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How to get ahead of proposal anxiety

The holidays are here, and so is the season for marriage proposals.

By: New York Times | Published: December 23, 2019 10:17:22 am
Holidays And Special Occasions Millennial Generation St Martin's Press Paris (France) Fashion And Apparel Greece Lifestyle Thanksgiving Day Puerto Rico Anxiety And Stress Homosexuality Psychology And Psychologists Europe Miami (Fla) Canada Phoenix (Ariz) Same Sex Marriage, Civil Unions And Domestic Partnerships Emotions Art Women And Girls Dating And Relationships Jewels And Jewelry With a little planning, the angst over waiting for a proposal can be replaced with excitement. (Photo: Thinkstock Images)

Written by Charreah K. Jackson

The holidays are here, and so is the season for marriage proposals.

The peak time for many couples to become engaged is typically from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day. Of the 10 most popular days to propose, six take place during the holidays, with Christmas Day the most favoured of all, according to WeddingWire.

Holiday engagements, though, can often bring added stress to an already stressful time of year.

Lily Rodriguez-Soto, a lawyer in Miami, still remembers the anticipation of waiting for a proposal from her then-boyfriend, Miguel Suro, also a lawyer. After a few years together, the two had built a life with each other. Both confirmed their desire to marry, yet Rodriguez-Soto wondered when a marriage proposal would come. (It eventually happened around Thanksgiving.)

“Trips to Barcelona, Greece and San Francisco came and went with no proposal,” Rodriguez-Soto said. “We took a romantic sunset cruise in Santorini and I wore the perfect white outfit — still no proposal.” After a few more months of no engagement, she let her feelings be known. “I was frustrated enough that I started hinting about a proposal,” she said. “We would go to other people’s weddings, and I would say things like, ‘I wonder if there will ever come a time for us.’”

The Proposal Pregame

With a little planning, the angst over waiting for a proposal can be replaced with excitement. “If you are feeling overanxious, it’s probably because you haven’t had enough conversations with your partner,” said Marla Mattenson, a Los Angeles relationship coach. “The old days of not discussing your desires are over. We are in the time of collaboration, and you can talk about what you want.”

The modern rollout of a marriage engagement often entails:

— A couple discusses a mutual desire to marry.

— A ring or other signifier of the agreement is acquired. (The average cost of an engagement ring is now $5,900, according to The Knot.)

— Loved ones of the person being proposed to are consulted for their blessing.

— The proposer pops the question.

— The proposal is accepted and the couple share the good news publicly.

Suro’s delay in proposing to Rodriguez-Soto had little to do with his desire to move their relationship forward and more to do with ordering the ring. “I knew I wanted to propose a year before I did,” he said. “Years before I met Lily, I told a co-worker, ‘When I propose, I will have a ring from Tiffany’s.’”

Rodriguez-Soto and Suro, both 36, were living in Puerto Rico at the time, and only two jewellers were licensed to sell from the jeweller. The ring was more expensive than Suro had anticipated and took three months to arrive. “Of course Lily is asking and I didn’t tell her the ring was on order,” he said.

Finally, the day before Thanksgiving in 2013, Rodriguez-Soto came home from work to find a Christmas tree. Suro reached for a little blue box hiding underneath and asked her to marry him. “It was a beautiful moment for us,” Rodriguez-Soto said. “And I got to show off the ring at Thanksgiving dinner.” The couple married a year later, the day after Christmas. This year they are celebrating with their daughter, Claudia, born last December.

Stephanie Ferrer, 31, a public relations director based in Phoenix, still remembers the words her husband, Jesse Tripp, 38, said while asking her to be his wife at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. “He said: ‘I couldn’t live without you.’ That’s when tears started to go down my eyes,” she said. “I will always remember that moment.”

The couple had been dating for five years and discussed marriage. They went ring shopping in the summer of 2017 and Tripp, an operations manager, returned to the store the next day to get the ring she loved and hid it in their kitchen. Because the couple had friends getting married in December, and both were in the wedding party, Tripp held off on a proposal to avoid stealing their moment. When they planned a trip for Ferrer’s 30th birthday last year, her anticipation picked up. “I had this intuitive feeling it was coming but I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case he didn’t propose then,” she said. “I’ve heard horror stories of women expecting proposals. I wanted to keep it stress free and not get false hope.”

