Afternoon Quickie: “Am I Wasting My Time Being Engaged?”

I have been dating the same guy for 1.5 years. The moment we met, we instantly hit it off. Last month, we got engaged. It was a great engagement for two weeks. Then, the fights started happening, primarily because of our parents fighting about certain things. Last week, we started arguing again (about the same issues that involve my parents, his parents, etc). It got into such a heated argument that I was entirely fed up and walked out. Before walking out, however, I gave him back the engagement ring, the promise ring he gave me, and the diamond pendant he gave me as a Christmas gift. I actually only gave the last one because he said, “If I were a petty man, I’d ask for the pendant back.”

It was his birthday weekend, I had just ended our engagement, and I felt terrible. On top of that, we had tickets to fly to Houston for his birthday weekend and clearly we weren’t going.

We reconciled on Monday with the intention of seeking couples counseling. We understood that we did not know how to communicate with each other nor understand how to resolve issues. We have been slowly trying to get back to normal, but today we hit another rock. He told me, “When your birthday comes around, I’ll be going to New Orleans like we planned… but I don’t want to travel with you. You can stay here and do whatever you want with your friends, but I don’t want to go anywhere with you anytime soon.” I asked him if he was saying this out of spite, or as punishment, and he said, “Well, you ruined my birthday, I don’t want to be near you for yours.”

I was literally in tears when he said these words. He constantly says he’s not “Out to hurt/punish me,” but something doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t know if I could marry someone who could talk that way to his spouse.

I am in this for the long run and I was willing to work on “us,” but I don’t know how much longer I can endure this punishment. When I told him how he hurt me feelings, he simply responded by saying, “Too bad.”

Am I wasting my time? Please help. I desperately need some sound, solid, and direct advice. — Punished By Fiancé

Yes, you’re wasting your time. Just a year and a half in, and so early in your engagement, you should not be experiencing the kinds of issues and behavior you’re describing. While sometimes stressful, an engagement should be a time of joy, and it sounds like you’re experiencing anything but that. You and your boyfriend can’t communicate. Worse, you both punish each other instead of expressing your feelings. While your own reaction was immediate (returning your engagement ring, etc.), your boyfriend’s punishment is thought-out/ pre-meditated. In short: he’s an asshole. He’s telling you to stay home while he enjoys what should be YOUR birthday weekend? And his reasoning is that you ruined his birthday so he’s going to ruin yours?

This is not what love looks like. This is not healthy. This is not the kind of marriage you want or man you want as your husband. (And that’s not even considering whatever issues exist between and among your parents, which sounds like another nightmare). Thank your lucky stars that you are seeing all of this before you make the mistake of marrying this man and that you can get out now before investing the time and expense and emotional energy into planning a wedding and legally committing yourself to this douchebag.

Give the engagement ring back and, this time, make it a permanent return. And then, instead of going to couples counseling, go to individual counseling and learn some coping tools for your breakup and some healthy communication tools for your next relationship.


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  1. Word from the wise, “promise rings” never work out. EVERYONE I know who got a “promise ring” — myself included — ended up breaking up with that person.
    Also you had received two rings and a diamond pendant by 1.5 years??? Wowza. I think Navy Guy needs to step up his game!! 😉 I kid, I kid.

    1. LOL. I have to agree. Though I got a “promise ring” at 17, got engaged at 18 and married at 19 (and yes, we’re still married, decades later.) So now I see it as more of a “teenage” thing to do.

      1. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        About two weeks before my 18th birthday, I gave my boyfriend a promise ring for our two year anniversary.
        We broke up three weeks later.

      2. RedroverRedrover says:

        Probably the fact that it’s a “teenage” thing to do and the fact that it almost never works out are highly correlated. 🙂
        Personally I got engaged as a teenager, and thank goodness I saw the light and didn’t go through with it. The problem is that as a teenager, you just don’t know what you want yet. So some people are lucky and the person they find as a teenager happens to actually be a person that meshes well with them for the long term. But most of us are not that lucky, and the person we find and think we’re in love with turns out to be someone who’s totally wrong for us.

