No strings attached

I’ve been noticing engagement announcements more often on my social media feed the last few months. Perhaps I’m noticing these announcements, though, because my partner and I have been talking about marriage.

The first time I met my partner, Abby, was when I worked at a hospital while she came in to visit her mother, who was under my care at the time. Professionalism in the workplace is paramount to me, but I found remaining on task to be challenging that June day. My attention was being pulled from vital signs and charting, to Abby, who sat behind me giggling at the doped-up comments her post-op mother was making. “Focus on the patient, Briant. Focus!”, I kept trying to remind myself.

That night, I left the hospital expecting to never see her again.

Just days after her mother was discharged, I went out to meet friends for drinks at Shamrock. No one showed up, though, because they pre-gamed too hard and never left the house. Feeling let down, I went inside Shamrock planning to use the restroom and leave.

As I was weaving through people to reach the exit, the crowd suddenly parted and, being hard to miss, I saw Abby talking to someone at the bar. I stopped dead in my tracks, because I couldn’t believe our paths crossed again.

“Abby?”, I said, as I reluctantly approached her. She turned to face me and, although I could see she didn’t remember who I was, she shined a warm smile anyway. I jogged her memory of who I was by asking questions about her mother’s recovery. It clicked instantly, and her smile grew wider.

That night, we raced each other up the slow-rising mound of State street, and danced like weirdos at clubs all night. At one moment, we were walking towards the Capitol and she, a woman of Slovakian lineage, leaned in to whisper how handsome she thought I was, in Spanish.

We’ve been together for a year and a half now, but it wasn’t long before I knew I wanted to marry her someday. Admittedly, I was nervous to talk about marriage, but I couldn’t imagine not including her in the conversation. It wouldn’t be fair to her if I dropped to one knee and popped the question out of nowhere; a proposal without consent would steal ownership of her decision.

As I sought advice on how to proceed, Erika Dirksen, a Business Management student, said she discovered her now-fiancé was planning to propose because she accidentally saw an e-receipt for the ring on his phone. “It was the big giveaway… we hadn’t talked about proposing or marriage. It was just a typical day,” Dirksen said. If she hadn’t seen the receipt, she would have been blindsided. Maddie Gibson, an EMT student at Truax, also advised that, “before proposing, couples should discuss hopes for the future and ask questions about where the other person stands.”

Not wanting to blindside Abby with a proposal, and seeking to find out where she stood on marriage, I decided to say what was on my mind. I was relieved when I did because discussing marriage put us on the same page about our intentions, and it tested our readiness for such a commitment.

Since the beginning of our dialogue about marriage, Abby and I haven’t wavered much. So, I hope you, too, will choose to blaze a path to having this conversation with your significant other, and, at the end of the day, move forward as equal partners.