Wedding Dreams

I usually remember my dreams, especially the ones I have in the early morning. Wedding dreams are not uncommon for me, but they're usually totally wackadoodle in some way. I'm either marrying the wrong person, like an old boyfriend, wearing something horrible, or planning it at the last second. But this morning's dream was lovely because this time almost all of the pieces were there: white dress, SCL, beloved friends and family...but I wasn't wearing an engagement ring.

Engagement has been a touchy subject for SCL and me. When he decided he wanted to go into a PhD program, I told him that I wanted a formal commitment from him. I knew it was going to be a long, tiring journey, and that his choice to go into the program would affect many things in our relationship--the amount of time and money he had to contribute being two of the main ones. I wanted to know we were in it together, and that he'd be there at the end of it. He agreed that another year of dating before an engagement was a good timeline, and so we moved in with each other with the expectation of an engagement in the spring of 2010.

My, my how things change.

In the fall we looked at rings. I knew I wanted something conflict-free, but that I did want a diamond. I guess there's part of me that's still a little traditional. And thus commenced our first fight about an engagement. He told me he thought diamonds were stupid, that they were artificially overpriced, and even the conflict-free ones couldn't be ensured to be mined without any human rights violations. Yikes. How does a person even respond to something like this? I think I responding by crying. He told me he wanted to get moissanite instead. I think that just made me cry harder.

I realized later that it was never about the diamond itself. It was about him not being ready and looking for excuses to delay or forego altogether a formal commitment to me. The closer it came to becoming a reality, the more freaked out he got about it. When we were discussing getting back together, he actually apologized for how he had treated the whole subject, that he saw how mean it had been to disregard my feelings about it. And he admitted that I was right--that he had just been looking for an excuse not to.

Now that we are taking things slowly and have made plans to separate our lives to a certain degree, I do feel less fixated on a long-term future with him. Thoughts of a wedding dress or engagement ring still cross my mind from time to time--and I still can't stop torturing myself by watching episodes of Say Yes to the Dress--but I'm trying not to think about it too much. This takes a lot of work, I'm finding. This weekend I'm going to a bachelorette party and have three weddings to attend this summer. It's difficult to be surrounded by friends who are at that stage of their relationships, and wondering why we didn't make it there--and if we ever will.

I know right now we need to work on rebuilding a foundation, enjoying one another, and establishing the loving friendship that will last in the midst of difficulty. Before I made the mistake of thinking too much about the future and letting the daily life we had together slip past me without intentionality. Ultimately, though, I do want to know that we are in this together, that we are moving closer together and sharing our lives, and this involves more than just the day to day life. It's also about long-term plans and expectations. And I don't know if we're in alignment about that yet.


  1. So, this is the second post you've made where SCL seems kind of like a cheapskate. I get that he's doing the grad school thing, and finances have got to be tight. But there's a difference between being frugal (i.e. opting for a smaller carat size, going for white gold instead of platinum on the band, having a solitaire instead of a three-stone ring, etc.) and being miserly (i.e. saying you're getting a moissanite, insisting you pay him for the couch so he can buy you a birthday gift, etc.).

    It's not something I'd say "break up immediately" over, but certainly something to keep an eye on. When you're married, your financial decisions are each other's, and I know that I personally would feel trapped with a person who is tight-fisted.

  2. He's definitely frugal at the very least. Growing up he didn't have much money (neither did I), and I think he's just used to living on little. And like I said in the post, he did come around to say that he thought he'd been mean about the whole thing and that something from Brilliant Earth (totally fair trade and conflict-free) would be a good choice.

    I will say we've been budgeting together for an entire year and never had conflict over how we spent money. Oh yeah, and he hasn't brought up the couch again. Instead he's been selling things on craigslist.

  3. I had a friend (an ex, actually) who ended up breaking up with his girlfriend (who I also became friends with) because of the whole engagement pressure. He mentioned MAYBE looking at rings ONE TIME and she jumped on that (pretty sure I would have too). They looked at rings a few times but in the midst of that he realized he wasn't ready... it caused all kinds of issues, she accused him a cheating (which if you know him you'd know he'd never do) and they broke up.

    I think all this happens for a reason. And maybe these things happened between you two to show you that you need to stop worrying about the future and instead just be satisfied with the present. And in the end I think that this could make you stronger as a person and as a couple.

  4. Yeah, I admit I was kind of like your ex's ex and jumped on the engagement ring thing. I realize now how silly that was and how much pressure I put on him. That's definitely something I wish I could do over again and realize how what's most important is the relationship itself.

  5. Hi TNS,

    I wish I had found your blog earlier. I too am the girlfriend of a PhD student. When we finished undergrad, I moved to a new city (not a huge deal since all my extended family lives around here and this is where I wanted to live after college) with him, without a job, so that we could live together/ build a life together while he was in grad school. I found a job only 6 weeks after we moved here, so luckily that wasn't too bad/ too stressful.

    I read your entire archives last night, it took like 3 hours but when you find someone in a similar situation as yourself, you just want to read, read, read. Anyways, we have a lot more in common than the grad-student girlfriend. I am also the youngest and only girl with 2 older brothers (one with a JD). And while I did not attend YDS, my brother and his girlfriend/ now fiance just graduated from YDS 2 weekends ago, he with an MAR and she with an M.Div.

    Obviously, I love your blog. I love reading about someone who was/is in a similar situation as myself. I wish I could find more blogs/ people that could relate to our situation. I've found a good number of blogs about married couples with one in grad school, but not too many girlfriends, which in my opinion, is completely different and has a different perspective.

    Anyways, thank you for putting your story out there. I am now a loyal reader of your blog.

  6. Hi Meredith! So glad you found the blog, and I am THRILLED to have connected with another PhD student girlfriend. We should email for real. How long ago did your SO start his program? I feel like this process is infinite, and we've only gotten through the first year.

    Glad to have you as a reader. Maybe you could write a guest post about your experience.

  7. heya - hear you on the diamonds and the pressures from society. been out of the loop moving and all but catching back up again. also, i'll be in d.c. this summer if you'd like to meet up at all!

  8. Hey, I found your blog through a blog hopping tour, and I'm glad I did! The question of getting engaged and settling down I've noticed is a huge thing among my girlfriends as we approach the quarter century mark (why is it getting ever younger it seems??)

    The odd thing is, I'm the one in our relationship that doesn't want a ring for our engagement, whereas my fiancé insists. For me, if I need a ring to prove any love, or a ring is needed in place of a voice to ward off any potential lovers then I think there's something going wrong between us. So, I mean you obviously know your S.O much better, but could he be feeling that way too towards rings?

    I'll definitely be keeping up with your posts, as my guy will be thinking of doing a PhD in the future, and it'd be nice to get some insight from the other side before it's thrust upon me!

  9. Hi Sophie, welcome! I'm glad you found the blog. Yes, wedding/ring obsession is definitely part of the culture. I'm thankful to feel some relief from it for now. As for SCL, I'm pretty sure he's simply not ready to make a lifelong commitment to me, ring or no ring.