In October of 2019 my then-boyfriend and now ex-fiance proposed to me. It was lackluster and I knew that I deserved more, but after four years together I loved him, and wanted to marry him more than anything. So I accepted the substandard proposal and the treatment after.
He got me a ring for $34.00 from Amazon. I am not one to be impressed or upset by things that are of this material realm, but this really felt icky. Probably because the ring was at least 5 sizes too big for me. He never asked about my ring size. And probably because it was pretty hideous. Giant and fake.
I could not wear the ring — not because it was ugly, but because it was huge. But I am getting ahead of myself. He proposed to me in sweatpants after doing the bills and really dragging the day out. It was our anniversary so I had a feeling it was coming.
But I had high hopes, like any woman might, that it would feel special. That I would feel special. That he would do something that made me feel like this meant something major and not that it was a oh, yawn, bills done, get on one knee by the couch, give me a giant ugly ring, say a few sweet words, done.
His daughter cried after he told her he was going to marry me because she did not want to lose him. And none of his daughters said congratulations to me, or even referred to me as their dad’s fiance; they barely talked to me. I was supposed to be grateful they tolerated me, and to also go the extra mile of sublimating myself to them — three grown adult women who had their own lives and families.
After the proposal we went on a family trip to Disneyland. I wanted this to feel special too. It didn’t. It felt like further shunning and isolation. On top of no one caring that we were engaged, there was a bonus feeling of disdain for me somehow. His girls had their own agenda planned, his extended family came and they had their own agenda planned, and my daughter and I did not really want to follow either.
I told my newly-minted fiance that it was fine if he wanted to join either group, but that my daughter and I were going to walk and eat and people watch, as we were not really into rides. I told him to not worry about us and that we could just meet up for lunch. In his breakup speech to me later, he said this is why he had to bail — because it was too much work and all my fault and that I should just do what his kids want to do and not complain.
Shortly after all of this, COVID hit. His kids did not care about following the basic guidelines; I cared. Eventually, he somehow blamed the entire reality of a pandemic on me.We would fight about every family gathering — if it was outside, or if masks were going to be required, or if his daughters told him no masks were necessary because they “were family.” We would make up and he would talk about getting me a new ring that I could finally wear.
He never did. It started to hurt and feel intentional. I would bring it up and look for rings and nothing happened. The day we were supposed to get married came and went — October 2, 2020.
I was so hurt and felt so abandoned and alone that I bought myself a ring. A ring for me, from me. A beautiful, affordable little silver ring with my birthstone delicately interlaced in a circle — elegant and my size.
But I did not tell him about it. It was my secret. It somehow kept me sane and okay to think I did this for myself, that I could have a ring and that it could mean something. A month later he left. His daughters told him it was them or me, and he chose them.
I packed his cheap, Amazon, too-big ring in a box of his files for him to take with him into his new life where he does not have to worry about being a real man to a real woman.
I wear my beautiful ring that I bought for myself every day.
I did not need him to validate me. I did not need his kids to validate me. They were never my people, my tribe. They did not see me or care about me, or even attempt to know me at all. To him, in the end, he loved his ego and insecurities more than he cared about me, and he prioritized avoiding conflict with his daughters over building a relationship with me.
I know that I won’t settle again. I won’t go into anything with blind crazy love so bright that I ignore a thousand and one red flags or somehow allow a weak man to treat me in a substandard way so that I feel like I have nothing left to do but make myself happy with crumbs, with giant fake rings, with love that is not true or authentic.
I am learning to stand up for myself. To love myself. And to value myself in a way that will ensure that I never accept overt and covert de-valuing in any relationship again.
True love is supposed to feel like acceptance and peace. A man who loves me would be happy to marry me — so happy that he would get the right ring size and also know what type of ring I would like to wear. So happy that he would tell his kids that it was his relationship, not theirs, and that he loved me and that was all that mattered. So happy that he would be overjoyed to spend time with me at Disneyland, holding hands, enjoying parades, taking silly pictures, and making sure I felt loved and secure, not like a burden or outsider.
I know this now. And I will never settle for less again.