29 June 2012

a modest proposal

I'm sure that this post will rustle some feathers, and that's not why I'm writing it. I just keep seeing the same thing happen, and I find it, if not heartbreaking, at least a major bummer. So if you read this and want to scream at me, know that I'm trying to help. Of course, I think a lot of you will agree, or I probably wouldn't be posting this!

I peruse a lot of blogs, and have met a lot of young women over the years, and all too often I hear them say or see them write, "He still hasn't put a ring on my finger." What's worse, this is usually a public statement, which you know the guy can hear or read, and that makes the ultimate proposal at least partially the result of nagging and passive aggressive hinting. Why are so many women okay starting their marriage on this foot?

Here's what I believe:
  1. Marriage is not about the ring. (It's also not about the wedding, but that's another post.) Marriage is a serious commitment, and while the symbol of the expensive ring is meant to demonstrate that a man is serious about providing for you, I get really sad seeing so many young woman talking about the ring like it's THE thing that's important. Even for women with an otherwise healthy view of marriage, I think just TALKING about the ring so much subtly shifts the focus to the wrong stuff: this expensive thing you're entitled to, instead of this partnership you're about to enter into that will require hard work but will yield mega rewards if you view yourself as a partner, not a princess.
  2. Marriage is a partnership, and it shouldn't come about because of nagging or pressure from one party. A romantic proposal is wonderful, but if it's not coming on your ideal timeline, talk about it directly, and stop "dropping hints," especially publicly. Even better, question whether your timeline is based on any real need, or if you just feel like you should be married by such and such an age or milestone. In the long run, those types of deadlines fade into unimportance, and it's so much more worthwhile to begin your marriage on healthy, equal footing, instead of one party feeling pressured to act. When I see a women playing this game with her hoped-to-be-fiance, I can't help but scream in my mind, "Why would you ever want to wonder if the person you're married to only married you because you shamed/guilt tripped/nagged him into it?!"

I'm not saying diamond rings aren't nice. I love my engagement ring, and have a major sentimental attachment to it. But it doesn't define our marriage or anything about us, other than yielding a rather hilarious proposal story (in my opinion, anyway). The problem is expecting a diamond ring, and focusing on that instead of what's actually important.

So here's what I propose: No more ring talk.

The "No Fat Talk" movement is definitely gaining steam after starting several years ago with (I think) the Tri Delta sorority. Then it got picked up by magazines and bloggers, and now it's all over the internet. I think No Fat Talk is a great model, and the whole idea is retraining our minds and viewing ourselves more positively by refusing to give in to the downward spiral of negative self-thoughts.

So let's change the frame for this issue, too. Let's talk about marriage instead of "putting a ring on my finger." Let's talk about the people and the partnership, and not the jewelry.

What do you think? Who's in?

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xoxo,

10 comments:

  1. Curt and I were together for 7 years before we got engaged and I wouldn't have done it any other way! I was completely caught off guard by the proposal because I had become very settled and happy in our relationship even without the ring. Tomorrow is our 5-year wedding anniversary, and from my vantage point your advice "rings" so true. Commitment is what you make of it and it's not something you can buy in a jewelry store. I wish there was less pressure around the whole process because it doesn't seem to make anyone happy, right?

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  2. Great post! I know what you mean about hearing women talk so publicly about how it "hasn't happened yet" and what not. It always seems strange to me that they would say those things so publicly, in front of their boyfriends. And you are spot-on about the ring. It's really not about the ring, nor should it be. Marriage is wonderful, but certainly not always glamorous. Getting too wrapped up in the external things like a wedding, dress, ring, etc. is a dangerous way to start a marriage.

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  3. We were together 12 years before getting engaged, so this issue definitely came up in public. As I recall, after a bit of floundering on my part, we eventually did a pretty good job of standardizing our response to "No point rushing these things". Naturally, in private, I wondered if there was an issue, but since we'd already decided we didn't want kids, there truly wasn't any reason to rush.

    But, I wholeheartedly agree: there was no way on earth I was going to nag him into it. (He puts up with enough from me, without that!)

    We're approaching 9 years of marriage - fingers crossed. I have a pet theory that the longer you're together before tying the knot, the better chance you have of the marriage working. Take the extreme example: if you date for 60 years then get married, chances are it will be death that doth you part, not something else ;) Young women hoping and wondering about a proposal might get comfort from that?

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  4. Great post. I feel out of touch with this subject because of my age group so didn't realize this was still going on. Twenty-four years ago when I got married it sure was. And I learned the hard way that the starry-eyed 'next step' toward marriage isn't always the right one. I just wrote a post titled, "the decision that changed my Life" about what happened when I got cold feet at the altar. (practically) And no, I didn't go thru with it. Gulp. But it was a life lesson. So I think advice like this is invaluable. Thanks for sharing. Leslie (www.gwenmossblog.blogspot.com)

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  5. Great post, Tanja. I think you're spot-on regarding the passive-agressive nature of whining about a ring in a public format. When talking to women in my family of my mom's generation, I get some pressure about 'not being married' because they see "married with children" to be a major indicator of life success (as in, anything else is a failure) and let's face it, my ovaries aren't getting any younger! (http://www.r-bloggers.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-pregnant/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RBloggers+%28R+bloggers%29). As an over/highly educated female, I think there is additional pressure in reproductive years to focus on career development at the expense of child-rearing. So I think that part of the whining may be simply responding to reproductive pressures. Not to say that nagging is an acceptable solution, just some insight into why. @Leslie - does this sound like the pressures you faced years ago?

    My personal opinion is that with the high divorce rate in this country (my brother, his kids and parents have all gone through divorce), the meaning of that legal document becomes diluted. In my thirties, I am much less enamored with the idea of marriage and completely in support of a strong emotional/financial commitment. @Pauline - love your pet theory. Bayesian statistics (posterior probability) is a terrific approach :-)

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  6. I do agree with what you've written! Marriage is SO much more than a ring or a wedding - in fact, you don't need either of those things to make a marriage. It's sad, and incredibly misguided when people put the emphasis on trivial, material matters like a ring and a party.

    Thanks for the reminder of what's truly important! And enjoy the marriage you have!

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  7. Love it! And totally agree with so many of the commenters about how marriage is way more than a ring or a big ol' fancy wedding. When we got engaged I really struggled with many of the traditions that to me felt a bit like a show - to me some of them take away from the bigger picture of the wonderful commitment and and community building. Now, I love my sapphire ring - but my husband could have proposed to me with a daisy tied in a knot and I would have cried and squealed with the exact same thrill and excitement.

    @Pauline - I love your theory! We were together for 8 years before getting engaged and I think being together longer really allowed us to go through some rougher times that we came out stronger from.

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  8. So true! Although I only dated my husband for 5 months before the proposed, but I'm on board that marriage is not at all about the ring. Or the wedding. In fact, the wedding was the least important part of al of this. I'm so happy, 7 years and 3 kids later that we talked about our lives, our dreams, our ideas, or we would be in deep trouble!

    http://www.stayathomeista.com/2012/06/living-room.html

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  9. Hi Tanja,
    I just wanted you to know I nominated you and your blog for this award
    http://gwenmossblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/little-blogger-love.html

    Leslie Harris (aka Gwen Moss blog)

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Thanks for taking a moment to leave a note! I would love if you would leave your email address so I can write you back! But no pressure. :-) (No anonymous posts, please.) xoxo, tanja

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