: “You…think you worth is determined by…what???” But when I reflected on the mindfuck women go through of learning their main value is as sexual object and caregiver, and replaced that with “as breadwinner,” I began to make intellectual sense of it. I still can’t make emotional sense of it — the concept is repugnant and my heart aches for my beloved, who has only superficially cast off patriarchal expectations. He is so twisted in knots that any financial conversation is full of landmines and shame and…well. It would have been so helpful to have a third party guide us through that, and for normalize things outside our personal, immediate experiences.

          OP, I think I understand why you see having separate accounts as an answer to the financial gap between you, but consider that this is just an attempt to avoid all the hard work and emotional struggle that comes with finances. If you have different approaches to money, you have to hash things out go where you can live with each other’s choices, not just ignore them by setting them somewhere where you can’t see them. That is going to bite you in the butt big-time over time —
          what about when you want to buy a house together? Or have to make big choices about where the household resources will go?

          Now, it is possible that after digging into things together, you will decide that separate accounts works well for you as an accounting and accountability tool — maybe you each keep equitable amounts of fun money in your individual accounts and everything over that goes into the joint account, ignoring whose paycheck makes up the bulk of that. But you can’t skip over the step where you work through the landmines; this approach, e.g., won’t “hide” the fact that he makes less than you, if that’s something that he isnstipp ashamed of.

          And just to reiterate what others have said, I want to make sure you understand that separate accounts won’t protect you financially in any way. If your husband isn’t deathly afraid of credit and has a misplaced sense of pride around “pulling his weight,” someday you may learn that he took out a line of credit to keep up his side of things, and then that line of credit got away from him, etc. And that is *your* debt, thanks to CA community property laws.

  83. To elaborate on something the Captain said: you can be married without a ring, if that’s how you want to do it. (I did.) But there’s a big difference between “I don’t want a ring” and “I didn’t want a ring until you talked me into it, and now you’re trying to talk me out of it and imply that I’m foolish for having listened when you suggested it and promised to get one.”

    There are a great many good ways to do relationships (different ones being good for different people) but they all require communicating with your partner. “I had no idea we were going to do this thing” [that I suggested and you said yes to] is a red flag there: if someone is asking “how could I know that?” about something he said himself, he’s either dishonest or there’s something very weird going on with his memory. (I really don’t think it’s a memory issue.)

    That suggests that if you want to keep dating him (which is a separate question from whether to get married), you need some serious counseling, in part to deal with him trying to make it seem weird that you believed he wanted what he said he wanted, and would do what he said he would do. “I know I said I would do X, but I can’t” or even “but I really don’t want to after all” isn’t always a problem; “I know I said I would do X, but you should have known better than to rely on that” is a problem. Especially if he tries to portray your trusting him as a flaw in you.

  84. Please add me to the list of This Guy’s exes.

    Since everyone else has written long, awesome, closely reasoned discussions of this, I’m gonna go with pithy: Dear LW, I don’t think this guy is old enough to get married. And he may never be old enough to get married.

  85. I recently had a long discussion with my grandmother (96 years old, married for 70 (at least) years) about marriage and the long-term commitments therein, and she had this little tidbit to share about my grandfather’s less lovely qualities and compromises:

    “Any changing he was going to do, he would have done by 18.”

    Personally, I don’t fully subscribe to the idea that People Never Change, but I think my grandmother provided at least an interesting theoretical. LW, imagine that your boyfriend is destined to stay exactly the way he is w.r.t not following through on any of his ideas, getting weird when you get excited about plans you (both???) made, not sharing the mental/emotional load, etc. etc. Are you willing to put up with that for the next 5 years? 10? 30? 60?

    I am but a wee bab (only 25, never married), so maybe I’m just not experienced enough with commitment to know, but I can easily imagine that all those frustrations you mentioned in your letter, if left to fester, could eventually turn to resentment that far outweighs whatever great qualities your guy has. It seems like there’s sometimes this huge rush to get married (because of societal pressure? finances? media blowing up the ideal? I’m sure there are endless reasons), but it sounds like there’s a lot to work through, both individually and as a couple, that should be dealt with before any more discussion of marriage.

    My bad if I’m just parroting things already mentioned; didn’t have time to skim all ~160 previous comments.

    1. People can and do change, but never date/marry someone with the idea that they WILL change. Date/marry them because you are happy with them as they are. And the reverse is true as well; only date/marry someone who loves you fir who you are, not some idea of who they want you to be.

  86. 1. It’s ok if you want a ring!

    2. Regardless of all the other ways he makes you crazy with his not-planning and disagreeing with your preferences and lack of follow-through, what matters about this particular ring thing is his response to, “You told me we would get a ring and I got excited and now you’re being weird about it and it’s bumming me out. What’s going on?”

    3. If his response to #2 is satisfactory to your standards, then you get to decide if you want to sign up for a life of doing most of the work. Some people are great at the day-to-day and need partners to do all the long-term project planning and execute the couple’s goals, including setting those goals to begin with. Those people often need really clear direction for what the day-to-day looks like. THIS IS A LOT OF WORK but you get to decide if there’s a fair return for your investment in this relationship.

    (SPOILER: For me, the person who is great at ideas, goals, planning, and execution, it is enough to have a partner who makes me laugh and who will do anything I ask and can take over and “drive” our relationship in his own haphazard way when I don’t want to. The key to our success? We live in separate houses.)

  87. Great advice. Also I feel sad for women because society really tells them some crazy Bs about engagement. I feel like so many women have to apologise for wanting a nice ring or a nice proposal or a nice wedding. Like we are conditioned our whole lives to have a perfect wedding but then we get shamed for wanting it! Want what you want without apology, girl! Want your $1k ring with every fibre of your being! Make a Pinterest page just for that ring! Don’t feel bad about it at all. Xo

  88. So, LW. What concerns me is the fact that a) you two aren’t on the same page when it comes to finances (the state of his savings account was a surprise to you–do you want this surprise when you’re married?) and b) he wants grandiose things but then can’t follow through and c) you’re doing all of the emotional and logistical labor while he sits in the background, with his arms crossed, telling you how you’re doin it RONG.

    I’d table the engagement. If you’re dealing with this stuff while you’re dating, it isn’t going to get better once you’re married.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. It was the finances part that raised concern on my part too. That’s a huge thing. There are lots of couples that the whole “my money/your money” thing works for but taxes and any future children can definitely muddy that up and make it a much harder thing to do…and based on the update the LW wrote, it sounds like this is already an issue. I think tabling the wedding is smart.

  89. This letter is weighing so heavily on my heart. I too was engaged to an “idea guy” (his words, not mine) who wanted to be seen as a good guy, but also make me feel bad about it. For example, buying me roses on Valentine’s Day, but then complaining they were so expensive and how it was so cliché (I didn’t ask for roses or anything really). Or proposing immediately after a fight by holding out the ring and saying, “so do you want this?” then promising to “do it right” one day, which never happened. He was disinterested when it came to even minor decisions regarding our wedding and told me, “I feel like everything got so serious when we got engaged.” I thought we got engaged because things were already serious. He finally suggested going to couples counseling when we were at our worst, and when I told him I’d set it up (for he was just the idea guy), he said I should go by myself. I really wish I had to be honest, because maybe I would have broken off with him sooner instead of continuing to try to be the woman he wanted to be dating.

    So the similarities between our stories were breaking my heart as I read, and while I did end up in the “we had really different priorities, and getting engaged is when we really figured out that it wouldn’t work” camp, I’m not going to tell you to break up with this guy. We are only seeing this small snapshot of your life together, and maybe he has some really great qualities that weren’t necessary for telling this story. But i did want you to know that you are not selfish for expecting him to get your the ring he said he would or expecting him to be interested in a wedding for the both of you. You’re not a greedy nag. You do deserve to be happy, and the people who care about you will want you to be happy. So if it turns out that this isn’t the right dude for you, people will love you and support you. (Just a quick FYI since some people mentioned deposits: if you’ve made any, sometimes you can get them back. For venue halls, if they can book someone else for that date, they should give you your money back. But even if money is lost, it’s not worth it to walk down the aisle with someone who isn’t right for you.)

    I hope you follow the Captain’s advice, and i really hope things work out for you, one way or another. Good luck!

