It's an unforgettable moment when your guy gets that adoring look on his face, asks tremulously, "Will you marry me?" and then proffers a box with — the most God-awful worst ring you've ever seen! Here's how some women handled this ticklish dilemma.
"I hated the ring on sight, but slept on it before telling my fiancé. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I also didn't want to live with something for the next 40 years that made me shudder. So eventually I said, 'Sweetheart I can't wait to be your wife. But I hope I can always be honest with you.' He said of course, so I ventured, 'An engagement ring is something I've dreamt of my whole life and I think I've designed it in my head to the last baguette.' He knows me so he leapt in, 'Honey, let's give it back and pick one you love together.'" —Lisa
"I'd already spoiled the surprise that he was going to propose when we were at a romantic spa weekend (another long story). So we decided to mutually write down why we wanted to marry the other person. Alas, I picked the wrong moment to detox from coffee and suffered a MASSIVE migraine. Finally I pulled myself together enough to make our little vows, then he gave me this ridiculous engagement ring — a too-small small gold and silver band that he got at a hock shop. The band had other people's names engraved inside and only fit my pinkie. Lucky for him, I don't care about jewels. And lucky for me, he has put up with my emotional self for 23 years now!" —Nancy
"I adore jewelry! There was certainly nothing wrong with the ring... After all, how could any woman object to a diamond ring of any kind? I simply explained that for something that I intended to wear every day for the rest of my life, it needed to be very, very special and unique to me. He agreed. We created it together with my favorite designer. My rings are flat out gorgeous!" *—Kristin *
"My husband is a romantic and goes for the big gestures. We dated for two years before he popped the question, but that wasn't long enough for him to hone in on my personal style. The ring was not hideous — a lovely center diamond surrounded by a swirl of smaller baguette and marquee cut stones. But I had been hoping for exactly the opposite — an understated, classic solitaire that I could later pair with a band of smaller diamonds. To say I was monumentally disappointed is not saying enough, but I kept it to myself — and have for 15 years. The bottom line is, this is the man I wanted to marry and he took the step to commit to me. We've already been through hell and back in our short years. Death came knocking at our door; we stared it down and we are still here, still together. I still don't like the ring. But I love the man who gave it to me with everything I have and all that I am — something I'm reminded of each time I look at the cluster f*** on my left ring finger." *—Judith *
"I got a $10 Woolworth's plastic ring from my man. We were both too poor at that time, but we're still married 35 years later! On our fifth anniversary, he bought me the most beautiful real ring which I also love. The mate is more important than the bling. Unless he's cheap, thoughtless, disregards your preferences, is arrogant or controlling, which can also be evidenced through the choice of ring — and in that case, reject them both!" —Claudia
My husband's mom wanted him to give me an old cocktail ring of hers. Mitch and I discussed it and, knowing she was a negative influence, decided we should start our lives making our own choices independent of her. I was thrilled he saw things my way." —Ileen
"When I saw the ring I was so disappointed. But I knew he chose it with love, so I figured I'd keep it and try to remember his love rather than my dislike of the ring each time I looked at it. But I made sure we designed our wedding bands together!" —Amy
Sherry Amatenstein is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.