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Is there really lasting love at first sight?
August 13, 2009 5:17 AM   Subscribe

How did you know getting engaged impulsively was a good idea?

I met this wonderful woman a few months ago. I am 24 and she is 21 were both about to finish our BA's this winter. I feel like I have found something unique and special in this girl and could see myself being with her a long time. It has been four months, but that "so happy I'm going to puke because the butterflies won't stop flapping" does not ever stop. Our relationship feels like it is beyond gut level infatuation; we are compatible on so many levels that I doubt that I will ever find this mix in a single person again.

We have both dated and had our hearts broken. I dated a woman for 4 years and we were dead pragmatic about the idea of getting married. We had the logistics down, but the real gut level part of it just was not there.

I know is snark bait, and I am not interested in people telling me how naive I am. I understand marriage is an economic contract with the state and not a love certificate. I am asking partly because we had discussed how we both kind of like the fun of long engagements. In addition, she is in Paris for this quarter and I would like to surprise her by proposing to her in Paris. Neither of us have any interest in eloping.

What I am interested in are stories of people who found each other and quickly decided that they had found someone whom they wanted to share their life. I would like to hear both from MeFites who found this to be the best or worst decision of their life. How did you know this would be a good idea? Was it a good idea? Any anecdotes about quick engagements or marriages are welcome. In particular, I would love to hear stories about couples who ended up staying together for decades.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been there. Exactly there. My AIM is in my profile if you'd like to hear the story.
posted by AaRdVarK at 5:45 AM on August 13, 2009


I felt like this during the first year of my current (4 year) relationship. I remember thinking things like "if he proposed now, I would so so so say yes!" and "I would love to just go to Vegas right now and get married and I'd be the happiest person in the world!". I had not felt like this in any of my other 4 long-term relationships.

We're still together now, but I'm glad I didn't take the plunge then. Would we have made it work? Probably. Am I still so sure now that we're going to stay together long-term and get married? Not so much.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 5:48 AM on August 13, 2009


Do you see yourself as the kind of person who, even though you're engaged, even though everyone knows you're engaged, could still break up with someone if it turns out not to be working out, and not go through with a wedding just because that's the next step after engaged? I'm not saying it won't work out, I'm just saying figure out whether you're strong enough to disengage if it doesn't.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:54 AM on August 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


I proposed to my wife after 2 months of dating, got married about a year and a half later, and we just celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary last week, so I would say we're an example of the success stories you're looking for.

However: I was 32 at the time and she was 37 - so we had been around the block quite a few times more than we had at your ages, and we had a very good idea of what we were looking for. We'd also already done a lot of soulsearching beforehand to figure out who we were and who we wanted to be, which I think is key.

I always wonder why people in their early twenties are in such a rush to get married. This girl could very well be the one for you - but what's the hurry? If she's the right one now she'll be the right one in 5 years, too, and then you'll have all that time together under your belt to make a more informed decision.

And while proposing quickly, and in Paris, sounds very romantic, if things go well you'll have tons of opportunities to create similar romantic situations in the future. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that what's right in front of you is the only or best [time, opportunity, girl, whatever] you'll ever have. The world is your oyster!
posted by widdershins at 5:55 AM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


My husband and I got engaged the day before our first date.

Today is our 26th wedding anniversary.

I guess I can safely say, it worked!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:01 AM on August 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


In addition, she is in Paris for this quarter and I would like to surprise her by proposing to her in Paris.

That sounds like a really bad idea. Let her be on her own and do her thing.

I have known a handful of couples that got married at your age after only being together for < 1 year. They are all divorced with the exception of 2 couples that seem to be doing okay, but they have kids so maybe they have adjusted their priorities. I'm not saying you shouldn't get married, but what's the rush? Finish school, see what your options are career-wise, get to know her better. If it's the real deal and you love each other, she still be there. If not, you saved yourself a huge amount of heartache and pain down the road.
posted by chillmost at 6:06 AM on August 13, 2009


I asked on impulse after dating for 3 months. We were up a mountain in the lake district, so the 3hr walk back would have been somewhat awkward if she'd said no. But she didn't! Married 9 years, one 5 year-old, and just as much in love as on that day, if not more.

Best decision ever, and in hindsight, partly made the night I met her, which was about 9 months before the day I asked. I didn't even know it was love, but I did know everything had changed. Butterflies, indeed.

Both had broken hearts before, both realised we'd never understood how good being with someone could feel, either. That's not something that kicks in in your 30s, by the way, so don't worry.

You don't know your future, and neither does anyone else here. You do know how you feel, though, and hopefully how she does, too. But make sure your long-term hopes and ambitions are aligned as these count, as well.

Remember that long-term happiness is based on effort, not just butterflies in the stomach: but the butterflies are what convinces you that the long-term effort will be worth it, because in turn, that effort is what keeps the butterfly feeling there, in you, and in her.
posted by dowcrag at 6:11 AM on August 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Two months after I met my now-husband, I moved from Canada to the US to take a new job. We visited each other back and forth a bit after I moved and we realized we could not live without each other. The only way we could live with each other was to marry. We were engaged four months after we met and married four months later. We've been married four years now and going strong.