  90. Reading this letter reminds me of several 1st dates I went on when I was actually trying to date (not at the moment, but maybe again at some point). These guys would talk a big game about stuff they were going to do together with me – trips, outings etc. It was fairly obvious that none of this would actually happen, but it seemed weird that they would talk about this on the first date. It was like they not so much interested in getting to know me as LARPing some idea of date in their heads. This guy seems like he is LARPing “relationship”, except you are not playing along by taking him seriously. Didn’t you know none of it was for real? It is abundantly clear that he is not serious, and instead of being honest he is gaslighting you about your expectations, which you wouldn’t have had at all if he hadn’t put them there. Even if he is not doing it conciously, it is still manipulative and strange. I would put any wedding planning on hold, and look at his actions and not whatever comes out of his mouth.

  91. A good piece of writing advice I’ve heard: “Ideas are cheap.” A lot of people have big ideas for novels or screenplays or whatever, and talk a big talk about them, but if they never write the novel then who cares?

    It’s the same thing here. Don’t fall for the “idea people matter too!” thing, because while it’s true, productive idea people do more than just muse. They are still proactive. Some couples work OK with an ideas person and an execution person, but the ideas have to include like a draft of the metaphorical novel and the excecution side has to be more like editing and publishing/distribution. Like, if he were proactive about ideas, he’d be researching venues and telling you their pros and cons where you’d do the phone calls and booking. But he’s stopping at that “I could write a waaayyy better movie than this!” stage, which is, well, cheap.

  92. LW, it’s okay to want things. It’s okay to change your mind about wanting things. It’s even okay to want traditionally feminine things.

    I don’t have it to hand, but I think Sheelzebub came up with this: Do you want to spend the next five years doing all the planning and paying for everything while this guy shits on everything you come up with? Ten years? Fifty years? Because this guy isn’t going to change. If everything else you like about him is worth putting up with that for the rest of your life (because he is NEVER going to change), then go for it. If it’s not, then even if you love him, even if everything else is awesome except for the One Goddamn Thing, do not marry this fucking man-child and under no circumstances entangle your finances with him, whether you two marry or not.

  93. I realize this was 90% about planning and roles, and only 10% about symbols and roles, but I wanted to comment on the ring part: My now-husband got me a beautiful, vintage ring, even after I said many times that I wasn’t that into fancy jewelry and didn’t particularly want a ring. Turns out I love it. I don’t wear it every day (because fancy jewelry doesn’t always work with my work) but it’s a lovely symbol. Please feel free to discover that even if you’re not into jewelry, you ARE into a very significant symbol of love and commitment. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to buy into all the other (extremely patriarchal) wedding symbols or that you’re suddenly a high maintenance bride. It’s ok to discover that you want a ring, my friend.

  94. LW, I saw your post above. My impression is you wrote this when you were Super Pissed about something. So it’s hard for me to judge if the relationsship is “usually awesome but right now everything is on fire!” or if it’s “Actually I’m annoyed all the time about everything”. From your follow up above I’m guessing it’s more of the “usually awesome”?
    I get it; my husband and I used to make 50/50, but I always had more resources (only kid of doting parents) and I was in a career that would be very lucrative, while he was willing to follow me around even at the expense of his career. I tend to be the “planner” while he tends to be the “facilitator”. We both are idea people but I do tend to plan out the vacations and since I’m a control freak I kind of prefer it that way? For his part he does the driving, the lifting, and generally doesn’t complain about my arrangements unless I made a pretty monumental error (haha, I’m looking at you hawaii, and your 15 mile drive taking 2 hrs after a 20hr stint flying) and even then it’s more of an “OMG wow haha, let’s do it different next time!” type of complaining not a “u suck y did u do dis!” type of complaining.
    Soooo anyway, yeah. Have a hard talk about finances. My husband and I keep totally separate accounts + a joint account for things like rent, utilities, etc. Right now I split my paycheck to direct deposit a certain amount to his account and my account since he’s focusing on being a dad + creative endeavor and I’m focused on career (plus momming, but he can do more day-to-day dadding like driving to lessons, to preschool, etc)
    We try to sit down at least once a year to talk about budget, savings, financial planning. Comb through our bills to see what’s excessive, where are we spending, are we content with that, etc.
    So agree with captain that maybe the wedding is a little early unless y’all are burning to reproduce.
    Agree this is an excellent time to sit down and talk about money, financial planning, and communication about these topics. Remember, MARRIAGE WILL NOT MAKE ANYTHING BETTER you need to do it now and if you can’t do it now that does not bode well.
    Regarding weather the ring is “reasonable”, that’s all between you and him. I got a custom stone ring that cost a few hundred because it seemed fun. My wedding ring I was interested in something symbolic etc etc so we researched and got something more pricey but seemed worth it. But we talked about it each step of the way; we usually went in for everything 50/50 or worked it out so we both were comfortable with it.
    So LW, the ring is an excellent symbol of how you will go forward in life about all kinds of stuff; buying furniture, a house, planning for retirement, whatever.
    Good luck!

  95. Hi LW. The Captain has great advice and you should follow it. As someone who’s been married a while now, I’ve found marriage to be long and very intimate. By dint of sheer proximity and time, your spouse will be the person who will rack up the most time with you at your most vulnerable. If your marriage goes “until death do us part” your spouse will be with you though various states and various stages of incapacity, so before you get married to someone, you should ideally be confident that person can carry you though in those moments when you can’t take care of someone else and even when you can’t take care of yourself. At the very least you should be confident that they won’t add to your burden. (Of course, your spouse won’t do this alone and if you don’t have a spouse, it doesn’t mean you won’t have people to care for you – but in most cases, if you have a spouse, they’re person #1 for these things.) Consider the following scenarios:

    – If you have the flu and are down for 7 days, is he going to be able to get groceries, pick you up soup and medicine, and keep the house from going squalid? Or as soon as you’re kind of better, will you have to hit the grocery store and excavate the sink from beneath Mt. Dishes?
    – If you’re standing in an airport on a short vacation 3 time zones from home and 4 time zones from your parents and get a call from your mom telling you that dad’s cancer has progressed faster than anyone possibly expected, 3 months has turned into 3 days, and if you want to say goodbye, you should get home soon, is he going to guide you to an out of the way place while you break down and beg some tissues off a gate agent? Is he going to buy wifi, call the airline, and book you a flight and a cab the next day? Or are you just stuck ugly crying in the middle of an airport until you get enough of a grip to somehow get you to your next destination while half of your brain feels like it’s gone numb?
    – If kids are in the plan someday and you’re in that delivery room and the doctor says, “the baby’s heart rate is low, we’re going to need to get her out fast.” Is he going to hold your hand and help you focus and tell you you’re doing great? Or are you going to have to swallow your own fear and comfort him while 15 people swarm into the room?
    – Unless you do some proactive legal wrangling, if you get sick, or are in an accident, or if some day your memory and capacity starts to go, will he be there to make sure that your wishes are carried out and that you are treated with dignity and care

    Do you feel like your boyfriend would alleviate your burden in most of those scenarios? That’s a good sign. But does imagining those with your boyfriend make you feel ill and preemptively exhausted? That’s not.

    Best of luck

    1. I experienced the latter with my recent ex, so glad they are my ex. When one is ill enough that walking and eating is painful, they shouldn’t be the one cleaning the house and mowing the lawn. :/

  96. Hi! My first engagement was like this. I am not a tactful or chill person, so at first I did all the work, then I grew resentful about it, then I started nagging and setting boundaries, and I guess he got sick of listen to that because he hit me. He was the absolute last person I’d expect it from, and I’m not saying yours will do this, but like… This is a red flag. Watch for others.

    Also, my current fiancé proposed with no ring. We planned a trip ring shopping but before we could go, his mom offered me his grandmother’s ring. It is awesome. Highly recommend being with somebody who sources their own damn ring.

  97. You have a lot of great advice here. I also live in a land of Being the Grown Up that Makes Things Happen, and it can be exhausting and frustrating. In the course of our fifteen year marriage, though, I want to share why it (mostly) works for us. It’s because he makes my dreams possible. In our marriage, I have ideas like buy a house! or go on vacation! I do all the research and planning. I make the appointments. But! This is the key part: once I’ve planned it, he does not complain (he’s an easy-to-please guy). He helps pack. He lugs the luggage. He drives the car everywhere, for hours to get to the place I want to go (I hate driving). When I wanted to buy a house, he drove us to the houses I looked up. He showed up (and has kept showing up) and worked hard at a full-time job for the whole fifteen years. Which means we have money to buy a house and go on vacation. I manage the day to day finances, work part-time, and am the primary caregiver for our kids. I decide I need a couple of days away by myself. He takes the time off work to make it happen. If I’m sick, he doesn’t automatically care for me the way I would want. But if I say, “can you go to the grocery store, buy crackers and ginger ale” he goes to the store and gets them. And then leaves the grocery bag by the couch. Sigh. We love each other and we are a good team. Just know that whatever you notice before marriage is only going to bother you way, way more once you are actually married. Habits and personalities rarely–if ever–change. Is he willing to put his shoulder to the grindstone of life along side you? If you are doing the planning, is he doing the lifting? If you book the banquet hall, will he move the chairs and tables? You don’t have to have the same strengths, but it needs to feel like you are playing on the same team for a marriage work.

