Post # 1
Hi Hive! My Boyfriend or Best Friend has been bringing up engagement quite a bit recently, which is really exciting. Only– I’m a little anxious about the fact that he wants to wait until AFTER he finishes his PhD to propose. He should be finishing within the next 5 months or so, and he says he wants a really, really short engagement. He has said that once we are engaged he will just want to focus on that and not let anything slow us down, and that he doesn’t want to propose until after his PhD is finished because the PhD is really taking up all his attention and stressing him out at the moment. He is definitely a one thing at a time guy, so I can understand his thinking even though I don’t think that way. RIght now, I’m just focused on my own work and being understanding & supportive of him. BUT — my concern is that he is going to give me very little time to plan what will be an international wedding (even with a small wedding, my parents and siblings will need at least a few months notice to buy a decently-priced ticket).
The other aspect of this is that it puts me in the position of potentially graduating from my program before he proposes. He has asked me to please find a job in London, but the thought of having to find a job in London without being engaged somehow rubs me the wrong way. I like the idea of working in London, and I think I would do it for myself even if he weren’t in the picture, but for some reason, it makes me *feel* somewhat like I’m having to make plans around him and I almost feel (just being honest with my thoughts here) like it is more honorable for him to pop the question *before* I should agree to get all settled with a job and apartment in his city. I have told him that coming to school here is one thing, but I’m not happy with the idea of taking things so far as to plan to be here for years without a formal commitment. (An intention to propose — even if it’s a strong one! — is not the same as an actual proposal.) We only communicated about this one time, so I haven’t nagged him about it. He understands how I feel about the job, but it seems like he is just afraid that there will be overlap between my graduation and his completion of the PhD and he really wants me to get set up with a job so that he can finish and then propose.
I know he wants me to communicate openly about everything in our relationship — but this is such a delicate subject! We have been together for 2 years (a few months in person, followed by about a year long distance and now about 9 months in the same city). He was the first one to bring up marriage only a short while into our relationship, but then I told him I just wanted to take one day at a time and that I wasn’t sure about him yet. Fast forward to one year into the relationship, and I started to bring it up and even got a bit pushy for a while. I’ve moved beyond that and have simply sat back and just enjoyed the relationship and focused on aspects of my life that I enjoy. But those past conversations have made me afraid of coming across like I’m trying to control things or push things along if I suggest (for example) that we get engaged before the PhD is finished and then set a date later.
I know that many of you have been / are going through this, so I’m interested in your thoughts! I totally want the proposal to be 100% from him and not from pressure from myself . . . but at the same time, I feel uneasy about tying myself down to a job here because even if I like London, a BIG element in my being here has to do with HIM and if I’m honest with myself I would be getting the job because I’m baking on us getting married.
It helps so much to write all of this out! Thanks a bunch to anyone who has thoughts and anyone who’s read this!
Post # 3
@LondonAmericana: My opinion is you should never convince your SO. Though it may drive you nuts, though you might think you have a good reason to, and timing issue might be relivant, I never think its a good idea to bring forth an ‘argument’ (mean that in a discussion sense) for getting engaged due to circumstances or feelings of I prefer it now. It should happen when things align for SO emotionally. As you guys have been discussing it, its on SO mind, so let it be. Trust me when I say you’d prefer for it to happen on their terms, vs being pushed. Your robbing yourself of those feelings of surprise, and excitment that they are ready, on their own, not just because you asked enough. Make sense?
Post # 4
@HardyPooleParty: i disagree that she shouldn’t say anything; while it’s a bad idea to “convince” someone to propose, i don’t think that’s what op’s described. it sounds like they’re on the same page and he’s the one pushing this timing anyway, but there are very real concerns about his timeline (family getting flights at a reasonable price, her getting a job, etc) and in a healthy relationship, discussing those issues shouldn’t rock that boat very hard. this is a partnership–you should be able to comfortably express your concerns and needs without the guy freaking out.
i’ll give you my example. in august 2009 my husband and i had been talking about getting engaged for awhile in a hypothetical sense. i was about to start applying for grad school, and he was definitely going to be moving with me whereever i got in. i was getting anxious because we didn’t know where we’d be moving (i was applying allll over the place) and i didn’t want to be planning a wedding in a new city while trying to also do well my first year of a phd program. very real, logistical concerns. so hubby and i had a calm conversation where i said something like, “hey, i don’t want to pressure you, but if we want to get married in this city, where we’ve fallen in love and have friends and family, we need to get engaged soon so we can make that happen.” he hadn’t been thinking about the timing at all, and so even though his initial reaction was “ahhh this is pressure,” he calmed down pretty quick. he designed a ring in september, proposed in october, and then we were married the in august 2010, a month before i started grad school. did i “push” him or have to convince him? absolutely not–he was already going to propose, he just hadn’t thought of the logistics at all because he had no idea what goes in to planning an actual wedding. we have a great relationship with lots of healthy communication.
