Why We Need a Step-By-Step Guide From Proposal to Parenthood

We're Engaged, Now What?

Src: howheasked.com/ Amy and Jordan Photography

Last night, I found myself awake way past my bedtime looking at rings on the Internet instead of indulging in one my favorite pastimes, reading myself to sleep. I laughed at the amazing absurdity of it all, as I scrolled through webpage after webpage. It certainly wasn’t how I expected to be spending a late Monday night—or honestly any night in the near future. But then neither WP nor I was expecting our dinner out after he got home from work last to turn into an engagement celebration either. However, that’s exactly what it became.

The Surprising Proposal

One of the things I love most about WP is his desire to have a formal follow-up on any significant conversation we have. In the past, several men I dated avoided serious, emotional discussions like the plague. Thus, when I had something important to discuss or a confusion to clear up, I got used to zipping my lips to avoid discomfort, awkwardness and conflict. It wasn’t something of which I was proud. Not surprisingly, it did not contribute positive to relationships. With so many words and thoughts left not expressed, I was often left mentally gnawing over things until I got so frustrated that I exploded like a shaken soda can.

In this particularly case, I wasn’t sure I could trust my memory of where WP and I left things the previous night. We’d confirmed without doubt that we absolutely wanted to marry each other, but what exactly did that mean? Had that been a real proposal?

Fortunately, as soon as we sat at the table for dinner last night, WP commented on what a mind-blowing conversation we’d had the previous night. “I keep thinking, ‘Wow, did that really happen? Did we really say we are getting married?”

He expressed some disappointment over the lack of surprise involved in the mutual proposal. There was no elaborate, grand romantic gesture, no bended knee and no ring to present. We told each other everything, he said, so a proposal could never really be a complete surprise anyway.

I reassured him that there were plenty of things we could still carry on with an element of surprise, like picking out the engagement ring. I enthused how I receive grand romantic gestures from him regularly, more than anyone else I know. Just the other day, he expressed how he’s still trying grasp how amazing I am, in his eyes, and how he can be worthy of it all. He revels in my physical touch and waxes poetic during our long, stimulating conversations and in the middle of an achingly tender embrace. He openly expresses to others who are important in our lives just how precious I am to him.

All these gestures wrapped together mean more to me than being presented with a ring at the peak of Mt. Sinai.

So We’re Getting Married, Now What?

So We're Getting Engaged, Now What?“So what happens next? What do we do now?” WP asked me, as we shared our appetizers of lamb lollipops and homemade hummus with scrumptious bread.

I shrugged, laughing. “I have no idea what happens next,” I admitted. “I guess we start planning.”

We talked about the type of ceremony we might like to have, where and why. We talked about whether we wanted a ceremony with just the two of us followed by a party with everyone, or to have our closest family and friends there. We talked about the need for a ring—WP wants to pick it out a ring together. Once we have the ring, then we can officially announce the engagement to everyone. Then we can really plan a wedding. And deciding on the honeymoon will be the fun part.

Why We Need a Step-By-Step Guide From Proposal to Parenthood

While the whole process baffles us, we will take it one phase at a time. I was never a girl who planned her wedding down to the detail. I don’t have a collection of ideal bridal dresses, wedding locations or cake ideas. I don’t know who all will be in my wedding party if I have one. So last night, I decided to get on the ball and start a Pinterest board for engagement rings that speak to me.

In such unfamiliar territory, I feel like we need a step-by-step guide from proposal to parenthood. I am so grateful for the next best thing—a really close friend who loves planning weddings. After a brief counsel with her about rings, I’ve decided I will share the Pinterest link with WP and tell him to surprise me with the one he chooses. He can present it to me in a romantic fashion, and then we can publicly announce our official engagement.

And what after that? We’ll play it by ear.

What The Wedding Is Really All About

“Do you think I’ll be a good husband?” WP quietly asked me later that night in bed.

“I know you’ll be a great husband,” I said.

“I’ll do everything in my power to be the best husband I can be,” he said. He expressed his confidence in me as a great wife, and, if it comes to, mom. “I think we will be wonderful for each other.”

After last few years of loving each other, comforting one another, cherishing each other, and being there for each other—for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, I agree. I believe we will do more than just fine, until death us do part.