  98. LW, I hope you can work this out, but I think he’s going to have to do a lot of work before he is worthy of the title Husband.

    You are already upset that you are doing most of the emotional labor and most of the actual labor. He has an idea! You do all the work to make it happen, and then he complains that it doesn’t exactly fit the picture he had in his head. He wants to give you a ring! You do all the work of finding a reasonably priced ring that you love, and then he complains that it’s too expensive and gee, did you think I meant “spend money on an actual ring” when I said I wanted to give you a ring? He wants a wedding! But the work of planning a wedding is your responsibility. He wants you to be his wife! Looks to me like he wants you to play the role of Mom, Who Takes Care of Everything so he doesn’t have to.

    I’ve been married almost 29 years now, and it works partly because neither of us feels like “I have to take responsibility for everything around here.” Our division of labor is based on our aptitudes and preferences, but it feels fair to us. If you are already feeling like the division of labor, emotional and otherwise, is not fair, it’s a really good idea to step back and figure that out, possibly through some kind of couples counseling, before you make the big, expensive, hard-to-reverse commitment that is marriage.

    The ring is supposed to be a symbol of love and commitment, but I think for you it has become a symbol of some fundamental problems in your relationship. I picture it as a little Art Deco red flag with bees embroidered all over it.

  99. I divorced someone like this and now we coparent. She says things to me like “[Son] needs new socks” or “[Daughter] lost her bathing suit at day camp.” As though these are problems only I can solve. Because I am the one who makes things happen. I make sure the children see the dentist. I make sure they aren’t constipated. I make sure they have hats in the winter. I don’t know if this is the kind of thing your partner would struggle with, LW, but it really wears me down not to be sharing the tasks of living with this adult who remains very present in my life. I would be very wary of someone who makes light of your feelings and of his own promises.

  100. My longtime boyfriend and I (pronouns = she, her, hers) are getting married. He proposed with my own key ring
    A few weeks later, the key ring disintegrated in a mineral hot spring
    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.
    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

    Do you hear yourself? You provided the actual ring and the meaning to his proposal. He’s not even interested in getting a damn ring which he would want you to wear every day as part of being engaged and committed. You’re shopping for the ring by yourself just like you got that key ring for yourself. You’re the one doing all the research for venues and weddings on a timeline. You’re the one actually making all the vacations happen. He hasn’t said “I want to do a Justice of the Peace ceremony.” He’s not even providing economic resources for all your damn emotional labor and he isn’t doing any emotional labor either. He doesn’t want to marry you; you want to be married more than he does. Stop being engaged, at the very least.


    Cranky Old Lady Who Just Found A Lab Created White Sapphire Vintage Style Ring On Jeulia in Five Minutes for Under $200 For Under So Goddamn It He Could’ve Found Something Similar If He Gave a Shit.

    Also Google Is Saying He Can’t Afford a 1 Hour City Hall Rental In the City of San Francisco

  101. This is a good time to step back and work on these problems before actually planning a marriage. It’s good to have a mutual understanding *before* you get married as to everyone’s financial situation, how finances are going to work when you’re married, and how to divide chores evenly (and to renegotiate chores before marriage if they’ve gotten uneven and then actually wait long enough to see if a fair-er division of labor will actually *stick*)

    How fixable these problems are really depends on how he reacts when you explain to him that they’re problems.

  102. You are not being selfish or petty to be upset about the ring. As I said to my own fiance, I would have been piiiiiiiissed if he had pulled such backtracking shenanigans on me. I would have said things like, “So you lied to me, is what I’m hearing. So you’re not willing to make sacrifices on behalf of our relationship, is what I’m hearing. So you’re not willing to put forth some effort toward making things happen that you know are important to me, is what I’m hearing.”

    Yeah. It’s not about the ring. It’s about reneging on a promise (and one that was his idea in the first place, no less). It’s about the lack of apparent interest or effort in actually making this thing happen that he had claimed to want to do for you. And if it were me, I wouldn’t be okay with it, not one little bit.

    And in the process, you’ve also had the revelation that his finances are not what you thought they were, which is a red flag in ANY relationship that’s trying to head toward marriage. It may not even be anyone’s *fault* that you aren’t on the same page regarding finances. But you still need to get on the same page before you are married. For me, if you can’t show me your budget, and I can’t show you my budget, and we can’t make plans together for achieving shared financial goals, well then you might get married, but it won’t be to me. You *must* have a very open discussion about finances and your mutual plans for them before going any farther, bare minimum.

    (And also…..seriously. If this guy truly thinks a $1k engagement ring is shockingly expensive and/or it is truly beyond his means…….how on earth does he think you all are going to afford anything resembling a traditional American wedding? A venue alone can cost thousands. Your financial planning conversation needs to include a segment about the wedding budget for sure.)

    Like Captain said, I would hold off on things. Slow it all down. You might still marry this guy, but you should do so *after* all these important conversations have been had and agreements have been reached. Even if this guy is really, truly great and you really, truly love each other, there is more than enough going on in your letter to suggest that trying to make sure this wedding happens within a year is not in everybody’s best interest. Back it off and seek out some good premarital counseling. Make sure you’re both truly prepared to commit to this.

  103. I got married about nine months ago and we are very compatible and happy together. It has also been probably the hardest, most intense, most vulnerable nine months of our relationship. I have found that there is a huge list of things that were too small to be worth talking about when we were just dating but are now on the table. The stakes have changed from “is this worth breaking up over?” to “is avoiding an uncomfortable conversation worth 60 years of frustration and resentment?” Things like, I like to plan things 3-6 months in advance, he likes to plan things 1-2 months in advance. That is reasonable! It is not worth breaking up over! And we just had an enormous fight about the distance between those two reasonable preferences!

    LW, it sounds to me like it would do you both good to have some of those “am I really happy with this on a 60-year time scale” arguments now. There are things about him that I think you cannot happily live with. It’s possible that the reverse is also true. What if the prerequisite for picking out a venue etc etc etc was having had many hard conversations about shit that you respectively cannot live with forever, with affection and respect, and then making lasting progress on the Unliveable Shit?

    (Also– It sounds like a lot of what is going on is tied up in masculinity. What would it be like to have a conversation about the very real possibility that he could end up a house husband, especially if kids enter the mix? Can he deal with making less money than you?)

  104. LW, my heart goes out to you. I believe that you love him, and he must have many fine qualities that make you feel that way. But, as so many others have said, there are a lot of red flags here and I think you need to pay attention to those. The Captain is right that you should at least slow it down. There are many hard questions you need answered. To me the most flagrant is that you thought he was frugal and had savings, and it turns out he either doesn’t, or is so miserly he won’t buy you a comparatively cheap engagement ring that you love. Either of these is something you need to know before continuing with your decision to entwine your life, future, and finances with this man.

  105. LW and Captain, thank you so much for this letter. My relationship is very similar (sans engagement), and I am trying to decide what to do. This has honestly helped.

    LW, I hope things work out for you and that you find happiness in whatever form it takes.

    1. This posted several days after he and I talked some things through, and I started to regret writing. Now I’m glad! All the best to you as well.

      1. Thank you for this post! My fiance and I have been dealing with a lot of things over the engagement, including arguments and disappointment about the ring when I thought I wouldn’t care about it that much (it’s so not about the ring) and project management of the wedding planning, so reading your post and the replies and your update have been really helpful to me.

        Best wishes for your future, no matter what you decide to do/how to do it!

  106. Yeah, I got married last year to my boyfriend of seven years, we didn’t have much to spend at all, most of it just on the paperwork even, so rings weren’t in the budget. I was the one who made that call, and I don’t regret it, I know that we will have a long life together and get rings eventually. The difference is, he has always been there for me in all those other ways, in researching and following through, emotional and financial support. There are still a thousand ways that he expresses himself romantically to me every day, that do not require money (picking a song to dance with me to every night. Doesn’t require money, 3mins of time, ridiculously romantic). In your fiance scrunching up his face at the cost of the ring, showing he couldn’t even do a cursory Google, you are right, he made it about the ring and then said you weren’t worth that, he can’t really have it both ways. You deserve someone who is a true partner, who you can take on the world with. If he thinks that is girlie and girlie=inferior, he needs to grow up. I have thousands of questions about how this guy thinks your life together is going to go…
    Also your deco ring sounds badass. Etsy is not a bad go to if you decide you do want to go through with this, but yeah, maybe not before you find out how much cotton wool is in this his head.