I was 26 and he was 32 when we married. Like widdershins, we'd also been around the block, knew who we wanted to be, and knew what we were looking for. We got the traveling/partying/dating/personality changing bits out of our systems before we started.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:13 AM on August 13, 2009


It has been four months, but that "so happy I'm going to puke because the butterflies won't stop flapping" does not ever stop.

Of course not- even the weakest butterflies can stay alive 4 months. I cannot tell you how many people I would be married to if I listened to butterflies. You need to wait and listen to your head.

Do you see yourself as the kind of person who, even though you're engaged, even though everyone knows you're engaged, could still break up with someone if it turns out not to be working out, and not go through with a wedding just because that's the next step after engaged? Yes- please think about this. Get engaged on a whim if you want, why not, but do NOT get married on one. I was in an "on-a-whim" wedding, and now we're all living through the divorce, and it is terrible.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:14 AM on August 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Though it was a "different time," my parents (both 20) fell in love and married after 4 months. They've had their ups and downs, but they've been together for 42 years.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:16 AM on August 13, 2009


In all my life, I think the biggest mistake you can make is shaping your life by cold pragmatism or its direct opposite and thus sister feeling: your gut.

Ask yourself, when you are alone, when your mind is quiet: Who do you think about?

Be with her or him.
posted by trotter at 6:32 AM on August 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


My cousin, who is in her mid-20's, got engaged very quickly. Like, she brought boyfriend A home two Christmases ago and was engaged to boyfriend B by last Christmas. Her parents were concerned about this and insisted on a long engagement. She ended up breaking it off a few months later because they couldn't come to an agreement about where to live. She assumed that they would remain in the town where they met because they both had jobs there. He assumed that they would get married and move to where his family lived because he is close to his family and wanted to be near them. When they finally came around to discussing it, neither would budge so the engagement was off.

I don't want to be a downer but have you guys had any talks about where you would live, finances, or kids yet? Sometimes these things can be deal breakers for people, sometimes not. My advice would be to wait a bit, but its your life and only you know what you really want.
posted by Nolechick11 at 6:33 AM on August 13, 2009


As an addendum to Nolechick11's thoughts, these are great questions.

Best of luck! I have no personal anecdotes for you yet.
posted by jgunsch at 6:37 AM on August 13, 2009


As an addendum to my own experience above, my dad proposed to my mum after a fortnight.

51 years together and still going strong.
posted by dowcrag at 6:55 AM on August 13, 2009


DH and I fell for each other pretty quickly when we met in our first year of college. A year later, we were engaged. A year later we were married. We are approaching our 16th anniversary. In two months, I will have been with him for half my life. By the time we're 40, we'll have been married for half our lives. Marrying him was the best decision I ever made.

Despite my tale of happiness, I encourage you to take some time. I've seen several couples succeed despite being very young and going into the marriage very quickly. A dear lady I used to work for had married her husband after only knowing him for 6 weeks. I've seen more that do not succeed under similar circumstances. My parents were engaged within 4 months of meeting and married within a year. They divorced 10 years later. My brother moved in with his first wife after knowing her for only 2 months and they were married by month 6, iirc. By year 4, they were divorced.

Take your time. Enjoy getting to know each other. If you still feel this way in 6 months, ask. If you marry, know that each day is a choice to be as good to each other as you are today and to make the marriage a good one.

Best of luck.
posted by onhazier at 7:02 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My husband and I fell very quickly in love. We moved in together after a few months. We talked about marriage around then too.

And then we waited.

We waited to see if it would stick - we were both in our late 20s at the time - we waited to see if our priorities would change, we waited for him to finish his MD/PhD (IMO, a lot of breakups happen around graduations, moving and other upheavals), we waited to see where he would end up in his residency program...

We got married nearly 3 years after we met. By then our relationship had been tested a bit, with some living apart and a jealous ex of his trying to break us up. We'd talked about money, and kids, and the fact that I like to travel and don't really care about owning stuff and he likes toys like big TVs etc. We had decided where we were going to live, at least for the following 5 years or so.

Waiting was the right thing to do. I still had butterflies when I married him, I still do now when I see him. If she's right for you now, she'll be right for you in one or two or 4 years. And if she's not, well, then it's a good thing you didn't jump into marriage.
posted by gaspode at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


We had an intense long distance relationship, but floated marriage discussions within a couple of months of dating. I was 20 and in school at the time, it was out of the question. We got engaged 4 years later, and married a year after that. He had the ring for months and we had dozens of jokey proposals but he finally gave me ring the day his father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. We both knew at that point that we wanted to make the next step, truly for better or worse. We've been together for 11 years now. I agree with gaspode about the butterflies. I look at him sometimes and I think how amazing he is.