Honoring Your Unique Relationship When Preparing to Take The Plunge

Src: salainen.tumblr.com

Src: salainen.tumblr.com

‘Tis the season for love and marriage. Not only is it summer—the most popular time of year for weddings—but we’ve also reached that point in our lives where most of our friends have already gotten married and are having kids, or they are planning to. My ex, The Redhead, just got married after less than six months of publicly courting his now-bride on Facebook. An old friend I made traveling in my teens just posted pictures from her wedding to FB. One of my teachers from a recent yoga teacher training also got married yesterday. And sometime this week, friends on an island will enact the elaborate proposal Warrior Poet’s best friend has planned. The celebration of the commitment to love is infectious and has us considering the best way of honoring your unique relationship when preparing to take the plunge.

WP and I were settling in bed for the night and doing a last scroll through our respective FB feeds last night, when he called out, “Why are there so many engagements and weddings happening right now?”

“It’s just that time in life,” I replied, flipping over on my side.

It had been a night of deep conversations, covering political power, spirituality, technology and oneness. After a pregnant pause, I said, “You know I want to get married to you some day,” quietly into the dark, before quickly mumbling about how there was no rush or pressure. I knew he needed to get fully settled in his new job, and I needed to accomplish landmarks with my writing and health first. I took an anxious breath and allowed him to fill in the silence.

And so I bravely and more boldly opened the door to talking about the elephant in the room—or at least the one in my head. After three years of our love and bond growing stronger, deeper and even closer with each passing day, two years of blissfully living together, and the end of our 30s right around the corner, marriage is on the mind. My friends and extended family frequently ask if a wedding is on the horizon. I tell them not to hold their breath, but that we are blissfully in love and are deeply committed to each other and our sacred relationship.

Even as I say these words to the people in my life, even as WP makes tender, beautiful soliloquies about our love and bold declarations about our life together and the promising future, I still find myself curious if growing older together means marriage and kids. It’s not that I need it to happen tomorrow. It’s not that I need it to happen at all, as long as the commitment of our souls is there. Yet even we outside-the-box folks still sometimes find ourselves wishing to celebrate the sacred ties behind conventional rituals.

The conversation that followed after I uttered those last words was beautiful, romantic, enlightening and reassuring. It would take the magic out of those moments to share them fully here. However, I will say that we both truly share the desire to get old together, to lovingly parent (if we so ultimately choose), to grow and learn and enrich ourselves side-by-side.

As such, WP declared that a sacred vow requires uniquely honoring our rare and remarkable bond. Neither the proposal nor the ceremony of commitment is to be taken casually or lightly, nor should it be made saccharine with corny and cliché actions and words. We take time to honor and show gratitude for our relationship regularly, and that reverence for our love needs to be reflected in both a proposal and wedding, WP explained. It needs to be done from the heart in the singular way that only WP (and I) can do it—and that takes some time, imagination and delicate deliberation.

“I only plan to do this once in my life,” said WP. As one of the most momentous decisions and events in life, I completely respect how he wishes to honor it. So I will patiently and happily continue to live our cohabitating couple life as he meditates on exactly when and how to move into the next, big stage of our relationship.

After we sleepily ended the conversation, we held each other and cuddled for a long time before tenderly and passionately making love. That’s what you do with the love of your life after you declare your commitment to spend the rest of your days together. Peaceful sleep soon followed, swiftly and sweetly.

Why You Don’t Need a Ring on it For Christmas

FB EngagementsSo last night and this morning, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw the beaming faces of multiple, old classmates announcing their Christmas engagements. While it’s a somewhat predictable time of year to propose–and where’s the fun surprise in that–I was genuinely happy for these women who are well deserving of lifelong love. But I must be completely honest with you—I was surprised by the twinge of envy I also felt. While I don’t consider myself a romantic traditionalist in general, a part of me couldn’t help wondering when—if—I will reach that exciting milestone in my own relationship.

There are a few things I share in common with my newly affianced friends. We’re no spring chickens. I’m the youngest, having just turned 37 two weeks ago. While we’ve never been married, all of us have been in more than enough relationships to genuinely recognize authentic, enduring love when it is staring us in the face. Our relationships aren’t new. Loved ones have long inquired when to expect the big day and babies. Friendships and families have blended. Lives and residences have been entwined.

