How can I get past a disappointing marriage proposal?
May 28, 2012 8:30 PM   Subscribe

How do I get over feeling disappointment in the way that my boyfriend proposed, and just enjoy being engaged? And also, how do I overcome the shame associated with being disappointed?

I love my boyfriend deeply, and I feel terrible even writing this. He recently proposed to me and I accepted. It was not a surprise that he was going to propose, since we went ring shopping a couple months ago, and he asked my ring size as far back as New Year's. The only thing I didn't know was when and how. We were on vacation, and I had a suspicion that it might happen then. At one point I sensed that it was coming because he was behaving nervously and there were pointed silences. To break the tension, I excused myself and went to the bathroom. When I came out, he was lying on the bed with the ring box open in front of him. Before the toilet was even finished flushing, he asked me to marry him. I said yes. That was that.

I asked him if he had anything else to say, and he asked what I meant. I said, "ya know, like why you're proposing." So, he said he would try again. I took the ring off and he got his knees by the side of the bed, and said some words to the effect of "you make me really happy and I love being with you..." There was all but a "blah, blah, blah" at the end of it. I told him he made me really happy as well, and then I cried a little while he comforted me, but didn't display any emotion. Afterwards, we went to dinner at a restaurant our concierge had recommended on my first night there (I arrived a day before him), but it wasn't very good. Then we wandered around looking for a bar to have a drink in, found one and had a drink. He hadn't planned on any place to take me or anything. The next day we went home.

I expected that there would be a little let-down after all the anticipation, but I didn't expect it to be so acute. I told my boyfriend beforehand that I didn't need some big, public display. But I was still expecting and was excited about a romantic moment. We've been together for a few years and we're both over 30 and have been in serious relationships before (he's divorced), so I knew there wouldn't be a lot of giddiness and that sort of thing. But still. I was hoping that a nice moment would be created. Something that would allow both of us to express our love for one another and our feelings about taking this next step. I feel robbed of something that I had been looking forward to for a long time, but which I didn't know I *needed* until the moment had passed. For the record, I offered to propose back when we first started discussing it, but he insisted on doing it himself and making it a surprise.

After the vacation, we went home and started telling friends and family. Two things happened that stopped my initial disappointment from fading: 1. I noticed that I was doing all of the excited announcing to our friends, or making plans to announce to people we live far from. He told his family, but that was it. I pointed this out to him, and asked him if would email, or help me craft an email to our core group of mutual friends that we live far away from, since it felt like I alone was sharing the news. He said he would, but still hasn't. It compounds my feelings that this just isn't as big a deal to him as it is to me. 2. People keep asking me how he proposed, what he did said and all that. I wasn't expecting that question to come up so often. I don't have anything to say, and try to hide my own disappointment in the lack of romance in the whole thing. I just say he kept things simple and direct and that he seemed nervous. We've gone to a couple of parties since then, and sometimes folks ask us together, but he doesn't say a word or jump in when I'm describing the moment, even though he can see that it's awkward when people are pressing me for details that don't exist.

I have talked with him about all this. When I brought it up, it was not to criticize him, but to get a sense of what was going on in his head, and what he'd planned. It turns out that he'd had the ring for over a month and was always planning to propose on our trip (even though he'd had the ring when we celebrated our anniversary a couple weeks ago). But he'd never thought about what to say, or a special place to take me (though we were in a really beautiful and romantic city), despite having planned on our trip for several weeks. According to him, all the romance was contained in the fact that we were on vacation and so he didn't need to do anything extra. He said to him the important thing is that now we're engaged, and it's hard to argue with that.

It all just feels kind of deflating, flat and unromantic. Yet, I feel like a total selfish and ungrateful ass for not just being happy and excited that I have an awesome life partner. I guess, like I wrote above, I was hoping for something special that we could share and remember fondly, and all I can think about was that a toilet was flushing while I was being proposed to. I know my boyfriend loves me and I believe that he wants to get married, but I feel a bit sad that I didn't inspire him to be more creative and expressive. That something that feels so momentous to me garnered the same inflection as seeing if I wanted a cup of tea.

But the moment is gone, and it isn't coming back. How can I just get past this and move on? Is this something I can work through with him, or should I just deal with my feelings on my own? Am I the only jerk in the world who feels let down by their proposal? If so, please give me the figurative slap in the face that I need, and if not, please share any advice for putting it behind me and focusing on the important things.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (86 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
It's okay to be disappointed by that whether your expectations were realistic or not. Without knowing more about your fiance I couldn't say if he's just a bit thoughtless, nervousness got (and is still getting) to him or what. Sounds like you have been able to weigh this against the better parts of him and decide the relationship is still a good one.

One thing you can say to people that's true is that it was a private moment between you two and that you're very happy to be with him. He may start to talk more about it in public once there's a way to talk about it in public that he can see you like.
posted by michaelh at 8:45 PM on May 28, 2012

If this guy is going to be your spouse, you should be able to level with him rather than stewing in resentment. Could you say something like, "Honey, I am delighted that we're getting married. I think we should do something really big to honor the fact that we've made it this far and that we're that serious about one another. Can we have a big proposal day where we each plan something really special for one another and then propose to each other, kind of like a preview of what our vows will be like at our actual wedding? I want us both to have an incredible story to tell that matches the awesomeness of our relationship, and I think this would be the perfect way to do that."

Basically you're calling for a do-over and gently challenging him to do his very best since you'll be doing the same. It's okay to ask for that. I mean, shoot, I'd even be like, "Babe, I love you, but I want something a little more exciting to describe than 'I was in the toilet, and then... It happened.' when explaining how we got engaged." And then poke him goodnaturedly about it for a bit so he gets that you're coming from a place of love about it all.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:45 PM on May 28, 2012 [21 favorites]

Jeeze... I hope this wasn't prompted by that silly ass viral lip dub proposal that's been going around the last few days... Those damn things are not the metric to measure your proposal by... yours was much more real and unpretentious....

This is a blip... a small, little blip in your life... it is insignificant, it means nothing compared to being with someone you love....

50 years from now you will not measure your life by this event, but by the love that he brought into your life, the support, the smiles, the depth....

and, you're not a "jerk"...
posted by HuronBob at 8:46 PM on May 28, 2012 [36 favorites]

I'd be grossly disappointed in that as well, doesn't exactly smack of "effort". Particularly since he knew that you knew it was coming, and wasn't worried you'd say no.

If you've been dating for a few years you should have an idea of what kind of man he is, and this shouldn't have come out of left field. If he's never made any large shows of affection at this point, well, he's probably not going to start.

Since you do plan on getting hitched, it's time to start looking into pre-marital counselling. You should definitely bring this incident up, knowing how to communicate your emotions and expectations will be large part of a working long-term relationship. Get those skills before you start dress shopping.

Hopefully one day you can see the humour in this. Maybe buy him a plunger as an anniversary gift.
posted by Dynex at 8:46 PM on May 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

There's a lot going on here - but part of it is probably that this isn't his first time around. You only mention that once - yet in planning things with my partner, who was previously married, when I wasn't, it's come up a bunch of times that the same kinds of of "OMG!" giddiness aren't there in the same way once you've had one experience of marriage. My partner has described many times the super-romantic, over-the-top stuff he did for his first engagement and marriage, and the grave disappointments and hurts he endured as his marriage ground to a miserable halt sort of took the bloom off the rose there. It's not that he's not romantic any more, just that the "fairy tale"-dramatic aspects of engagement look, to him, now, like the pop-culture BS they so often are.

That doesn't mean I don't want it. He knows this. It's possible to talk about the different expectations you both might have based on your different life experiences, and make clear now what feelings and atmospheres you do want around significant occasions - the eventual wedding, the honeymoon, the anniversaries, and so on. Otherwise you may be setting yourself up for more disappointments and unmet expectations.

I suspect there's also a love languages disconnect going on here, in that the stuff you value - words, it sounds like - isn't quite what he values most. He sounds like he might be a direct, pragmatic person who expresses himself more through actions than words.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on May 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I know a couple who became engaged when the guy barged into the bathroom while the woman was still on the toilet and did it then. He was just nervous and couldn't wait a second longer, I guess. I also know a couple where the woman was so anxious that she passed out during the proposal, which was done on a hike, and fell and hit her head. She had to be ambulanced out.

So there's that. It could be worse.

Also, it's pretty common that people ask you how the proposal happened, but you totally get to frame it however you want. So I'd say, "It was lovely! He made sure we were on the same page and he knew my ring size and then waited until we went on vacation and proposed privately in our rooms before taking me out to a celebratory dinner and drinks!" Which does sound lovely, really.

Totally separate from that, I think you should ask your partner to sit down with you while you share with him that you would really appreciate some ridiculously over-the-top engagement enthusiasm in the next couple of weeks because you want to revel in your commitment to each other. Like silly-level enthusiasm, just between the two of you.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:54 PM on May 28, 2012 [28 favorites]

The bad news-there's no do-over. Experiences become memories and this one is obviously unforgettable, but hopefully, the experiences that you will share as an engaged couple and one day married couple will be much better than this particular experience. Hopefully, one day, you will be able to view this as a blip as HuronBob said and perhaps even a funny experience.

But for now, you're clearly upset and understandably so. I would feel the same way-it would feel as if someone punk'd me (for a lack of a better term). So, you are by no means a jerk for feeling this way. I think you need to figure out whether or not he struggles with expressing love and appreciation on a regular basis because if that's the case then perhaps you two can work on that together. Or, perhaps you two express love differently because of different love languages as Miko said. But, I don't think dwelling on this particular proposal experience will do either of you any good and might just result in unnecessary conflict.

Try to remember past positive experiences as a couple. Perhaps special holidays spent together, your first date, the first time that you two said the words "I love you" to each other, and the future experiences that you will create together. Make your wedding day unforgettable and have a lot of fun planning the special day so that you will have that as a positive memory.
posted by livinglearning at 8:56 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this helps or not, but one way to think about this is what he must be feeling as someone who has been divorced. That divorce comes with a certain loss of faith in the institution of marriage. He's already been in a position once where he thought at the time that everything would work out with someone else, he's had all those romantic moments, and none of them were enough to keep a marriage that he at some point genuinely believed in.

Once divorced people tend to be very cautious. They're terrified of a second failure, especially because the first failure is such a dramatic example that they don't know what makes a marriage work or how to know if a person is the "one." He believed in someone, honestly and sincerely, and it wasn't enough. A divorce is devastating.