so bottom line–you speaking up about legitimate logistical concerns is totally okay. being in the waiting stage can be you feel like you’ve given up total control over your relationship, and i for one hated that. i think getting engaged should be much more of a conversation–he can still surprise you (my hubs completely caught me off guard even though i knew it was coming!), but speaking up about things like this is completely okay
Post # 5
My bf is very similar to yours – he’s very single minded. He even got his PhD (though not while dating me) so I’ve heard a bit about that time. I appreciate wanting to focus on his defense, it’s an important time. And it takes time to find/buy the right ring (even if you pick it out for him) not to mention plan a wedding. Obviously, I also see your side – by delaying, it not just pushes all of the stress into a shorter time frame, but it becomes more elevated because time is running out.
How about a little compromise? Ask him if he’d be willing to propose prior to the PhD so that you can tell your family so they can book flights. You can then research venues/put down deposits. But the ring can come after. You in turn need to keep fairly mum on planning and not distracting him. So 12 visits to find a venue is out, but perhaps take him to see 2-3 and that’s it for wedding planning involvement from him. (You can get a guest list from his mom and guess on his friends until he resurfaces.)
Post # 6
@finnaroo:thanks so much for sharing your story — it’s really encouraging and I can totally relate to this. My guy has only been to one wedding in his life! I have been to so many I have lost count. Like your husband, he really doesn’t have an idea of what goes into planning a wedding and I honestly think he is so caught up in PhD details right now that he is thinking only in broad and general terms and just imagines it all coming together somehow. I am going to wait for a good time when he brings it up again and mention some of these logistical concerns to him.
Post # 7
@HardyPooleParty: Thank you for sharing — and yes, I totally agree that pushing is not what I want. I think that I will have to be careful to make sure I bring up any logistical points organically and without anxiety. I do agree with you about not telling him *when* to do it — I really don’t want to do that and ruin any surprise or his ambition in the matter. But I think what I might do is just mention that my parents will like time to buy tickets, etc.
Post # 8
I actaully think it is wrong and damaging to feel like you have to give your SO 100% control over when and how you get engages/married. You should have some input, there are two people here! Open and honest communication is really important IMO, and I think you should talk to him about the logistics.
Post # 9
@EleanorRigby:you are right. I am a pretty confident communicator in lots of areas. It’s not naturally my strength to bring up potential conflict or contrary desires in a relationship due to a suppressive family environment . . . but I have really appreciated the fact that my SO wants me to challenge him, bring stuff up, contradict him, give opinions, etc. He’s actually really worked on this with me throughout our relationship — and I’ve seen that I can be a bit passive aggressive or suppress things.
I guess the thing that makes it so difficult for me to bring *this* up is the fact that it’s about engagement and I did pressure him about it many months ago. I dropped it and things have gone well since then, but that experience made me more hesitant to bring this stuff up again.
Giving input or pointing out logistical concerns to a guy who already wants to get engaged, though, is totally different. And I think that that’s the distinguishing factor that writing this post and communicating with you ladies has actually helped to draw out for me. So I am going to have to bring these things up to him, and I will. =]
@kay01:Thank you, Kay! Sounds like your guy has a similar personality to mine, so I’m sure you have some insight into how this type approaches things 😉 . I am going to have to bring things up to him. I think another factor that makes it difficult for me is that I was raised in the South. Yes, I’m educated and ambitious . . . but there’s all this cultural decorum baggage about how women can’t bring up marriage, etc., that I”m carrying around with me! A lot of it I didn’t even realize . . . until I left the south and went to college in the northeast.
Post # 10
As someone who has been through both the phd phase and is currently going through the waiting phase, I can honestly say the the phd phase is way way worse and more stressful. I personally wouldn’t bring it up. He will really appreciate it if you let him focus on the last few months working on his dissertation and let him focus on proposing after he defends.
Post # 11
I worried about moving to Montana before getting engaged, too. I flat out told my husband that I had been waiting to change my address until he proposed. He told me I had nothing to worry about. I chose to believe him. We got engaged soon after.
So I’d say, know where you stand, but don’t fret over nothing. Trust your guy. If you are talking marriage, I doubt he’ll just change course.
