Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How the Octopi Got Engaged: A Cautionary Tale

Phew. Okay. I've been on the fence about writing this very long post for a loooooong time, but I'm feeling brave, so I'm going for it. This is the story of how Mr. Octopus and I got engaged, and I'm telling you straight off the bat: it will not make you tear up with its sweetness. You might judge me for it. It's not a happy one. But I want to share it, so here it goes.

In the summer of 2008, I had fully realized that I was ready to marry Mr. O. We had been together for six years, we'd been living together for two of those, and we were more in love than ever. Our lives were totally intertwined, and I knew that he was my one and only, my family, the center of my life. I hesitantly broached the subject of marriage with him, and found that we were not quite on the same page. Did he love me? Yes. Did he want to spend the rest of his life with me? Yes. Did he ever want to be with anyone else? No. But marriage? Not ready for that yet. I think that this is not uncommon for men, and I could accept the fact that he needed some time to process the idea of such a huge commitment. I stayed quiet about it, and gave him his space.

By December, Mr. O had indeed processed it. He let me know that he now felt ready to get married, to commit to being my husband, and for me to be his wife, and to start actively thinking about a wedding. YAY!, I thought. We talked about engagement and engagement rings, and we talked about our wedding. In my heart, I felt engaged. We both knew we were getting married, and we were excited about it, and we were actively planning on it. We started talking about things like a year, a season, a location, guests, ideas and hopes and dreams for our wedding. I was thrilled to death, and so excited to marry the man I loved.

But I didn't have a ring on my finger, and I found that an engagement ring is a much bigger social symbol than I had previously thought. I discovered this because when I brought up the idea of our wedding to various friends and family members--even people who knew us, knew how in love we were, knew that we were serious and this was real--they looked at me like I absolutely had three heads for discussing a wedding without a ring. I felt that the proposal and accompanying ring were essentially a gesture and a formality, a "kickoff" to a process that was really already happening. Apparently, not everyone does. I was getting the message, over and over, that there was an enormous, uncrossable gulf between Not Engaged and Engaged, and Engaged was completely off-limits until I had that ring on my hand. I felt like I had to pretend that absolutely none of this was happening, and that Mr. O and I hadn't already mutually agreed to start down an exciting and serious new path together. I felt incredibly excited to be marrying the love of my life, and I felt incredibly hurt when my (our!) excitement about our decision was met with a gigantic collective eye-roll, because we were Not Engaged.

And that's where the crazy starts. Here's what you have to know about the two of us: I feel most comfortable when I've got a clear sense of where I'm going, so to speak. Not having a plan or agenda (both daily and in the overall life sense) gets me very rattled. I do not do well with suspense, waiting, or letting the chips fall where they may. My fiance is my total opposite in this regard. He believes much more strongly than I do in fate, in things happening when they're meant to happen, and is very content to just float along wherever life's currents lead him. I'm a go-getter, while he tends to be a fairly enormous procrastinator. Generally, this difference is good for each of us. We balance each other out. In this situation? The one where he was the sole decider, planner, and executor of purchasing a ring and planning a proposal, and where I was supposed to be idly waiting for whenever he decided to spring it on me? It was the recipe for a perfect storm.

So we started talking about marriage in earnest in December, and I started receiving You Don't Have a Ring Ergo You Are a Crazy Obsessive Overeager Bridezilla Face right around that time too. The mature, sensible response to this would be to say, "screw what everybody else thinks. We both know we're getting married, and he can choose a ring and propose to me when he feels ready." This is not how I reacted. Instead, I lost my ever-loving mind. It was really hurting my feelings to know that some of my loved ones were laughing us off, and I felt that the only way to get people to take us seriously was to get Officially Engaged, and time was ticking on and on and on without being Officially Engaged, and I just......lost it.