I think that all these things: the low key proposal, the reluctance to make announcements, are all coming from a fear of making a big deal out of something when he already knows how horribly it can fail. They're ways of diminishing the feeling of risk. He proposed because he trusts you. He wants it to be low key because he's not sure he can trust his sense of trustworthiness. What happens if things go wrong again?

Maybe that's not particularly comforting, but the other way of looking at things is that he cares so much for you that's he's willing to take a chance on fighting through that fear to make things work with you. Even though he can no longer trust himself to tell trustworthy people from untrustworthy people, he still trusts you so much that he's willing to take a crazy chance on you.

So yeah, it was a low key proposal, but from his point of view, just the fact that he fought though all that baggage to work up the courage to propose is a show of how much you mean to him.
posted by yeolcoatl at 8:57 PM on May 28, 2012 [42 favorites]

I too thought there might be a love languages or personality type disconnect going on. You sound like you wanted the speech and the moment, whereas (total guess) for him what matters is something else, maybe that you're planning an entire life together? Maybe he's an introvert who isn't so much about verbally communicating his emotions, neither with the proposing to you nor in the effusing to others?

If what you want isn't going to come naturally to him but you really, REALLY want it, you could just ask for it. "To celebrate our engagement, I'd like to make us a candlelight dinner next week. But before we eat, I want us to each share why we want to get married. Let's each prepare something in writing. I really want to feel like I know why we're making this decision. Let's get excited about it and then write an email to our friends."

This also has an undercurrent of anxiety or perfectionism, too, maybe? If you relax into what is already perfect about you two, him, and your relationship, that may also help. You could think about the upsides of his personality type / love language / whatever. He's not verbally effusive, perhaps, but has a deep loyalty, or shows love through acts of service, or whatever. You could also find a positive way to rewrite the story. "How did he propose?" In a way, it's kind of wonderful that you've both been so sure about wanting to that the moment itself was just another regular moment, but that he waited until you were on a special vacation (etc., on preview vegartranipla already covered a nice script here).

posted by salvia at 8:58 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Congratulations on your engagement!

Is your fiance a very private person? FWIW, I am, and if I were to propose to someone (I'm female btw), I would probably be nervous even if I knew that the answer was going to be positive, would want to get the moment over with and just enjoy being engaged. I would also not want to make a big deal out of it with a joint email to friends/family or long conversations with them about what would be to me a very intimate and private moment. This is something between the two of you, and you do not owe anyone a cute engagement story or feel defensive about it.
posted by prenominal at 9:03 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think that the key decision here isn't how you'll fix or do-over that particular moment, but rather how you'll talk to each other about expectations like this. It sounds like he felt he did quite a bit to plan a nice proposal, and you felt like it was a letdown because he didn't have a romantic speech prepared. Neither of you is wrong. I suggest you focus on how to address those kinds of expectations in the future.

When people ask, you can emphasize what he did to try to make it special (even if his efforts didn't have the intended effect): "we'd been talking about it for a while, and when he planned this trip for us, I thought he was probably planning to propose. We were having a nice evening together and he started seeming all nervous. Finally he got out the ring and asked me--I'm so thrilled we're engaged."
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:06 PM on May 28, 2012

Well, there's two issues here, I think. 1) you wanted a better, more romantic gesture and 2) you wanted him to tell you why he wanted to marry you. Let's accept that after having been through this once he feels that over the top romantic gestures are silly and he's probably right. Can you ask him to write a letter where he explains what made him fall in love and why he wants to marry you and what he hopes for your future years together. You can do the same. I think that might help with number 2.
posted by bananafish at 9:08 PM on May 28, 2012

You wanted him to propose the way *you* would propose. But he isn't you. Do you love him for what he is, or what you wish he would be? If you love him for what he is, then this is a part of it. Try to put yourself in his position, and think about how he was feeling at the time. He may have felt tremendous pressure and may be regretting that he wasn't able to give you what he knew you wanted.

And keep in mind, some people just aren't verbally romantic. Personally, I would find a gushy declaration of feelings to be unbearably awkward. Maybe your fiancé is the same?

And congratulations on getting engaged!
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:14 PM on May 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

This post makes me sad because it reminds me of when my (now) husband proposed. It wasn't good. He proposed to me in his crap-hole of an apartment. Earlier in the day we had been at the state fair and he had "planned" on proposing there, but the right moment never came up. In short, he didn't plan anything - just thought the right moment would fall into his lap, instead of creating the right moment. He simply asked me to marry him, nothing fancy, no romantic setting (did I mention the crap-hole apartment?), no speech, nuthin . . . except I remember he did take off his hat when he proposed. I kind of hang on to that little gesture and found it sweet.

Did I get over it? No. It still bothers me a lot. Why wasn't I worth the effort? And to this day (we've been married almost 16 years), I wonder if perhaps he will do a "re-do" - somehow surprise me with proposing again/renewing our vows or SOMETHING. But it hasn't happened . . . yet (eternal optimist am I!).

You're not a jerk. You're not the only one with a crappy proposal and follow-up either. I can't tell you how to get over it or not to be disappointed. It IS disappointing - especially since I think that a little effort is to be expected - it doesn't have to be a silly romantic over-the-top type thing - just some effort!

My advice: don't let it stew. Let it go.

However - if this is something of a pattern (if he isn't one to be proactive and make an effort on your behalf ever), I'd consider that. It might be a difficult thing to live with. If perhaps this was just a nervous screw-up, then yeah, cut him some slack. Even though this is one of those times that an effort really should have been made.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:17 PM on May 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would say: make up a completely fake, outrageously romantic story to tell when people ask you how he proposed. If you want to sort of legitimize it as a white lie, involve him and have fun coming up with a princess and knight in shining armor story together. Seek inspiration from Smoove B.
posted by XMLicious at 9:23 PM on May 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

Mine was married twice before. Once for about 2 months, once for about 8 months. He proposed to me in a bar. It was almost in a Dunkin' Donuts. He doesn't like bars. I liked that bar (now defunct) and I remember the window seat. As I remember that night.

8 years in November. YMMV.
posted by skbw at 9:24 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hmmm . . . well, your story is disconcertingly similar to how I proposed to my wife, except that we also got drenched by a sudden storm after coming back from our drink at a random bar, and the ring was so oversized that she couldn't wear it without it falling off. So, you might say she had grounds to be disappointed, but in fact we were both on the same page about something important: that the engagement was just a small, mostly symbolic step toward great commitment. There had been many previous occasion that strengthened our bond, and we knew there would be many more -- I think we focused on the long view.

But more generally, when I find myself feeling like you have described here, I usually realize that I have made an assumption like "If she took X seriously (as seriously as I do, as she should!), then she would/wouldn't have done Y." And a few times, I've been right, and we've talked about it. But most assumptions of this kind, as justified as they feel to me at the time, are nothing but trouble and noise. While this occasion is deeply personal, that doesn't mean that every aspect of it is sending you a message, or isn't as influenced by his history or your subjectivity as anything else. Accept that you're upset, that this wasn't perfect, and focus on your exciting future together.
posted by inkfish at 9:27 PM on May 28, 2012 [18 favorites]

You were justifiably disappointed, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Maybe you'll laugh at this in time. Maybe it's a spur to making your wedding more romantic. Maybe this lets him know your expectations better and he makes every special occasion perfect from now on. Or maybe this teaches you more about the wonders of imperfection, in time, and you start to see that a toilet flushing can be a beautiful sound. Those are all ways you can look back on this with a smile. You're not at all wrong to feel the way you do now, and there are also many good ways to turn it around.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:28 PM on May 28, 2012

I don't know. Everyone is different. I personally would feel uncomfortable if I was proposed to in a planned setying with a poem or gushy sentiments. If I were to propose(im female), I would probably do it somewhere that we had a great memory, but I would probably just ask point blank and leave it that.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:29 PM on May 28, 2012

Maybe he was nervous, despite this being something you had discussed and planned. Years ago when I was engaged, my then-boyfriend accidentally left the ring box on the windowsill on the day he proposed -- I spent the whole evening (dinner out, long walk) in knots wondering when he was going to ask me. The whole evening, he didn't. It didn't happen until we were home, on our living room couch, and he said, "Oh bother." Then the question. No ramping up to, no declarations. Just four words. I had to ask where the ring was. Months later, at the wedding when we eloped, the witnesses (strangers we'd dragged in from the street) took us for champagne and he talked only about a job he was applying for -- nothing about me, the wedding, how we met. His job.

I never got over it. I felt like this was a Big Event (even though we downplayed everything with family & friends) and he was ignoring its significance. We weren't married very long. It's been years but it's started to dawn on me that maybe he simply assumed I didn't want a big gesture. And he was nervous, even though he always seemed pretty fearless.

My advice to you: Find one thing you like about the proposal, one thing that delights you, and focus on that. Maybe he wore that shirt that you say is your favorite, maybe the ring style was the cut you always wanted and only mentioned once in passing, maybe it's sweet that he was nervous despite having gone through this before. It's true that you don't owe anyone a story, but maybe this will help the story you tell yourself.
posted by mochapickle at 9:30 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ask him if he really wants to get married. It's pretty thoughtless to not even try to make it special for you, and I suspect it might be passive aggressive even to possibly show that your needs aren't going to be the boss of him.

Maybe his emotional baggage from his 1st marriage is resurfacing. It just seems like he's shutting down or having a problem. Don't beat yourself up or discount your gut feelings.
posted by discopolo at 9:30 PM on May 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

The problem with other people is they very rarely follow the scripts in our heads. When they don't we're disappointed. It happens, and there's nothing wrong with being disappointed. If my guy had made a big display of our engagement, I would have been extremely disappointed because I hate things like that. Luckily, ours was pretty low key so we're good.

There are no do-overs for anything. You can only turn your back on the past and focus on the future. You're engaged now, and that means you have a wedding to plan. Congrats!
posted by patheral at 9:31 PM on May 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm not sure about the initial proposal, but his reluctance at sending out announcements might come from him knowin that you were very disappointed in the way he asked you to marry him. Maybe cut him some slack, express some excitement to him and he will get a bit more enthusiastic.
posted by Nightman at 9:32 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

An important skill in (romantic) life is managing your own expectations. Managing the expectations of others can help as well.

It sounds like maybe you didn't realize how important the engagement event/story would be to you until it happened. You were certain you wanted something low key, but with an undefined value for 'low,' your fiancé didnt actually know where the bar is.

So he hit his head on it as he slid under. He knows you so well (or at least the cultural expectation is that he should! Right?) and you are disappointed that he didn't figure out what would have been the perfect a meaningful proposal for you.

