In my case, it was unanimous: I was far more interesting and respectable once I got engaged.
I never had any hesitation that Andy was the one for me or that we would spend the rest of our lives together. After six years in a monogamous relationship — including two cross-country moves, economic upheaval and layoffs, career changes, and a six-month stint living with his parents (no easy feat) — it felt like we’d already made our relationship official.
But, like most women who are single well into their 20s, I felt pressured by girlfriends who insisted, "Everyone wants to get married" and, "You’re just saying you don’t care because you haven’t been proposed to yet." As most of my friends plotted their way to the altar, Andy and I enjoyed years of blissful cohabitation without ever worrying about if and when we’d tie the knot.
Over the years, we attended weddings by the dozen. Eventually he and I were one of the last unmarried pairs standing. Still, I wasn’t compelled to demand a ring. We were content. Certainly, people in our lives thought there had to be something wrong with our relationship, but we didn’t care what anyone thought.
Even during my years as an editor at a major wedding magazine, my bridal instincts failed to kick in. Sure, I felt the twinge of “something missing” every time a new coworker announced her engagement and was met with loads of fanfare, but that didn’t change how I felt deep inside: Andy and I didn’t need a piece of paper to affirm our commitment.
I wasn’t until my 30th birthday approached that I began to feel the first real impulse to get hitched. My career was thriving, but still, I sensed a barrier. It soon became apparent that my unmarried status was preventing me from being taken seriously as an adult and a professional. I was trapped in relationship purgatory.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I was blatantly ostracized. I wasn’t sent to the kiddie table or anything. But my colleagues weren’t that much more subtle. Answers to, "When's he going to pop the question?" or the classic, "Why aren't you married yet?” were demanded of me, insinuating that something must be wrong with me if my boyfriend hadn't proposed after all this time. If I dared to express my ambivalence about weddings and marriage, I was often met with disbelief. And not just from colleagues, but from friends too.
Then it happened: Andy and I decided to get engaged. And what was a personal decision between two people became a signal that they were right all along: Every woman does want to be a bride. Some people were self-righteous: "See, I told you that you wanted to get married," they would say, as if they had possessed insight into my deepest desires. Others simply felt relieved. I fit in. I was normal.
Of course, my stock quickly rose as soon as I exchanged my Scarlet S for a sapphire engagement ring. Just like that, the same people who once made me feel pathetic for being ring-less suddenly admired me. It was like the door to an exclusive club had opened up to me. And membership had its privileges.
Suddenly, I had celebrity status among colleagues, friends—even bosses. I was the most popular girl at any cocktail party, work event or meeting, and it wasn't just because they were vying for a wedding invite; I was celebrated just as much by acquaintances.
Overnight, the older women in the office treated me like an equal instead of a kid. We shared stories about our partners, workout classes, the diets we were considering, vacation spots and restaurants. Even in meetings, my opinions and ideas were given more credence, as if the rock on my finger had raised my IQ. Previously my boss was always hesitant to take me seriously in a management role. Now I was more qualified to make assessments and changes to strategies and processes.
And it wasn't just higher-ups and colleagues who started treating me more like a peer. I felt far more connected to my friends, both married and engaged, than I had in years. Wives and fiancees of Andy's friends, who had once seemed to merely endure me, suddenly wanted to be friends — real friends, not just friendly when we happened to be at the same cocktail party.
Overnight, both sets of parents gained a newfound respect for me. When, pre-engagement, I had mentioned my desire to start up a freelance business, I got an earful (in stereo). Post-engagement, when I brought it up again (and then actually did it), no one questioned my decision. Gone were the insinuations that I was being impetuous and irresponsible.
The decision seemed unanimous: I was far more likable, interesting and respectable now that I was engaged.
I’ll be the first to admit, that’s what I was going for. I still didn’t care about the wedding or even the ring (though I love it). Andy and I were already committed. I just wanted the title; the status change. If a piece of paper would afford me the ability to be a real player in my career and a respected adult, I figured, why not?
Had I known how quickly a rock on my finger would have made my life easier, I might have popped the question to Andy a long time ago.
Though we haven’t walked down the aisle just yet, I've come to think of getting married as more akin to college or high school graduation than a romantic gesture or the real-life fairtyale we're led to believe it will be. It's a rite of passage that marks a person's transition into adulthood. And although we may leave the nest and support ourselves long before we marry these days, whether we like it or not, society still sees marriage as the ultimate maturity gauge —for better or for worse.
What’s surprised me most is how different I feel since becoming engaged. As ironic as it sounds, I do feel more legit having had a ring on my finger for a while now. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I'm pretending to be an adult. Getting engaged has made me feel more like an adult than anything else in my life has—far more than a director title, a mortgage approval or parenthood (hey, a puppy counts, right?).
So, did I sell out? You be the judge. But I will suggest that if Andy and I are happy, and everyone else in our lives are relieved/justified/delighted/fill-in-the-blank-here, then you might say: all’s well that ends well.
"From my mom and dad, because they're happily married for a long time: Just listen. Listen to him. I'm so independent and driven and stubborn. Just let him talk. It's about not being so stubborn and having to win every argument. My parents set a great example. They love each other and take care of each other so much."
