He's obsessed with the ring - but I just want his family to like me!
Posted: Dec 22, 2011 11:37 AM
Quick back story: my boyfriend and I have been together for four and a half years. We're from the same home town, but went to college in different states and only saw each other a few times a semester, and over the winter and summer holidays. We just graduated from college this spring and have moved back to our home town into an apartment together. He made it very clear that we would be engaged shortly after graduation, and I really thought the only reason he agreed to move in was because he was confident we'd be engaged within a couple of months.
It has now been six months, and I am tearing my hair out with frustration. It's not that I really CARE when we get engaged or married - it's that his family refuses to accept me as a permanent part of his life until there's a ring on my finger. It's not really that they dislike me, it's just that they're super Catholic, and their family is very close. To them, I am not "part of the family" until we're engaged. So, even though we live together, have a joint bank account, sleep in the same bed, and even though I'm working full time to support us both while he goes to grad school AND I'm still the one cooking dinner and cleaning the apartment, I'm still the odd man out at their family gatherings. There are certain events it's "okay" for me to attend and certain events that it's not. I am so frustrated, being treated like a second-class citizen, especially given how long we've been together. His older brother's wife has known the family for less time than I have - but because she's his wife, she is automatically accepted into everything.
I can even accept that this is how his family functions. After all, it's their family, and their decision. My boyfriend and I have discussed marriage extensively and our hope to spend the rest of our lives together. The thing that is frustrating me is, if he KNOWS that this his how his family his going to be, why won't he just propose to me already? We've discussed it over and over, and he keeps arguing that he "needs to save enough money" to buy a nice ring - even though I have a beautiful sapphire ring from my grandmother that I have told him time and again I would be happy to have as an engagement ring. I've also given him many, many examples of inexpensive but beautiful rings I would be happy to wear - especially because I personally find blood diamonds to be somewhat distasteful.
Re-reading that paragraph makes me realize how much it sounds like I'm in denial - like he doesn't really plan on proposing at all. I guess you'd have to be in my relationship to understand it. I know he's sincere; I know he loves me very much. I'm just starting to feel resentful because it feels like he's relying on the excuse that he needs to "save up" to buy a ring, and because of his excuses, I'm the one constantly on the sidelines with his family. He loves his family, and he's always eager to spend time with them - so why is he so slow to allow me to be a part of that? Having seen his older brothers get engaged and married, I know everything will change once he's proposed. So why doesn't he do it already?
It doesn't help that it's the holiday season, and three of his best friends have recently proposed to their girlfriends - all but one of whom have been in relationships for less time than we have. And it doesn't help that every time we end up at a gathering with said friends, people keep asking me when we're getting engaged. I feel like that's such a tacky question to ask a girl - how should I know? He's the one who's doing the proposing.
I've read some of these threads in the past, so I've done a few things to help me deal with it. Our five year anniversary coincides with the end of our joint lease; if he hasn't proposed by then, I'm walking. I'm not that old, but I'm definitely not getting any younger, and I've put almost 5 years into this. If it takes him over three years of talking and considering marriage to finally getting around to proposing, I'm not really sure I can spend the rest of my life with him - I'm a very goal-oriented and forward-thinking person, and I'm not sure I want to be with someone who can't plan ahead far enough to save up a little bit of money to buy the ring he's so obsessed with.
Mostly I'm just posting here hoping for some commiseration - none of my good friends are in similar situations, and I know that my girlfriends are having a hard time understanding why this is bothering me so much. Have any of you been in similarly frustrating situations?
1. That his family treat you like one of the family.
2. That you get engaged and married to this guy.
Let's take one thing at a time.
As a 57-year old woman, having seen a lot of Life in my life, I actually sympathize with the parents. Not entirely, but hear me out.
I subscribe to various philosophies, two of which are No Ring No Bring and The Piece Of Paper Does Count.
No Ring No Bring is a way of settling a guest list when the host has scant resources. If the event (any event) is mixed-sex and not "employees-only" or "bowling team only" something similar, then established couples are invited together.
That means the host must invite married couples and engaged couples. (I also include same-sex couples who are living as if married, but for now let's limit our discussion to opposite-sex couples.)
No Ring No Bring also means the host MAY, at their discretion, not invite living-together, seriously dating, significant others, etc type couples. If the host has the resources and inclination to invite sig-others, great. If the host has limited resources, then non-spouses, non-engaged people need not be invited, and that is perfectly proper etiquette.
This ties in with the The Piece Of Paper Does Count philosophy. Yes, the piece of paper counts in my mind. No, it's not the same to be "sort of married" as "married".