I still felt maybe too young at 24 (he was 32). Much has changed since then - at the time we didn't want children, but now we do. We have travelled a great deal. Moved overseas. Spent several months apart on opposite sides of the globe. The longer you know someone the more you will get to know whether you will grow together or apart.
posted by wingless_angel at 7:31 AM on August 13, 2009


I think the lovely hearts-and-flowers honeymoon phase is pretty normal for the first several months of a new relationship, and it would be easy to propose then. But I would submit that a proposal a few years in, once you've had a few fights, gotten through a few hard times, seen each other in a not-so-nice light, and STILL feel like you've got something special, is a great deal more meaningful.
posted by Fifi Firefox at 7:40 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


In college, my girlfriend and I recognized early on — a month or so into our relationship — that our marriage would be inevitable. The connection was stronger than any of our previous relationships, and the relationship felt more worth nurturing.

We spent some time in college not getting along well, with too-frequent fights. But again, we valued our connection and worked on it together, because we wanted the relationship to work, and to last.

Although we knew we were to be married, we didn't get engaged formally right away. We waited 2.25 years before I popped the question. Instead, we spent the in-between time discussing our lives and our futures together, without adding the stress (or, admittedly, joy) of engagement.

In the meantime, though: We lived together. Lots. As college roommates, during a summer internship in California, again as college roommates in an apartment. Passing that live-together test for those years of dating was hugely important to our confidence in the relationship.

We've been married six years, and have two delightful daughters.

Final thought: I agree 100% with jacquilyn above.
posted by lexfri at 7:40 AM on August 13, 2009


anonymous: It has been four months, but that "so happy I'm going to puke because the butterflies won't stop flapping" does not ever stop.

Do not, not, NOT get engaged now. Because I 100% swear to God, it will stop. You have very little idea how compatible you are in the real world until that NRE bubble bursts. You know you guys are good at passionate and soppy and supportive and being in love and that's great; how are you at angry and disappointed and conflicting needs and opposing priorities?

You have, practically speaking, no real idea. And any marriage can work and be blissful when it's all passionate and soppy and supportive and being in love; it's the ones that also work when it's angry and disappointed and you're fantasising about hitting your partner over the head with a motherfucking frying pan that make it.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


Ha! Four months.

I met Mr. WanKenobi when I was eighteen (he was older, 24) and we both had pretty intense feelings that the other was "the one." And, while we're still together today, seven years later, and planning our wedding for October, our relationship is completely and absolutely different than it was in the first few months. I mean, we didn't even have our first fight until the six-month mark.

The big changes in our relationship happened between then and the two-year mark. We fought a lot during that time, and I've watched many couples go through the same thing. For the first few months of a relationship, each partner is still putting his or her best face forward. Because of that, and crazyhappybrainlove chemicals, it's really really hard to objectively evaluate a relationship during that time. Of the couples I've seen go through that rough patch, some (rightfully) didn't end up staying together, and some did. But really, in the first few months, there's no way that anyone on the internet--or indeed, probably anyone you know in real life--can tell you with any assurance that it will last. You just don't know each other well enough. I know that you think you do, but I promise, you don't.

Also, when I proposed in September, Mr. WanKenobi and I were originally planning for a long engagement. Like, years. A few months of being engaged with no end-date in sight quickly made me realize how pointless that was for us. You'll get a lot of people assuming that you're not actually serious about the marriage part of the engagement without a date set--I found myself having to justify our relationship to outsiders more than I did before the engagement ("No! Really! We've been together six years! My proposal wasn't just a romantic gesture of false-seriousness!"). We quickly realized that what we were serious about was marriage, about making the real public and legal commitment to one another, rather than going halfway. If you're not serious about marriage yet, and you have reasons not to be, you might want to hold back on the engagement.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:01 AM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm of at least three minds on this, so apologies in advance if this is nonsensical...

Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Yes, I don't think there is any other kind. But that doesn't mean you should necessarily be married, especially immediately. If it's real, after all, what's the rush? What does hurrying protect you from? Think about that, maybe.

Lexfri and Gaspode expressed my thoughts on this. It's easy to imagine being with someone during great times, the Times of the Butterfly. Now wait it out and see how you do on the inevitable rough times before making these legally-binding decisions.

Also, some internal honesty: there's no such thing as an "impulsive" engagement. Getting engaged is by nature a slow, planning-heavy way to do it. The impulsive version is eloping and getting married tomorrow. (But that's definitely not my advice.)
posted by rokusan at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


When we were 25 we met on a blind date and I told him the next morning in bed that we would be getting married and having children (neither of which he had really planned for his future). I knew he was the one the moment our eyes met (he, on the other hand, just remembers my ugly shirt). We both had a LTR previously and were sure of ourselves alone but ready for a relationship. We were engaged within a year, pregnant a month later and married the following year. We have gone through some horrible, marriage-breaking, stressful times together (severe financial instability, death of our child, devastating chronic illness) but we have now been together over a decade and I think my first decision was the right one.