  107. You know what the not-shitty partner does when they realize that they’ve promised something they can’t do? “Honey, I’m so sorry, I know I promised you a ring. I didn’t research before and know I realize that sadly I can’t afford this ring. I know it’s my fault for not looking into the costs before promising it to you.
    I’ve thought about several solutions: I could either get you a cheaper ring, or we split the costs on this one. Maybe I could also ask my parents for money for the engagement ring but I wanted to ask you first.
    I know I disappointed you, and I’m so sorry for it.”

    Would you have written to our Captain if he had said some version of this? I bet not. So, this is not really that much about the ring.

  108. Oh, I’m also hearing “let’s get a dog”, “let’s have a baby” and then “? That costs How Much?”.

    PS not presuming that this couple will want this, so much as these are things that happen and have HUGE life changing consequences.

  109. When you said you didn’t need a ring, he would likely have likely been happy with that. I think if we buy into the marriage stuff, we need to set our price high in terms of a ring because it symbolises a lot including how many camels you are worth to your husband, and how much you think you are worth. Modern marriage ceremony is complicated because traditions that are deeply sexist are also deeply sentimental and culturally embedded but we want to be equal partners … Why does the man not get a sparkler? Why does no one ask this? And men ask this stuff even less. Men by and large expect to pay what the woman asks and value her accordingly. I think your man sounds like this type.
    I think him making a fuss about it at the proposal was empty bs because he was happy to believe you didn’t want one/ was saving money he doesn’t have. When you agreed you’d look for one together, I think it’s telling that you found one by yourself then informed him of the cost. Why didn’t you go together on a romantic errand? I like the slow down suggestions. I agree this is a larger issue of value/finances. I think work on believing you are worth a tiffany sparkler and accepting no less. This “I don’t need a ring” psh, yes you deserve a georgeous ring that you shop for together, and a man who wants a signet, or signifier from you to match (?) Anyhow, good luck!

  110. Can I just say that this was a *particularly* great post? Like, the advice was spot-on, but the Captain’s prose-craft in communicating the message was just really terrifically enjoyable. I especially like the characterization of “indie DYI wedding” ideas and professorial tweediness.

    So…just a compliment, really.

  111. I’m normally on the “elope and/or crochet your wedding dress out of upcycled bread bags” contingent, but this guy is way too hesitant and non-transparent. Follow the Captain’s advice and slow the heck down.

  112. You’re not overreacting, because it’s part of a pattern. The ring alone, no big deal. The ring + wedding planning + vacation planning = pattern.

    I dated this guy, several times.

    I did not marry him. I married ‘let me cook spanikopita for you on the second date’, ‘sure you can install those shelves if you want, here’s my power screwdriver’, and ‘yes, my hair is purple’ man. Who has, when life meant it made more sense for me to work outside the home and him not to, stepped up for house / car repairs, child rearing, vacation planning, and cleaning. Who does dishes without prompting (laundry, not so much, but no one is perfect). Who still has purple hair. Who is my full and equal partner, though we each have specialties (me: laundry, bills; him: cooking, IT).

    Yeah, planning is work. Yeah, there are men out there who can share that work with you. If it bothers you to do all that work, and if he doesn’t balance it by taking other work off your shoulders, don’t marry him. It will only bother you more over time.

  113. My best friend married and divorced this guy. Then she met and married a much better man. Her second husband has ideas and follow through.

    LW, please think carefully about how many of All The Things you wish to run. Because being Martha to his Mary is where this is heading.

  114. Captain Awkward is right; you should definitely put wedding plans on hold for the mo while you figure out finances and commitment and labor division and all these gigantic things.

    But in terms of a ray of hope – I married this guy too (carefully, after some Real Talk and reasonable laid out expectations) and he got way, way better over time. He changed. I know it doesn’t happen often – all the I Divorced This Guy’s above are more than enough evidence – but if you slow it down and manage to *have* that real discussion, you may figure out which kind of This Guy you’re dealing with. 10 years ago, I did the money and the cleaning and the cooking and the shopping and the Task List Making, but 7 years ago I did the money and the cooking and 3/4 of the wedding planning (but NOT the music, the caterer, or the groomsmen. Not the cleaning and the shopping.)

    At some point in the last 5 years, someone asked me what we were doing on our vacation and I said “We’re going to X, and B told me to be ready to leave work at 4:30? Other than that I haven’t the foggiest.” These days I mostly do The Money and the Long Term Task List Making (I LIKE those things!). He gets a little appalled-looking when he remembers sweeping used to baffle him as a concept. It didn’t happen overnight, and I definitely had to learn to let go of some stuff…but it did happen. It’s possible, if you can nail down the “emotionally committed” part before anything else.

  115. “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.”

    This is so lovely, thank you for this. My wife and I have sometimes felt like we’ve been shunned as progressives because she wears an engagement ring with some jewelry on it.

    As for this letter… ehh…. um…. this all does not bode well. It’s, as the captain says, hardly a bad character failing to not have money, but it’s a red flag to hide it, and it’s definitely a “let’s not commingle all permanent things” sign.

    I wanted a party for our wedding, my wife wasn’t as into it (she got a small gathering that she wanted, too), so I did all the work. If he wants something, he can do it. And if he won’t do it, he doesn’t just get to have it. Or else he’s going to do the same thing for the next howevermany years.

  116. LW, I see so many similarities here to my own engagement to my now husband. My husband is the “planner/ideas guy”, and I’m the “Make is happen, Cappin’!” lady. It’s exhausting. It was 100% impossible to keep up with when I was working full time. Here are some highlights of the last 15 years of my life: In 15 years of marriage, we have only been on vacations he has wanted to go to. (All planned by me. My favorite was the one where I took care of all the logistics for a weekend for us to go to a convention he really wanted to go to, and he spent most of the time with a lady who made no bones about having the biggest, mushiest crush on him, while my toddler son and I hung out alone in a hotel room by ourselves!) He doesn’t mind spending money on things I want as long as he gets something much bigger and better. He has let it be known that gift-giving occasions for me are so painful and stressful for him, that I basically just send him amazon links now. He nearly had a meltdown in a Walmart trying to by me $10 worth of stocking stuffers, after I had pointed to exactly what I would like. I ended up putting things into his basket for him to go pay for, while he was clenching his teeth and cussing about how stupid the whole thing was. Once, he took my son shopping for my birthday, ON my birthday, and they were gone for hours and hours which meant I spent most of my birthday alone. Once he spent our anniversary hanging out with a guy he didn’t even like, who called me a bitch, which my husband told me about gleefully. I spent that same anniversary making short notice travel plans for him so he could visit a movie set the next day and interview one of his idols for a magazine. He got kicked out of a specialist to manage his chronic condition because he was verbally combative, and I did hours and hours of legwork to get him into the only other specialist who takes our insurance, and he’s already been verbally combative a couple of times, and he’s all, “Well, if the care I’m getting is BAD, shouldn’t I SAY something!?”, even though this is the only source of medical supplies he needs to LIVE. And GOSHDAMNIT, if he gets kicked out of this one I am NOT helping him.

    Any hint of me not being happy with how things are playing out, and I get the, “Nothing I ever do is good enough for you, so why even try!!” gaslighting.

    He got his shit together enough for us to have 3 kids, and now his idealism combined with complete lack of follow through (and resentment about having to DO anything he doesn’t want to do liberally sprinkled on top!) is really starting to have an effect on the kids. Getting them to scouts once a week is a nightmare. (Oh, we share one car! That I don’t know how to drive! That he tried to teach me to drive and got so mad at me that he made me cry! AND, we’re getting a big tax return that was SUPPOSED to go to a car I can drive, with a little set aside for an inexpensive guitar for him. Now he’s looking at more and more expensive guitars, and there is a chance we’ll have to depend on him for rides for another year.) Last week he snapped at our Cub Master, which, like, dude’s a volunteer! I was mortified, and we had a loooong talk about how I need to trust him to be nice to the other adults of the kids’ sphere. The whole talk, he kept trying to derail with, “I thought this was all settled! You’re blindsiding me with this! That’s so unfair! I had no idea you were still mad! You’re bringing this up out of the blue!” Like how I was bringing it up was on par with what he did, and so we were really both to blame. Neat trick, there!

