Giving her the finger as I give her the ring
May 25, 2008 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Now that I've decided to propose to my girlfriend, I suddenly seem to be picking fights with her. What's going on?

I recently decided to propose to my girlfriend of 2+ years, and have been spending a fair amount of time and energy planning/shopping for it. I feel like there's been a corresponding increase in fighting since then. (Even now, we probably don't fight all that much, but relative to our baseline it seems like a lot.)

In part, I think I'm trying to test her, to make sure we're resilient enough. I also think there's a part of me that feels like she "owes" me for what I'm doing (despite her not knowing about it) and is quick to find ways that she's not "pulling her weight." And this big question about our future hangs over and colors everything, turning every slight and every misunderstanding into a referendum on our whole relationship.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you have some important things to talk about. How about if you ditch the idea of a traditional surprise proposal and instead speak frankly to your girlfriend about your relationship and the idea of marriage? After you guys talk things through and agree to get married, you can still surprise her with the ring and the mushy proposal. A lot of people do it that way.
posted by footnote at 6:52 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

We live in continuous fear of being hurt, and this creates a big drama as we go from day to day. The way we relate to each other is so painful that for no apparent reason we get angry, jealous, envious, sad. To even say "I love you" can be frightening. But even if it's painful and fearful to have an emotional interaction, still we keep going, we enter into relationships, we get married, we have children.

In order to protect our emotional wounds, and because of our fear of being hurt, we created something very sophisticated in the mind: a big denial system. We become perfect liars. We lie so perfectly that we lie to ourselves and even believe our own lies. We don't notice we're lying, and sometimes even when we know we are, we justify the lie and excuse the lie to protect ourselves from pain.

You are perhaps under a lot of stress in your own mind with this decision. After all, it is supposed to be a once in a lifetime decision that lasts a lifetime. You may be unconsciously lying to yourself about not being ready, worrying if she's the right one, wondering if you are worthy. Take some time to clear your mind of all the every day mess that invades it. Allow yourself to think cogently and lucidly about your past, present and future with your bride to be. If you can defeat the denial; if you decide that, yes indeed, you want to spend your whole life with her, then go for it with complete and absolute gusto.
posted by netbros at 6:54 AM on May 25, 2008 [11 favorites]

Do you secretly want her to say no? Why are you asking her to marry you? Because you want to marry her or because you feel that you've reached a point where you SHOULD marry her.

I always seem to reach a point at about 2 and a half years where I felt I had to decide whether or not to continue a relationship, or get out because I was wasting time on a relationship that wouldn't end up in marriage.

Ususally I would get out, until the last time, when at 36 years of age, I actually proposed and am now married to a wonderful woman. Apparently the one I was waiting for, so thankfully didn't settle in any of the previous relationships.

Really, if you feel that you need to test the relationship to see if it can withstand stress, then I don't think you are ready to take the plunge. Also sounds like you feel she doesn't appreciate you enough. But, she feels the way she feels, and she acts the way she acts, and that's the person she is. You have to ask yourself if that is the person you want to marry, because chances are she is not going to change.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:58 AM on May 25, 2008

Do you do this with other big things in life? I've always resisted transitions, even when I have wanted them and planned for them for a long time. When I went to study abroad (out of country for the first time), I was ready to turn around and walk away rather than get on the plane -- even though I'd been looking forward to going for 2 years, and I loved it when I was there. Even with smaller things, as the time draws near to actually do something, I tend to resist, consciously or subconsciously. It's "Whose bright idea was this?" syndrome
If you do this, maybe it's not your relationship and getting engaged that's bothering you so much as dealing with a change generally.
posted by katemonster at 7:10 AM on May 25, 2008

When my (now) husband proposed, after the initial excitement of being newly engaged died down, I put that poor boy under a microscope. I picked fights about silly details about the wedding, and continued the argument if he quickly acquiesced with a "whatever you want is fine, dear" because that meant he didn't care. I was a major pain in the ass, but I think it was two-fold - a) do the little things that annoy me about him in the beginning have the potential to become those things that bother me for years to come, or will I still love him in spite of that? and b) I AM a major pain in the ass sometimes - can HE deal with that and still love me. And seven years later, we're still absolutely crazy about each other.

So basically, here's one data point for yes, it's normal to kinda test the boundaries of your compatibility as you're making the decision to spend the rest of your life together. And if there are any deal-breakers you haven't found yet, better you see them now than after the wedding.

And congratulations on your upcoming engagement!
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:14 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah. I picked the mother of all fights with my husband two weeks before the wedding. Pretty much everyone does this, because getting married is a scary thing to do. Hang in there and congratulations. (been married to him for 25 years, so I guess we were okay after all!)
posted by nax at 7:32 AM on May 25, 2008

Strongly seconding footnote. I find it insane that people still "pop the question" rather than reasonably and openly discuss such a major transition. (You're legally binding yourself to someone; that alone is nothing to sneeze at.) Why should the onus be on you and you alone? Ditch the tradition for tradition's sake, and open your mouth! :-)
posted by korpios at 9:20 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

When I pick fights with the people close to me, it's usually because reality does not match my expectations - which means that I haven't been communicating my expectations very well. Thirding footnote (and korpios) - you need to talk to your fianceƩ.