You see, you can manage your own expectations in a number of ways. All of them useful to varying degrees in particular situations, and all of them requiring some practice. My suggestions follow:
  • Find out what your priorities are. Not just what you want, but when and to what degree and what more than other things.
  • Ask for what you want from the person who is in a position to give it.
  • Recognize that they may not be able to provide what you want (hot air balloon, maybe not. quiet walk on the beach might be more his speed.)
  • Be flexible. Sometimes it's snowing on the beach, sometimes people forget, etc.
  • Find out sooner, rather than later, where your priorities do and don't match, as opposed to one half of the couple being simply unaware of the needs/desires of the other. Knowing he really prefers quiet spontaneous moments (or however he would explain this particular proposal!) goes a long way toward understanding why it happened that way.

posted by bilabial at 9:35 PM on May 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

I told my boyfriend beforehand that I didn't need some big, public display.

And he took you at your word.

But I was still expecting and was excited about a romantic moment.

So you only told him half of what you were feeling, and since you didn't tell him about the part where you wanted it to be special and romantic, all he had to go on was the whole "I don't need some big, public display" bit. I would interpret that as "it's no biggie, dude" and not "I am a simmering teakettle of enthusiasm and excitement and I'd really like you to make me whistle!!"

And could I really be blamed for that interpretation, if it is based on what you've explicitly said? I think you should take this as a freebie lesson in communicating with your future husband, and resolve that next time you are saying one thing and secretly feeling something else, you'll be more forthright and direct about how you're feeling.

On a more generic note, my mother was recently listening to me talk circles around myself about something that was making me anxious. I was preventing myself from enjoying something that was really, truly, just wonderful - because I was spending so much time trying to make it BETTER (my personal definition of BETTER, natch). At some point, she said, "I wish you could just enjoy this. Because I can tell you aren't. I can hear the tightness in your voice. But seriously, honey, all we have is today. And if what you have today is a good thing, then by all means don't waste time trying to force it to be better."

Perfect is the enemy of good. Your marriage, like your proposal, wont be perfect. That's life. Remind yourself that you only have today. Are you going to let your desire for perfect prevent you from enjoying all the good in your life?
posted by jph at 9:38 PM on May 28, 2012 [55 favorites]

Wow, I super disagree with a lot of people here who are saying he did something wrong. I find perfect proposals like you described really weird and forced. You discussed marriage. Why is it the man's job to do this weird romantic surprise-but-not-really-a-surprise thing, especially in a case like this where you wanted it and he didn't? My husband and I didn't have a "proposal", we just discussed marriage for a while, and then I guess eventually we decided to tell other people, and that's when we were engaged. If you wanted a "moment", it was your job to either a) tell him that, or b) make it happen. It's incredibly unfair of you to put that on him, and then not tell him, and then be mad that he didn't do it. You "offered" to propose? Why didn't you just do it? You literally discussed the fact that you were going to get engaged, how is that not, you know, being engaged? Frankly, your proposal sounds like a fantastic story. I would love to tell my kids that he proposed when the toilet was still flushing -- I mean, there's a story that will last!

Look, you have wants and needs and that's fine and allowed, but you can't expect him to read your mind about that. If you want something, it is your responsibility to either tell him or to make it happen. You chose to do neither.
posted by brainmouse at 9:44 PM on May 28, 2012 [84 favorites]

I think it might help to separate your disappointment with the proposal event with your discomfort with his approach to the engagement in general.

In terms of the proposal, I think it might help to recognize that we all develop expectations about big "milestone" events that are, in fact, unlikely to be the key markers by which we define our lives. For example, one might imagine that my prom, losing my virginity, graduating from college, buying my first multi-thousand-dollar possession, my wedding proposal, my wedding, my honeymoon, the birth of my children, etc. are the guideposts that should mark my post-puberty life. But it's not really that way. I know that that there were moments like when my grandmother died holding my hand, and when I drove alone into the Alps, and one particular orgasm, and one particular moment when I left an old apartment, and one "I love you," and when I witnessed my niece's birth, and when I suffered depression so deep but realized that no matter what I wanted to fight it, and when I got my first glimpse of the rain forests in Hawaii.... okay, I'm going on too long here, but if it helps, I want to remind you that in addition to all the more predictable guideposts, your life is so much more than the ones you can predict. Of course it's easy to put a lot of weight on your wedding proposal, but YOU get to choose where the weight lies, not some unknown external judge or whatever you think the rest of the world expects.

So, to me, the more concerning issue is his approach to the engagement in general, and it seems like maybe the proposal was just a reinforcing element of the overall trend, not a standalone anomaly. I think you should listen to your instincts that this is not just a minor disappointment, but an important indicator about how much empathy your fiance feels toward you in general, how he expresses his love, and what that signals about how you will interact during the many many decades you plan to share together. Please dismiss the thoughts that you're being selfish or jerkish or emotionally greedy. I think that you are very right to acknowledge that how he has been acting makes you doubt that his enthusiasm is as genuine/powerful/deep as yours. As others have stated above, THIS is the time to test how well you both can have honest, forthright, heart-to-heart discussions about where you each are coming from and how to meet in the optimal everybody-wins middle. Of course it is understandable if he is self-conscious or anxious or even self-defeating. But if he cannot discuss this with you, and listen earnestly to how his behavior has so bummed out (for lack of a better term) the person that he is supposedly most deeply in love with and wants to make the most happy of anyone in the world, well... at the very least I'd suggest that you take as much time as you need before getting into the thick of wedding planning until you feel comfortable that you and he can approach much more awkward, soul-exposing situations than this. You deserve that. Everyone deserves that. Please tell him that his apparent lack of joy is actively diminishing your joy.

(Oh, and by the way, everyone asking how the proposal happened is just EXACTLY WHAT PEOPLE DO ALL THE TIME. It doesn't mean that they actually expect to hear OMG The Most Romantic Story Ever. It's just what people do when they are indicating their excitement for and interest in you... just like they will about your wedding, your new job, your childbearing plans, your new house, you name it. If it helps, you can just say something like "It was just like him -- we knew we were in love and we wanted this to happen, so I don't have any big earthquaking stories to tell, I'm just happier than I've ever been and he says that he is, too. So, really, enough about me, tell me about your [whatever]!"

(By the way, Part 2: best I can tell, surprises are almost always overrated. By a lot a lot a lot. Please don't let the lack of creativity/sponteneity/elaborate planning/well-scripted-ness be the gauge by which you judge the sincerity of his lifelong love. Tell him, boldly, how important it is for him to show you how meaningful this decision is to him. Don't criticize the proposal, just focus on what you want now. And make sure you get it, you don't just give it. We are all hugely rooting for you.)
posted by argonauta at 9:44 PM on May 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

"I told my boyfriend beforehand that I didn't need some big, public display."

And he took you at your word.

This. When I had my first kid, in February six years ago, my husband asked what I wanted to do that Mother's Day, and I said nothing, that it was a commercial holiday as far as I was concerned. So he did nothing.

And I found myself being quite upset, because it struck me this was not just any Mother's Day, it was my first one as a mother. I tearfully sent him out for cake and flowers and told him not to listen to me again.
posted by Dragonness at 9:46 PM on May 28, 2012 [32 favorites]

It's over and done. Now have an awesome engagement party where you both give a little speech about what you mean to each other. Just add some awesomeness to the engagement to override the disappointment.
posted by Vaike at 9:59 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I ended up proposing without a lot of forethought while we were stopped at a suburban stop light on the way to the mall for a shopping trip. Yeah, I know that makes me rank pretty damn low on the romantic guys list. I do manage to be sweet at times, although I always feel awkward and forced doing it for "big days" like anniversaries and valentine's day, so those tend to be the old standbys of a card and some chocolates. We've been happily married twelve years and at this point more or less both of us know what to expect from each other which has its own charm.

My suggestion is to consider whether there is some other romantic thing you could do together to celebrate the proposal. After all, all you have is what you do with each other and your stories. And, if you do have specific expectations for other significant events around the wedding anniversaries and major holidays going forward, you'll need to spell them out.
posted by meinvt at 10:25 PM on May 28, 2012

Am I the only jerk in the world who feels let down by their proposal? If so, please give me the figurative slap in the face that I need

No, definitely not the only one, but honestly, it's a pretty poor effort to be disappointed that someone who asked you to spend the entire rest of your life with him didn't ask in an approved manner. Seriously. The guy asked you to marry him and you're annoyed because it wasn't 'special' enough? Would you prefer that he rehearsed some fake sentimental speech so that you felt better? Now you feel bad because you didn't get what you expected, he feels bad because he's disappointed you, so now you're both upset because he proposed to you. Can you imagine how silly this will seem when you've been married for 20 years?

To give you credit, you still said yes, so I guess it wasn't as disappointing as it could have been. I'm glad for his sake that he wasn't rejected for not sufficiently conforming to media-driven stereotypes, because I know how that slap in the face feels.
posted by dg at 10:31 PM on May 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't ever understand the school of thought that says a proposal of marriage is a big fancy present the man gives to the woman. What's his special present? Getting her? Everyone's expectations of landmark events is different, but I do kind of cringe a little on your fiancée's behalf if you really did kind of give him a little pop quiz on why he wanted to marry you.

You can't do it over, but hopefully in time you'll be able to remember it as just a short stop in the journey of your lives together. There's always something you can focus on: our wedding was kind of a mess in many ways, but I'll never forget standing with Mr T, both of us sobbing while we exchanged vows, and the rainbow we saw afterwards. We've discussed maybe renewing our vows sometime, but the important thing is that we're on the same page with our expectations. If these things are really important to you, you've got to tell your boyfriend, because I bet he's mortified at disappointing you, and would do anything to make you happy.
posted by thylacinthine at 10:41 PM on May 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

sent him out for cake and flowers

I think this might be the best model... let him know that you want to have a romantic celebration (dinner?), and tell him what that means. Give him a reasonable list of things you find romantic and ask him to pick a couple of things from the list. If you want to eat at a place with a riverfront view, tell him. If you want roses, say "please get me roses, it will make me so happy."

Don't get hung up on the friends who want a cute proposal story -- there are just as many who'll (in a couple years) commiserate over a lackluster proposal, and the lackluster ones are funnier anyway. I have a friend whose husband proposed sort of accidentally and then, a couple days later after they had told family and friends, he rescinded the proposal. And then he got his head on straight and they've been happily married for years. This kind of story is much more enjoyable to laugh about than the perfect romantic ones. Your toilet-flushing proposal? Genius.

If he's a great guy and you are excited to be marrying him, remind yourself why.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:48 PM on May 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

disopolo is right. I am also wondering what baggage he is dragging into this.

