Q: On Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend of one year proposed. He had a beautiful ring and got down on one knee – I think because I told him my first husband proposed over the phone and I thought that was sort of bad luck. It was lovely, and I accepted, but now I’m having second thoughts. I haven’t been divorced that long. I’m afraid to say anything because I will hurt his feelings. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: This isn’t actually an ex-etiquette question because I would give anyone the same advice – those married previously and those who have never been married. Talk to your fiancé about your second thoughts! If you are entering into a union that is regarded as “permanent,” and you are afraid to say something, that’s a huge red flag. Open and honest communication (which, by the way, IS ex-etiquette rule No. 8, “Be honest and straightforward”) is the only way to have a mutually supportive, positive, adult relationship that has any chance of lasting.
Before you discuss this with your fiancé, have your thoughts in order. Ask yourself, “Will you ever be ready to marry again?” If so, would having a long engagement help you to relax – or is it the guy? If the answer is “longer engagement,” then an easy way to spare his feelings is to simply set the date down the road. If the answer is that you never want to marry again, then your fiancé has a right to know. Most of all, if the answer is that you may want to marry again, but he’s not the guy, it’s time to move on. It’s not fair to him to keep him dangling; wondering when is the right time will be.
You stated it has been only a year since you divorced. Some are ready to walk down the aisle as soon as the ink on the divorce papers is dry. Some need time to reflect. With this in mind, give yourself some time. Depending on the circumstances of the breakup, many are still reeling for years and just aren’t ready to make the commitment again – if ever. Most told us in a poll we took years ago on the Bonus Families website, www.bonusfamilies.com, it took them between two and three years before they seriously wanted to date anyone.
In this day and age, marriage is not necessarily a prerequisite to a healthy relationship. This is a problem, however, if one wants a marriage commitment and it’s not that important to the other. Never enter into any contract, especially marriage, unless you are completely sure it’s what you want. Too many figure, “If it doesn’t work out, we can just get a divorce.” Marriage is not a frivolous proposition. Some feel is it a sacred covenant. If that’s you or your fiancé, now is the time to figure that out.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.