Twenty-one though seems young, unless she has had several years of living as an adult (having done both - attending university is NOT the same as being an adult and being completely financially independent and supporting yourself by work). And definitely talk about the big issues but keep in mind both of your stances may change over the next few years so you need to be flexible. Good Luck!
posted by saucysault at 8:07 AM on August 13, 2009


If you both have stable jobs, then do it!
posted by anniecat at 8:11 AM on August 13, 2009


I don't want to knock on your young ages or the fact that you haven't been together that long. There is no magic formula for how long you've been together, or your ages, or how many heartbreaks you have under your belt, that will help determine whether or not your marriage will be a long and happy one. And I do believe in love at first sight.

What concerns me is the surprise proposal. You didn't include very many details about how much you two have talked about marriage in general, but that is one hell of an intense way to visit her overseas considering you haven't been together that long. I had some friends who were quick to propose to their girlfriends when faced with a long time/distance apart, and it always seemed suspiciously close to trying to guarantee they wouldn't lose her.

The romance of a Paris engagement may be intoxicating your ability to evaluate your own motives clearly. You can still marry her someday, even someday soon, but the "surprise" aspect, made during the time when you are still in the heady first few months, raises red flags to me.
posted by juliplease at 8:15 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My wife and I met as students in Paris (Brit and Canadian), we pretty much knew this was the one for us very early on, but then had to go our ways at the end of our courses. Love in Paris is VERY intoxicating. I got home, told my parents I'd met the one and we then had a very tough year where we didn't see each other.
We spent 5 years in total doing the long distance thing before getting married, and will celebrate our 10th anniversary this November.

Long distance tests a relationship, so I'd wait and see how it goes after her time there both of you may feel differently. Yes, this may be for keeps, but waiting won't affect that if she's the one and feels the same way about you.
posted by arcticseal at 8:23 AM on August 13, 2009


You'll probably end up with stories that are all over the place. I think making a marriage work takes more than butterflies. I think your story will play out positively or negatively based on how each of you are as people, and how you approach a serious relationship.
posted by chunking express at 8:36 AM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am asking partly because we had discussed how we both kind of like the fun of long engagements.

How long is "long"? I don't see too many other answers addressing this aspect of your post; to the contrary, most people have responded with the assumption that being engaged means you will be getting married relatively soon. If you are thinking of waiting for 3 to 5 years before getting married, then I would say "why not?"

My partner and I dated for a few years before getting engaged in our (very!) early 20s, and our engagement lasted about five years. Granted, we would probably have married sooner had we not each been at school in different cities, but I think the engagement served several useful purposes especially considering the fact that we knew at the time that we would not be able to live together in the immediate future. Among other things, it signified the substantial and potentially permanent nature of our relationship to friends and (more importantly) family while also prompting us to think further ahead and consider our future plans and compatibility.
posted by onshi at 8:48 AM on August 13, 2009


Mr. kitcat and I were engaged 6 months after we met and married another 6 months later. I was 27 and he was 35. We are two years married and, I believe, will be for the rest of our lives. He's the best person that ever happened to me.

I think that marriage can only ever be a bit of a gamble. You're making a decision not only for your present, but also for your future, and there is absolutely no way to really know or guess what your future selves will be like and what they might want. The only certainty in life is change, right? That said, if you feel that you can trust your future selves to hold a compass that will steer them towards what it takes to remain fulfilled by and committed to your marriage, that makes the gamble a much better one.
posted by kitcat at 8:50 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


A close friend of mind was engaged after dating her boyfriend for four months. We (group of friends) were all a little surprised at the fast proposal, but they seemed like a good match. They were 21 and 22 at the time, both finishing up school, and planned for a 13 month engagement.

During the engagement, there were a few warning signs that began to pop up. They weren't really seeing eye-to-eye about money, buying a house (she wanted one ASAP, he did not), where to live, etc.

After they were engaged for ten months (so, they'd been together a total of 14 months), my friend was using her fiance's laptop and, since he had left his e-mail inbox open, noticed an unusual amount of e-mails from an online dating website.

Several confrontations later, he admitted he'd been using a fake online profile to meet women at bars. Also, he thought he may have a porn/sex addiction. Also, he had been with a prostitute while my friend was working out of state for a month.

All of us were totally floored. Some of us had been friends with this guy for years and did not see this coming.

I'm not saying you or your girlfriend have any dark secrets even approaching this level, but in my experience, the good traits are naturally what you see first, at the start of the relationship. The unpleasant parts tend to be revealed gradually over time, in bits and pieces. IMO most of the big surprises are out of the way after two years of dating. I personally wouldn't agree to marry someone unless I'd been with them at least a year.

Weather a few arguments first (it'll happen). See how she handles stress, disappointment, anger, setbacks, mistakes, a handsome co-worker... If you can, travel together for a while. I knew I was ready to marry him when we managed to backpack through Europe for a month without killing each other. As others have said, if she loves you, she isn't going anywhere. You've got time.
posted by castlebravo at 8:56 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


She's studying abroad in Paris-- I'm guessing she's still financially dependent on her parents? Are YOU still financially dependent on your parents? Have you met her parents?