      3. It’s funny because EVERY person I know in real life who has received a promise ring didn’t end up with that person. 🙂 You must be the exception to the rule! Haha.

    2. Miss Lady says:

      I am a promise ring success story! We just celebrated our third wedding anniversary.

      1. Wow! There are more than I thought. 🙂

    3. Avatar photo call-me-hobo says:

      Uh-oh! I married a guy who gave me a promise ring. Looks like I’m headed for a divorce, you guys! 😉
      Seriously, you don’t want to spend a life with someone who punishes you for every argument/mistake. Can you imagine someone that vindictive raising children? Would he punish his children that way, too? Bullet dodged

      1. Hahaha I take back my “if you get a promise ring you’ll break up”. Looks like DWers proved me wrong!

  2. WWS!! This time in your life and with each other should be the BEST time in your relationship. The old adage “it’s never going to be as good as when you’re dating” has a point and if he’s doing this now – YIKES – MOA and consider yourself lucky for having dodge this bullet!!

  3. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    You fiance is an asshole. Seriously? “You ruined my birthday, so I don’t want to be near you for yours”? Petty, grudge holding bullshit, and not how an adult should handle conflict in *any* kind of relationship. If you don’t want to deal with this kind of thing for the entire time you’re married to him (I’m not even going to say rest of your life, because I honestly don’t feel like someone could stay married to a person like that for that long), end it now.

  4. Clearly y’all do not communicate well. And his actions are that of a teenager. I realize his birthday probably sucked, but at some point we have to put our big kid pants on and act like adults. Like Wendy said give the rings back and move on.

  5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    He’s asshole AND extremely immature and petty and a ton of other adjectives. And he doesn’t care about you. WWS!

  6. RedroverRedrover says:

    Well, he’s showing you who he is. Is this the man you want to be with the rest of your life? For anyone who didn’t read it, there was a great article on Friday Links called something like “the law of fuck yes or fuck no”. Basically you only do a major thing if you can say “fuck, yes!”. And also if the other person is giving you a “fuck, yes!”. Otherwise, it’s a “fuck, no”.
    It doesn’t seem like it’s a fuck yes for you, or for him. Why take such a big step when neither of you seems to be sure? Neither of you sounds head over heels excited about it, and you’re both picking at each other at one of the supposedly happiest times in your life. Marriage isn’t going to change anything at all. If you two are already not happy unmarried, you definitely won’t be happy married.

  7. So was everything great and you never fought until after the engagement? And you were only fighting about situational stuff having to do with your families that came up because you were now engaged? That part is confusing. Regardless, you *walked out in the middle of a fight and gave him his ring back.* Everyone’s glossing over that so far, but that’s a pretty big f’ing deal. And you did it on his birthday weekend when a big trip was planned. Like, wow, that’s a HUGE deal. If things were so bad that you’d do something like that, then yeah, I can see putting things on hold and going to couples counseling to see if it could be salvaged. And yeah, on the face of it, his saying he doesn’t want to be involved in your birthday sounds vindictive but maybe he was just really really hurt that you did what you did on his birthday and he’s lashing out. People are saying he’s an asshole, but is he really? I mean, that seems like an asshole thing to do, sure, but is he actually an asshole, or is the relationship just falling apart and you two are both acting out in pretty awful ways?

    I don’t know how things got to the point where you’d walk out on his birthday plans and give him the ring back and he’d turn around and be super vindictive, but this is not a healthy relationship that should be leading toward marriage. Either put the brakes on the planning and get into counseling or part ways. This is messed up.

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      I kinda thought they both sounded like assholes. 🙂 Pro-tip: don’t give the ring back unless you mean it. Your engagement is not something to be used as leverage in a fight. What are you going to do when you’re married? Threaten to divorce him?

      1. That’s totally what people do !

      2. RedroverRedrover says:

        Wasn’t there someone in the forums recently who was doing that? They’d threatened divorce like three times. I guess it’s the secret to a happy marriage!