    This kind of incompatibility doesn’t really get better. I’ve spent 15 years learning how to cope and still get some of my needs met, because I don’t have much other choice. And I do love him. And I grew up soooo poor, and often hungry, and he does pay the bills. But, if I had it to do over again? Maybe I would have still married him, after a looooooong engagement and lots of couples therapy to get this shit sorted before we were linked together forever with kids.

    1. Hey – just wanted to say, this sounds miserable and I’m so sorry you’re having to carry this in your daily life. Thinking kind thoughts your way.

      1. Thank you so much. Honestly, if I had read the LW’s follow up I wouldn’t have written in. I just saw some similarities, like, spur of the moment offers that were never meant to be followed up on. I think my husband’s headspace is. “It feels good to promise you things! I’m a romantic guy! See me being romantic? Oh, you actually want tangible things in the real world? Hmm. About that. . .”

        I didn’t mean to derail with my issues. I’m just 15 years down the rabbit hole. LW’s fella sounds way, WAY different from my husband.

    2. GottaBAnon, any way you can start sneaking money into a Fuck Off Fund for when the kids are grown? Because this? This sounds awful.

      1. Why wait until they’re grown? Best thing my mom ever did for me was kick my dad out of the house when I was a kid. He still got SOME custody and she got weekends off. And I got to see what it was like for a woman to stand up for herself in a relationship that’s not doing her any good.

    3. Hey GottaBAnon – I was married to my version of this guy for 15 years. We are in our 40’s. We have 2 kids, upper elementary school. Much of what you describe I have also experienced. I wish I could say I kicked him to the curb after realizing what a pain he was, but what did happen is that he tired of our life of responsibility and getting people to cub scouts and putting money in 401Ks etc and he had an affair with a 26-yr-old coworker. I’m not saying that’s in your future. But I am saying this: I thought divorce was the worst thing I could do to my kids, but THEY ARE OKAY. And it is SO DAMN NICE to not be all jumbled up every day over my ex and his stupidity or lies or inability to behave like a grown up human being. All of that to say: you sound like you feel stuck. Consult a divorce attorney – you may not be as stuck as you feel. I do not miss my ex one teeny tiny bit – sometimes I miss who I THOUGHT he was, but clearly he was someone else. My only real struggle is the time I have to spend without my kids – that’s rough. I am still learning to cope with that.

    4. That sounds like a wretched situation and I’m sorry. I also don’t want to invalidate your decision to stay; it’s easy for someone on the outside to say ‘Just leave!’, but if you’ve done the internal calculus and feel like putting up with his shit is worth it, that’s your call.

      However, it might be worth unpacking whether the feeling that you ‘don’t have a choice’ is clouding your mindset. Do some thought experiments. What if you *did* leave – what are the steps you would need to take to make that happen? What are some strategies you could use for support as a single parent? Heck, what would your plan be if *he* suddenly got the impulsive idea to have a midlife crisis and leave? You’d figure something out. Can’t hurt to do some figuring out now, if only in your head.

      Also, specifically on the car thing; I can’t tell from your comment whether you don’t drive at all, or simply can’t drive *his* car (stick shift? too big?). If it’s the former, speaking as someone who learned to drive late in life specifically because the only person available to teach me had a long history of throwing horrible terrifying temper fits that invariably left me a sobbing, shaking mess, and I refused to contemplate being behind the wheel of a car in that state? It’s so worth it to find someone else, ANYONE else to do the teaching, who could be a source of emotional support and stability rather than stress you out further. There are schools. There are friends and relatives. There are a world of better options besides him.

      If it’s only a case of you needing your own car – again, when I finally got that license and those wheels at that late point in my life, there are no words for how much the world changes and opens for you. Public transit is great when you can get it; in my area, the closest stops are more than an hour’s walk away, and only runs little local buses that you have to catch multiple transfers from to actually go anywhere. If you’re depending on him for rides, your area may be similar. A car for you (especially as a parent!) absolutely deserves to be a priority, and in my opinion is worth weathering the fit he’ll throw when you insist on him keeping his word.

      Do some research. Find some good, reliable used cars (emphasis on ‘reliable’ – you don’t want to get a lemon and then have to deal with him whining about the inevitable repairs) and present him with it as a done deal. ‘Okay! We’re getting $X on Date, so going off a budget of $X, here is a suitable car that I found. We have an appointment to sign the papers on Date Shortly Following Arrival Of Refund.’.

      1. Exactly. He doesn’t get a CHOICE in this. If he can’t be grown up enough to realize his wife & kids needs transportation more than he needs a guitar (!!!), then the grown up in the relationship gets to be the one making decisions.
        And please consider starting that fuck-off fund. This is no way for you to live 💙

  117. LW, deep six this wedding, please please please. It is not just about the wedding or the party or the ring. There are klaxons going off here, please heed them.

    I am in a relationship with a lovely, kind, caring man whom I adore who has some of the same characteristics are your hopefully not any time soon to be fiance, including the lack of follow-through and the fiscal irresponsibility.

    We’ve talked about getting married, but before I’ll even agree to get engaged, he’s got to clean up his credit score and finances, start a retirement account, and finish some other long term projects. In the meantime, we live together but have no commingled finances, and it stays that way and will stay that way if it needs to. I’m not jeopardizing my long-term safety and security and if the trade-off means that our relationship doesn’t progress further, I’m okay with that.

    If you want someone who will be an equally contributing partner who does not expect you to shoulder the majority of the emotional labor and work in a relationship, this guy might not be that guy.*

    *is probably not that guy

  118. I read your update and I’m glad it sounds like you were more upset in the moment but feel more generally optimistic longterm.

    But I still want to bring some attention back to the part where he pokes holes in all your plans. That part is troubling. Even if everything is usually great that sounds like a draining partner for life…so keep that in mind. Does he cheerlead also? Does he ever take a plan you made in stride? Are there ever events or plans you wanted to do that you know are not his favorite and he goes along with them anyway without one complaint out of devotion to you?

    Something to consider.

    1. He does cheerlead, support, and tag along without complaint — that last one, about 90% of the time. When it comes to going to family social events or my out-of-town friends staying over, he needs about three weeks lead time to get comfortable — I’m more flexible but at the same time am HUGELY protective of my free time and personal space. (Growing up my mother’s housecleaners were not allowed to clean my room; one time they did and all my organized chaos was disrupted and I had a panic attack.)

      So I totally get needing to warm up to the fact that your cozy hideyhole of a living room is going to be occupied by crude, loud girls for three solid days and that you won’t be able to unzip your pants and plant yourself in front of the boob tube after work for a short while. He’s not interested in being social when he gets home from a 12 hour shift (no breaks) after midnight. I don’t blame him. My parents call me “slow to warm up” and he absolutely is, too. I keep our wall calendar updated with my social goings on for his benefit because historically my track record for alerting him to plans has been terrible.

      The difference in finances has never been a point of contention between us, thankfully. He’s always excited to hear about a raise or bonus, and we go out to celebrate or he makes an elaborate meal at home. Every day he wants to know what I did at work, and is immensely proud of my career. Just like I’m flabbergasted how he can juggle five stovetop pots and something in the oven all at once, he is bamboozled by my corporate techy mumbo jumbo.

      I take my morning conference calls at home and he can sometimes be heard laughing in the background when I’m forced to say idiotic things like “disrupt” or “synchronize account alignment” because outside of my job that is sooooo not me. I’m an artist, bookworm and anti-gentrification young coot. But it pays great and has wonderful benefits and security, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  119. I dated the “idea girl” (also a woman, fwiw) version of lw’s dude, and let me just say, wow did gender stereotyping not prepare me for that. She also skillfully used her gender to gaslighted me into going along with the “we’re fair and equal here” even though you do most of the (physical and emotional) work and bear the brunt of the financial load. Dumping her was, perhaps, one of the best things I did in 2017 (second only to starting therapy).
    LW – this is not to say you should dump your dude, only that you perhaps need to have some more conversations and openness and less gaslighting and manipulating and blatant lying (I’m sorry but you both knew when he said “I didn’t think we were actually going to buy one” that it was complete hogwash and I really hope you called him out on it, and if you didn’t, maybe pay a little more attention to the ways he’s gotten you to play along with his fantasy when it’s utter bull, and how you feel about that). At the very least, put this whole weeding planning on hold until you can address some of these issues, especially how he gets you to go along with what he wants because he’s uncomfortable with change, or whatever excuse he makes. Stop letting him run the show and start advocating for what you want (I know it’s hard).