Get to the bottom of this before things go any further.

I've been divorced and am now remarried. Less hoopla the second time, but FAR more romance and genuine feeling underneath.

Something here stinks.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:06 PM on May 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Wow, I could've been your fiance.

Congratulations for starters.

When I bought the ring for my wife she had no idea, she didn't and still doesn't wear any rings other than her engagement and wedding ring so I had no idea what the size was. I had a general plan and a fancy speech for the next nice day we had. But... I'm terrible at keeping a secret, worse at acting "normal" when I'm nervous. She thought (rightly) that I was hiding something from her and started asking all sorts of probing questions like "You were late getting home last night, what happened?" I couldn't exactly tell her I was picking up the ring so I panicked, whipped the ring out and blurted out/hollered 'What do ya think?' (Incidently If I remember right she had also just emerged from the bathroom in our apartment). Of course the ring didn't fit so we had to take it in and get it sized, but we made a fun day out of that and had a really nice dinner to celebrate.

I felt terrible about that for a long time, it's kind of a funny story now but she used to bring it up relentlessly, any time we'd see a romantic proposal on tv there'd be a comment. I think she thought she was being funny, but it was quite hurtful and it didn't end until I snapped back. I didn't mean for it to suck, I put a lot of effort into thinking about the day beforehand but my nerves got to me. I think if she had grilled me for a list of reasons on the spot, I might've taken the ring back. So, give your guy a break on the proposal... by the sounds of it you didn't do anything fancy for him either, and made it excruciatingly difficult for him with your obvious displeasure with how it happened so there's no real need for hard feelings on your part. The important thing is you're getting married, enjoy that fact and let this go.

When people ask how he proposed, I would absolutely recommend AGAINST making some bullshit story up that's a horrible way to rub his nose in the fact that he dropped the ball and a shitty way to start your marraige. Speaking from personal experience, it will feel like you're making some kind of awful private joke at his expense. I liked the suggestion that you tell mostly the truth but frame it as "We went on a nice trip and he proposed privately in our room".

As for the lack of excitement with sharing I can only share an anecdote from a friend who was getting married for the second time, she confided in me that she felt horribly awkward about asking friends and family to come out for a second marraige... that she worried people might feel that they've been to one and that was all she was going to get out of them. So, maybe that's what's going through your fiance's mind right now.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 11:33 PM on May 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

Life is not perfect.

I told my boyfriend beforehand that I didn't need some big, public display.

Can be interpreted in so many different ways - in your boyfriend's case, it appears he interpreted it as - well, she doesn't need high-end romance.

How can I get past a disappointing marriage proposal?

You're getting married! You're committed to spending the rest of your lives together! Awesomesauce! Focus on that.
posted by mleigh at 11:34 PM on May 28, 2012

I usually hate AskMe advice that is some variation on, "You're just buying into the machine, man...", but here I am giving it: It sounds like you were expecting a proposal out of a three-hankie romantic movie and the disappointment is coming from having to deal with one coming from a real-life, imperfect person instead.

I can't claim to know what your fiance is like from having just read these few paragraphs, but I can say that I'm definitely of the personality type where giving 5-minute monologues where I spell out in detail everything I love about my romantic partner is just not in my DNA and any attempt to even try would inevitably come off as phony. I suppose I did a little better job on my engagement than your fiance in that the location was better, if a little cliche (secluded spot on the beach at night) and the overall night of activities was a little more planned out, but the actual engagement part was pretty much of the "take out the ring and ask the question" variety.

If you're disappointed, you're disappointed. You were expecting a fairly tale and didn't get it. But I agree with the notion that having not had the spot-on perfect engagement, while perhaps disappointing now, is going to seem utterly unimportant as your marriage evolves.

Also, and not to turn this into a "beat up the asker" exercise, but having been the recipient of my share of "I'm not telling you what my romantic expectations are for this event, BUT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND I WILL BE UPSET IF YOU FAIL", well, all I can advise is that it rarely turns into a happy occasion for anyone.
posted by The Gooch at 11:45 PM on May 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Everyone I have ever talked to about their proposal says something about how their partner was really nervous and acted weird and the person being proposed to got annoyed before (even exciting in balloon ride proposals complete with fireworks). Your situation sounds pretty normal.
And you might want to relax about how your partner tells his friends and family "the news" - maybe he would prefer to just enjoy being engaged to you, connect to you about what you want for the wedding, or tell people in person before bringing in a whole bunch of other people and their expectations. That does not mean he is not excited.
Proposals, weddings, and marriages are full of expectations - not everything is going to go the way you want it to, nor will everyone react the way you want them to, and be careful of this trap: "now that we are engaged or married, this will be different or better or something." It sounds like you need to access what is really important to YOU and prioritize that over "perfect moments."
Good luck.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 12:07 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Did he maybe think he was "taking you on vacation to propose"? In other words, maybe the story he had built up around the proposal was that he had saved money and looked for the perfect vacation spot, and organised the trip and nice hotels and bought you the ring, and all of that together is what he thinks of as his arrangements for the proposal. Even if you contributed to the choosing of the location and planning, that's only natural because he would have wanted your input, but maybe he thinks that this is some big thing he did.

Some guys plan a romantic evening or moment: he planned a whole vacation.
posted by lollusc at 12:27 AM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Seriously, I'm kind of envious. I think the toilet flushing story is absolutely hilarious, and I would ride it for all it's worth. For the next 30 years, I'd be like, "Oh, honey? Since it's our anniversary today and you might be thinking of surprising me with something sparkly, I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to the bathroom now!"

Apparently, the first time I told my now-husband that I loved him... I didn't exactly tell him in so many words. He said he loved me (which he had told me before), and I said "ditto." Yeah, rly. Why, why, why, why? Who knows? I was absolutely crazy in love with him (and still am, a million years later). It wasn't like I couldn't have figured out a way to say it better, or was blindsided by the opportunity to make my profound declaration. Yet there we were. "Ditto."

We laughed. We're still laughing. Like the time my husband was away for work for a couple of months, and upon our emotional, tearful reunion he told me had a gift for me. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't what he happily described as "a head of cheese" as he pulled it out of his backpack. It was indeed a special cheese, but um wat? (Oh, wow, looking up "head of cheese," it turns out I even wrote about this on my ancient defunct blog. ha!) If he had brought me back a piece of jewelry, or something keepsake-y, I would have been touched and delighted, but "head of cheese" is just a million times better because I can't think of it without giggling. Just writing about it here is going to make me happy all day.

So, yeah, I absolutely don't think you're a jerk for expecting something different and sort of mourning the experience you didn't have, but ultimately, the most showboat-y "Will You Marry Me" stunt or perfectly choreographed romantic setup sort of pales beside the hilariously sincere toilet-flushing proposal. It's somehow terribly sweet and foolish and gorgeously funny, like an unusually well-crafted and subtle scene from a film that sticks in one's head while all the other cheesily romantic vignettes blur together in a vaseline-smeared lens shot of rose petals, champagne and expensive jewelry. There is just so much honey-sweetened lemonade in this lemon proposal! Experiment with embracing the quirk; if you can find it sweet and amusing, I think you might eventually find yourself truly adoring this story... but you better give your husband-to-be a heads-up that every once in a while he better bring on the schmaltz for reals, because that would make you very happy too.
posted by taz at 12:27 AM on May 29, 2012 [38 favorites]

First of all, your boyfriend did not do anything wrong. There is no one standard for engagement, the way there is no one standard for weddings or beauty or success or most other things. My now-husband proposed to me one night in the canned food aisle of our local minimart at 2 am, drunk off his ass. It wasn't the epic height of romance but my only regret is that I don't have the CCTV footage.

If he's never made any large shows of affection at this point, well, he's probably not going to start.

I cannot emphasise this enough. I have noticed that a lot of people are OK with a partner who is maybe not mushy but they still expect their partner to hit the high notes - to bring it for engagements, wedding day, honeymoon, anniversaries, birth of a baby, etc. If nothing in your past history indicates he is constituted that way, let me assure you that nothing in your future will elicit those responses from him. If you are not okay with that, back out now before you spend the next X years having hope slowly sucked from your soul.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 AM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

You are entitled to your disappointment and I can understand why you would have wanted it to be more special. That said, if you want to get over your disappointment, I would focus on all of the things that made this special: he made sure he got a ring that not only fit you but was also something you liked (honestly, I think this is HUGE); he respected your wish not to make a big, public display; you went on this lovely vacation (which he did put a lot of thought into and considered a major component of the proposal by his own admission. It also means your proposal wasn't just a fixed moment in time, but was a series of moments throughout your trip.); you went to a celebratory dinner at a recommended restaurant afterwards (the fact that the meal wasn't so good wasn't his fault), and, apparently he was so excited and anxious he blurted it out even before the toilet finished flushing. While you probably aren't in a frame of mind to see it this way now, I agree that could eventually become a hilarious detail that adds some color to your story in the future. Maybe you can also reframe it as every time you hear a toilet flush, you remember that someone loves you very much, rather than someone who loves you very much failed to meet your expectations. You can also view the fact that he didn't plan the exact moment and decided to be more spontaneous as a testimony to how well you know each other and how easy it is to be together. He winged it, thinking it would all just come out right, and inadvertently ended up disappointing you.

Also, to be fair to him, you left the room because you sensed the build up in the air. You may have thrown him off his game. From his perspective, he could be telling this story and say something along the lines of, "I was just about to propose because the moment felt right and suddenly she went to the bathroom." It also sounds like you didn't exactly hide being underwhelmed by his proposal, which most likely put a damper on the evening and taken a bit of wind out of his sails. It's clear from your perspective he screwed this up, so I'm not surprised he isn't enthusiastically telling this story. As for not rushing to tell your core group of friends, this sounds more like something you would do, and while he agreed to collaborate on an email, it is just not his inclination. It doesn't mean he isn't excited or this isn't something he wants, it just means he handles these things differently than you. If you want to co-write an announcement email, you will probably need to approach him directly and do it right then and there. Also, he may just be telling people as it comes up in conversation. "How was your vacation?" "It was wonderful and now I'm engaged." "Congratulations!"