After the surprise proposal in January in San Francisco, the couple was joined by Ferrer’s brother and sister, who were also on the trip. They Facetimed her parents to share the news. “She’s usually the planner,” he said. “I was happy to create this moment for us. I was so nervous to get down on one knee and propose. When she said yes, I was near tears.”

The couple were married in Maui this past June.

Holidays And Special Occasions Millennial Generation St Martin's Press Paris (France) Fashion And Apparel Greece Lifestyle Thanksgiving Day Puerto Rico Anxiety And Stress Homosexuality Psychology And Psychologists Europe Miami (Fla) Canada Phoenix (Ariz) Same Sex Marriage, Civil Unions And Domestic Partnerships Emotions Art Women And Girls Dating And Relationships Jewels And Jewelry Holiday engagements, though, can often bring added stress to an already stressful time of year. (Sage Youngblood/The New York Times)

The Perfect Proposal

While many proposals signify a couple’s growth, others may highlight areas that need improvement.

Mattenson recalled a client who surprised his partner with an intimate proposal at home, with rose petals and a hot bath. “In this instance, the woman was happy he proposed and really disappointed with how he proposed,” she said. “She wanted a big public engagement.”

This proposal seemed to illustrate why the couple had first come to coaching: The woman didn’t feel heard by her partner. He had assumed since she was private in her career as a fertility specialist, Mattenson said, that she wanted a private proposal, which wasn’t the case.

If an engagement is disappointing, or any part of the relationship is, Mattenson suggests a redo. Each partner agrees to reset an experience, which she illustrates in her guide, “The Relationship REDO.”

“We encouraged them do a redo, and he got to do a full proposal all over again,” Mattenson said. “She took responsibility for her disappointment and not communicating her expectations. He got to take responsibility for connecting and making his wife-to-be feel heard.”

The best proposals reflect a relationship, Mattenson said. “Don’t feel pressured to go for this huge engagement if that’s not how you are living. Stay true to your values.”

After the proposal is made and the good news is shared, couples should compose a vision statement for their marriage, said Ray Hippolyte, a life and relationship coach specializing in same-sex relationships who is based in Saugatuck, Michigan. “Agreeing to marry is to create something bigger than the both of you,” he said. “Relationships are designed to help us grow and evolve. We pick partners who help us become whole within ourselves.”

Taking the Lead

Gay couples have led the way in creating their own rules and traditions when it comes to proposals and marriage.

Hippolyte said they don’t fit the mould, and “that allows us to lead the way in showing the power of presenting our individuality and making our own experiences and vows.”

The days of men being the only proposer in heterosexual relationships are also declining.

Angelina Lombardo, 49, the author of “The Spiritual Entrepreneur: Quantum Leap into Your Next Level of Impact and Abundance,” which was recently published, is excited to propose to her partner of two years, Brian Perry, 53. Both divorced parents, the couple have built a life together with her daughter and his two children, including joining their bank accounts as they prepare to move to Europe. After she was proposed to five times in previous relationships and married, it was at the encouragement of Lombardo’s only child, her daughter Shamana Seeger, 23, that she plans to propose this time.

“I’m coming from the opposite of the culture that says give a woman a ring to make her feel secure,” she said. “I love him and know how he would like to be honoured. He’ll be very surprised and he could say no. It wouldn’t mean we are ending the relationship. I have 100% trust in myself.”

This shift in proposals may mean more romance showered on men. According to a study by WalletJoy, nearly 1 in 5 millennial women said they would be willing to propose to a partner.

“I proposed to my husband,” Cristina Lucia Stasia, a feminist studies professor, said in an interview from the book “Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman’s Playbook for Love and Success” (St. Martin’s Press, 2018). “I think it’s ridiculous that we assume men will ask women to marry them. I was happy in my life and waited for the guy who’d be patient enough to let me propose to him when I was ready.”

In 2010, Stasia rented a room at an art gallery in Alberta, Canada, and proposed with a ring to her now-husband, Michael Bowman. Two weeks later, he took her on a trip to Paris and presented her with an engagement ring. “We both have these moments where we prepared something really special and honoured each other with the proposal,” Stasia said. “We both wore rings because I love him just as much as he loves me. Men are jealous of him all the time. When they find out that I proposed to him, they say, ‘I wish someone would do that for me.’ We assume men don’t want romance, care, attention or validation. But of course they do. They’re people, too.”

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