In my case, I’ve been with Warrior Poet for more than two-and-half years now, and we’ve been living together for a year-and-a-half. He’s been by my side through the best and the worst of times. We’ve been each others cheerleader, champion and best friend. We have three families and a supportive circle of friends with whom to share special events together throughout the year. And in a couple weeks, we’ll be taking a trip of a lifetime together to one of the world’s most romantic cities and then to one of the most magical countries. Thinking about this, I was immediately chastened by how greedy and selfish it was to wish for more right now.

Christmas Love BouquetIn one of my FB groups, a woman posted about her disappointment that, after four-and-a-half years of a relationship, she wasn’t proposed to over Christmas. She said the only thing she wanted for the holiday was a commitment. People quickly responded to remind her that there is not time clock on commitment and that everything happens in its own, right time. While one couple got married after seven months together (15 years ago, btw), it took 16 years for another couple to get engaged. Yet the most sobering response was from a woman who said that while she understand the disappointment of the girl with no Christmas ring, there were many who wished that they had even a taste of what she already has—someone in her corner, someone by her side when the going gets tough.

It reminded me how important it is to recognize and express gratitude for the blessings we do have now. As single people, we can be grateful for the opportunity to really get to know ourselves, for the time to become our best selves, and for the experience of growing more complete and content on our own. If we’re in relationships, we can be grateful to have someone who sees, accepts and loves us for who we really are and has faith in who we can become. We can cherish the nurturing and support we receive. We can marvel in the process of getting to know each other even more with each passing day and the experience of our shared journey together. We can celebrate the continued acts of loving and the commitment it takes to show up for each other day in and day out, whether we’re wearing a ring or not.

Match.com Shares What Modern Singles in America Are All About

Singles in America Match.comLast weekend, Match.com hosted a livestream event that shared plenty of surprising stats about singles across the country, covering tantalizing topics such as friends with benefits (FWB), casual sex and sexting. For instance, would you believe that almost a quarter of all singles have shared received sexts with others? And men might be surprised by how much women are willing to go to have transparency in their relationships. According to one Singles in America study statistic, twenty-two percent of single women have checked a date’s pockets, drawers or closet.

These were just some of the many fascinating findings that Match.com‘s Chief Scientific Advisor Dr. Helen Fisher presented from Singles in America, the 2012 study of more than 5000 single men and women (and approximately 1000 married individuals), aged 21-71+, to gauge their beliefs and behaviors about love, dating and marriage. This is the third year of studying singles; 2012 focused on technology and the Internet, while also including a comparison of married people to singles.

While media and pop culture would have us believing that the state of marriage is doomed, Fisher said most singles in their 20s and 30s still want to get married and believe that marriage to one person can last forever. She observed from study results that singles today are focused on looking for personal connections with their mates, as opposed to 10,000 years of history where commonality in ethnic and religious background, as well as pleasing family and community, were paramount. While I have personally endured a family’s disapproval of my ‘ethnic disharmony’ with their son, in general, I can see increasingly more of the younger generations breaking the mold, looking beyond skin color and creed when it comes to love.

The Match.com study found that more than 90 percent of singles are looking for people who respect them, whom they can trust and confide in, and who can make them laugh. And brush up on your vocabulary, ladies and gents, as well as your teeth—the study found your teeth and grammar are the top two things you are judged by when someone first meets you.

The smile and expressiveness of eyes are the what I notice when I first meet someone. As a wordsmith, I do take notice of horrific grammar right away, but if we can easily be conversational, I’m not going to end a conversation.

Fisher has noticed a new trend in dating and relationships in just the last year. “We’re seeing an emergence of a new stage in the courting process,” she said. This year, 45 percent of singles reported having a FWB relationship turn into a long-term partnership. “I’m not surprised because any kind of sexual stimulation of the genitals drives up dopamine, which can push you over the threshold into falling in love. And with orgasm, there’s a real flood of oxytocin that is linked with feelings of attachment.”

I guess I was ahead of the curve in this respect—my longest relationship began somewhat as a FWB situation. However, it wasn’t too long it turned into a loving relationship that lasted four years.

