If your heart is bigger than your wallet, fear not. You don't need to produce an enormous diamond to prove your love. All you need is some kind of gesture that suggests you're serious about a future together.
1. Give her six carrots. Tell her you are working hard and one day you will be able to give her at least half that many carats on her finger instead of a handful of vegetables.
2. Get your hands on a 3D printer and print out a copy of your heart. Can you imagine her surprise when you hand her a bloody beating human organ instead of a ring? I'm surprised more people don't use this trick. The heart is what she's after, is it not?
3. Buy a ring box and wrap a beautiful silk bow around it. Get down on one knee and give her the box. When she opens it, and sees that it's empty, scream "Oh my God!! I've been robbed!!"
4. Propose by handing her a baby. When she asks why you gave her a baby instead of a ring, tell her you thought that's what she meant when she said, "I want to share a life with you."
5. Tell her you are going to get her a ring in the future, but right now you are working on an investment strategy because you weren't born rich and you'd like to start planning a life with her instead of blowing everything you have on a carbon derived circular object that is more likely to slip down the drain than provide you with the foundation for a long lasting relationship.
If you think number five will get you arrested, you might want to rethink the person with whom you've chosen to share the rest of your life. Of course it's normal to want a colossal ring as an expression of love. It's romantic. It's also normal and romantic to buy houses, cars and clothes one can't afford, because that's what "being marriage material" has come to mean. It's about pretending. The big diamond is the romantic equivalent of fake boobs.
The whole point of the killer diamond is its attempt to prove something that's false. Its sole purpose is to fool people into thinking it was affordable. Nobody wants a diamond ring that's affordable. An affordable diamond is an insult. It's 2015, and men still need the shiny equivalent of a cow to get a life partner. Men are conditioned to impress the opposite sex with their ability to over provide, but at what cost to the future of the union?
Life is long.
You can avoid turning your marriage into a financial fiasco simply by planning your finances carefully, as a team, and being fair to one another from the very beginning. Starting off a partnership forced into debt for the privilege of being allowed in is a raw deal. A solid prenuptial agreement should be a written promise that you have each other's back instead of a contract that ensures you get each other's stuff if it doesn't work out.
Instead of throwing your money away to prove you're worthy of affection, propose with a list of adventures that will take a lifetime to accomplish and an investment plan that will enable you to actually make them happen. If she's marriage material she'll realize there's more to love than carrying around a piece of what is essentially polished dirt on a finger.
It's your choice, but I think the right person would prefer the promise of long-term financial security over a stolen baby. And you shouldn't have to rip your heart out of a printer for love.
Stephanie Lessing is an advice columnist and the author of "She's Got Issues," and "Miss Understanding."