Image: Taralynn Lawton
I have a confession to make.
Every time I saw that another couple had gotten engaged, I felt a very brief, hot stab of jealousy. I would preemptively plan my wedding, creating elaborate Pinterest boards, dreaming about every little detail. My heart fluttered at the thought of when my boyfriend would decide to get down on one knee and ask me to be his wife. It was my favourite daydream.
I was on a vicious rollercoaster of emotions. I would dream about how he might propose, feel excited about my one-day wedding, get my hopes up that today might be the day… then it wouldn’t happen, I’d get disappointed, then feel bad about myself that I was disappointed. I’d squash the feelings down and move on, trying not to think about it too much or to “put pressure on it”.
Society tells me that I’m not supposed to feel this way about getting engaged. I’m supposed to be perfectly happy dating my partner, without any expectations of when they should propose. I have to want to get married, of course, but not too much… because then I’m desperate, and frankly, a little crazy. No one wants to be that girl. I’m not supposed to be impatient, or feel frustrated when it doesn’t happen. It’s a very hard line to walk. Be ecstatic when it happens, but don’t be excited about it before it happens. Want your partner to propose, but don’t mention it too much, or have any expectations of when it should happen.
I resented feeling bad for wanting to get married, and for wanting to play an active role in something that would, quite literally, shape the course of my entire life.
I felt powerless, and I hated it.
Until one day, it occurred to me that I could actually do something about it.
I asked myself, if there was anything else in my life that I wanted, would I wait for somebody to hand it to me, or to give me permission? No! Never in my life have I been crystal clear about wanting something, and then done absolutely nothing to get it. That is just not how I work, and it felt wrong for me to keep ignoring the fact that I clearly wanted to get married.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I try to live by this quote, and it came to me as I was tentatively considering the idea that I could propose. I want to see more variety in the kind of proposal stories that we hear about and see in the media. I want to hear about the spontaneous proposals, the heartfelt discussions, the not-so-glamorous engagement stories. I want to hear about women proposing. I’m sick of only seeing the beautiful rings in front of the Eiffel tower – I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with a traditional, romantic proposal. I just believe that there is room for a whole spectrum of proposals, and I want to see more diversity. I realised that if I truly believed this, then it was up to me to take action and embody the change I want to see in the world.
A big part of making the decision to propose was working out what I actually cared about and what was really important to me. It turned out that “being proposed to” wasn’t actually important to me at all. Getting married in November (peony season), was important to me – so much so that I was worried he would propose at a time that would make planning a November wedding difficult. I also had a specific year in mind for when I would like to get married – over two years from when I proposed. This timeline fit in with our financial goals, my flower preferences, and gave us enough time to enjoy being engaged and comfortably plan the wedding. (I will probably write about our decision to have a long engagement in another post 🙂 ).
I started doing some research – had any other women proposed to their boyfriends? A quick Google search told me that a handful had, though I struggled to relate to their proposal stories. As I read through a few, I realised that not only did I have a problem with the expectation that only the man could propose, I also found it uncomfortable that getting engaged is seen as a purely romantic gesture. For me, the decision to marry someone is about so much more than just romance (although that is important). It’s a financial decision – not just in terms of merging your finances with another person, but also in making the decision to spend a chunk of your combined money on a wedding. There is also a much larger discussion that I believe should underpin the decision to get married, and that is about making sure you are on the same page with values, and short and long term life goals. The traditional narrative also leaves little room for LBGTQI stories and proposals, and that definitely didn’t sit well with me.
For us, the decision to get married was in some ways more a financial one than a romantic one. We already knew that we wanted to spend our lives together. We also knew that we wanted to get married, but since we are paying for the majority of our wedding ourselves, it was important that we discussed how it fit in with our other financial goals.
Execution (The Proposal)
It was not well planned. By that I mean, I decided to do it one afternoon while I was at work, and I asked him that evening. I didn’t buy him a ring or plan a romantic dinner. It was a (fairly) spontaneous and heartfelt discussion.
We discussed the important things (for us). That meant, when, where, and how much. Then we celebrated! Once we had realised that we were really going to do this, there was a small pause in our discussion as the implications began to sink in. After a minute, he said “I guess I should call my mum and tell her!”. I smiled. This tiny comment made it all feel so real. Even though I knew he wanted to be with me and I had felt (relatively) confident in asking him to marry me, this one little sentence settled any lingering fear I had – it showed me that this was real, we really were engaged, and that he really was excited to marry me.
My thoughts afterwards
Proposing to my boyfriend was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Why? I felt so in control of my life. It gave me a massive confidence boost. I enjoy doing things differently from other people. Just because something is right for someone else, doesn’t mean that it’s right for me. I try to remember this with all things in life, but this really was true for me with getting engaged. You make the rules for your own life/relationship. You make your own rules. You can literally do whatever you want, because it’s your life. Don’t let yourself feel limited by what people “usually” or “should” do.
Other people’s reactions
The majority of people were very excited to hear that we were engaged, though momentarily surprised when they found out that I had been the one to propose. The shock wore off quite quickly and most people agreed that it was actually pretty in character for me. A few people were impressed that I had the courage to do it, and were proud of me for unashamedly going after what I wanted.
A few people reacted a bit strangely to the idea of a woman proposing – they didn’t think it was “right”, and had the attitude that I had somehow lost some self respect by “having to be the one to propose”. I’m not going to lie, that hurt. I didn’t at all feel that way about my decision, but it still stung that for some people, our engagement wasn’t really legitimate because the man hadn’t done the asking. Just like anything in life, if you do something differently, there are always going to be some people who don’t understand it. And you know what? That is one-hundred percent OK. There were a small number of people whose opinions really mattered to me, and outside of that, I let it go. Other people’s opinions, fears, and anxieties are not my concern, and not my burden to bear.
For me, waiting was becoming an unpleasant experience. I wasn’t tearing up at the sight of other people getting engaged, but I also wasn’t content with waiting. Getting engaged was on my mind more than I felt comfortable admitting, and it had reached a point where I was in danger of beginning to feel like it was desperately out of reach. I want to feel like I am playing an active role in shaping the course of my life, and asking my boyfriend to marry me helped me do just that.
In writing my own story, I in no way want to shame anyone else’s experience. Waiting for your partner to propose does not make you desperate or crazy. This was purely my experience, and I wanted to share it because I want to see more diversity in proposal stories. I believe there is always more gritty stuff behind the pretty proposals, and I’m interested in hearing about it. But it doesn’t make the “pretty”, “traditional” proposals any less valid, real, or meaningful.
What are your thoughts on a woman proposing? Would you ever do it? Have you done it? Comment below, I’d love to hear your proposal stories!