In 2011, only 20 percent of participants in Match’s Singles in America had developed something long-term from a FWB situation. Fisher theorizes that due to a long middle age and the pain of divorce, “we’re trying to know everything we possibly can about a human being before we step into that first commitment stage, and that this is a pre-commitment stage that is emerging in America.”

To hear more about these trends, online dating, texting etiquette, differences between men and women in love, dating in the golden years, and of course plenty of stats about sex, watch Dr. Helen Fisher’s presentation here.

**This is a sponsored post for Match.com**

What Happens When Your Answer Temptation’s Call

On Wednesday night, I went out with The Renaissance Man, which turned out to be a fun evening with mixed emotions. Everything has been different since last week’s re-emergence of The European. Part of it has been TRM finding himself busier and more distracted than usual, but a lot of it admittedly have stem from the silent but visceral signals I must have been emitting ever since I disappeared to Boston on Thursday.

As some of you might’ve predicted, temptation and curiosity got the better of me when The European finally committed, several weeks too late, to get together again. I don’t want to mislead here—it’s not like this invitation came completely out of the blue. We’ve been talking for weeks and he’s expressed the desire to get together repeatedly, but there were also excuses about being so busy with work, not feeling himself due to a lot of emotional things he’s been going through and just feeling out-of-sorts in general. Perhaps they were genuine reasons at the time, but they started to feel like excuses, so to protect myself from getting hurt and disappointed again, I just made the decision I wasn’t going to be. I was going to actively start seeing others again. The fact that TRM came along in the process was an unexpected and wonderful surprise.

Yet, a part of me was still tied back to The European. It didn’t help that we often still talked at least once a week on FaceTime, where I could see his face grinning at me as if talking to me made his day. He observed all my expressions and surmised my moods and concerns just as he always did when we were in each other’s company. It was unnerving, yet comforting at the same time. During those conversations, it was easy for me to remember why I had started to feel like I was growing to love this person back when I trusted him.

But I’d started to believe that that is all they were—conversations. I was a friend that he trusted, with whom he shared his deeper emotions. He had his activity partners, even people he could philosophically or politically banter with occasionally, but he could be more vulnerable with me. I was safe—from afar.

So it was a total surprise as we were wrapping up one of our FaceTime conversations when he blurted out, “So do you still want to come visit me in Boston?”

Yes. No. I don’t know. Should I? Does he even deserve it?

I wrestled with these questions for almost two days, even up to a couple hours before I finally boarded a bus to South Station. I talked it over with my friends and my parents. My mom was wary and protective of me. My dad, ever the romantic, saw a bit of his and my mom’s love story in us, remembered their miscommunications and emotional conflicts that nearly led to a complete destruction of their relationship before they even took off, and even later, led to them spitting, before they finally reunited for good.

I thought about how I felt. I wanted to know if what I remembered was the truth. I wanted to see if TRM had erased some of that fairy tale magic I had once felt in The European’s presence. I wanted to see if there was still hope. I wanted, if I had to, the opportunity to say goodbye.

The European shocked me by meeting me at the bus station. God, he looked so good. His hugs. That accent. The way his hand slipped into mine like it belonged there.

There was an insistent ring on the cell as we headed back to his place. He usually ignored calls in my company, but this one he answered. He spoke in rapid Polish then he hung up the phone. His hand returned to my leg.

His roommate warmly greeted me before we headed out for dinner. We picked a lively BBQ restaurant with colorful ambiance and delicious food. Afterward, we crossed the street to an Irish pub, with a front room featuring authentic Irish music and a back room with an ‘80s cover band. After a drink, boisterous conversation and lightly tender caresses, we made our way back to the livelier music and dancing.

Dancing with The European is always electric. He comes to life on the dance floor, and together we have an energy that draws people to smile and watch. He put his arms around me, and I could feel the heat. Yes, it was all still there.

I was awakened the next morning by the doorbell. The European’s cell phone sprang to life with insistent noises that sounded like alarms that required more attention. I tried to rouse his attention, but it was finally his roommate who came to the door. “Someone’s here for you,” he said gruffly.

It was 6 in the morning. After what felt like a half hour at least, he returned.
Was it a co-worker?” I asked. No. A friend? No. A student? No. You’re not going to help me out here…was it someone you’ve been dating—a girl?