    Ok, I typed this in my phone so hopefully there aren’t any horrible errors/typos but please forgive me if there are.

  120. I feel like my marriage was 75% me being this guy and 25% him being this guy and bad communication and resentment, complicated by distance.

    There are a lot of different ways to plan and experience vacations and weddings and relationships that can be good. But they have to really work for everyone. Everyone has to care and demonstrate that caring and check in and apologize or it will never be worth the effort.

  121. I think the Captain and the Commentariat have said it all. I just wanted to thank LW for writing in, and Cap for her comprehensive, kind answer – it spurred a conversation between me and my partner that was long overdue.

  122. If you work this out with him, which your posts later on lead me to believe might happen, Great! More power to you! If they don’t, buy that ring for yourself! And every time you look at it, think “I stood up for me! I worked out what I need, and communicated that! I did my part!”, and revel in that ring.

    1. I love this, and played out that scenario many times in my head during a boring meeting that should have been an email. If we get a ring I may STILL go back and buy another one myself for this!

  123. My best friend is about to marry this guy in a few months. What do I do?! Is there anything i CAN do? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

  124. I’m married to a reasonable facsimilie of this guy and we’re currently in couples counseling. Take the wedding off the table for now, don’t enter into any joint commitments, etc. Enjoy each other’s company on whatever terms works for you both, but don’t get into anything that requires him to do any of the heavy lifting. That way lies madness.

  125. “He proposed to me with my own key ring” was an instant NOPE.

    Look. The moment was right and the location was meaningful. So was the gesture. Here are some possible ways it could have gone:

    “I don’t have a ring to give you yet. (gentle heartfelt handclasp) Will you marry me?”

    “Hey, pretend this pull tab off my (not your) drink is a ring, because I just can’t wait any longer. I gotta ask. Will you marry me?”

    (gently traces ring shape onto your ring finger with his finger) “I love you so much. Will you marry me?”

    Or even, “Hey…this is like out of the blue, but…you wanna get married?” with no ring or mention of a ring whatsoever.

    But instead, he took something from you, that is yours, handed it back to you as if it were something he had procured with his own resources, and then asked you to marry him.

    People tend to tell you who they are even when they may not be aware of it themselves. He told you how he regards your partnership: he can’t tell the difference between him actually contributing something and him saying he did so while you are the one putting in the resources.

    Counseling, or a parting of the ways. But not marriage–not now, and not soon.

  126. I’ll throw in my voice as someone who is handling the proposing, even as the female partner in a male-female duo. I decided to take the reins because 1. We both definitely want to get married 2. We both want a nice proposal 3. He has no natural concept of time or planning things (yes, in all areas of his life). I am very excited and happy to take this on!

    The key things that I think make this work, in case you choose to forge ahead: He doesn’t really ever say he wants to do something and then later bail out (!), he doesn’t complain about my choices when he left it to me (!!!!), and I don’t plan on having a traditional wedding or much of anything past a series of celebratory dinners (thank god). Our pattern is that I mostly get to have my life exactly the way I want it, and I delegate his portion for as long as he wants to keep his wagon hitched to mine. He gets the benefit of living in comfort and relative cleanliness w/minimal mental effort, I get the benefit of having things how I like them!

    I made him prove himself to be more reliable before taking this plunge though, and there’s still work to do. But I accepted a good faith effort with decent results, and again…….. I’m happy and excited to do this. If you’re not? Absolutely don’t do it.

    1. Be careful. I had this marriage for a dozen years. Zero conflict. I’m the driver he’s happy to be the passenger. I do the bills, the kids, the housing, the vacations, the investing, the social life.
      He’s… well, he’s around. along for the ride. never complains.

      He was exactly the guy others described above, who said he was “just no good at that stuff” but of course I was! he was so quick to praise how I’m better at all this stuff than any other normal person would ever be, and I just need to understand that the rest of the world is like him, helpless, and he is so lucky to have me who can do it all! Yay! At the start, it felt Very Important to be to be married and I thought any man willing to fill that “husband” job opening and not oppress me would be fine. So I was pushing to proceed and of course he went along with my path.

      Eventually the resentment was just too high. He was creating messes and didn’t mind sitting useless in the same room while I scramble to do all the work. I’m literally stepping over him to clean the living room. I’m washing the dishes he leaves on the counter. I’m picking up adult dirty laundry strewn on the floor. I am not receiving christmas presents or birthday dinners or date nights, not at any time in the 12 years. I realized I was already unpartnered, already a single parent. I started to ask myself what he was even doing there, in my space. Why was I living with this frustrating guy in my way all the time. Was I going to carry him for the rest of my life?

      I asked for divorce. I did 100% of the divorce work.

      It’s been years. I feel relief every single day to be free of him. Sure we liked each other at the start but over years it became an unbearable weight and I was resentful that I had to carry it alone. Life is so easy and free without him! and YES he was right that I am “good at this stuff” and he’s not. but that does not make us a good match. or maybe it did from his perspective but the partner I need is a true partner, not somebody who would make me do every single thing and count saying “thanks” as enough of a contribution on their end. i am super happy living alone. seriously every day I look around MY place and no man’s dirty dishes and laundry strewn about and I am thankful for it. I am doing 100% of the tasks of daily living, the only difference is now he isn’t here to add to my work, and now, I am free of resentment because when I wash dishes or open the bills, at least there isn’t some so-called-partner across the room failing to pitch in.

  127. A woman I know planned an affordable wedding for a couple of years. She and husband-to-be weren’t going into debt to be wed, nope nope nope. In fact, his parents offered a chunk of cash to help out.

    Except the cash didn’t materialize. She waited and waited and mentioned that she needed it and waited some more. Finally when she said, “I need to put down a deposit on the venue, please give me some of the money your parents gave you,” he confessed that he didn’t have it. He’d spent it.

    But it was gonna be okay! He had a plan! ‘Cause he was getting a new credit card and they could charge it on that.

    Um…a NEW card? Seems he hadn’t been completely honest with her about his finances. As in, debts and debts and debts, and some very poor money management skills.

    After talking it over, agonizing, crying…she called off the wedding. She knew that being married to someone whose financial values were SO far away from her own would be a bad idea.

    Please have “the talk” with your sweetheart. Where does he see the two of you in 10 years, or even in five? What kind of debt does he have? How does he handle money? Etc. etc.

    I’d also politely insist that he get a free copy of his credit report and show it to you. Of course you’ll be willing to provide yours, too.

    As others on the page have said, money can make or break a marriage. Don’t tie yourself to someone financially unless the two of you are more or less on the same (ledger) page.

    I wish you luck.

  128. I married and divorced this guy too. Boyfriend is stealing the JOY out of giving her a ring. It won’t be such a happy occasion if he does it now as he has pre-emptively spoiled it with his bad attitude. If you love that ring, buy it yourself and forget about him.

  129. I think I’m still married, ten years later, because I married someonewho wasn’t this guy. And because we agreed from day one that I am not doing all the emotional labour here.

  130. Fiance seems pretty childish and impulsive. Everything seems to be about what he wants but with none of the actual responsibility and work that goes along with it. ‘I WANT TO GO ON HOLIDAY (i expect you to orchestrate, plan and fund this) I WANT TO GET MARRIED (i expect you to do all the research and work while i just dismiss and belittle your ideas) I WANT TO GET YOU AN ENGAGEMENT RING (I don’t expect to actually buy you one though and will make you feel silly for wanting one) I WANT TO GET MARRIED THIS YEAR IN A VERY EXPENSIVE AREA (I expect you to somehow make this happen with no research or financial help or imput from me). I feel like if LW innocently asked him ‘So dear, what venues have you found?’ or something along those lines, he would balk at the implication that he’d actually been expected to do something

  131. One hundred per cent do not get married if there are any doubts in your mind about it. Marrying him later is a lot easier than divorcing him sooner. I knew in my gut on my wedding day that it was the wrong decision but I felt like it was what I “should” do and I WANTED it to be the right thing for me so I did it anyway. It took me almost 4 and a half years to finally get out and I regard that as wasted time I will never get back.

    And I would highly recommend if you do marry him to keep at least some of your finances separate, because it sounds like you have very different spending/saving patterns and that’s not necessarily bad for a relationship but it’s terrible for shared finances.

