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Advice

I plan to propose … eventually. How do I let my girlfriend know I’m just not ready to get engaged yet?

  • Author: Wayne and Wanda
  • Updated: December 2, 2017
  • Published December 2, 2017

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I have been with "Betty" for a few years now. I love her and hope we spend our lives together. We talk about getting married, and I feel like it's now on me to propose. I know as the holidays approach she's hoping this is it and that I'll ask her to marry me either on Christmas or New Year's. I also know I don't plan on doing so just yet.

This will be our fourth Christmas season together. The first time, we had just started dating, but the second time (2015), her best friend confided in me afterward that Betty had been hoping I would propose. I was kind of surprised then because we hadn't been together that long (just over a year). But I remembered this last year during the holidays, and I could tell once again she was hoping I would ask her to marry me.

Since then, during this past year, we have talked more concretely and in a more detailed way about marriage. For example, we agree we want to be married or at least engaged before we buy a home, and we have talked about how much we should be saving toward a down payment and what neighborhood we would live in. We also have talked about whether we want children, more pets, and where we would go for a honeymoon. So the intention is clearly there. I just don't feel like it's the time yet to propose. It's not about not loving her. I'm just not quite where I want to be when we start our lives together. For example, I would like to be in a more solid spot professionally, and have a bit more money in the bank too. I'd love to buy her a gorgeous ring and give her the kind of wedding she deserves and dreams of.

I haven't told her this outright, and she has dropped a couple hints like how she's ready to take the "next step" and she sure would like something sparkly for Christmas. Ugh. Should I just tell her straight up that I'm not going to propose this season? It seems like that might be better than having her stress about it and anticipate it for the next month, only to end up disappointed. But I don't want her to think I don't love her enough or that I'm not serious about us. Help?

Wanda says:

The good news is you've found someone wonderful who likes you back, and who seems giddily gung-ho about the long haul. The bad news is you're out of sync, and because this mismatched pace can be the death knell for many duos, it's good that you're thinking about both of your related feelings and motivations and the best path forward.

It's not unusual that one of you is ready to "take the next step" while the other is perceived to be quite content standing still. But I'm guessing you don't feel like you're "standing still." From your vantage point, you're laying the groundwork for the future, saving money and trying to advance your career. She may not see this. Rather, she likely feels some level of insecurity or anxiety, and is wondering if there's something missing or wrong that's keeping you from popping the question.

The truth is, people do not operate on pre-programmed timers; a year-long relationship might seem short to one partner, but massively lengthy to the other. Major steps like moving in together might come quickly to Couple A, while Couple B happily lives apart for several years before cohabitating. Sure, it's fantastic when two people glide toward milestones with mutual readiness. It's also rare. So if you can't be on the same page in terms of marital timing, at least you can communicate so that she understands you're on the same page emotionally.

Should you tell her not to expect a holiday proposal? I wouldn't go that far. At best, it's totally unromantic, and at worst, it could come off sounding pretty harsh. You'd be better off communicating positives: you do love her, you do plan on spending your life with her, and you are working your tail off to lay the groundwork for that shared future. That should make her happy.

Wayne says:

Here's an idea – give her what she wants. Turn that big chunk of coal you planned on stuffing in her stocking into a diamond. Then propose to her on Christmas in front of as many of her friends and family members as possible. No one will expect it because you have essentially created two annual holiday traditions in your families: you not proposing and her being bummed about you not proposing. Imagine everyone's shock! You will be a hero, the best Santa ever, and the cheeks of the woman you plan on marrying anyway will be redder than Rudolph's nose. It will be a regular Christmas miracle.

Oh yeah, the time isn't right. You need to wait until you're a shot-caller at work so you can give her the dream wedding and some big bling. You can literally use those excuses and drag this out forever. What job title is important enough for you? Assistant to the regional manager? How much money will it take? Do you even have a number?

Look, you're clearly a traditionalist so take a cue from the vows that you will hopefully one day exchange – for better or worse, for richer or poorer … She won't care about the size of the ring; she's only concerned that you're finally going to give her one. So just buy her the best ring you can today and in 20 years, when you're living large, give her a big old rock for your anniversary. (If you aren't spending all of your money on sending the kids to soccer camps and tournaments, that is …)

I know, getting ahead of myself. But you might be getting ahead of yourself, too, if you assume that she's going to stick around forever. It's been more than three years and you're coming up on four holiday seasons in which you've give her more excuses and heartache than gifts. Make her happy, get it over with and celebrate the moment with her every Christmas for the rest of your lives.

Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at wanda@adn.com.

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