I hope some of that helps you see things in a slightly different light. While I understand where you are coming from, honestly, I see a lot of good in this story. Focus on all the lovely parts and treat the negatives as quirky things that make this story your own. You have an entire lifetime of romance and celebrations ahead of you, and, since you seem to have different ideas about what that means, that is something for you to discuss and work on in the future. Congratulations & best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 1:52 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

You know what, the proposal/engagement phase is super short. Yeah it's annoying that everyone is asking you about "the story" but that's because it's the thing to do these days and they have nothing better to say. Trust me, in a few months you will be sick of everyone asking "So how's wedding planning going?" The proposal is not the "the first day of the rest of your lives". It's ok that it was a bit deflating and honestly I think it'll be a funny story in a few years - "He couldn't even wait for me to finish flushing!" From this side of the screen, that's actually kind of cute.

Chalk this up as a lesson towards becoming husband and wife and take a different approach to wedding planning. Be completely honest with him about the type of wedding you want. The wedding day is a lot more meaningful and will be a lot more joyous, so don't worry about this momentary disappointment.
posted by like_neon at 2:08 AM on May 29, 2012

If I ever get engaged, I know (and I felt this while watching the viral video mentioned above) I'd be pretty squirmy about saying anything too flowery. I probably would, but that's not really who I am. Does he offer you some niceties otherwise? I'm pretty good at that, but I think I'd feel extra exposed in a proposal situation, and keep it short.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:30 AM on May 29, 2012

Whoa there, folks. Could we be any judgier? How about dialing it back a notch or three? Sometimes the AskMe pile on can be a bit much, and our quick-draw armchair analysis of a poster's thoughts or expectations can be a bit presumptuous.

From what you wrote here, OP, I get the feeling that this is less about the fact that he didn't present you with twelve long-stemmed red roses carried by twelve doves set to the music of your favorite song and a choreographed light show, and more about what might feel like a general lack of enthusiasm on his part in the face of a pivotal, exciting new phase in your life as a couple. There is nothing wrong with feeling disappointed by this, especially if you ARE excited about this. It IS exciting when you're with the right person--getting married to each other! The future! Good things to come! It is okay to feel like this is a big, happy deal. Maybe he really is just reserved and low-key as previous posters have suggested. But frankly, I think it's reasonable for you to pay attention to your gut if you feel like he's phoning it in. There's a difference. Is your fear that he's not really excited about marrying you? If so, has he been present and enthusiastic about the rest of your relationship up until this point? These are questions that only the two of you can answer.

And I think you just need to sit him down to get some clarification, tell him how the way the unfolding engagement has made you feel, and then listen to him. This is good practice for being married and communicating about hard things to make sure that both of your needs are being met and you both understand where the other is coming from.

Congratulations on your engagement!
posted by anonnymoose at 3:38 AM on May 29, 2012 [16 favorites]

He didn't do anything wrong; you'd just built up expectations that an angagement must be made in some over-the-top fashion --- not everything has to be announced with fireworks via the Jumbotron in the middle of the Super Bowl! Sure, there're extroverts who enjoy making that type of massively attention-getting public display, but they're actually more the exception than the rule: most people get engaged like you did, in smaller, quiet and private ways. (And it is, after all, a personal matter between you and him, not a public concern.)

You've really got to remember that this was just one more small step forward in your lives together; this isn't the end, like a period at the end of a sentance: it's more like a comma, linking sections. And I think this is why some couples have trouble adjusting after the wedding itself: they're so focused on The Perfect Wedding (and there really isn't any such thing!) that they 'forget' the wedding is just one day, and it's really the marriage that counts --- the marriage, a series of highs and lows over time, rather that that one single *event*.

And just to be old-fashioned about things: traditionally one always wished the *groom* 'congratulations,' but you'd wish the *bride* 'Good Luck!' So good luck in your lives together; may you have much joy and laughter and happiness.
posted by easily confused at 4:09 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Congrats on your engagement!

I know THREE SEPARATE WOMEN who were proposed to, in front of the bathroom, right after taking a poop. One of them even said she was embarassed because he was down on one knee, in front of the door, not moving, and it smelled from her bathroom business. She was more focused on how to get him to move away from her stink zone than enjoy the moment.

It could be worse. But that said, the stinky poop proposal couple are very happily married for about three years now. So there you go.

and really, he proposed. He loves you. He wants to marry you. He gave you what he thought you wanted as a proposal since you said you didn't want anything big. If you want some big schmoopy moment to acknowledge the engagement, ask to go do something. Maybe you can plan it for him this time! That actually would be a really nice reciprocal gesture. But really, rather than feeling like he dropped the ball or let you down, try to see it as "He heard me say I didn't want anything big so he did what he could to do that for me."

For what its worth, my partner and I are more or less planning our wedding already but we aren't offically engaged. We both know it'll happen some time this year. He asked me outright what I expected from a proposal, and I have been very clear for what I would like for a proposal. I said I'd first and foremost like something that would make a good story, but I'd also like for it to be romantic and/or hilarious, that it be a surprise, and that it not involve food (not putting a ring in a cake or spelling "Will you marry me" on an Arby's wrapper or something). He appreciates knowing my expectations, he was really glad I was so clear, and he apparently already has the "perfect proposal" picked out, but is now waiting for a good time.

so I guess this is a bit of a lesson for you - people aren't mindreaders. If there is something you really want, you need to be very clear about it. Hints and suggestions and telling them half the story and hoping they figure out the rest for themselves really doesn't work. Maybe your dynamic with your fiancee isn't like that, but maybe take this as an opportunity to adopt a new communication style with him.
posted by gwenlister at 4:12 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have any advice, but you might want to watch the last episode of Up All Night that deals with different proposal expectations in a funny way.

Congrats on your engagement!
posted by JuliaKM at 4:17 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you wanted a "moment", it was your job to either a) tell him that, or b) make it happen.

This. You have every right to feel any which way about this, including disappointed, but you also need to be honest about what sounds like a very clear failure to fully communicate your needs and wants. You set him up to fail, and lo and behold, he did.

More productively (since I'm not sure what is to be gained by stewing over this forever) would be to talk to him about what you want from him now. Do you want some effusive romance, like being taken out for some fancy dinners and being told in great detail about his commitment to you? Or is there a particular way you want him to be engaged in the wedding planning process? Assuming he's not a mind reader, your only chance for him to know these things is for you to tell him.

For what it's worth, our "proposal" was us laying naked and sweating on an uncomfortable bed in a mosquito-filled, third-world hotel, and I think I said something like, "how do you feel about getting married?" No planning, no ring, and no speech. It worked because we were on the same page and the romance came from being there together, not from a bunch of words. Someone else might have been disappointed, because they might want a very different kind of relationship; the key is to communicate your needs very clearly, rather than hoping your partner will magically know what to do.

Also, to this day I've never once, by anyone, been asked about our proposal details. I don't think I've even told this story before, ever. I guess it depends on what kind of people you hang out with, but at least in my world engagement stories just aren't a big part of conversation except when one goes badly wrong and even then it's just a funny story like any other. People might be asking you about this now, but it's unlikely to be a story you will spend the rest of your life telling.
posted by Forktine at 4:22 AM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was in a similar situation, where we'd already decided to get engaged and I'd bought the ring together with my fiancée. I decided it was pretty important, at least to me, to have some kind of formal proposal in the traditional unexpected manner.

I was in the US at the time and we were going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the day. We'd already decided that our honeymoon was going to be in Japan, so I thought their Japanese tea garden would be the perfect place. Because I wanted it to be a surprise, I made a big show of being worried about where to leave the ring in her apartment as we'd be gone all day, then slipped it into my bag before we left.

At the tea garden, I waited until there was no-one else around, got down on one knee and told her how much I loved her, how much she meant to me and asked if she'd marry me. While she was tearfully happy at the time, afterwards she was annoyed at me for "fooling her" and said she'd "get her own back". She did that a couple of months later, pretending to be pregnant as an April Fool's joke.

So, while my own attempt at doing things traditionally and romantically mostly backfired, I regret nothing, especially that we never actually married nor the Nintendo DS I bought after selling the ring.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 4:53 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

One day my girlfriend woke up, rolled over and said "we should get married". A week later we where, and that was 18 years ago.

The process of living together, of navigating the bad times and good times absolutely should include set-pieces of celebration. But in the grand scheme of it all, those set-pieces are not as important as everything else, and building up tremendous expectations for them is a sure-fire was of experiencing disappointment.

Arrange what you can, and accept what happens. If it is not perfect (and it won't be) find the humor or the tenderness where you can.

We all get disappointed about things we know we perhaps should not be, and that is fine as long as we can move beyond it within a reasonable length of time. If you want to marry this fellow and have a long life with him I would say let it go, turn it into something mildly amusing if need be, but don't hold it over your heads as a symbol of a bad start... because really it isn't.

Good luck and congratulations.
posted by edgeways at 4:56 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel robbed of something that I had been looking forward to for a long time, but which I didn't know I *needed* until the moment had passed.

"Love Should Grow Up Like a Wild Iris in the Fields"
-- but it doesn't. We think it is about passion and romance and recklessness and be damned to the rest of the world against us, but what it truly is rises up from being together in the challenges of the everyday, from going through hard times together, from overcoming the urge to scream because yet again, one's partner has left that annoying chore undone despite repeated reminders, from remembering all of a sudden the reasons why you married even as you're lost and arguing over the GPS' directions.

Take your retrospective disappointment to us and to your best friend. Maybe you'll come to let go of it. I hope that time and experience will deepen your relationship to the point where what you feel today about the proposal circumstances seems like no big deal because of the joy you have in your life together. Congratulations. Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have much to add that hasn't been said already, but I will note that the constant external reminders will definitely subside. I got engaged in October, and the last time anyone asked for The Story was, well, October.

Congratulations, good luck, and enjoy the ride!
posted by divisjm at 5:20 AM on May 29, 2012

I think something that might be good to remember is that most people will think that being proposed to while on vacation in a beautiful city is innately romantic. If you were a friend and told me "We were in [beautiful city] on vacation and he proposed to me right before dinner--he told me how much I meant to him and I cried and said yes" I would think that was lovely. I would also think it was hilarious that you made him re-propose to you, but you don't need to include that information if you don't want to. This is your story--you don't need to apologize for there not being more fanfare and you don't need to downplay how it played out.

It is okay to feel a bit disappointed but I think the more you try and recast it in a positive light and then just move on, the better you will feel about it. This is not an issue that the two of you need to work through, though it is perhaps a good reminder that it can be good to be quite explicit about your hopes/expectations for special events.
posted by pie_seven at 5:48 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My husband's proposal was pretty low key and I was fine with it. But let me tell you about our marriage ceremony!

Mr. Murrey and I wanted a simple wedding and had just a officiant, 2 photographers, our dogs and unborn son present. We got married at a greenbelt that was extraordinarily special place for us. Essentially, it was just us. It was a perfect weather, we shared beautiful, personalized vows and the deed was done.