I'm asking because there's a strong possibility she'll say no (or, worse, say yes without really meaning it) if you surprise her in Paris, after 4 short months of dating, with a proposal. If your connection really is that strong, then she'd probably say yes after a year or more of dating, after you've been through some real trials together, once her parents know and love you. You can have a long engagement whether you get engaged now or in a year or in five years. This is the rest of your life you're talking about.

If you just want to be engaged to be engaged, because you thought you'd marry your last girlfriend and you don't want to be NOT engaged, then please, please don't do it.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:11 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Two anecdotes from my family:
- My grandmother and grandfather got engaged after knowing each other for two weeks when they were in their early 20s. My mother and her siblings say that they were always insanely in love.

- My aunt and uncle have been a couple since they were 12 years old, and have never been with anyone else. They are now in their 60s. They are still very in love and have had a good life together so far.

I don't mean to say this sort of outcome is common, but yeah, of course it can happen. Whether it works will always depend on the two people and their relationship and, probably, the luck of their circumstances. I have noticed that, since I have two couples like this in the back of my head, I am more likely to think "eh, anything can happen" when it comes to relationships than people I know who do not have examples like this. The vast majority of relationships break up, and there's no getting around that. Yours could very well be an exception, though.

An article, tangentially related (not exactly about "at first sight"):
True love can last a lifetime -- but it's rare

A bit of advice:
If she says yes, I don't see the harm in proposing. Just wait a bit before you actually get married, because the legal implications of both marriage and divorce are not to be taken lightly.

Also, steel yourself for the possibility that she says no on the grounds that it's too soon. It would be likely upsetting to hear that, so don't go breaking up or anything over it.
posted by Nattie at 9:28 AM on August 13, 2009


My partner and I got engaged and married fairly early in our relationship, mainly for financial and logistical reasons. We're also relatively young - in our twenties. I am really ambivalent about the institution of marriage, and so is he, and I don't think we would have ever considered marriage for it's own sake; there was no big romantic proposal in Paris, it was just kind of an idea that developed organically. We'd also known each other as good friends for two years before becoming a couple (circumstances not having been right for being a couple until a specific point, but that's another story), so although the romantic relationship was fairly new, it wasn't like we'd just met six months ago and didn't know anything about each other.

Marriage in our case didn't really change much, except it made things like renting our apartment easier and we saved some money on taxes. We're exactly as close as we were before we got married. We have exactly the same goals and plans for the future. I know it doesn't sound sweepingly romantic, but it's perfect for the two of us.

I'm not sure I would advocate getting married that early for other people. Especially not if you're the kind of people who take marriage really seriously, and consider it to be a big lifestyle thing - you say you have no interest in eloping, and you're planning a big romantic proposal, which tell me that you place great importance on this event. If that's the case, I'd say wait, at least until you're both done with university or college or whatever and she's no longer studying abroad in Paris.
posted by ellehumour at 9:54 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My impulsive engagement was a complete disaster. I was also 21 then, and I am an entirely different person now at 25 than I was at that age. Don't do it: there is no good reason not to wait.
posted by halogen at 10:13 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sometimes it happens. I just attended the wedding of two very good friends who both buy into the whole idea of romance, love-at-first-sight, fate, etc. They knew each other for I think, 3 months before they got engaged. Their wedding was a True Love / Princess Bride themed affair, complete with a surprise first dance that is the ultimate schmoopery. I have no doubt that they have found exactly what they were looking for, forever.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:24 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our timeframe was a bit longer than those discussed above, but I'll share it anyway. At the 6-month mark of dating, we'd essentially decided that we would get married. At 8 months, we bought a house together. At 10 months, we got engaged. Our engagement lasted nearly 2 years, and we've been married now 2 years.

In retrospect, I wonder what the hell we were thinking, moving that fast, but it seemed absolutely right at the time. Neither of us could imagine a better fit for a partner, and still can't.

The long engagement was critical for me, though, because our relationship was pure fun, love, and excitement the first year—we were both healthy, gainfully employed, had no family problems or financial issues, didn't undergo any real stress or big life changes, and never ran into anything that caused conflict or fights. In short, our relationship hadn't been tested to know if we could actually withstand hard times. At only four months, I'm guessing yours hasn't either, and that's what I would be cautious about. Even though you've both had other relationships and presumably undergone difficult times during those, you haven't experienced it this one.

The surprise proposal concerns me a bit, too. Have you actually discussed the prospect of being married to each other, not just how long engagements are "fun"? The actual proposal moment should be a surprise, sure, but she should absolutely know it's coming beforehand. If you do decide to propose and she says yes, enjoy your relationship and start thinking about what it would be like to be married and proceed accordingly. But until you know whether your relationship can actually withstand lots of stress and big life changes and come out on the other side even stronger for it, please hold off on actually getting married.