Post # 12
@nhoh: Thank you! Sometimes it hits me just how little I really understand about how much stress he is under! Especially since he has a supervisor who is very unresponsive and causes him endless frustration by giving very little feedback!
@jedeve: I appreciate hearing this. Sometimes I think it’s difficult to know where to draw the line on things like moving or choosing a job to be close to an SO . . . and at some point we just do have to trust.
One of the things I was afraid of was that I would seem like the “pursuer” in the relationship by relocating to be with him. That’s because when I was in the process of making the decision to come, a number of people told me that the guy should be the one who takes a risk like moving for the relationship. It made me feel kinda bad about myself at certain times and actually caused some stress between us before I came (mostly because when I showed that I was conflicted about moving, it caused him to worry that I wouldn’t move — and we both knew he *couldn’t move* for the next 3+ years due to completing the phd and subsequent work obligations as he is effectively still employed by the company he worked for prior to starting the phd). But he and I actually talked that through, and he just saw it as the next natural step in the relationship and was just grateful that I wanted to prioritize “us”. It didn’t kill his desire to move things forward with me or make him feel like I was after him. So all of those fears that other people tried to instill in me were well-meaning, but not necessary or even relevant in the end.
Anyway, when it comes to getting a job here, my fear has been that it just wouldn’t be appropriate to “put the cart before the horse” and start living as though I’m totally building my life around my boyfriend before he proposes. I’m also afraid of how it looks to other people. Which is stupid, because at the end of the day, who cares. I probably won’t even see some of them again — people fade in and out when you move as much as I have in the last 5 years! And the people who really matter take the time to understand things. So, like you say, if he’s already been talking marraige, etc., it wouldn’t make sense for him to suddenly change course and I can make this next step with confidence.
Post # 13
Yes! The PhD process is more frustrating than waiting (and usually takes a lot longer!) As someone who is currently in your SO’s position (months away from the PhD), and recently got married, I encourage you to be patient for a little bit longer. These last few months are incredibly stressful. You want to savor that time right after the engagement, and if he’s consumed by school, he won’t enjoy this time too much. In fact, to him it may seem more like an inopportune distraction instead of a wonderful life event. If he’s thought of this, he knows that’s not fair to you. Try seeing it through his eyes (he’s ‘waiting’ too for that PhD!) and know that soon, you both won’t be waiting anymore.
Post # 14
I agree with PP about not pressuring him to propose/trying to plan a wedding during these last very busy months of his program.
However, I think you should tell him that you want to have a serious conversation with him in the next few weeks. Let him know it’s not anything bad or anything he should be stressed out about, but that you will need 30 mins to an hour of his time, at his convenience. Then just raise your concerns about having the very short engagement he wants. Explain that you’re completely fine with waiting to be engaged, and you understand he needs to focus on his work right now. But give him a sense of the logistics involved in planning the kind of wedding you two might want. Explain that venues, photographers, caterers, etc. often need to be booked six months to a year in advance; that your dress will need to be shopped for, ordered, and altered, all of which takes time; and that your family and friends will need plenty of advance notice so they can find reasonable airfare. Then remind him that you two want to spend the rest of your lives together, and prolonging your engagement by four months (or whatever) is really not a big deal in the long term. Tell him you want him to reconsider his plan for a “really, really short engagement”.
In terms of the graduation/finding a job in London issue: I do feel for you and understand why this might make you anxious/uncomfortable. However, honestly, I think you need to get over it. You’re both very much on the same page in terms of your dedication to building a life together; finding a job in the city where you currently reside while you wait–presumably for a few months at most–for him to propose is frankly a minor concession to make compared to lots of decisions that will come up after you are married. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it does sound like you are being kind of silly about this.
Post # 15
@Owlet: Thank you for this perspective, Owlet! It really does help to open my eyes to what he is going through right now. It’s pretty much impossible for me to truly understand his pressure, even though I know he is really under the gun. I definitely can see it in his face and know that he is truly burned out with this — he chose a very difficult topic because he wanted the challenge . . . . and now he’s tired of that challenge! He keeps telling me he can’t wait for this PhD to be over so life can start!! He is definitely in a “waiting” period himself, and feels like everyone else’s life is going on while his is frozen in PhD world. I think that, being the emotional woman that I am, there were times a few months ago when I took his waiting for the PhD personally, and thankfully I’ve gained some perspective and rationality since then. Thanks for sharing your experience.
@S.H.: Yes, thanks for this reality check. 😉 You’re right. The job thing freaked me out only a little bit . . . but really it is common sense (and usually easiest) to get a job in the city where a person is living, and it’s a great experience, too, regardless of whether a guy was involved or not.