But here is the other part of the story that we share with each other and others when it comes up and it is a story I love to tell whenever I get the chance (like right now). The officiant had an enormous, visible booger in his cavernous nostrils the whole time. That "bat in the cave" was seriously distracting, like a huge piece of spinach in the teeth, can't keep your eyes from looking at it kind of distracting. One of our dogs kept flipping a frisbee onto our feet with her nose and we had to stop the ceremony a few times to toss it for her. And my lovely husband, when it came time to share his vows, pulled his reading glasses down, whipped out his iPhone and read them to me--I love the pictures of him doing this because it epitomizes the Apple Geek that he is!

I completely understand your disappointment and think it is very natural to feel the way you do. We build these events up in our heads and reality very rarely matches our expectations and disappointment of varying degrees ensues. But as others have said, you will one day (hopefully soon) see the humor and beauty in the everyday-messiness-of-life toilet flushing proposal just as Mr. Murrey and I finally acknowledged the "Big Booger" about a week after the ceremony. It took us about that time to get over that our wedding wasn't "perfect" in order to say it out loud to each other and laugh.

And while we were laughing, I realized that the ceremony (with the dog frisbee and iPhone vows and yes, the Big Booger) was indeed perfect in that it gave us yet another shared experience filled with joy. Not only were we married that day, but we had something that made us laugh so hard it hurt.

I truly love that your husband-to-be just couldn't wait another moment for the bowl to empty before asking you to share his life filled with everyday-messiness with you. I think that is pretty romantic actually! I know it doesn't seem that way to you right now and maybe you think I am nuts for truly and deeply appreciating the Big Booger and how it actually contributed positively to our wedding day. But I hope you can find a shift in your heart so that you can delight in the absurdities of life that you are about to share with your fiancé.
posted by murrey at 5:59 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I told my boyfriend beforehand that I didn't need some big, public display

Going forward, you need to tell him what you want.

What you can do is say that you think you guys should do something big to celebrate now. Don't complain about the proposal, because he was only doing what you said. He would be confused at best, and feel betrayed at worst.

As for putting "effort" in; you went on vacation to get engaged, did you not? That's a little more effort than taking you to a French restaurant.
posted by spaltavian at 6:13 AM on May 29, 2012

My now-husband asked me while walking through a parking lot. No ring, no knee, no prior discussion about preferences, just "hey, do you think we should get married?"

It makes for a good story.

Transition-points are hard on everyone, whether it is that moment between "single" and "engaged" or any other big life moment you care to think of. If you are happy about spending the rest of your life with your partner, that's more important than the exact transition moment. Another way you can look at it is this: It sounds like you have both known that you wanted to get married to each other for some time. When did you first realize this? Perhaps you can think of that moment as The Moment, and the ring and the rest of it as being... filling out the paperwork, so to speak.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:08 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Some other folks here seem to be almost chiding you for expecting a fairy tale, but it really doesn't sound like you were waiting for some fireworks & white horses extravaganza. Just, you know, not involving a toilet.

Two friends of mine got engaged around the same time - one was reeaaallly elaborate, one was just at home while they were watching tv. Being friends, they'd often be asked at the same time about how he proposed, and you could totally see the girl with the not-storybook story go a little wan at hearing about the poem/candles/roses/whatever for the umpteenth time. But, hey, they're both happily married five years later. A proposal doesn't say anything about what your marriage will be like. Congratulations!
posted by troika at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You expected X, you didn't get X. You can't get past not getting X.

Don't marry this guy. In a few years you'll be fighting all the time because he didn't do Y perfectly. You'll never be happy... thus he'll never be happy.

I'm the future him.... and it sucks.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:17 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks, everyone for the kind (though sometimes really not-so-kind) advice. I haven't had time to read through all of the replies, but it was getting pretty rough in here so I thought I would step in and say something. I come from a really messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood. I've done a lot of work to get past that, but I still have some residual emotional neediness, and then shame for feeling needy. Some of the comments here were tapping into that feeling of shame, and I had to stop reading.

First, I never expected my fiance's proposal to be perfect, nor did I want some treacly display. I don't think I said or implied that anywhere in my post. What I wanted was an honest moment for us to share and remember, and I didn't have anything specific in mind at all. Mostly, I was just stuck with the feeling that he was 'getting it over with', and I think my biggest worry was that he didn't feel right about it or something.

Since I posted the question and read some of the replies, I've talked with my partner and told him how I felt, and checked in to make sure he was feeling okay about everything. It turns out his introversion was in full effect, as someone mentioned upthread. He recognized that is was rushed and not how he envisioned things either, and apologized for giving me the proposal that *he* felt most comfortable with instead of what he thought I might have liked. He also proved me wrong about how much he is sharing the news, by showing me a long list of people he's told.

The bottom line is that we're both extremely happy and excited to be engaged, and are looking forward to planning a nice wedding. Thanks to excellent advice here, we're going to have a leisurely dinner next week to share our feelings about getting married and building a future together. It's an extension, rather than a do-over, and it works for us.

And we did end up having a nice big laugh about the toilet flush! We both have our hands out for a ring every time we leave the bathroom now. I think it'll be a really good story, after all.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:38 AM on May 29, 2012 [70 favorites]

Yaaay! I wish you a happily ever after. I don't think at any point you were describing asking too much - you just wanted it to be memorable, and it turned out to be memorable in an unexpected way.
posted by XMLicious at 8:14 AM on May 29, 2012

We both have our hands out for a ring every time we leave the bathroom now. I think it'll be a really good story, after all.

Yay for time and perspective! It is a cute/funny story! I'm glad you were able to get through this and ultimately bring you two closer together - which, after all, is what this is all about right? Congratulations!
posted by like_neon at 9:16 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

good deal Anon, that is the attitude that will carry you a long way.
posted by edgeways at 9:20 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think a big part of the problem is the impression we get that everyone else had a perfect proposal. I never expected something on par with a romantic movie proposal, but I felt like my friends' stories were fair as comparisons. None of my friends had a proposal that included a viral video or a jumbotron or even a down-on-one-knee-while-the-entire-restaurant-hushes-to-watch moment. None of us wanted something "big." But when people announce, "We got engaged!" everyone wants to hear the story, and I'm here to tell you the story gets spun a lot more than you might realize.

People upthread have recommended that you tell others, "We were on vacation in a romantic place, and he proposed privately in our rooms, and then we went out for a romantic dinner." All of which is true and sounds completely amazing, but none of which captures your private feelings about the moment. The thing is, all the stories you've heard from friends and strangers about their perfect, low-key engagement moments were probably also spun the same way. Proposed on a beautiful hike through the woods? She was swatting mosquitoes as he made his speech. Proposed at a fancy restaurant over a romantic meal? Turns out they both felt nauseated from trying oysters for the first time. Proposed on the beach at sunset? He interrupted her in the final chapter of The DaVinci Code, and she just wanted to find out how it ended. Real people and real life aren't perfect, but everybody expects a happy story when they ask how somebody got engaged, so that's what gets told.

I, too, was disappointed when my boyfriend (now husband) proposed. It was a gorgeous fall day, and we went for a hike by the river to look at all the trees turning color, and he got down on one knee on the beach. That's the story I tell, and it's true. But he didn't have a speech, he didn't even ask the question, he just got down on one knee with the box open. I hated the ring; it was a textbook representation of everything I'd told my family and friends and his brother that I didn't want, and I couldn't believe he hadn't tried at ALL to find out what I would and wouldn't like in a piece of jewelry I'd be wearing every day for the rest of my life. He didn't ask my parents ahead of time, which I was honestly shocked to discover I cared about (so it seems unfair to expect him to have known), but still hurt. The diamond was from a ring on his mom's side of the family, which the real me should be happy about (personal history! not a blood diamond!) but the disappointed me read as, "He didn't even want to spend any real money on me." (WHAT?!? I am not that kind of person. But that's how I felt.) And when one of our friends asked that night where he got the ring, he said, "I got to the mall and walked into the first jewelry store I saw, and just had them set the stone as simply as possible." I was SO hurt by that comment, because it seemed to exemplify that he hadn't put any thought or care into the process.

2 weeks after we got engaged, he came home to me crying on the couch because I couldn't stop mulling over all these disappointing things. We had a long talk where he explained where he had been coming from, which allowed me to reframe his behavior from the made-up "He just doesn't care about my feelings" to the true "He was so excited and nervous." And it allowed me a chance to explain my desires and expectations, too. He took the initiative to pull up a ton of ring pictures from the internet based on things I had described, and then used them to help figure out what I really wanted. He borrowed a beautiful ring of family significance for me to wear for the 2 weeks while he had a new ring custom made for me. And when the new ring arrived, he wrote a speech and took me out to a romantic setting and got down on one knee again. (But again, I'm spinning -- we were rushed because we had plans to meet friends, so we were both huffing and puffing out of breath because I thought we were out for an exercise walk!)

Being able to have that honest talk with him saved our relationship. Communication is the key to a strong relationship, and it sounds like you guys have that. Good for you! But honestly, the other thing that helped me get over it was realizing that nobody has a perfect proposal, no matter what stories you hear. The lack of perfection is not a sign that your relationship is doomed or that your guy doesn't love you. It's a sign that you live in the real world, and that's ok.
posted by vytae at 9:35 AM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Great to see your update - I was coming in here to encourage you to look at this with a sense of humor, and it looks like you beat me to it. Congratulations!
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

vegartanipla and a couple others gave you alternative ways to view your engagement- one that shows the story as the beautiful story that it was.

after getting engaged myself, it really hit home how much of these engagement stories are self-marketing. people tell you the great story of their proposal in a very marketing-driven way, and conveniently this way also provides themselves with the most happiness and positive view of the story. but they may not have found their proposal perfect either- they just don't want you to know that! now, a lot of people will tell you how they really felt about their proposal- a lot of them will have loved their proposal, but a lot of time are telling you a story that is designed to market themselves as the perfect couple in the perfect romance. you can borrow a page from that too.

my guy proposed to me in this totally sweet way, and i was initially disappointed because a couple of details were a bit off. but the more i talked to people, the more i realized that i needed to draw out the romantic details because that's what normal people do, and stop being an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist.
posted by saraindc at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

You watched too many Disney movies as a kid and too many chick flicks since. If the way he proposed bothers you, you have unrealistic expectations from life. It is not always like the movies, it happens with a toilet flushing in the background.