<armchair diagnosis>
It could be that you're already seeing her as your fianceƩ in your mind, and in her mind, she's still your girlfriend...
</armchair diagnosis>

posted by Arthur Dent at 9:53 AM on May 25, 2008

Perhaps you have some internal expectation that, now that you plan to marry this person, everything is going to be naught but sunshine and unicorns, and you pick fights over small things because they interfere with that image of perfection? The period surrounding the proposal does not carry some magical exemption from the numerous incidents of friction that occur between people every day.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:12 AM on May 25, 2008

It could just be that you're anxious. Not worried about marriage, but about the proposal itself. You've "been spending a fair amount of time and energy planning/shopping for it", so clearly you're hoping it'll be just right. And usually, 'just right' isn't quite possible. Something's going to go wrong.

If you have a narrow idea of what a marriage proposal should be like, it can cause you a lot of anxiety. And if you know that SHE has certain standards for the occasion, that'll make you even more nervous, even if you know exactly what those standards are. Unfortunately, a lot of guys don't even know about all the girlfriends' expectations about "getting engaged." Some women start daydreaming about it at the age of 5. How can a guy possibly do the right thing?

I disagree with the people who think you're bothered about the life transition. It's the pressure about asking and where to ask and how to ask and presenting the ring.... As soon as you start telling people you're engaged, the first question people will ask will be, "Have you set a date," and the next will be, "How did he propose?"

How to lessen that anxiety depends on what you're like and what she's like. Loosen up and expect things to go awry; change your plans to something equally memorable but easier to pull off; get help from her friend or sister; decide to do the exact opposite of what your girlfriend thinks she wants... There's a way to make it better, but only you can figure out what it might be.
posted by wryly at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2008

Honey, you're nervous. You're doing all this work so that you can give her the chance to say "yes, I will marry you," or "no, I won't marry you." That you've presumably already generally agreed that the relationship is for keeps doesn't mean that it's not nerve-wracking to put yourself on the line like that.
posted by desuetude at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2008

I also think there's a part of me that feels like she "owes" me for what I'm doing (despite her not knowing about it) and is quick to find ways that she's not "pulling her weight."

A friend of mine told me that, in their relationship, they try "outserving each other" instead of keeping track to make sure that everything is 50/50 in terms of stuff they do for each other. They seriously will both jump up after dinner to wash the pots and pans instead of complaining about who did it last time. I was so surprised at how much this concept affected my relationship so positively. And, I was worried that "outserving" would turn into "doing all of the work", but the change in attitude spread to both of us and we really do take care of each other pretty well now.

Fighting about things doesn't test anything, and I totally agree that you're probably just nervous about everything. Just remember all of the great things you like about her, times she's made you laugh and the times that she's really been there for you. That's the real test.
posted by belau at 1:32 PM on May 25, 2008 [8 favorites]

One of the nicest guys I ever knew got plain mean towards his girlfriend as their wedding approached. She was the only girl he'd ever loved, and vice versa, and my husband and I just assumed he was coming to terms with the idea of only one ever. Anyway, we don't and can't know, and they did get married, and they are very happy, must be a good five years in, with a little girl.

I think recognising your behaviour is a really good sign. Continue to be this honest with yourself, and let her know, "hey, I don't know why I'm being cranky, being an arsehole to you, I know I'm doing it and I want to stop", so that she doesn't think it's anything to do with her. Do bring up the things that need discussing, but not during a fight about something else. "Honey, it would mean a lot to me if you'd do your dishes before we went to work" or whatever.

Back a long long time ago, I was worried that I was marrying the wrong guy - and that anxiety led to stress that made me a little difficult to live with. Luckily it turned out good - We celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary in August.
posted by b33j at 2:21 PM on May 25, 2008

maybe you're stressed out that being married will somehow raise the expectations of the relationship. my idea of marriage (and i am not married, btw) is that you marry to CONFIRM your relationship, not to advance it. so chill out.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:56 PM on May 25, 2008

Both of your reasonings for this behavior seem stupid... Rather than chew on the "why" of it, why not just get a grip on yourself and be nicer to your girlfriend.
posted by nanojath at 11:12 PM on May 25, 2008

This is within the realm of "normal"--And you suspected as much. You're stressed. You're busy making this Grand Design, largely to please her. Hey, guess what! Even after you're married, there will be times when the same thing happens: You're planning a surprise for her, and you get wound up and cranky over it! We humans can be really silly.
posted by Goofyy at 8:14 AM on May 26, 2008

This may be a small voice of caution from your Id influenced Ego, saying "Pre-nup!"

If more swains split whatever they were going to spend on diamond rings, instead, evenly, on smaller diamonds, and basic pre-nuptial agreements, marriage would be a far more sensible endeavor. If the level of discord you feel now has you worried, imagine what married life's real and endless accomodations are likely to provoke. Having a written relationship disaster plan in those moments can still panic, promote conciliation, and ensure civility, if the doubts you may now be feeling loom larger and darker after the honeymoon.

Of course, it's not conventionally romantic. But, if you're still in shopping mode, do put in a call to a family attorney in your area, and see what they might advise regarding a pre-nup. Even Modern Bride is offering advice on the topic.
posted by paulsc at 1:17 PM on May 26, 2008

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