A feminist’s struggle (and secret loophole) with an impending proposal

Guest post by abbyrstern
Corey & Wendi Cuc - Rings

While I consider myself a feminist, I fear that I too have fallen victim to the antiquated societal norm regarding wedding proposals. I tend to try to ignore many societal norms and be a generally progressive person, but traditions associated with proposals and weddings are norms that I have been struggling with lately and cannot get myself to fully disregard.

I have recently found myself waiting with bated breath for a proposal that I know is coming soon. My partner and I are very open about discussing our relationship, so I know that we both want to get married and that he plans to propose soon. We have discussed whether a proposal is even something we want, but we both thought it would be nice and a good story to tell in the future.

Despite this, in order to stick to my liberal foundations, I have decided to secretly propose back to my partner after he proposes to me. I feel that it is important for both people to choose to marry one another, and therefore I would like to ask my partner whether he wants to marry me after he asks me the same thing. I hope that he wants to commit to me as much as I want to commit to him.

This has left me in a very difficult position…

Deciding to officially become engaged to be married is a big choice, and I wonder why we have both decided that he is the only one in the relationship who can fully prepare for this event.

I am prepared to propose back to my partner, and I am even ready with special gift for him when I do, but I have no idea when this will take place. I have left the control still in his hands to orchestrate the time and the place when we will get engaged. I do not want to steal his thunder, but I wonder why I feel stuck within his time frame.

Deciding to officially become engaged to be married is a big choice, and I wonder why we have both decided that he is the only one in the relationship who can fully prepare for this event. After becoming engaged, there is a lot of time that must be devoted to speaking to family and friends and getting the first steps of the wedding plans set. Therefore, I find it strange that only one party in the relationship typically knows when this will occur.

One of the ways that I decided to cope with this was to ask for some details about the time frame from him. This will allow me to plan my re-proposal to him and become emotionally prepared. I have asked him to narrow the time frame that I may expect a proposal, and he willingly told me that it would be within a couple of months and that I should expect it soon.

I have also become extremely interested in reading about proposals and wedding preparation on the internet. I find myself on blogs and reading articles about this topic more often than I expected, and sometimes more than I would like.

I have read many articles about not becoming a Bridezilla, how to know if he's “the one,” and how to make a marriage successful. I also frequently speak to my mother about places where my partner and I could marry, and I have even started to brainstorm a guest list. While logically I feel that this is acceptable behavior because I know that planning a wedding involves a great deal of preparation and I want to begin to think about the steps (without doing anything formal or committing to anything). But I wonder whether this behavior is emotionally healthy. Regardless, I feel that I have no choice but to prepare for this big life-changing event in my own way since my partner is permitted by society to prepare and plan the specifics of the event.

Since proposals are typically extremely romantic and sometimes even grand gestures, it is hard to want society to evolve enough to eliminate this tradition. However, I feel that in the long run it would be better and healthier for relationships. If the two people in a relationship mutually decided that they were ready to take their relationship to the next level, neither person would have to wonder whether the other one loved them enough to spend the rest of their lives together. Neither person would be forced to choose to commit to their partner forever or risk losing them. Both people would have control in the timing of the progression of their relationship.

However, I still cannot break myself from the desire to fit in with the cultural tradition to excitedly await a sparkling ring. I reluctantly am prepared to accept this tradition, despite my deep reservations about the validity of the premise. Regardless, I will happily say “Yes!”

Comments on A feminist’s struggle (and secret loophole) with an impending proposal

  1. This post almost exactly mirrors my own life right now with the exception of a few minor details… how eerie! 🙂

    I’d like to present him with an engagement gift and do my own version of a proposal, but I’m struggling with the gift part… He’s hard to buy for normally, so of course my brain is fried trying to think of suitable gifts (he already has a nice watch and he hates jewelry).

    • My fiancĂ© recently proposed (yay, sparkly emerald ring!) and my engagement gift to him was an xbox one with the latest edition of his favorite video game. We had agreed ahead of time that we liked the idea of both of us exchanging engagement gifts and even discussed whether we wanted a typical proposal (we decided that we did). I’m sure you’ll find something that will suit your soon-to-be fiancĂ©. It doesn’t need to be jewelry.

  2. Oh man, I really feel you! I am going through a similar situation. I know the proposal is coming, probably soon. I even picked out the ring! I had been thinking of proposing to him but my feminist boyfriend surprised me by confessing he really wanted to do it. And I don’t want to steal the moment from him. But by the same token, I am eager to make plans, especially since we set the date for spring. I want to do some counseling, there will likely be travel involved as our families are on different sides of the country, we need to save…blah, blah, blah. Don’t feel I can go forward on concrete planning until the engagement is official. I suppose I am a little traditional afterall? Haha.
    I do think that this private incubation of ideas period might be a huge blessing as it lets me (us) identify what is really wanted without any outside pressure.
    Also, I really love your idea of a counter proposal with gift. So clever and sweet and important. Now, to figure out what the gift might be…Thank you!

