‘Pregnant in Purgatory’ Asked:
My boyfriend had been subtly talking about proposing for several weeks, he hinted that he had a ring and would talk about when he felt it was the “right” time, which seemed to align with our anniversary. But you can guess what happened…anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and a trip to the coast all came and went and no proposal. Then something unexpected happened, I got pregnant.
So while I thought we were onto something good, now I am pregnant, living together and there’s no ring. I feel so foolish and sad. I’ve become deeply depressed, and we have argued about it several times when I have tried to share with him how hurtful this has been.
Now he says he has a ring and a plan, but it feels so tainted and wrong that I don’t know if I can ever get over these feelings. He has now said he wants to propose on our babymoon, but it feels under duress and not because he wants to. I am deeply torn between feelings of wanting to leave him to reestablish my autonomy and feelings of wanting him to find a special way to propose as soon as he can to heal the hurt this has caused. How do I get over this? And can I?
Dr. Zoe Answered:
First, congratulations! You are growing a little human that you will journey with for the rest of your life. Your child is very much meant to be here. One day, you will see the beauty of God’s timing for the arrival of your little one. But that doesn’t keep this from being a terrifying time of unknowns.
Oh, dear mama, I feel for you. I don’t know any woman who fantasizes about being proposed to at the end of her pregnancy with swollen feet and a full bladder. But life happens and you certainly aren’t alone! And yes, you can get over this! Although his eventual proposal may not be the one of your fantasies, the proposal actually matters very little compared to the marriage that happens afterwards.
So, let’s talk about that. First, ALL of your feelings are valid. He is clearly dragging his feet.
I am in agreement with you that you don’t want him to feel like he has to marry you out of duress. That’s not going to end well. I’ve seen it, and it isn’t pretty.
Still, he is saying he plans to, but isn’t getting around to it. Why? We may never know. He probably doesn’t even know.
This is an advice column, not therapy, so I’m going to give you some straightforward advice:
1. Tell him clearly that you do not want him marrying you out of obligation.
Let him know that you do want to be his wife, but only if he is convinced you are the one he wants to be with for the rest of his life—child or not. I know this is scary. You are literally giving him an out. It’s an out that he needs so that he can take ownership of his choices from now until forever. If he doesn’t, he will blame you when the going gets tough (remember, I’ve seen it—not pretty).
2. Stop trying to control the proposal.
The only person you can control is yourself. He will or he won’t. He will surprise you or he won’t. That’s his arena. Leave him to it.
If you have given him his out and he proposes anyway, do not allow yourself to make up stories about this being all wrong and tainted. Are things a little backwards according to God’s perfect plan for your life—YOUR perfect plan for your life? Sure. Welcome to the real world. That is the case for every single one of us. God majors in making beauty out of ruins, and I have no doubt He will with your circumstance.
His proposal will still be genuine and meaningful, even if it happens a little differently than you imagined.
3. Create a deadline for how long you will wait for him to propose.
Don’t make it ridiculously long. The babymoon sounds like a perfect deadline to me. If the deadline passes and there’s no proposal, you walk away and start your life solo with your baby. I know that is super hard. You can do hard things. It may jar him into getting his act together. If it doesn’t, he never would have, so you still win.
Stringing yourself on for years, waiting for him to commit will be cruel and unusual punishment for all involved. You deserve to have the family you have dreamed of—even if it isn’t with him. And yes, I know what you’re thinking. But there are men who exist who will take on your child as their own if it ever gets to that point. Although you will be connected to your boyfriend forever, you do not have to stay in this purgatory just because you have a child with him.
And don’t forget, a proposal is one thing, but following through with the marriage is a whole other thing. Apply #1-3 for following through on the wedding as well.
The proposal actually matters very little compared to the marriage that happens afterwards.
That’s my advice. It’s sound advice, but I know it’s really easy for me to say—a bit harder for you to act on. But what about the torrent of emotions you must be feeling right now?
It’s okay to feel all the feelings. The hormone coaster you are riding is sure to generate all of them without much prompting. Feel them, but please stop beating yourself up. You are no more foolish than all the women in history who have found themselves unmarried and pregnant unexpectedly (including myself). You haven’t destroyed your life; it’s just changing, and it gets so much better from here.
Few people sign up to be a single mom, but I know women who are absolutely killing it, so you would be in good company.
Your job now is to work on you. Allow this experience to create wisdom, not bitterness in you. You can determine that you will be okay whether you two ever get married or not. When you work from that premise, the desperation fades away and you can think more clearly. Breathe. It’s going to be okay.
You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.
Are you also in a situation where you’re ready to take the next step, but your boyfriend is dragging his feet? Here’s some more spot-on advice from our relationship expert, Dr. Zoe Shaw…