Finally, hesitantly, he says it is someone he had been seeing on and off. I think you can imagine what was running through my head. Something along the lines like, fuck you, when’s the next bus out of here?

He fell back asleep while I stewed. Finally he awoke to my questions. He claimed they were not “involved,” that there was no commitment. He said he didn’t understand why she came over, why she was emotional, but everything was okay after he talked to her. He apologized for the situation, but he assured me there was nothing fishy going on, that I was wanted with him. She had feelings he did not reciprocate, but it was hard to have to let her down.

Hmm. Yeah right.

Unfortunately, he left me with key as he went to work. I couldn’t just slip out and leave. I stewed. I called friends and my parents again. My mom said to forget him and the key, just come home. Drop the key off at his work if you have to. My dad said, act cool. Wait until he gets home, talk to him. You can come home then or wait until the morning.

He came home from work late as usual, stopping at the gym for a long session. We did a teleclass on meditation together. It was hard to stay pissed off at him as he coached me through things and made sure I was comfortable. When we couldn’t stand sitting any longer, we tried meditating lying down, but he fell asleep. We hung up the call and decided we needed to eat.

With all his Easter leftovers, we cooked up a nice meal at home, with the idea that we’d go out and catch another band at the same bar we’d hit the night before. But by the time we were done eating, it was nearly 11:30 p.m. We were both tired after an early morning and a long day. He was still game, but I honestly was too full and not sure I was up for a couple hours of dancing, and his eyes were pretty red. We wound up watching animal documentaries instead.

The next day we slept until noon. I had decided I was going home that day. The European said I could come again, but I didn’t respond. I was expecting him to leave for work right away, but he wanted to snuggle, talk and enjoy me until it was time to catch the bus.

Sometime before I left we got involved in a serious conversation that stunned me. Basically The European expressed to me his hesitations getting involved too seriously when he knew he was leaving his fellowship before a year was up. Chances are very high that he’s returning to Europe. He told me that he felt that length of time was too short to know a person before marriage; he’d made that mistake before with his ex-wife. He didn’t know her well enough before he married her to move them to the States, and she’d turned out to have major psychological problems. He didn’t want to make that mistake again.

“I get the impression that you want to get married right away, right?” he said.

Wait, what? Back up a second. I corrected him quickly. “I’m looking to find the right person. I want to follow my heart, not let obstacles get in the way of getting to really know that person, spending time with that person, letting the relationship progress naturally, and letting love flow in its proper course,” I said. “I don’t want to rush marriage. I’m looking for a partner to love first and foremost and grow with.”

“You Connecticut girls are very wise, aren’t you?” he said, giving me a squeeze. As opposed to the Massachusetts girls he’s been dating? “I’m so glad we can talk about things so openly now. There’s none of this pressure and worry about hurt feelings.”

Hmm. That’s when I realized he wasn’t necessarily talking about me.

Later, he waxed poetic about a dream scenario, how work would be, how his routine would be less stressful and leave more time for fun, socialization, and relaxation. And then he inserted me into that scenario, included aspects about my home and the things he loves about the area where I live.

And I knew then he was just a dreamer. I would never really fit into his reality. And I also realized that with all of his issues and drama and emotional imbalances, maybe he didn’t fit into mine either as much as I thought he once did.

Leaving for home felt like saying goodbye this time. It wasn’t as heartbreaking as much as closing a door, waking up to the next chapter.

Yet still, the other night, out with TRM, my mind began to drift when I got the first text from The European since I’d left. I think it was a feeler text to see if I was out because he never responded back when I told him I was enjoying a delicious meal out. Later TRM and I went to a blues open mic, where we were entertained not only by some excellent musicians but also by a group of college-age swing dancers as well. They were having so much fun on the dance floor that I wanted to be out there with them too.

But TRM doesn’t dance. That would be The European’s playground. Still it was nice to just be a spectator this time, and I snuggled into TRM’s big, warm embrace.