*V* After reading update *V*

Having read the update, you two obviously have good lines of communications, though, and that bodes well for your future together. I can see why you wanted a dramatic proposal, if you never developed a sense of what is "normal" that you are comfortable with after coming from a messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood."

Normal is what you make it. Normal is what you and your partner are comfortable with. The world is increasingly diverse, and if it works for you and your sweetie, it is normal; don't worry about expectation imposed by society. It looks like you and your partner are well along the way to establishing your own norms. Good look on a long and happy marriage.

One last thought: The flushing toilet thing again.... it communicates to me there is a high level of familiarity between the two of you. That's a good thing.
posted by Doohickie at 10:20 AM on May 29, 2012

Mod note: Folks, if you need to fight this out with other commenters you very seriously need to take this to MeTa and not here. No more arguing with other commenters. Answer the question or go to Meta. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:34 PM on May 29, 2012

Sorry I missed this question because frankly this is very similar to the way my (very happy) marriage started. We still laugh about what happened, which was in brief that my husband had intended to buy the ring with me in Mexico City, as he thought I'd prefer a ring I had a hand in picking out. He'd mentioned this in passing, so I was Really Looking Forward to Mexico City. Then in our hotel room in a different town, he casually mentioned that it didn't look like Mexico City would work out. HE went to the bathroom, only to find me crying on one of the beds when he came out. He had to pry it out of me, but I finally told him I had concluded that meant he didn't want to marry me. So he proposed right then and there.

I still have and treasure the inexpensive little silver butterfly ring with the sparkly crystals he bought for me that afternoon from one of the shops, which I wore until we found the actual engagement ring in Acupulco later in the trip. And our dinner that evening was meh too. It doesn't matter.

Let me point out here that my husband, a lovely and kind man, did even less planning than your fiancee. The name of the game is that he loves you, he wants to spend his life with you, and he has given you what I'm sure is a beautiful ring.

Also, you have a good "How did he propose?" story here, believe it or not. My husband and I still laugh over our engagement.

Really planned stuff has a downside . . . it can feel labored or forced, or not come off well, or make your spouse-to-be feel frozen with tension and fright. There's a lot to be said for being with someone who loves you well enough and feels comfortable enough with you to make proposing to you part of the daily conversation.

Also, Mazel Tov!
posted by bearwife at 1:07 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Aw, I'm so glad for you! He sounds like a treasure and so do you.

As someone who had a disappointing proposal, too, I eventually discovered that my husband not only doesn't mind concrete instructions, he also enjoys doing something for me more when it is something I requested. He'll be excited and say "look, there were two of the X you wanted and I got you the yellow one because you like the colour!". When he has to surprise me it becomes a fraught Thing somehow.

I vowed never to have a disappointing anniversary and so far it's going well.
At our 5 year anniversary I said I realised it was a bit presumptuous of me but it was the big fifth year and I was dreaming of him making a real to-do about me - and taking me lingerie shopping. He looked both surprised and intrigued and we had a fun time.

So yeah, it is hard asking for things! But once I got over the "he needs to surprise me for it to mean something" things got a lot more enjoyable.

Just saying, in case your fiance is the same.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:11 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm glad you are starting to be able to see the humor in your engagement story. It's good to be able to laugh at your little disappointments and screw-ups... it's good practice for later because many, many things in your life & marriage will likely not go as planned or expected, and any time you can find some humor in the situation it makes it so much easier to cope.

So here's my now-amusing engagement story: we had been living together a couple of months, after I had moved 600 miles to be with him. We were lying in each other's arms on the couch, just talking, and he said he wanted to ask me something. He said "would you marry me?" I said yes, just that simple. There was no ring, I don't think we even talked about it, but I was so excited that I didn't care.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. I was starting to notice something odd. I kept referring to him as my fiance, and he kept referring to me as his girlfriend. I finally asked him why and he said, "well, we're not engaged." And I reminded him that he'd asked me to marry him and he said, what I meant was, if I did ask you to marry me, would you say yes? But I wasn't proposing."

I felt rather put out about the whole thing, but I harrumphed about it and went back to calling him my boyfriend. (In retrospect, I'm surprised I wasn't more hurt and embarrassed than I was. Taking it in stride wasn't like me at all. But I think deep down I knew it was too soon for us to be committing to marriage and that's why I didn't get too bent out of shape.)

A year or so later we talked about marriage for real, and went ring shopping, and then one night he got down on one knee in our messy little apartment and proposed for real. To his credit, he did have a touching little speech prepared, and I was perfectly happy with a low-key proposal... particularly since he wouldn't be able to back out of it as I had the ring as proof!

So I reminded him of our faux engagement story not too long ago, and he didn't even remember it. So I told him the story and he looked incredulous. "Wow... I was a real dick, wasn't I?" We had a good laugh over it. Happily married now for going on 11 years.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:23 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am happily married to the love of my life. And please hear me out.

Not only did he not have a ring, he didn't even ask.

Do you know how I found out we were getting married? He told me we should start figuring out how to do the immigration paperwork (I am from another country). Yes, visa proceedings. Romantic stuff!

So honey, let my story be your consolation. There are worse stories! And I wouldn't change this man for anyone else on earth! I got to know him better after we got married, and god, this non-proposal was SO him! You'll think I'm crazy, but I think it's super cute! He also came to me gingerly in the middle of a fight like two weeks before our wedding and put a (beautiful) engagement ring on my finger, with the air of someone who is putting an anti flea necklace on a pet they are too embarrassed to look at.

So that's it...the most awkward non-proposal in history. And I treasure every moment of it.
posted by Tarumba at 3:07 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I feel inept to speak to this on any level, but one thing that my wife and I have been processing lately is that there are attachment issues that most of us suffer from having imperfect emotional childhoods, and we tend to compensate in our adulthood for some of those things. For example (and man, am I simplifying this and talking out of my league), in my case, my mother was pretty emotionally detached from me. Guess what I grew up missing? A sense of emotional settledness in my relationships with other people. Guess what I try to get from my wife in ways that I didn't even recognize? A resolution to that particular problem. Sometimes, this manifested itself in having particular requirements for certain things that I desired to fill that void a bit. The problem, of course, is that those things were obvious needs to me, but nowhere on her radar because we all have our own emotional issues, and we're all wired, usually from years of habitual behavior, to meet them in different ways.

There's some research that's come out recently that shows that the emotional centers of our brains develop way before our left-side speech abilities, prenatally until about two years of age, and our parents (and predominantly our mothers), help regulate that in us as we are developing, through many non-verbal methods, such as tone of voice, closeness, pace of life. Which means, from what I can tell, that attachments to those early caregivers who help stabilize our emotional states is vital to our future emotional state. When we are lacking in this area, we tend to come up with survival strategies as children that help us compensate with a lack of emotional attachments. And we all learn to do this in different ways. Some are avoiders when it comes to emotional conflict, some pursue it aggressively to make it go away, some need to be constantly reassured, and this reassurance can be ritualistic in nature (namely, I need a particular activity to feel reassured). The moral of the story, though (and this is what a counselor suggested to me), is that at some point, we need to figure out how to deal with that as we grow up. And really, many of us don't, because we don't know the root cause.

How does this help your situation? Maybe not at all. It just came to mind for me when you said this: "I come from a really messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood. I've done a lot of work to get past that, but I still have some residual emotional neediness, and then shame for feeling needy." There's nothing wrong with having emotional needs and desiring for a significant other to help address them, and to want to be treated as the best person in someone's life. But these things tend to be defined differently for different people. And sometimes, specific manifestations are rooted in attachment issues that were never fully resolved as a child. And then we tend to make demands on others in the ways that they should meet them. And boy howdy, has this driven my wife nuts over the years; and likewise, me for some of her issues (she's a major avoider when it comes to emotional tension).

So, just throwing that out there, not to sat that you did anything wrong, or that it was wrong to expect more. But in terms of dealing with some of the underlying issues that you mention, I've found this avenue of self-reflection (and counseling) to not only be very satisfying, but very emotionally healing for my wife and myself. Not only do we understand ourselves better, but we understand each other better. The key, of course, is communication as you come to realize some of those things (which it sounds like you are). Because once I know what my wife is dealing with emotionally, not only does it create emotional closeness in the honesty of it, but it makes me want to be partner in asking what not only meets needs, but helps with emotional healing. There's a bit that's been written about it in recent years, if you want to follow up, under attachment theory.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:35 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Just wanted to pop back in to say congrats to the OP - your dinner sounds like a great idea, and I'm glad you two are talking. Yay for you!
posted by thylacinthine at 3:38 PM on May 29, 2012

posted by Forktine at 4:54 PM on May 29, 2012

Yay, I'm so glad that it sounds like things have worked out! I just had a couple of things to say: first, after you're married no one will ask you about the proposal. In fact, I think people stopped asking about six weeks after we got engaged. So unless you bring it up, you really don't need to worry about it becoming a topic of conversation.

Second (and it sounds like you're not actually feeling like this), I have a friend who, six years after they got married, was still talking about how disappointing the proposal was and how much better her best friend's proposal was. It was always a little awkward, and I felt really sad for her husband that she was constantly reminding him that his effort hadn't been good enough. (And I actually thought it was a really sweet story.)

Finally, if you want something, you really need to be clear about it. Sort of like stories above, for my sister's first Valentine's Day with her husband, she told him not to do anything. She meant not to do anything *big* but he thought she meant not to do anything at all. So she ended up getting really mad at him for not doing anything, even though that's what she's told him. I, of course, have learned from this and spell out all my expectations to my husband (i.e., you don't need to get me a present or flowers, but please get me a card). Then we can talk about it and we both know where the other is coming from. I can't tell you how many fights have been averted because of that.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 6:08 PM on May 29, 2012

I didn't have a perfect proposal, but 17 years later I have a damn near perfect marriage. Someday this will be a funny story you can tell without feeling bad. Take heart, and congratulations to both of you.
posted by tomboko at 6:14 PM on May 29, 2012

I'm not reading the comments, but I do want to say that it is entirely okay for you to mourn the proposal you never got. My husband didn't propose at all, and then we eloped, so I didn't get the proposal or the wedding I had dreamed of, and it took some time to get over it. My husband felt awful about it, but it wasn't his fault, it was just how things happened and ten years later, I can honestly say that it all made sense for who we are as a couple. And it all makes for a really good story - it's funny and unique, and I'm glad you're already starting to see the value of a good toilet story. Because it IS a good story - "He was so nervous he blurted it out before the toilet had stopped flushing" is very sweet and endearing, and you'll see that more as time goes by.