  3. I know how you feel. My fiancĂ© and I ended up mutually agreeing we’d like to get married. I just brought up the subject and how I was open to the idea. We discussed it… later in the week we bought a ring off Amazon (I picked it after visiting some jewelry stores) which I paid him half for after much insistance since the ring was all my choice.

    Friends have asked about the proposal, what happend, how, when, etc. We explain we just talked about it and decided to do it. No one seems put off by this. Live your life a you see fit. Don’t worry about falling into a stereotype, classification, or becoming someone you’re not. The fact is no one fits in these boxes and we are always changing. Just enjoy your life with your special person. (:

  4. When one person is ready to commit and the other isn’t, it makes sense that the not-ready person would (in a way) control the progression of the relationship. But when both people are clear that they want to get hitched at some point, then yeah, it kinda sucks not to be able to plan for that as needed.

    For that reason, the “traditional” proposal thing only makes sense to me if the person who’s ready to commit earlier is not certain that the other person wants to get hitched until that person proposes. When both people know that they both want to get married, proposals have actually happened, even if they weren’t formal in some sense. So if somebody acts engaged / makes plans / etc. after that point, I find nothing unhealthy about it at all.

  5. I struggled with this issue as well. We discussed marriage, decided it was in the near future, and went jewelry shopping together. I asked him if he would also like an engagement ring and he declined.

    My secret loophole is that I felt that the proposal was cooperative. I had actually planned the weekend away that we were enjoying when he proposed. We were hiking, and had stopped to enjoy a nice view. We must have been on the same wavelength because I encouraged him a bit by saying, “This is romantic”, which he took as his cure to pull out the ring we had picked out together.

    Not an ideal feminist solution, but hopefully a small step in the right direction…

  6. What if you accept his proposal contingent on his acceptance of a counter proposal :). As in he/she makes an offerfor marriage and you agree provided they accept your offer of eternal love/fidelity/heart/etc. most proposals these days are mutually agreed upon in advance in some form (ring suggestions, talks about the next step, etc) so the proposal itself isn’t so much of a surprise but rather the when where and how. since he has given you a time frame have any gift you wish to present as part of your counter proposal handy ( I had a signet pinky ring made, he wears it everyday) Good luck!!!

  7. I felt the exact same way. Since my fiancee is so romantic I let him propose but as I was reading more feminist literature on marriage, I decided it was super unfair that I got this lovely sparkly thing on my finger, and he didn’t.

    So we bought the ring together (our tastes are very different), and I told him just to be patient and I just surprised him a few weeks later. Even if I knew he had a ring sitting in his pocket, it’d still be a surprise when it happens right?

  8. I too am in this situation. I thought we were weirdos. Whenever we tell people that we have a clear idea of how and when we want to wed but are not as of yet officially engaged they look at us like we are nuts. Like we are not allowed to talk about getting married until he drops to one knee.

    • Exactly! It’s taboo until you’re actually engaged and then as soon as you’re engaged, people ask what plans you have already (even if it’s 1 hour later)!

    • This is my life, exactly. We’ve made a guest list. We brainstorm quite often on wedding ideas (I actually emailed him a link today from one of the featured weddings). We know it will happen. We’ve even tossed the idea of an engagement ring as it holds no significance for us, but instead are going for engagement tattoos for each other. But I told him I wanted him to propose, or at least formally ask me. We’ve both been married, and both of those started and ended horribly, so I want to get back those little bits of joys in a new way.

  9. I UNDERSTAND!I wanted to retaliate immediately to his ring with one of my own. (The Kinect Gear Ring, BTWs). I was told my my best friends that I would be “stealing his moment.” Nevertheless, I carried that ring with me everywhere, waiting, just like you. It turns out that he surprised my at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in FL (my best friend and I went to a conference and took a geek day at Universal) and proposed to me in front of the Hogwarts Express, many, many miles away from Boston where my retaliatory ring was. I just enjoyed the moment, said “challenge accepted” and gave him the ring when we got back home.

    I think that being progressive is a state of mind. As long as you acknowledge your own ideals, and stick with a tradition, you are not be untrue to who you are, but acknowledging that you DECIDED to continue a tradition because you CHOSE to, not because society mandates that you should.

    Congratulations, and have fun planning!

    • Awesome ring! I definitely agree with what you wrote too. Also, “challenge accepted” is awesome.

  10. This sort of situtation happened to me. Except that my partner and I mutually agreed to get married in March or April, and then for some reason I can’t put into words, I waited for a proposal (which happened in June). We had already asked each other, and said yes, but without a sparkly finger enhancer, I felt I didn’t have anything to tell anyone about. Yes, I started planning like you did, but I didn’t announce anything to anyone until I had a ring.

    I did consider proposing to him (because that came up in my research!) but rejected the idea. Not because I don’t beleive in equality, but because in my particular relationship, I went to college, got a good job, bought our house and paid a lot of our living expenses while he searched for work. Sometimes he’s upset that he didn’t get to contribute as much early in our relationship. I didn’t want to take the proposal away from him too.

    A re-proposal was something I didn’t consider, but we aren’t really sentimental enough for that.

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