My opinion is that if you want the rights and responsibilities of marriage, then get married. If you want the rights and responsibilities of living together, then live together, but don't always expect to be treated as a married couple in social situations.
SOOOOOOOO where does that leave you?
Your family sees things much as I do. Great. No problem so far, except, you actually want to solidify your relationship with your boyfriend, but he's dragging his feet.
You would be totally OK with declaring yourself to be engaged without a ring, or with your grandmother's ring or whatever combination works, but HE IS NOT.
Rock, meet Hard Place.
"Our five year anniversary coincides with the end of our joint lease; if he hasn't proposed by then, I'm walking."
Very wise. Excellent.
This is the Mental Deadline (not an ultimatum) that I usually advise a woman who is waiting eternally for her boyfriend to propose. Usually I also advise not making that deadline known to him, as that comes off as an ultimatum.
In your case... you two have discussed it ad nauseum. He knows how you feel. He has his own pressure from his family. You say your lease is up and that's an excellent decision point.
My suggestion to you is to let him know you will be moving out on your own when the lease is up. That gives him fair warning to:
2. Find someone else to move in and share the rent
3. Find another place to live
No hysterics, no threats, no drama, just a realization that you need to find a new place to live, due to the fact that with him or without him it is time for you to move on to the next phase of your life.
Talk to other people about their apartments and ask if they are nice places to live, within your budget, etc. Look at newspaper ads. Ask at parties if any of the woman might be looking for a roommate in a few months.
If he tries to talk you into resigning a new lease, but without an engagement, just say "Thanks but no thanks". You are a free, independent woman. If the guy you love is not willing to move on to marriage, then it's time for you to get out into the world where you can meet marriage-minded men.
Then, let him get all kinds of guff from his family after he let that "nice girl get away". He'll never hear the end of that, especially if he marries someone not as nice as you are. (Could be the parents are actually on your side, putting their own pressure on Sonny to get legally hitched.)
Thanks for the feedback, Aunt! You make a lot of really good points re: his family, my timeline, etc.
I guess I just have one more question - at what point should I tell him that I'm moving out on July 1? I don't want this to be an ultimatum, so I don't want me saying "I'm moving out when our lease is up" to come across as "Fork over the ring or I'm leaving".
I've realized that one of the few things that I'm insecure about in our relationship (and why this is bothering me so much) is that I have been responsible for much of the "forward momentum" between us - I was always the one who planned visits while we were long-distance at college, and I'm the one who found us an apartment and convinced him to move in with me. I don't want to pressure him into proposing any more than I already have, because if he proposes just because he knows that I'll leave him if he doesn't, how do I know that it's what HE really wants? Maybe he's just doing it because he's comfortable and doesn't want to lose the security we have.
I had planned on telling him at the beginning of June, to give him time to make plans. I sort of feel like if he hasn't asked by June, he's probably not going to ask before July 1st. It's more likely that he would be the one who would move out - the apartment is furnished completely with my furniture, and he would be able to move back in with his parents easily.
I don't want to beat the dead engagement horse with him anymore, so I'm trying not to say anything else about it to him until we have to have this conversation. Should I bring up the subject with him before the beginning of June? If so, how long before I plan on "moving out" should I say something about it?
"I have been responsible for much of the "forward momentum" between us "
In that case, you are the one to be proactive in ending the relationship and moving forward into a life (lives) that both of you find fulfilling.
Think how you would handle things if this were a roommate situation and you were sharing an apartment. How much time would the roommate need to find another roommate, should they want to keep the apartment, or look for another place?
It's decent of you to not want to leave him in the lurch as far as the apartment goes, but you need to let him know you are not planning on staying past the end of the lease.
"I don't want this to be an ultimatum, so I don't want me saying "I'm moving out when our lease is up" to come across as "Fork over the ring or I'm leaving". "
By the time you make up your mind the relationship is over, and that you need to move on with your life, there will be no ring to fork over. Even if he, in desparation, proposes with a ring, you will be in a position to say (essentially) "Too little too late", but in more polite terms. Why would you want to marry a man who comes around with a ring and a proposal only after you give him an ultimatum? Better to marry a man who (1) wants to get married and (2) wants to marry you.
An ultimatum says "Either you do this, or I will do that."
A statement of future intent says "I don't plan on staying in this apartment past the end of the lease. I suggest you either look for a new roommate or find a new place to live so we can give proper legal notice to the landlord."
I've said this again and again. If one of your life goals is to be happily married, then you need to hang around with men who have similar life goals. Hanging around with a man who needs to be pushed and shoved and nudged and prodded and who seems to have no interest in marriage will not end up in you accomplishing your life goals.