Now, I might be type-A and detail-oriented and organization-happy, but I am not high-strung, and neither is he. Neither of us are intense or highly emotional people; in fact, we're both quite easy-going and mellow. Our relationship is very low on drama. So when I tell you that as the months rolled by without an engagement, there were tears? Badgering? Oh my God, am I mortified to tell you this, but actual bouts of actual yelling and shouting? You know it was bad. BAD. He begged me to be patient, but my patience was just gone. In my worst moments, I wondered if he was, for some reason, torturing me on purpose. I mean, in my defense, I had been fully 100% on board and waiting for marriage for nearly a year at that point, but for God's sake. Would you want to propose to someone who cried, and hassled, and (cringe, again) yelled at you about it? Would anyone?

Now, obviously, the last thing on this Earth Mr. Octopus would ever do is deliberately torment me. You know what he was actually doing in those months that passed by? Procrastinating a little, yes, but mostly trying (and succeeding) to pick out the perfect ring that I would absolutely love and be thrilled to wear forever. Thinking of different options for proposals that would make me happy, make for a cute story, and allow him to be creative and do it on his own terms. But I could not see it that way. It was this big giant secret that he couldn't discuss with me, and in the total absence of a plan (that I knew about), I drove myself nuts inside my own head.

Ultimately, he proposed to me in May 2009, simply, at home, before we went to work in the morning. It was not the proposal he had hoped to give me, but it's what he felt he had to do, because as I hope I've made clear by this point, I was becoming a total banshee. I had all but backed him into a corner. Now, I do not worry at all that I pressured him into marrying me. We really, really, really love each other in an extremely true-love way, and I am fully confident that he is and always has been as excited to marry me as I am to marry him. But did I pressure him into proposing to me? Yes. Yes I did. And I could not feel any more horrible about it.

Hive, I regret virtually everything about how Mr. Octo and I got engaged. In fact, I think it's one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made, and it's one of the biggest regrets I have. I am mortified by the way I acted. It was utterly, utterly uncharacteristic of me, and I still can't fully explain why or how I let myself lose it so completely in the time that I was waiting for him to propose. In the days that followed our becoming Officially Engaged, I felt like a cloud cleared out of my brain, and I was totally overwhelmed with guilt and embarrassment about how I'd been behaving. I cried my eyes out to Mr. Octo, apologized relentlessly, asked him to forgive me for how I'd treated him. I feel so horrible about it that, a year-and-change later, I still don't like to talk about it, and if it comes up, I still feel compelled to apologize for the whole situation. (He has always forgiven me, obviously, because he's amazing.)

I'm not sharing this with you just because I'm a masochist and I like letting the entire Internet see me at my absolute worst. I'm sharing it because I know there are a lot of waiting girls in the Weddingbee community, and I really hope that maybe this will help you avoid feeling how I feel now. Believe me, I feel you. I read your board posts and I fully know how you feel. Being completely in the dark and totally out of control of something you really want to happen for months at a time is awful. Awful. I FEEL you on it. Have faith in your fiance, though. Just trust that it will happen. Because believe me, the worst-case scenario is thinking back on your waiting days and the day he finally proposed and feeling, instead of joy and romance and pride, guilty and ashamed of yourself. WORST-case scenario. Seriously.

I am really hoping someone out there relates to this. Anybody? Anybody? Also, if you are reading this and thinking, "Wow, Miss Octopus had a hidden layer of psycho this whole time and I never even knew it," then I understand. I somewhat feel that way myself. But, can you be at least somewhat gentle in your comments? As you can tell, it's a sore subject.

1 comment:

  1. I realize that this post is from so long ago, but as my boyfriend and I are talking and planning for a Pittsburgh wedding sometime next year, I found your blog and got hooked. Let me say, that I completely understand this post. He's been talking about getting married for what feels like years now! He too is a procrastinator, and I, too, am type A, I feel so out of control! It used to provoke alot of fights between us whenever he would mention weddings or marriage because I felt he was starting to be flippant. Things have calmed down a bit recently but each day that goes by without a proposal brings about a teensy bit of disappointment. I feel like people think I'm being delusional when I talk about wedding planning without a ring. And then there's my mom! Thank you for your post, I have to keep reminding myself that I trust the love of my life.