Best of luck to you.
posted by anderjen at 10:33 AM on August 13, 2009


Long engagements aren't really fun. Being engaged mostly sucks. People only put up with it for:

1. The attention
2. The presents
3. The fun (?) of picking out stationary and buying wedding magazines
4. The ring

Other than that, it's a lot of fights and pressure (external and internal).
posted by kathrineg at 10:45 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and I have been engaged quickly. Be prepared to have no one take you seriously considering your age.

It was pointless. I still miss the engagement ring, though.
posted by kathrineg at 10:50 AM on August 13, 2009


Be prepared to have no one take you seriously considering your age.

Oh, and just a note--I don't think it's right that people won't take you seriously, but it is predictable.
posted by kathrineg at 12:13 PM on August 13, 2009


we are compatible on so many levels that I doubt that I will ever find this mix in a single person again.

My friend once had a good observation: getting married is similar to a game in which you don't see all the cards up front (like Poker). You might be able to see the cards that you are dealt, but eventually the river is going to provide a few surprises.

As compatible as people feel, there's a good chance there will be issues later that you didn't see in the person initially. And to be honest, I think this happens regardless of how long someone dates before getting engaged (or even how long they are married). But the longer you get to know someone initially, the less surprises there are when you make a commitment.

Dealing with these unknown issues isn't always bad. But it's good to know that there will be points of incompatibility, and sometimes the infatuation stage can be blind to those possible tension spots. If you don't see any of these at this point, it might be a good idea to spend some time to see what they might be.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:14 PM on August 13, 2009


Here's another thing to consider: I've never heard anyone say that they regret taking a bit more time to get to know someone before getting engaged. I have heard people say the opposite.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:19 PM on August 13, 2009


One of the most intense relationships of my life lasted about 4 months. I was 21 and ridiculously, stupidly, crazy in love. He was 25, and I'm pretty sure he felt the same way. We were both majorly commitment-shy and overwhelmed that we could feel so much so soon. We weren't even dating exclusively in an attempt to slow ourselves down. At the end, my feelings were still absurdly strong, but I broke it off anyway. Leaving was painful as anything, but he understood, and when we were parting for the last time, he said, smiling, "I think I just got dumped by the girl I'm going to marry."

I doubt he realized it then, but that was a stab through the heart. I'd have gone running back to him in a heartbeat if he'd chased me down the subway stairs instead of sadly watching me leave. As it was, I was an utter mess on that lonely ride home. If he'd asked me to marry him right then and there, I probably would've said yes. Looking back, I'm very grateful he didn't. It was way too much way too soon. Neither of us was ready, and at 21, I didn't really know who I was yet, although I thought I did.

When I broke things off with Mr. Intense, I started dating "the other guy" exclusively. That might sound weird, considering I broke up with Mr. Intense because I was scared of commitment, but it made a lot of sense for me, because things were progressing much more slowly with "the other guy" and I didn't feel like I was going to explode with emotion all the time. Feeling in control of myself was important to me, and I knew that whatever feelings developed with "the other guy" were going to be reliable and our relationship would unfold over time.

Fast forward four years later, and I'm still with "the other guy", and I feel butterflies every day. I've changed a lot during that time, and my relationship has evolved as well, but always for the better. We're still not married or engaged, but I can't imagine that either one of those things would fundamentally change our relationship. We'll never have the Hollywood glitter of a whirlwind romance, but I wouldn't trade "the other guy" and our wonderful, meandering relationship for anything in the world.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:52 PM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I completely disagree that long engagements are fights and stress. I was engaged for a couple years before I got married and there was none of that. It depends on the couple, and (from the list given) probably whether wedding planning is involved. We didn't want a wedding ceremony and didn't have one. Life wasn't different at all once we were engaged, or once we were married, for that matter.

Although I will say, the shorter time you've known someone before getting engaged, the more likely it will be that getting engaged will be a change, or will cause fights because of disagreements you hadn't foreseen. Some couples grow apart when things change, and others grow closer; such a short time into the relationship, with no huge tests on it yet, makes it hard to tell which you will be.

On the side of postponing the engagement, there's really no harm in waiting. Also, having to wait longer just means more anticipation, which can be just as exciting or better than a quick, whirlwind thing. And yeah, not rushing into it means you'll have more people taking it seriously.
posted by Nattie at 1:00 PM on August 13, 2009


On the flip side, my parents were high school sweethearts, and they've been together for about 30 years now. They didn't get married particularly young (mid-20's), but I think they'd been functionally engaged since high school and they hadn't lived together throughout that time.

I don't think their marriage is particularly unhappy now, but when I was growing up, there was a lot of fighting, to the point when I used to wonder if they'd get divorced. My mom once told me that if not for us kids, she probably would have walked out on a couple of occasions. They also shared a business together and have some fairly strong cultural pressure against divorce, so there are a lot of reasons they stuck it out, but I don't know if all or even most couples would have done the same. Things are much better now, but it was a long and frequently painful process.

