February 13, 2007 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Can you buy a girlfriend a ring without asking her to marry you, when the relationship is already going on for 5 years? Not that I don't want to marry her, but we're just not there yet. So the question is: can I buy her a nice ring and not propose, or would that be so weird that it would better be to not give her a ring at all? Thanks for any insights. For the record, I'm 40, she's 35.
posted by hz37 to Human Relations (38 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We are younger, but I did that with a 3 year old relationship. I got her a colored stone, and she knew it was coming, so I think as long as you set her expectations before you hand her the box, she'll understand and be happy about it.

The key though is to avoid a 2 minute period there where she thinks you're proposing between when you hand her the ring, and you clarify.
posted by cschneid at 11:09 AM on February 13, 2007

That really depends entirely on your girlfriend, and I can pretty much guarantee that you know her better than we (being the AskMeFi users) do.

I suspect, though, that most women in their thirties who've been in a long-term relationship with a similar-age man would not take very kindly to being given a ring without an accompanying proposal. I'm a man, and I'm in my early thirties, and have been married for seven years, but that's my guess.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:09 AM on February 13, 2007

You certainly can. For a ring like this, she would wear it anywhere but her "engagement finger", and you would give her a ring that isn't fashioned like a traditional engagement ring (basically, not a diamond and not a solitaire).

But if she is hoping you'll propose (after 5 years), and you give her a nice ring that you specifically state is NOT NOT NOT an engagement ring, it's very possible she will throw it at you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:11 AM on February 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh boy. No. No no no no. Find another jewelry category or stop being 'not there yet'. Especially if this is a Valentine's Day question!
posted by thinkpiece at 11:12 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Insufficient data. If she's been desparate to marry you for the last 2 years and feels like you've been stringing her along but doesn't want to to give up because she's come to think of you as her last chance, and you're a good provider and would probably make a good parent and she's put a lot into the relationship then maybe you could go for a necklace.
posted by biffa at 11:13 AM on February 13, 2007 [4 favorites]

Just get her something else. She might not indicate it out loud, but I think many women in her situation (35 years old, 5 year relationship, etc) might at least daydream a little about getting engaged, and thus when you give her your non-engagement ring, you risk ripping her daydream into a million little pieces and grating her heart up like parmesan cheese. She'd get over it, probably, but it's not worth risking that kind of disappointment. Give her a pretty necklace, bracelet, earrings, etc ... anything else.
posted by tastybrains at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

You want to get married but "aren't there yet"? Sounds like an engagement to me. I know plenty of couples who are engaged to be married with no set wedding date.
posted by CRM114 at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2007

Either propose or go with a necklace. Is it possible that she would graciously accept a ring sans proposal? Yes. Is it possible that it will be an unmitigated disaster? Yes. Not good enough odds to take your relationship on.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm. Stake your relationship on.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:21 AM on February 13, 2007

Let's take thinkpiece and TPS and put them together. If you get her a ring, and tell her it is not an engagement ring, it may very well end up being a break-up ring. There's no reason to stick to a ring if you don't want to tell her "I don't want to marry you" so explicitly. Get her a necklace or earrings.
posted by Plutor at 11:22 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing the 'other jewellery' suggestion. Whether we like it or not, rings are items loaded with a lot of meaning. Bracelet, necklace, earrings--all fine. Bracelet or necklace are best, as the size of the box avoids any confusion.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:25 AM on February 13, 2007

Get her a necklace or earrings. Make them expensive -- hell, get her diamonds, even -- but DO NOT get her a ring. Rings are too closely associated with engagement/marriage to indicate anything else.
posted by parilous at 11:28 AM on February 13, 2007

If you were both planning on never getting married, then I think a ring as a gift would be fine. It sounds like this isn't the case. Any reason you don't want to get engaged?
posted by chunking express at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2007

No. In fact, if she's been jonesing to get married at all, it's probably best not to get her anything that comes in packaging even resembling a ring box (meaning no earrings in a similar jewelry box, etc). If she's expecting a ring, gets a box that may contain a ring, and finds something else instead... well, it's a letdown no matter how nice the piece may be. I speak from experience. If it has to be jewelry, go for the bracelet or necklace.
posted by sephira at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2007

I think probably she is the only one who can answer this question. You guys may be on exactly the same page regarding the state of your relationship (not all women sit around angrily longing for the day that damn man grows up and begs for her hand), and she still may have some feelings about the etiquette of jewelry and/or the social baggage that comes with receiving it. I've worked in offices where I would have been hounded to death daily had I received a non-engaging ring (or any other jewelry) gift from a long-term partner, which would have quickly ruined my enjoyment of the gift.

