When it comes to getting engaged, there are some interesting cultural rituals men and women take part in that can feel a little, well, confusing.
For example, in so-called "traditional" heterosexual relationships, the guy usually takes the reigns as far as popping the question goes -- sometimes even keeping the fact that he's planning on proposing marriage a secret. Which, when you think about it, may seem a bit odd considering that getting married is a pretty big decision. Then, the gal likely has all sorts of ideas and desires when it comes to when she'd like to get engaged (not to mention how she wants her ring to look)... but she doesn't want to scare the guy away so she's supposed to sneakily drop hints about these things rather than come right out with her wants.
There's often a weird gray area secrecy and transparency with the whole thing. It's confusing as all get-out. As a result, many women resort to dropping hints about engagement.
I know this myself all too well: In what feels like a totally different lifetime (almost a decade ago, in fact!), I decided to make what Glamour magazine dubbed "engagement chicken" for my then-boyfriend. The magazine describes the dish as a "meal your wife would make" and the idea is that, after concocting which is really just a mediocre roasted lemon chicken, your man will propose in a matter of months. Hazzah!
I actually wrote in detail about this experience for HuffPost Weddings a few years ago, which you can read here, but here's the jist of the story: Given that this then-boyfriend is my ex, one can assume that this meal did not go as planned. In fact, after slaving away over a hot stove (erm, oven) for a couple hours, the meal ended up being a culinary disaster. After serving what was essentially a raw chicken, I broke down and revealed my ulterior motives. I was told that my engagement chicken was a non-issue because this boyfriend, and I quote, "wasn't planning to propose anyway."
Now that I am happily married, to another man, the fact that I tried to coerce my ex into proposing via poultry is ridiculous to me. Why on earth would I try to telepathically channel my desire for marriage with a roasted chicken?
Well, because it's way easier to drop hints--both on your ego and on your heart. If you don't come right out and say you're ready to take this major step in your relationship, there's no chance of those feelings being unrequited. So maybe it's not just cultural values that guide many of us into playing games, but our own self-preservation.
But then again, when you're not upfront, there's also no chance for reciprocation, either. So while it feels safer to pull the hint-hint, nudge-nudge act, it won't get you anywhere, in the end. Except frustrated, maybe. Which is why I advise that women be open and honest--and vulnerable--about your feelings when it comes to getting engaged. Yes, you might get hurt. However, if you're not honest, you will miss out on the chance to have your feelings honored and reciprocated. And that, my friends, is worth the risk.
Of course, it's easy for me to say this now, given that I am on the other side of engagement and in the secure married position I once longed for. But looking at the person I was with, my ex, and the person I am now with my husband, I'm grateful that my hint-drop failed. I learned that if I was unable to really be me with the person I love--yes, even needy, marriage-desiring, somewhat manic me--and express my needs, then that relationship wasn't the one. (When I was ready to get engaged to my now-husband, trust me, he knew.)
Talking about getting engaged may feel scary or awkward at first but when you're with the right person, it's a conversation worth having. No hints necessary.
Originally published on Robbins Brothers' blog.