I’m engaged now and I’ve told enough people the “proposal story.” I want to tell you what happened before the engagement.
Five months ago, I moved halfway across the country to a land of strangers and barbecue for my super-cute boyfriend and because the good Lord told me to. Good Christian girls don’t move without the promise of marriage (jokes… kind of), so we tentatively decided (mean- ing we needed to have a serious conversation if anything changed) that we’d get married sometime next summer. This marked my transition, and unrelatedly that of a few of my friends, into the imaginary but also very real relationship stage known as “pre-engagement.” Engaged to be engaged, the haters will say.
As soon as the ring slips onto your finger, everything becomes so much about celebrating and choosing ribbon colors that it can make you forget that the part before is sometimes riddled with insecurity, doubt, and fear. So I want to tell you about that.
This seems like a good time for a disclaimer that some people might not be as nuts as I am, and they may have transitioned into engagement effortlessly and glistening. If that’s you, congrats. I’m writing for everyone else.
Set the scene. You are a Modern Woman. Everything up to this point you have chosen for yourself. You chose where you were going to college, which job to take, which boy to date. Ultimately, of course, you will decide who you marry. But you don’t always get to decide when.
I found that waiting to be engaged was one of the most painful and stretching parts of my relationship so far. Even though it was a mutual decision, we had all of the necessary conversations and decided on a timeline together. However, when it came down to the actual ask and the getting down on one knee, it didn’t feel mutual. I felt like I’d signed my future over to someone else. This particular “someone else” was known to stop at the grocery store in the middle of a road trip, if that tells you anything about his desire for efficiency and speed.
My fate was unequivocally in his hands, and as much as I wanted to trust him I just couldn’t. I didn’t think there was any way that he was thinking about it, planning for it, agonizing over it the way that I was. And it was absolutely terrifying. There is such a vulnerability in waiting: it’s a mutual knowledge that you want to marry each other without any formal agreement to make you feel secure. At any moment, he could be having the same doubts you were having two weeks ago, or he could be completely locked into a proposal plan. You have no idea because of the strange and awful moratorium of silence around engagement so as to “not ruin the surprise.” No matter how you slice it, no matter what your theology of husband/ wife roles is, there is no time you have to wait for him as acutely as you do in that moment.
And it SUCKS because none of us want to be that stereotype right?! I can see the Pinterest engagement photos in my head, all proclaiming, “He Finally Proposed!!” as she smiles triumphantly, finger sparkling, while the panic in his eyes is still wondering if it’s too late to get out of this. We don’t want to con these boys we love into marriage, and we certainly don’t want to want it an ounce more than they do.
And we probably don’t!!!!!! They wouldn’t be memorizing words that describe diamond cuts if they weren’t in this. We just can’t get it out of our heads because we’re not sure.
Before the proposal happened, my brain would just shut down and yell, “I WANT TO BE ENGAGED” in the middle of a staff meeting, at the grocery store, during yoga. It was like I was being drowned and my brain’s gasp for breath every time it reached the surface was a call for security. My blank ring finger was like an affront, it was offensive to me. I didn’t even want to look at it. I wore my single-dom as inadequacy.
Finally, (after a meltdown of “I don’t know what’s going on and I need more communication and you have no idea what this feels like”) Caleb promised he wouldn’t try to trick me — I would know when it was coming without a shadow of doubt. He planned an engagement week, six days of surprises and themes and letters that ended with an 8 a.m. question, a tattoo, and a surprise celebration with 50 of my closest friends. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because the goal here is communicating the less photogenic parts. The very first letter I got said, “You might be thinking you’re getting engaged this week. You’re right. But in order for this to work you have to trust me and you have to be patient.”
And that’s probably the best advice of all – the advice I didn’t give and I hardly could manage to take. Trust me and be patient.
Design: Curry Campbell
Feature Photo: Rachel Waters