That's assuming you guys can talk about it. If you can't, then no, do not get her a ring.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think the reason you're "not there yet" might be important. Also, why a ring if you don't want to ask her to marry you [yet]? Is there a ring you found that you know she'd love? Are you planning to propose at some point? Buy the ring and squirrel it away until then. Otherwise, you might be treading into some difficult territory.

From the pages of my own life, I've been with my partner for a year and a half. He's not into marriage, but I am. I'd marry him in a second if he asked, but I'm not planning on that ever happening-- this has been a source of real tension between us. We've reached a peace between us about it for now. Still, the idea of him giving me a ring because he loves me and wants to give me a way to remember that via a little physical token (as opposed to a traditional symbol of engagement) is appealing. It wouldn't ruin my girlish fantasies about engagement, nor would I think it was leading to engagement. I would find it touching. But that's us-- YMMV.
posted by hollisimo at 11:33 AM on February 13, 2007

I have a "promise (of engagement someday)" ring from my fiance from a year into our relationship. Then again, we were all of 18.
posted by sian at 11:37 AM on February 13, 2007

Yep. You can. I received a ring from my boyfriend of 4 years and we both consider it just a lovely gift, nothing more.
posted by wildgarlic at 11:45 AM on February 13, 2007

One of my best friends (male) actually got into a heap of trouble because he gave his girlfriend a ring and wasn't clear enough on the clarification, and now he's engaged and doesn't want to be. It's a mess.

Best to avoid the instant symbolism of a ring altogether.
posted by nekton at 11:45 AM on February 13, 2007

Does she want to get married? If she wants to get married, and you give her a ring (for Valentine's, even?) and clarify that this is just a gift, not an engagement ring, I'd imagine that that'd be needlessly awkward and possibly hurtful.

If you know 100% for sure she's not secretly hoping you're going to propose, I think a ring is fine, but-- she's 35 and has been with you since she was 30? I don't mean to be all cliched and dogmatic about what girls want, but unless she absolutely doesn't want to have babies, she, um. Okay. I'm sorry, I'm speaking for her. You know her better than we do.

If you decide against a ring, and if you're okay supporting the diamond industry, I've never met a girl who doesn't like a nice pair of diamond solitaire earrings.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:04 PM on February 13, 2007

Yes you can get her a ring, just don't do it. There are lots of other types of nice jewelry that you can get her that you won't have to clarify how much you don't want to marry her while giving it to her. Plus, when her friends ask her what you got her, she won't have to say "Oh he got me a nice ring, but no, not an engagement ring... he really isn't ready for marriage yet." Make it easy on everyone involved... get her a necklace.
posted by CAnneDC at 12:07 PM on February 13, 2007

I Nth that a ring is a bad idea. She sees a ring, and thinks about how it's not an engagement ring.

I also want to point out that diamond jewelry is a bad idea in this case, too - she'll see diamonds, and think about how they are not in a ring. I've always considered diamond earrings as the ultimate Bad Idea for a romantic non-engagement gift.

The ONLY situation where a ring would be ok is if she's dropped an unsublte hint about a particular ring. For instance, if you and she were walking down the street, and she was window-shopping outside a jeweler's, and she said, "Oooh. look at that gorgeous ruby ring, honey! Isn't that lovely?" and she made you look at it.
In that case, you could buy her THAT ring.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:08 PM on February 13, 2007

PS. Bracelet, necklace, earrings--all fine. Bracelet or necklace are best, as the size of the box avoids any confusion.

Great point. When giving jewelry, especially to someone you've dated for long enough to potentially get married... don't present anything that could be mistaken for a ring, even for a second.

Unless your relationship is different, of course
posted by CAnneDC at 12:10 PM on February 13, 2007

I think a ring is fine as long as you are both on the same page, as someone else put it. I wouldn't assume a ring meant anything more than a ring and I bet a lot of women wouldn't either.
posted by stormygrey at 12:11 PM on February 13, 2007

A similar question answered by Miss Manners:
...you are in love and not planning to marry. Do you think for one moment that everyone you know will refrain from zeroing in on [her] diamond ring and asking when the wedding will be? (No doubt they do this already, the nosy things, but this will reopen the subject.) And if you deny it, they will assume you are equivocating.
posted by obloquy at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2007

meh, obloquy, who cares what other people think. Its about their particular relationship and perhaps its not a diamond and perhaps she wears it on the other hand.
posted by stormygrey at 1:11 PM on February 13, 2007

I think unless you want the jewelry equivilent of dumping a bucket of cold water on her head, no ring.
If, in your particular situation, buying the ring would be OK, you wouldn't need to be asking us, you'd already know. Stick with the earrings, bracelet or necklace.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2007

FYI this is called a promise ring.
posted by superfem at 1:47 PM on February 13, 2007

FYI, The Promise Ring are emo. You want to avoid all hints of emo until you're ready to get married.
posted by klangklangston at 2:17 PM on February 13, 2007

God, so emo.