I suspect that if my parents had dated around more when they were younger, they either wouldn't have ended up together or their relationship would've benefited from the added experience and been much smoother. I feel like it's hard to know what a person is really like unless you spend a lot of time with them and you've seen them at their best and their worst. Waiting until marriage to work that out strikes me as a particularly complicated and expensive risk to take, but I'm a fairly cautious person and I don't like putting my heart on the line lightly.
posted by Diagonalize at 1:16 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would do it. It might work out, it might not. Which is the same for any marriage since the beginning of time.

But be prepared a lot of people will try to shoot you down for being young and in love. The butterflies will definitely won't always be there and she might shoot you down. None of those are deal breakers.

Life is for living and even if this doesn't work out, it make the world a better place that someone is doing such things.

My current wife liked to play with astrology and took me to this crazy astrologer to have our charts done. He saw them and got all excited and since he is also a licensed minister he tried to convince us to elope on the spot. We had only been dating for a week or two and looked at each other a little nervously and declined. I ended up proposing later, but looking back I wish we had just done it.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:26 PM on August 13, 2009


It would be a cool story to tell: "I only dated this girl for a couple of months when I KNEW I was going to marry her. So I proposed. In Paris." It'll probably be interesting experience to see whether you make or break it. And of course, you want to prove your love to her by showing her that you love her so much that you're willing to propose to her.

And it's much less interesting to be careful and see whether you guys could work out in the long run after all. But safer.

Are you the type that prefers a secure and stable marriage without the drama, or the excitement of falling in love and getting married young?
posted by moiraine at 1:45 PM on August 13, 2009


I got engaged around my 18th birthday. We'd been together 3 months and couldn't get enough of each other, started living together really quickly too. I remember at the one year mark saying to him, I don't understand how people break up after a year, surely they know by then. Luckily, we did break up, 3 times, got back together two, and I've been free of the guy for 20 years now. He was a nice bloke and just right for a teen me, but really not the kind of guy I should spend my life with.

All I can say is, you don't know. She might be, you might be. An engagement is lovely and romantic and fun and bears very little reality to being married with responsibilities and obligations. So if you want to, fine, do it. But hold off on being married for a few years. That's much harder to get out of.
posted by b33j at 1:54 PM on August 13, 2009


Engagement is non-binding. It doesn't sound like you're going to lose this girl if you wait. And it doesn't sound like you're going to lose her if you propose, either — she might say "no," but it doesn't sound like you expect her to say "no, and furthermore never call me again," right?

So at that point it doesn't make a practical difference what you do. Get engaged if it makes you happy. It won't have any major upsides or downsides, so why not do it? Just don't start planning the wedding until you're sure you're ready, and don't be ashamed to back out if you decide you made a mistake.

I got engaged on an impulse. I'm convinced to this day that it was the right thing to do. But we then went on to get married just as impulsively, and that was a mistake. We're divorced now, and my post-wedding "Oh fuck was that the right thing to do?" cold-feet jitters are a big reason why. Nothing drives a woman off like telling her "I'm not sure I really wanted to marry you." If we'd had a longer engagement and I'd ridden out the cold feet before I said "I do" — well, who knows, but we might still be together.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:05 PM on August 13, 2009


When a couple gets engaged at a young age, after having dated each other for only a brief period of time, without any immediate plans of actually getting married I think it's fair to question the motivation behind the engagement. Is it really a romantic gesture or is one (or both) members of the couple so insecure about the other staying committed to the relationship that an official, external symbol of commitment is required?

Maybe I'm being more practical than romantic, but if there is no actual plan to have a wedding in the near future, what exactly is the point of getting engaged beyond knowing that your partner has a ring on to ward off potential suitors? If both of you are deeply in love with one another and strongly committed to the relationship, why the rush to be engaged?

As a data point, if I got engaged every time I found myself at the "4-Months and Still Absolutely Gaga Over Each other" stage of a relationship I'd be on my third, instead of first, marriage.
posted by The Gooch at 3:02 PM on August 13, 2009


Do not get engaged just because someone is going to Paris soon and it would be romantic. A Paris proposal can still be romantic even if you get engaged six years from now. (As my cousin could tell you.)

I did the quickie engagement and am so glad I didn't marry the bloke. If I am ever insane enough to get engaged again, I will insist on knowing the guy for a YEAR, yup, 365/6 days total, before even considering marrying. Right now you don't know this girl's flaws yet (and whether or not either of you can manage to live as an adult and maintain a job is a BIG one), you don't know if one of you wants kids and the other doesn't or if one of you wants to live somewhere that the other one doesn't, you don't know if you can put up with her slobby/too neat ways after a year of dealing with them, you haven't dealt with "in sickness" yet....so many things you don't know yet and you will need to know them before you make a commitment.

