When you first get engaged, there are two questions that will come up again and again. The first one is, “Have you set a date?” (“No, Aunt Karen, we got engaged three hours ago, we have NOT set a date yet.”)
The second: “Was it a surprise?”
And, sure, it was probably kind of a surprise. You may not have realized that your partner was planning on getting down on one knee at exactly that moment — so that was a surprise, right? But in this day and age, a proposal and engagement shouldn’t be a decision made only by the one doing the proposing — it should be a thoughtful and intentional discussion between both parties involved.
Back in the day, whether it was our parents, grandparents, or beyond, engagements often came following a short and formal courtship. It might have gone something like this: Partner A asks Partner B, who may still be living at home with their parents, if they will marry them. They answer yes or no. They plan a wedding. They move in together. They live happily-ish ever after.
That’s not how things are now (thankfully!). Women are (ideally) equal partners at home, at work, in life, and yes, in engagements. It’s not assumed that your future spouse is a breadwinning male — or that you have to get married! Your future, your goals, and your decisions are all your own.
And that’s exactly why proposals and engagements aren’t a one-way street — they’re something that should be discussed at length, and often before it happens.
A proposal is a commitment that you are entering into a legally binding agreement (well, a marriage license) together. It’s not all romance and butterflies and grand gestures like you see in the movies. It’s a decision that requires logistics and negotiations. It involves money, property, (maybe) kids, and goals. It means talking about the big picture dreams and the not-so-sexy “how are we going to make this happen?” It comes down to making sure you’re on the same page regarding values and lifestyle — and not getting caught up in the romantic notion that you’ll accept a proposal that comes as a total shock and lustful surprise.
Anytime you’re considering making a large commitment — a lifelong commitment in this case — you’re going to carefully consider your options, potential paths and outcomes, and form a plan. You could spend weeks weighing a career shift. Months are spent pouring over a move from one city to the next. Even a big vacation can take seasons of planning. And that’s exactly what you should do when discussing a potential engagement with a partner. This is someone who you could spend the rest of your life with, so this should be a decision that you’re intentionally discussing, planning, and revisiting with your partner long before a sparkly ring makes an appearance.
This is someone who you could spend the rest of your life with, so this should be a decision that you’re intentionally discussing, planning, and revisiting with your partner long before a sparkly ring makes an appearance.
Even the ring shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise! Should you decide to go the ring route, it’s a big purchase — and why should your partner be the one that determines what you’ll wear on your left hand every day? Similarly, it’s not a bad idea to be involved in what could be a large financial decision for you two as a couple. Of course, if you do love a true surprise, that’s awesome, but consider setting parameters around the investment that you’re both comfortable with.
Even though you know it’s coming and you’ve been an equal partner in the decision to get engaged, remember that it can still be a surprise when the proposal happens! For me, I expected to get engaged during a trip to Paris. My now-husband totally threw me off by proposing two days before we left. Was I expecting to get engaged on this low-key Saturday evening? Absolutely not! So yes, in the end, it was a (well-planned) surprise after all.