"It's kind of cheesy, but my mama, who you all have seen on the show, says to cook for your man. She's Southern, so when he comes home, be pullin' a pie out of the oven. That's always been her advice, and you know what? It works. Your man wants to see you in the kitchen, puttin' some love into some food; it works for Eric, that's for sure."
"The best advice I've ever been given is being handed a Bible. That's the blueprint for marriage that we go by, and that's what our marriage is grounded in. We also have other married couples who are examples in our lives. My parents have been married over 40 years, and both sets of grandparents for over 65 years. When you see couples in long-term relationships and you see them go through good times and bad times, you realize it's about being committed enough and loving your partner enough to hang in there regardless."
"My mom told me, "It shouldn't be that difficult." My parents had their moments for sure, but the majority of their relationship has been really great. It shouldn't be that much work to make love work."
"You've got to be good to each other … it really comes back to respect. I was raised in a very Catholic, Italian family and it was all about respect. Don't talk badly about [your partner] the second they walk out the door; really preserve your relationship and be good to each other. Treat it like gold."
"Don't lie to your partner. Ultimately the expression on your face gives you away, and they feel betrayed by the lie. If this is the person you're going to be with—forever and ever, for better or worse—they will love you for all of your good and all of your bad. They'll love you for you. So open communication is key. I have no secrets and no skeletons in my closet with my husband, and I love that. I feel comfortable and at ease with myself when I'm around him. I love the woman that I've become with him."
"I think the best love advice I've ever received is really about understanding that communication is key, of course, but also that there's not one perfect person for you. You kind of have to accept what are the things that are negotiable for you and what are not."
"My mom always told me, "Whatever happens, will happen" or 'Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen." I've learned you'll know when you find the right person. When I found the right person, I knew it immediately."
18. The Five Love Languages Author Dr. Gary Chapman
"Before I discovered the concept of the 5 love languages, a bit of advice I was given was to become a student of my wife and to take time to learn what makes her feel loved. I soon learned that what makes her feel loved may not always be the thing I want to do because it may not come natural to me. But learning to love her in the way that makes her feel loved is a greater demonstration of my love for her, because I've chosen to do it with a goal of pleasing her."
"Pay attention to the girl, instead of myself. A bunch of people [told me that]. It's terrible. I'm very into myself, so people are always like, "Pay attention to the other person. Don't ever separate yourself." It's a good lesson. I'm learning. I'm doing good."
"Don't get divorced after your first argument! I have a lot of friends that have one fight and that's it, they get divorced. I go, 'Wait a minute! Oh my gosh, you guys! Calm down! You'll forget in three days what you were fighting about. I promise. So just let it marinate a little bit—that's my best love advice."
21. The Real Housewives of Miami's Adriana de Moura
"When I was about 15, [my grandmother] said something I will always remember: 'Love comes before money.' I will never let anything like greed come between us when it comes to love. She was married to my grandfather for 70 years. It's very hard to have a long-term relationship and if you're not sure, it's not going to last. Make sure that you truly love."
"If you're looking for love, focus on something you love to do and work hard. Love will find you. Basically, love yourself before you love anyone else. A lot of girls have such insecurities nowadays that you have to be comfortable with who you are before you can really have a good relationship with someone else."
"Love advice is like life advice, so there are so many elements of that. I think humor, patience, admiration are really important love elements. Love and respect. You have to respect the person that you're going to love, and you have to be confident in yourself and love yourself."
'Think about how much you'd miss that if he were gone tomorrow.' This is my senior producer's advice in my ear during our news show if I'm grumbling about my hubby, whether about his habit of leaving dirty clothes around, or the way he goes into la la land while I'm talking with him, or that he wakes me up being loud overnight. How true! Heaven forbid, but if something ever happens to our loved ones, oh how we'd long for them to be back, and their little aggravating habits would be something cherished.
"On the other hand the best love advice I've ever given is: Gals, don't marry someone for their looks. Sooner or later we all age and start to droop. Don't marry someone for their position and don't marry someone for money. Money comes and goes, and since when is that love? Marry someone because they make you laugh. Humor is always sexy. Besides, it's awfully hard to get mad at someone while they're making you laugh."
30. The Real Housewives of New York's Heather Thomson
"Well, it's one of the oldest. It really is paradoxical, but it's true: You just can't go to bed mad. You have to make up, because there's only one alternative, and that alternative is not being together. So, my husband and I always decide we might as well make up, whether we agree to disagree or not. We understand we are individuals and that together we're unbelievably powerful and that we have a family that is the most important thing, and that I wouldn't trade him for the world. So, love is about give and take, and love is about understanding that you're individuals and together as a couple, you're the strongest there ever is ifyou're in the right couple."
"I was going to say, 'It's work, relationships take work,' but that makes it sound like relationships are hard, that they're work. Rebecca and I have always gotten along really well. We've always had a really strong connection. I'm the last guy that should be giving people advice on love, that's for sure. But I have a great marriage. I just got lucky, I guess."
"I lost my dad back in the fall, and my dad said something to me a long time ago. He said, 'Are you happy with who you are now?' because we just had a real serious talk. And I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Then you can't regret what got you to where you are. So whatever you do and whatever mistakes you make, learn from them and grow. And just always treat people with kindness,' which I've tried to do."
"My mom always used to say, "You can't say I love you before you can say I." And I think that sort of makes sense."