For the love of god, WAIT on this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2009


Just another personal anecdote. A close friend of mine dated a guy in a "whirlwind romance" for only 3 months. He moved in with her after one month, two months later they were head over heels and "jokingly talked about getting married" in Tahoe on a trip they planned to take that weekend. The next day, they decided to do it, and suddenly all of us friends were making plans to watch them tie the knot in a little chapel on the Beach Front of lake Tahoe. It was gorgeous and spontaneous and romantic.

At the time we were 24 and after she told me their plans to [kind-of] elope, she asked me if I thought she was crazy. I didn't know shit about marriage and what it really means and what it really takes. So my answer was "Do you really love him? Are you sure? Are you sure he really loves you too?" She answered yes to all 3 and I said "Well... if you're sure, it does sound really fun/romantic!"

That answer HAUNTS me. I mean, what TERRIBLE advice! We were 2 girls that still at age 24 was thinking the wedding = happily ever after.

So she married him. Six months later she started having to deal with her new bi-polar father in law whom she'd only met once before the wedding and had decided to move to their town from out of state.

Husband's career stalls, becomes unemployed, depressed, and flaky. His personality goes from "he's just kind of quiet" to completely anti-social and rude. He hops from different "schools and classes" to help his career and different job prospects, from changing industries to trying to start his own business. To top it off, he is completely unsupportive of her, her 9-5 job and is only mildly helpful when (2 years in) she has their baby!

Worse, HIS previously undiagnosed bi-polar symptoms start rearing their ugly head.

Its been 3.5 years now, my friend financially supports her husband (and their 1 year old son!) completely, he's just started bi polar meds, and needless to say life is not what she envisioned. They're limping along, but if they hadn't had their son, and if she wasn't so worried about trying to prove that a marriage after only 3 months CAN work, I know she would have left by now.

Might they still be together 50 years from now? Maybe. But this fiend of mine is SO wonderful, and deserves SO much more than this out of love/marriage. If they had been together even 1 year longer, she would have known so much more about what she was getting into, rather than having such a romanticized view of her now-husband.

---

On the flip side... my wonderful boyfriend of 1.5 years used to always joke during our first 6 months together that I should enjoy "how wonderful I am to you now, because at the 1 year mark the "best version of me" that I always am around you will start to fade.

And you know what? He was right. We're no longer only the versions of ourselves we want the other person to see. We're our real selves with each other. Warts (so to speak) and all. The good news is, I still like the wart-y version. A LOT. :) But man that "year one" guy was a real charmer!! ;)

---
Yes, I understand that getting engaged is not the SAME as getting married, but honestly, you should think about it the same way. I think some would argue that breaking off an engagement can easily equal the stress equivalent of a divorce...

I still don't really, really know what it takes to have an actual marriage, but at 28 I have a much less naive &a singly romantic perspective. I hope one day to figure it out, and while I'd like to think that will happen prior to knot tying... I think that this kind of perspective certainly is gained during the life experiences you have in your 20's and beyond.
posted by veronicacorningstone at 6:20 PM on August 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


It sounds like you've already made up your mind, but in case I'm wrong: I don't think you should propose unless you can come up with at least one really good reason why proposing now would be better than proposing six months (or preferably a year) from now. The fact that it would be romantic is not a really good reason. Nor is the fact that it would be a surprise. You'll have plenty of other chances to propose in a romantic/surprising way later.

I'm with those who've said that it's typical to have the butterflies feeling after four months, and those who've said that you change a lot in your twenties. You guys may very well be in love for the rest of your lives, but it's too early now to tell for sure.
posted by sunflower16 at 7:15 PM on August 13, 2009


I proposed to my husband six weeks after we'd met, and he said "What took you so long?" 9 years later, still extremely happy.

But we had a long engagement (nineteen months) and I am glad for that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:49 PM on August 13, 2009


Think back to the girl who broke your heart and what the relationship was like four months in. You don't remember saying "I love you" after only a few weeks or talking about getting married every time you passed a wedding chapel on your Tahoe vacation? The gut feeling was there then too, but feelings change because people change and the reason that people typically wait to get married is because you have to watch and help each other change and grow and solve problems together before making the legal commitment. Like it or not, pragmatism has to be involved when signing a legal contract that will last you for the rest of your life. It shouldn't always be exclusively a pragmatic decision, but the fact that you're using the word "impulsive" says a lot. If this is really meant to be, you'll still have that gut feeling years down the line.
posted by easy_being_green at 10:31 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I knew my wife as a friend for a few months and then, suddenly, in an instant, knew I would marry her. I have never once since that instant wondered if I ought to marry her or if I ought to have married her. Life hasn't been simple but that part always has been.

That said, we were both around 30, we'd each dated and we dated for about nine months before becoming engaged.

I had crazes before then, including a bad relationship I might have followed to a bad end if she'd let me. But that uncanny, calm sensation of knowing I would marry my wife was not something I had experienced in all those overheated times. You may or may not be feeling that. I would, respectfully, guess not.

Good luck.
posted by argybarg at 9:50 PM on August 15, 2009


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