    All of that said, I can relate a little bit to him being “the idea guy” because I personally have a lot of ideas and not a lot of ability to follow through on plans. I’m great at starting plans, and if someone gives me rules and structure I can execute them, or if it’s something that can be broken down into steps that only take an afternoon or less to complete, but big things that I have to figure out and take care of on my own just don’t get done. What I will say is that that is something I recognize as a major obstacle to the kind of life I want to have and I am actively working on it in therapy/ADHD coaching. Also, I represent myself openly to my friends and acquaintances as someone who has trouble with following through on stuff and don’t try to pretend it will happen magically or that it’s their fault for not making me do it or just taking care of it for me.

  132. One hundred per cent do not get married if there are any doubts in your mind about it. Marrying him later is a lot easier than divorcing him sooner. I knew in my gut on my wedding day that it was the wrong decision but I felt like it was what I “should” do and I WANTED it to be the right thing for me so I did it anyway. It took me almost 4 and a half years to finally get out and I regard that as wasted time I will never get back.

    And I would highly recommend if you do marry him to keep at least some of your finances separate, because it sounds like you have very different spending/saving patterns and that’s not necessarily bad for a relationship but it’s terrible for shared finances.

    All of that said, I can relate a little bit to him being “the idea guy” because I personally have a lot of ideas and not a lot of ability to follow through on plans. I’m great at starting plans, and if someone gives me rules and structure I can execute them, or if it’s something that can be broken down into steps that only take an afternoon or less to complete, but big things that I have to figure out and take care of on my own just don’t get done. What I will say is that that is something I recognize as a major obstacle to the kind of life I want to have and I am actively working on it in therapy/ADHD coaching. Also, I represent myself openly to my friends and acquaintances as someone who has trouble with following through on stuff and don’t try to pretend it will happen magically or that it’s their fault for not making me do it or just taking care of it for me.

    Sorry if this posts twice. Sometimes when WordPress wants me to log back in, it takes it, and sometimes it doesn’t.

  133. One hundred per cent do not get married if there are any doubts in your mind about it. Marrying him later is a lot easier than divorcing him sooner. I knew in my gut on my wedding day that it was the wrong decision but I felt like it was what I “should” do and I WANTED it to be the right thing for me so I did it anyway. It took me almost 4 and a half years to finally get out and I regard that as wasted time I will never get back.

    And I would highly recommend if you do marry him to keep at least some of your finances separate, because it sounds like you have very different spending/saving patterns and that’s not necessarily bad for a relationship but it’s terrible for shared finances.

    All of that said, I can relate a little bit to him being “the idea guy” because I personally have a lot of ideas and not a lot of ability to follow through on plans. I’m great at starting plans, and if someone gives me rules and structure I can execute them, or if it’s something that can be broken down into steps that only take an afternoon or less to complete, but big things that I have to figure out and take care of on my own just don’t get done. What I will say is that that is something I recognize as a major obstacle to the kind of life I want to have and I am actively working on it in therapy/ADHD coaching. Also, I represent myself openly to my friends and acquaintances as someone who has trouble with following through on stuff and don’t try to pretend it will happen magically or that it’s their fault for not making me do it or just taking care of it for me.

    Sorry if this posts twice. Sometimes when WordPress asks me to log back in, it takes it, and other times it doesn’t.

  134. Add me to the list of people who lived to tell the tale. My boyfriend and I didn’t have much money. But we were in love. I didn’t know it was a ringing bell at the time but looking back, when a man says, “you know, I don’t really think it’s right that a man HAS to buy a ring to PROVE his love to a woman”. Well, that is a clanging bell that should not be ignored.

    Sure, in theory he’s right. People who are madly in love will use a piece of twine as their wedding ring and never look back. But when a man makes that statement well ahead of a proposal – it means he’s NOT planning to get you a ring. For whatever reason he’s stated his intentions to completely buck tradition and do nothing in place of that grand gesture.

    And my guy didn’t. We used a previously gifted “promise” pinkie ring as my engagement ring. Think of the fun I had showing my friends and family my simple, gold band, pinkie, ring that I’d already been wearing for months. All those poor people who had to feigned a straight face as I held out my hand to show them “the ring”.

    He wasn’t a bad guy. In fact he was a wonderful guy. In all the right ways. Except, he just couldn’t deliver on things like planning, the future, any major purchases or decision.

    We ultimately purchased matching wedding bands, ran away to get married, and then enjoyed 3 years of a very uneventful relationship before divorcing.

    I agree with the Captain. Slow your roll. Let him pick up the pace. Let him deal with family who say, “so . . . have you decided on a date yet?” Let him wonder when the big day will happen. If months have passed and he hasn’t broached any wedding subjects then you probably have your answer. He’s not ready. Not mature. Not worthy. He might be wonderful and have a lot to offer – but until he grows up he’s going to be taking much more than he gives.

    A ring is NOT needed and it shouldn’t be the only measuring stick in your relationship. But it’s not wrong to want something tangible and romantic to mark your engagement. It is wrong for him to deny you of it.

  135. LW, sometimes I suck at following through. It isn’t that I don’t want to do AMAZING THING I JUST THOUGHT OF or totally-essential-chore. I just have more enthusiasm than energy, or get distracted by something newer and shinier. But you know what? When my husband turns to me and says “Look, I really need you to do this thing you said you were going to do”… I damn well do it. Just the other evening, he said “You know that shelf at the top of the stairs you said was just for parking things until you next went downstairs, then you’d take them with you? Things have been living there for days. Maybe even weeks. Please can this stop!” First thing next morning, I sorted out every single thing on that shelf and put it where it belonged.

    It is perfectly possible to generally not be good at following through and to also listen to and respect your partner. I also acknowledge that I am not always great at doing what I said I was going to do, so I let my husband know it was totally OK to reply to my latest genius scheme with some variant of, “Honey, that sounds so great and I love that you’re so excited about it. But are you really and truly going to get round to actually doing that?” And I can reluctantly admit that I probably won’t while also enthusing about how great it would be if I did. (Stops me buying materials for projects I’ll never complete and then being sad every time I see the aforementioned materials.)

    Big +1 that you should stop carrying the entire load and be scared by his financial iffyness. I’d be inclined to have one final serious talk in which you use all your words and basically say: “You said you were going to buy a ring/plan a wedding with me/had some savings. Your actions don’t line up with your words. What’s going on?”

  136. I haven’t read all the comments yet, but here I am anyway. Maybe somebody upthread already said it better.

    I married this guy. My edition had a wonderful career in which he was excellent at planning and follow-through, a good manager of his own time and of subordinates, a surprisingly effective manager of his bosses.

    What he wasn’t good at was managing his anxiety about relationships.

    As long as we were only ‘dating’, we told each other ‘everything’ — or at least, what felt like ‘everything.’ We talked about job offers, housing, all sorts of big decisions.

    But (I learned actually DECADES later) once we moved in together, and even moreso once we got married, somehow the stakes were always too high for honesty. So when things happened in my life that he didn’t like, he didn’t say anything. When I needed things he didn’t want to give, he said, ‘Sure’ and then tried his best to do the minimum required — which of course was neither ‘what I had hoped or expected’ nor ‘what he had agreed to.’

    He’s a good guy and I’m still fond of him. But … an untreated anxiety disorder is a terrible thing to live with. I wish either of us had realized what was happening.

    We separated – after 28 years of marriage and 35 together – about 5 years ago. From the moment we signed our ‘post-nuptial’ financial agreement, suddenly he’s been able to be honest with me. Because the stakes are lower now; I’ve already left him, and we’ve already separated the finances, so he can ‘afford’ to risk being honest.

    Don’t wait that long, please.

  137. I’ve been married (happily) for night onto 20 years. People have started asking me what the secret to a happy marriage is. I actually have an answer: Marry thoughtfully.

    SirB and I discussed *everything* before we got married. Did we want kids? How many? What would we do if we were infertile? How did we want to raise them? What happened if we came home and found our 15 year old having sex in their bedroom? How did we plan to deal with money? What would we do if one of our folks had to move in? What percentage should we devote to retirement? College? Literally, we sat down and talked about every single question we could think of that a married couple would come up with. (We wrote it all down and called it ‘The Map to Adulthood.’) We agreed on many thing, compromised on some, and were very clear on where we disagreed.

    And we re-visit these things regularly. Constantly, even. Because they change constantly. Then: Any parent can move in. Now: Only fathers can move in. Moms get a nursing home. Then: Three kids. Now: One.

    Most of the divorces I have seen are because people didn’t have the same expectations going into the marriage. One or two are because some party changed their mind, but mostly it’s pre-established issues. Most of those issues are around money or emotional labor or both.

    I’m glad you’re slowing it down, TodaysLetterWriter. I think that’s wise.