I got a ruby ring for our two-year dating anniversary, and I didn't even remotely think it would be an engagement ring. I don't even remember it crossing my mind.

If, however, he had given it to me after we had seriously started talking about marriage, I would have been kind of pissed.

Isn't this the thing that bracelets and nice watches are for? They come in a long rectangular box, so no risk of being mistaken for anything else, and they say what you want to say without accidentally saying "you're not good enough to marry yet" or anything like that.
posted by mckenney at 2:24 PM on February 13, 2007

Man, I would just not even go there at this time of year. Even someone who doesn't WANT to get engaged may feel kind of weird right about now.

I wouldn't surprise her with this no way. Only if you've talked about it with her ahead of time and she's genuinely okay with it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:15 PM on February 13, 2007

You've gotten good advice here, let me just repeat what CAnneDC said:

There are lots of other types of nice jewelry that you can get her that you won't have to clarify how much you don't want to marry her while giving it to her.

Fuckin A.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:28 PM on February 13, 2007 [6 favorites]

I also got a "pre-engagement" ring (whatever the hell that is) from a former boyfriend, but we picked it out together and knew it wasn't an engagement ring, which was supposed to come later. Thank god it didn't, but that's another story. Unless you shop for it together and establish it's not an engagement ring, get her something else.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 4:12 PM on February 13, 2007

stormygrey, I hear you, but I think sculpin nicely illustrated the point-- it could put her in awkward situations regardless of the couple's mutual understanding & intent, which is worthy of consideration, at least.
posted by obloquy at 4:27 PM on February 13, 2007

I recieved a beautiful ring for Christmas from my boyfriend. While we were on the same page on this not being an engagement ring, I nth everyone telling you to tread lightly or at least not spring it on her without giving her fair warning.

I'd like to offer you a caveat emptor: a couple of weeks after I got the ring, my boyfriend bitterly joked that he should have bought me a book instead. Rings are loaded with symbolism whether or not we want them to be.
posted by princesspathos at 5:40 PM on February 13, 2007

My boyfriend gave me a lovely ring for my birthday six or seven years into our relationship. It was no big deal. I don't wear other jewelery anyway, it's plain silver (well, patterned but no stone) and fits on my right hand. No one have ever commented (it's the wrong hand after all) and it looks pretty.

But we also talk enough about our relationship for me to know what it meant. And we talk enough about other stuff for him to know I'd like a ring but not earrings or whatever. He even choose a really good one. Also it was a birthday present, so I knew it was a gift and not something more. If he'd just given it to me on some random day things may have been different.

You know her best. You know your relationship. (Or you should at any rate.) Seems to me if you're having to ask us then it's not something obvious and clear within the relationship so you probably don't want to go there.
posted by shelleycat at 9:30 PM on February 13, 2007

As someone who received a simple ring on her 5th Christmas together with her now-ex (who happened to toss her a ring box and say - and I quote - "don't go thinking this is a YOU KNOW WHAT ring. This is a "maybe one day" ring"), my answer is do not EVER give a ring if you're "not there".

She'll just be bitter and make a list of all the reasons why she stayed and the reasons why she should go would be twice and long and would contain such gems as:

"Gee, it'd really be nice to have sex for longer than 30 seconds before you fall asleep."

"I bet other girls get birthday and christmas presents that amount to more than a card that says BEST WISHES!"

"You know, I take the time to fill up the car with gas every single time I leave, so he can take the car into work and not have to waste time by getting gas. So i'd think that the least he could do would be to... i dunno... put the seat down? Pick up dinner for me every once in a while?"

So NO. Don't give a ring if you aren't "committed" to each other in that way.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.
posted by damnjezebel at 10:14 PM on February 13, 2007

This is all well-covered territory at this point. But a serious boyfriend of mine gave me a ring for Valentine's day once. And while we weren't at the point where I would have thought it was a capitol-R-Ring, the whole thing wasn't fun. He had to preface the gift-giving by saying "it's just a ring" and I had to be stressed because of the size of the package before he said that. And when people asked what he got me for V-day I had to do the "a ring, but just a ring" dance.

In contrast, when my husband and I were first dating, he was able to give me a casual ring he had picked up while traveling. He said "I thought this was pretty" and gave it to me and nothing about it was ever uncomfortable. But it was early, it wasn't in a box [it was a drawstring bag], and it wasn't a special occasion.
posted by Mozzie at 3:59 PM on February 14, 2007

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