The next morning came with it’s own surprises. At close to 10, I felt the buzz of my cell, and I looked over to see a text message from The Music Man. The night before, he’d also texted me with the sad news confirming he does indeed have cancer. This morning, however, he had a surprise of a completely different nature for me:

Please Forgive Me, I Know Not What I Do

Forgiveness is a mysterious temptress. Sometimes she flows so freely from your every pore, like air from your lungs.  Before anyone even has to open their mouth to beg for forgiveness, she has been freely, fully given, with no conditions or catches. Once you have been forgiven of your transgressions, the matter is truly over, left in the past where it should be buried in a shallow grave, given its proper regards. Life moves on.

Sometimes forgiveness digs her heels in. She must be earned. There are some things that can’t and shouldn’t be so easily forgiven. Infidelity. Big lies that can’t be simply explained as  I just didn’t want to hurt you by telling you the brunt reality.  Or, “I forgot to tell you that I’m actually living here illegally, and I have another family in Mexico.”  You must bow down to your ego and realize that you aren’t as clever or as wise as you thought you were. You have seriously hurt someone, probably someone you care about very much. And because of this, they’ve lost some degree of faith in you. They feel like they can’t trust you.

You can’t just win them back with a joke or a bouquet of flowers. You will have to spend some serious time working to regain their trust. You will have to be transparent. You will have to realize that you can’t keep everything to yourself anymore. You will have to be held accountable. You will have to treat the injured party like a king or queen, respectively. You will have to say you’re sorry, feeling it and meaning it from the bottom of your heart. You will have to say it so that he/she knows it in their core that you mean it. You will have to pay for this transgression until you’ve earned entry through that door that leads you back into your partner’s inner circle. Her walls have been let down and she can trust you with her love again. She can once again feel your respect and admiration for her.

Forgiveness often remains just at the edge of our fingertips, waiting to be learned. Some peoples’ walls have been built up so high from all their past bad experiences with other people at other times, they genuinely don’t know how to let other people back in again. It’s a process, often brutal and never simple. Sometimes their partner has the patience to stand by their side, give them space, while still letting them know they are loved and admired. Sure there has been pain both ways. Sure they both need to let go off hurtful things said, past wrongs, poor choices, and yes, that damn variable of bad timing. Sometimes people fear that learning how to forgive is a sign of showing weakness. In fact, I think forgiveness is one of the strongest things we can do, not only to others, but for ourselves.

When we carry around our pain, disappointment and hurt over all the ways people have wronged us in the past, we block ourselves from moving forward. We create a toxic cloud around ourselves that prevents us from truly seeing what is in front of our eyes in the present. We don’t allow ourselves to live in and enjoy the now.

We can’t forgive and we definitely can’t forget, so we get mired in the past. We relive it like a broken record that never stops replaying. We grow so used to it, we think it must be what we need, where we should invest our time and emotion. Instead we’re just paralyzing ourselves, keeping ourselves from living the best life we are meant to live.

So how do we learn to listen to forgiveness when her whisper is so quiet, yet admittedly so sweet? We must come to her like a child. We don’t know it all, and we can’t pretend to. We must be willing to get still and listen to the true drumming and thrumming of our heart beats. What are they secretly telling us? Do we want to stay mad at this person we love possibly more than anyone else we’ve loved before? Have they really committed a transgression so great that it cannot be overcome through time, personal and spiritual growth, and love? These answers aren’t easy and you may have one answer today and a different answer next week. But the point is to listen and to keep an ear out for consistency. Which answer do you keep finding yourself turning back to?

Learn to know yourself so well that when your heart gives you truth, you can recognize it clearly and soundly. This often means stepping back and taking a lot of personal time, meditation and for some, prayer. Don’t be afraid of your solitude. Or the silence. Don’t be afraid of the mood swings that are sure to follow. Forgive yourself if you sometimes fall back into bad habits during this process. The point is to get through this process. Journal your journey. Talk to people you feel you can trust. I pray about it. Sometimes, this process takes a month, sometimes it takes a year. But when your eyes finally open wide, you know when you are capable of forgiveness or not.

You know whether you can and should take that big leap again. You know when a surprise 3-hour Skype call can start you dreaming again, when the flood of memories aren’t so bittersweet anymore–they’re just sweet. You know when you both have matured and transformed enough as individuals that you feel the potential that maybe one day there might come a time when you both truly can forgive each other again. When you know there is just too much good that outweighs that bad. You sit at the computer at 3:30 in the morning, and you realize, “That sneaky forgiveness may have slid her way back into my heart once again.”