  138. A relationship should have close to 50/50 on the give/take ratio from both partners (realistically it might be 40/60, maybe 35/65 if the partner is disabled).

    It sounds like your relationship is you give 90% and get 10% back in the relationship while he’s over there, smiling like the greedy chumpass he is, over his 90% of recieving and claiming he’s putting more into the relationship than he truly does.

    So honestly? I would cool off or even call off the engagement. Tell him you are not ready, that maybe we should wait for a better opportunity, we take more time to plan… something along the lines… and see how he reacts.

    Maybe he will see this as a sign to get off his ass and actually WORK for you guys… or maybe he will realize this is too much work and leave and you just realized then and there that you epically dodged a bullet a la Neo from the Matrix-style. Like woooooooohoooooooooossssssshhhhh buuuuuuullllllleeeeeet doooooodged

    1. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but I still want to point out that a relationship isn’t necessarily going to be inequitable just because one partner is disabled. There are many, many ways to contribute to a partnership, and it’s totally possible for a disabled person to be in a relationship that feels like 50/50 to both partners.

  139. Nope. Getting divorced from this dude now. You will be stuck doing all of the labor (emotional and otherwise) and you’ll be in my situation in 10-15 years. I wish like hell I’d run from mine – consider all of these red flags. No matter how much you love him, love is not enough when it comes to building a life together. It’s just not.

  140. Hey, I married that guy too! He did manage to rent his own tux for the wedding, but that was it. My mom and I had to do everything else. He was supposed to find us a place to stay after the wedding (we got married out of town) and he didn’t do that.

    Over the years, I realized I would say I didn’t want to do things like go camping, not because I didn’t want to, but because I knew that I would have to do literally all the planning, prepping, packing, and unpacking for two and it was more trouble than it was worth.

  141. Oh man, this reminds me of a moment with my ex. We were having dinner with his family and his mom mentioned that she put $50 a month into his checking account every month so he wouldn’t overdraw. When I asked him about it he replied that he didn’t know she did that. So no only did he have NO IDEA what his account balance was EVER, he was okay at 24 years old to have his mother essentially give him money so he wouldn’t screw up his bank accounts. He also never had a real part time job while in school and was still borrowing money/doing odd jobs for his parents for money. He’s in his 30s now and married, so I hope he’s grown up. I don’t wish that stress/emotional labor on anyone.

    Step 1 is absolutely having a conversation about money. How much money in accounts, short and long term financial plans and reasonable steps to achieve them, how you both envision joining or sharing responsibilities, etc. I’d definitely press pause on the engagement if there’s any whining, denying or gaslighting in this conversation.

    You are absolutely being reasonable- it’s not about the ring, or wedding planning or any one thing, but the (lack of) effort and care behind it. Mr. blue and I have very different strengths/weaknesses when it comes to our partnership, managing finances/household stuff, etc. and I do sometimes get bothered about things I feel like I do more of or it doesn’t feel like a 50/50 split, but there’s always discussion and compromise.

  142. Wedding planning is expensive and stressful. My wife and I probably had more arguments during our 4 month engagement than in the rest of our 4 year relationship put together. What was important to me though was the way we worked through those issues – we talked them out, we compromised, and in a few areas that I had creeping doubts about our relationship, my wife really came through and proved they could be counted on. We both put in the work to make sure the wedding would happen, we both paid for it (we opted for a small and relatively cheap wedding but it still cost us upward of $7k) and we both supported each other through the process.

    My instinct is that putting together something as logistically and emotionally significant as a wedding can really show the strengths and weakness of a relationship. If what this is showing you about your partner and your relationship isn’t making you happy, it’s ok to put the brakes on.

    If it helps any, I was engaged once before to someone else, and I called off that relationship because I didn’t feel like a priority to that person. It wasn’t easy but in the end it was the absolute right call. I’m not telling you what you should do, just know that if you do realize this relationship isn’t right for you, you won’t be the first person in the entire world to break off an engagement (even if it feels a bit that way).

  143. I agree with so, so many of the previous posters LW. Do not marry this fellow.

    I have one more important piece of advice – please make sure all your birth control is extremely well taken care of at this time.

  144. Dear LW,

    It sounds from what you’ve said that a substantial part of this is about money. And it doesn’t sound like the money problem is that he is spendthrift, while you are prudent, but just that he earns way less than you do, and the Bay Area is expensive.

    I think you two should have the hard conversaton about how you want to handle that income discrepancy when you are married, and then whatever you decide, you should start living that way now. Make a budget. Figure out what expenses will be joint vs. individual, and how you will alot your money. Look at the rent and utilities and Amazon boxes and parking tickets and rings and all the rest of it.

  145. Three months after getting engaged, and nine months before the wedding, my fiancee did something dreadful. Details not important. But it was really bad, and I contemplated not getting married. Calling off the wedding. Moving out.
    Instead, we went to therapy. Couples therapy, every week, for the next nine months. And he was present and paying close attention and involved and _trying to make it right_. Both during therapy and during the wedding planning, and now for five years of being married. People can do dreadful things and still be good people and worth committing to – but they have to own the dreadful things and deal with the fallout.
    So, dear LW, ask you guy. Can he make this right? Can he be committed and involved and paying attention? I don’t know him. I hope he can.

  146. I also almost married this guy, twice. No amount of asking, cajoling, pleading, or chiding will change this behavior. You can’t make anyone else care about anything. After having the “you need to do your half of the work in this relationship” conversation met with endless excuses about why they shouldn’t have to or they would get to it (someday) (for years), I eventually applied the Sheezlebub Principle and realized that this wasn’t worth the price of admission. Of course they acted shocked when I left…

    On a side note: is it just me, or is there an element of sexism here?

  147. The Captain’s response truly gave me shivers this time. How is she always so deeply insightful and empathetic, yet cuts straight to the beating heart of the situation? I love that she has give the letter writer “permission” to go ahead and appreciate old fashioned and grossly-patriarchical-when-you-think-about it symbols!

    I am 10 months into an engagement with 6 months to go before the date. At risk of sounding insufferable, the process has been, on the whole, joyous and fun and a great, giant, overwhelming project to embark on together. Every couple certainly has their own timeline and their own division of labor and there is no one way that’s best. But the situation the letter writer describes feels full of dread to me. I hope very much the Captain’s advice brings her clarity.

  148. I married this guy, then I dated this guy, then I worked for this guy. This guy is a shape-shifting master. What I know about this guy:

    1. He can’t/won’t keep his word.
    2. Agreements are meaningless to him.
    3. Shared understandings are things that exist on strange planets he is unaware of.
    4. He will be shocked, I tell you, shocked to hear that you believed and counted on his actual spoken words.
    5. His only solution to any problem is to wait and see. Unclear what he’s waiting for or what he’ll do when he sees it.
    6. He is a tour-de-force of under-reaction.

    Your married life will consist of jarring surprises and huge letdowns followed by unsatisfying conversations which he will sprinkle generously with shrugs and I don’t knows. Good times.

  149. So your opinions differ on the expense of the ring, but it still sounds like anyone would agree that the ring is a much better deal than the guy. The ring is straight up about what the cost to you will be and will hereinafter function the way you expect a ring to function. Your guy on the other hand may not function in the ways he leads you to expect. Having also divorced this guy, I will warn you that this ‘be honoured by the offer of my hand but you do the work dear!’ attitude is super common amongst cis het men, but there’s such a decent number of capable fellows, that there’s no need to capitulate to it. Go to your local young mums group and ask the straight ones how much work their partners put in. There’ll be some bright faces amongst the ‘I feel like a single parent’ refrain; which ones do you want to be most like? I’m planning a wedding myself and though my sweetie is not a concern, there are plenty of people who want to make me pay extra for the privilege of being a bride. A wedding dress costs more than a similar non wedding dress, a wedding buffet costs more than a normal buffet. Etc. This scam to get extra energy and cash out of bridal dreams is common, don’t let it be perpetuated by your own fiance. He may step up if you tell him to get his finger out, plan a trip and be more action and less talk for at least a year before you entertain marrying him. But really, he’s not your only path to the ring . You can buy it yourself as symbolic of taking care of your own boundaries, or with a different man who has a different attitude.

    1. I hadn’t read your update when I posted this. Have you considered that working such opposite hours might create some misunderstandings that seem like gaslighting? He suggests a ring, you say you don’t care for them, he raises it again you say…what? Did the idea grow on you while you were both apart or did you approve of it in the moment? Meanwhile he considers that the money might be better spent elsewhere, but it sounds to you like a denial of the offer he made.

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