Also, congratulations!
posted by Ruki at 6:46 PM on May 29, 2012

I was a bit on the other side of this - I tried to arrange a special moment, in the timing and the way I presented the ring and what I said - and to put it plainly my wife-to-be was catastrophically hungover and here reaction to the proposal could best be described as "game but below expectations". And honestly I was significantly disappointed and had some similar "is she really into this to the degree I am?" feelings. Even though this wasn't really a fair response, it wasn't as if she had overindulged knowing I would be proposing the next day. I also struggled with, should I have postponed it?

Well long story short, you know, I just have to echo what many other long-marrieds are pointing out, which is that a socially-iconic moment just doesn't amount to much in the broad context of a relationship and marriage. As I suspect is true in your case, my situation did genuinely reflect aspects of our relationship at the time that were distinctly non-ideal. Well, people are non-ideal. At the end of the day our little story is a tiny bit of our relationship that I almost never think about, but when I do I am satisfied - it was a real moment, between two real people, I asked and she said yes, which was the important bit. And the marriage itself, and the honeymoon, provided tons of "perfect moments" that are where my mind naturally goes when I think about all my favorite memories of getting married.

It sounds like you have good communication and a lot of good will in your relationship. They way you navigated this tough moment reflects very well on your prospects.
posted by Luke Skywalker at 7:54 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

My husband (of twelve years) drove up to my grad school town to visit. At some point, he disappeared into my bedroom, then when he came out, he was wearing a sports coat. It was like 3 pm. I asked if I should turn off the TV. He sat next to me on my crappy futon, and proposed. Later, we went to a dollar movie (The Wedding Singer) with a friend.

I tell this story often. And he hasn't gotten any more "romantic" since then. But he is amazing, and I wouldn't trade him or his awkward proposal for anything. Good for you and your partner for finding the joy! And best wishes!
posted by girlbowler at 8:42 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Some people are really not that great at all the romance stuff. It doesn't mean they don't love you -- and every now and then they still wind up blundering into a moment that melts your heart.

All that big romantic stuff that you were hoping to pin onto your proposal? I really think that your wedding is a more appropriate place for it -- weddings are far more "managed" to produce the desired effect and elicit the proper emotions. I don't like the fact that so much pressure is put on proposals, as if the story of how something happened is more important than the fact that it happened at all.

Good luck, and congrats!
posted by hermitosis at 10:47 PM on May 29, 2012

Oh, OP. I kinda knew how you felt when I read your initial post, and after reading all the way down, I was so happy to see that everything worked out for the best. Congratulations, and if you two manage to handle every potential crisis the way you handled this one (which seems small, but small things can fester over decades) you'll be very happy together.

Like Tambura, I didn't really get a proposal either. I got a ring, but it was fake and kinda fell apart. We were sophomores in college--very, very young--and six weeks after we started dating, when we smack in the middle of the infatuation stage, we were walking across campus holding hands, and he said, "If we were Victorians, I would have proposed to you by now." So, okay, I did get a proposal. In the past subjunctive. After that, we just kind of assumed that we would spend the rest of our lives together, but we didn't tell anyone, because we didn't think they'd take us seriously.

That ended up not bothering me quite so much as the ring did. About a year later we decided to make it official and tell our families, but he couldn't afford a ring--if he hadn't gotten a full scholarship, in fact, he wouldn't even have gotten to go to college. I was in some trinket shop downtown and saw a cheap gold ring with a tiny fake diamond in it and asked him to buy it for me. It fell apart after two months! We found another one to replace it, which was just as cheap, but lasted until the wedding, at least. He did buy both our wedding rings, although he was a starving grad student and it was still a big expense, even though they were extremely simple.

Later, his grandmother must have found out that he hadn't given me a real ring. I loved this lady for many, many reasons, but one was that, without ever having met me (she was in poor health and couldn't travel to the wedding) she got her own mother's diamond engagement and wedding ring and had them cleaned and welded together and gave them to me when we went to visit her and his grandfather a few months after we were married, because she thought I should have had a proper engagement ring. Dr. Tully Monster's great-grandparents had been married for sixty-three years. I am wearing that lovely, old-fashioned ring now, and it means an awful lot to me, especially now that his grandmother is gone, because she was my adopted grandmother, too, and my eyes are filling up just writing this.

Dr. Tully Monster felt bad, however--and he still tells me he feels bad--for not having proposed the "right way" and gotten me a "real" ring instead of buying a new external hard drive or whatever it was he spent what little disposable income he had on. And I felt bad for a while, too, because although consciously I thought the whole "three-months'-salary" thing was a diamond cartel scam, I noticed that most of my engaged female contemporaries had nice rings that they had been given or helped pick out or whatever, and I wondered if maybe it meant that he didn't love or respect me very much that he hadn't gone to the trouble to get me one. He was never very good at romantic gestures, either, and that frustrated me, because like you I was kind of insecure--in high school I'd never had a date, never even gone to the prom, and no one had ever courted me with flowers and romantic restaurant dinners or anything like that, and I felt kind of cheated.

But twenty years on, that kind of thing just feels cheap and cliched. I think back and wonder--would I really have wanted a cheapo ring from J. C. Penney that he bought himself, instead of this wonderful token of another long and loving marriage, the giving of which said very clearly, "You're part of our family now"? Would I rather have had a dozen red supermarket roses, or a man who has always been kind and loving and has never done anything to hurt me, who gave me emotional support when I took risks and always wanted the best for me? I don't need romantic gestures or elaborate nights out or expensive jewelry (although he has given me some beautiful things throughout our marriage). I would rather have an afternoon with him walking through the woods or a beautiful garden somewhere, or sitting in our backyard together reading and drinking wine and talking for long hours and listening to the birds. All that other stuff kind of melts away.

You might be on your way to feeling this way already. Or it might happen in years or decades to come. All I can say is that over time the conventional expectations just matter less and less, until you start to wonder how they could ever have mattered at all.

Congratulations again, and many years of love and happiness to you both!
posted by tully_monster at 9:44 AM on May 30, 2012 [15 favorites]

I'm here way after everything's quieted down, but I just wanted to say that my wife and I had an extremely low-key, tender but not glamorously romantic proposal (basically, we were just hanging out in bed on a Friday night). Although once married, most couples find they become increasingly aware of their spouse's bathroom rituals, I don't think bathroom business (or flushing toilets!) should have anything to do with engagement proposals. You had a right to feel let down by this. But it's great that you've turned it into something fun. That's a sign that you two already have some of the tools to handle challenges that might come your way.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:56 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, tully_monster wins. That was such a great answer!

OP, just wanted to chime in to say how glad I am that things are workin out. I wish you and your fiancé the best for the years ahead.
posted by anonnymoose at 7:56 PM on May 31, 2012

Here's my engagement story: my husband had the ring and was planning to propose to me on our vacation in Portugal (not as romantic as it sounds - we were visiting his family, but still! Vacation! At the beach!), but I was the one who had packed the bags and clearly *I* didn't pack the ring and when he realized this, he couldn't go back and get it without being really conspicuous. So, it didn't happen. And I was sort of let down by this and gave him a lot of attitude about getting my expectations up and blaaahhhhhhhhhh blah blah.

After we got home, I was cranky as all hell. It was the world's WORST case of PMS in the history of PMS. Never before has one woman consumed as many donuts and Doritos simultaneously. It was really, really bad.

He picked the moment when I was at my most irritable, doing dishes in the kitchen and fuming at him for having looked at a spoon in the wrong way or something, and tapped me on the shoulder and as I was about to lash into him for the forty sixth time about "DON'T TOUCH ME I'M TIRED" or whatever...

... there it was. The ring.

He picked my crankiest possible moment to propose as if to say "I know you're about to light me on fire for no reason, but I love you anyway."

It actually made for a really great story. How he proposed to me to make me feel better because I had really awful PMS.

The story gets better: I didn't have PMS. I was three weeks pregnant with our son.

Your story - toilet flushing and all - will be perfect for you because it's *your* story.
posted by sonika at 6:33 AM on June 1, 2012 [8 favorites]

Congrats! I'm so glad you've resolved it with your fiance. I'm sorry you were a little let down by the lack of passion and emotion at the moment of your proposal, and I completely, completely understand. At first, I felt so strange about how my proposal happened! Now when I think about it, it's hilarious and perfect. Also, we've had a million tender moments since then -- and I know it was silly to put too much emphasis on that one question when we both knew in our hearts that we wanted to be married.

Here's my story:

On Christmas, we exchanged gifts. After I opened the last gift he said, "there's one more very special gift for you." Well, obviously I knew what it was. But he didn't give it to me! At the end of the night, I asked him about the "special gift." He said I would have to be patient.

I asked him the day after Christmas, and the day after that. Still no gift, so I let it go.

On December 30, I reminded him that I was going to dinner with my best friend for her birthday. He seemed disappointed, and said that he had planned on taking me out for a romantic night. Oh no! It was going to be THE night. But I couldn't possibly cancel on my friend -- it was just the two of us for her bday and I had promised her weeks before. I told my boyfriend that I would take a raincheck and we would have another romantic night soon.

I expected him to reschedule the date immediately ... but he didn't. So, I did. I booked us at a fancy restaurant for the next week. I was so anxious and excited all week. I knew that he had the ring! He had been taunting me with it since Christmas, and this had to be the night.

On January 6, we went out to that fancy restaurant and had a lovely meal. The dinner conversation was great ... but no proposal. That was ok -- I didn't expect/want anything public from him.

Then we went back to our house, and had great sex. I thought, this is it! The romantic post-sex proposal! We cuddled and talked for a minute, and then he turned on the TV. The waterfall of tears was immediate. I was under the bed covers sobbing hysterically. He had no idea what was wrong. In between the waterworks I yelled "WHY DONT YOU JUST ASK I KNOW YOU HAVE IT."

Seriously, can you believe I said that? He looked both shocked and bemused. Then he got up and went over to his bureau. Oh my God... he was NOT going to do it then. How terrible! I screamed, "NO, NO, NOT LIKE THIS!" but he opened the drawer and out came the ring box. He crawled back on the bed and asked, "Will you marry me?" I was still crying and hiccuping and just a total mess.

I was completely mortified. I had exercised zero patience and completely bullied him into proposing! I was so embarrassed... but he thought it was hilarious. In the end, I found it pretty funny too.

After we got engaged, people always asked how it happened. Usually we stuck with "we shared a nice private moment" or something vague like that. My fiance has taken to saying that when he asked I was very overcome with emotion... but I'm sure our friends and family are picturing something very different.
posted by murfed13 at 7:48 AM on June 1, 2012 [8 favorites]

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