Monday
Feb162009

« Engagement Plus Five »

ed kelli and buber on the walkway within the Presidio monument in old town san diegoFamily at Christmas 2008It was on a day like this five years ago when I got engaged to my love Kelli. There were none of the theatrics that usually accompany this sort of occasion. It—like today—was a cold Monday near dusk, and we were taking refuge under some covers as the daylight waned. I think she had a cold or was worn out from a bad day at work. She was still a guest at my house when she was there; she only moved in a couple months later in April. A week or so before I had given her a ring that was my grandmother's, and which had been presented to me on the day she died, or shortly afterward. For a couple years, it pretty much just sat in my desk. I had no big plans for it. It wasn't anything I'd be wearing, after all. I don't know anything about it, if it was special to her or not, or whether or not it is considered precious. In giving it to Kelli, I actually didn't have any big plan. But by that time, we had been attending some MFT sessions for about four months and it was showing some progress for us as we began to sort out the challenges that had been arising for us after two years of dating. (We kept on going to the therapists for a couple years more as life was quite a ride during that period.) Only months into our relationship, I recall telling one of my roommates that Kelli was marriage material, but I never really talked that way aside from that. Really, all Kelli and I had was an escalating relationship that led us closer together. So, when I gave Kelli the ring, she coyly asked me which finger it belonged on. If she asked me this before that dark and cold Monday the 16th, I don't remember, but on that day, I trusted we were ready, and replied only with my own coy retort, "I thought you knew."

And that was it. That was as close as I got to "popping the question." I know, it's not as show-bizzy as some with their sky writing and billboards and stuff, or as traditional as getting on bended knee. But it was appropriate. If a girl wants to marry you on a cold day in February when she feels sick and tired, then there has to be something more realistic and grounded in that, and clearly no one was swept up in romantic fervor or staged events meant to thrill. We were never the sort to go for the usual romantic accoutrements; for Valentine's day, she won me over with the two little ceramic pigs we got while being tourists at a shop in Julian up in our local mountains. By this time, we'd related to each other in various capacities since mid-1990—over 13 years by then. Our dating period up to this point in 2004 already had some feel of being married, in terms of some things feeling so right and familiar, as if we'd been doing them for a while already. So, getting engaged in this ultra-low key way was just part of the progression.

Funny, every now and then I get asked something about marriage from someone who is newer at it than me, or who is about to be married. I don't know the formula for getting there. I don't really know about dating, or about some stunning ways to propose, or how to spend a fortune on a wedding and go on exotic honeymoons. I just don't think my circumstances are very repeatable. Not everyone will have nearly a decade and a half to build some friendship—often at great distance and with gaps in continuity—and to flow fairly smoothly into a marriage. Not everyone will have the will to attend premarital and early marital therapy sessions for as long as we did. Not everyone will be willing to shed the pervasive cultural individualism so that the relationship becomes the center of attention. Not everyone will see marriage as the chance to heal old wounds and to allow another person to change you. Not everyone will enter into marriage with the intent to deepen their humanity by opening up and being vulnerable. Yeah, I can't say this would work for another couple, but it worked for us.

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