    2. I agree that she’s part of the problem but I think there are better ways to go about doing what he did. Like say maybe I don’t feel we’re at a point where taking a trip together is a good idea, I think we should cancel those plans and focus on our relationship. I think they’re both to blame in this, and they both need to grow up. It’s a fucking birthday, for both of them. Being upset about a trip, sure, adults being that hurt over birthdays, they’re both acting juvenile.

      1. I love the fact that, not only is “brthday weekend” a thing, but that its something alleged adults get so upset about.
        Seriously? You need a weekend and special plans because your mother brought you into the world x years ago?

      2. Why the hating on birthdays? Mine was Sunday and I would have been hurt if somebody ruined it.

      3. well I guess to me if you’re an adult and your response to someone ‘ruining’ your birthday is to get back at them, you’re not doing a very good job of being an adult. I don’t hate birthdays I hate the idea that people can’t act like adults about them.

      4. I would agree with that. He’s being a real dick about it. And super immature.

      5. Agreed. I love everything about birthdays. My own! Celebrating others! And I would be extremely upset if someone I thought I loved ruined it.

      6. Birthdays as an adult if you must sure. But a BIRTHDAY WEEKEND? That necessitates travel and big plans?
        I would rather clebrate an actual accomplishment.

      7. To each their own. Some like to make a big deal. Others don’t care. Personally, I would rather celebrate an accomplishment by treating myself to a fancy dinner, new pair of shoes or purse I was coveting. And I would rather travel on my birthday. I don’t think that makes me a stupid, or immature adult.
        I do agree that both these people in this letter are being ridiculous.

  8. Give back the rings, keep the pendant – sell it – and use the money to have a fun birthday with girlfriends. Consider this a bullet dodged. It isn’t so much that he has poor communication skills – as it is what he is communicating… “too bad” to you telling him your feelings are hurt by his vindictive behaviour? Really? Would you treat someone you didn’t even care about like that much less someone you want to be your spouse? If you stay with him more of that is guaranteed. Not only is it part of who he is – but he will know that he can act that way and you will accept it. Seriously – sell the pendant.

  9. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    Honestly? You seriously fucking kinda sorta massively RUINED his birthday. But now you want yours to all be sunshine, lollipops, and roses? Yeah. Good luck with that. Frankly, I kind of get why he is like going… eh, fuck you, on yours. Seriously. Your fight sounds stupid at best. But with ALL this endless fucking drama you’d both be wise just to move on already.

    Oh, and congratulate both sets of parents for getting what they wanted. You foolishly played RIGHT into their hands and have now broken up. Bravo! It’s all very childishly MacBeth. The Jr High Version.

    PS — Keeping ANY of the jewelry is fucking tacky. Doing so only paints you as a money grubbing piece of work. Especially since — , well, your own silliness is what fucking ended the engagement.

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      I don’t think keeping a Christmas gift is tacky. I’ve never given back Christmas or birthday gifts after a breakup. The rings should definitely be given back.

    2. simonthegrey says:

      I agree with this overall. I can even somewhat see his point….if otherwise he would spend the LW’s birthday bitching about how she ruined his, then he should be gone at that time. I think it’s less tacky to keep the christmas piece, although if I were her I would return it just because I certainly wouldn’t wear it again.

  10. Avatar photo SavannahAnna says:

    Firestar is right, IMHO — the necklace was a gift. Don’t you ask him for any gifts you’ve given him back. That’s tacky and wrong (not that you’ve suggested it, to be clear); once you’ve given something away, it isn’t yours anymore. Hence, the verb “to give”! An engagement ring is the (possible) exception to that. But the pendant is yours, you can sell it and use the money to have a fun birthday with girlfriends like Firestar suggests if you want. Move on, you don’t need this brat in your life. “Too bad.” REALLY?! How old is he, anyway?!

  11. LW, do not marry someone with whom you can not have a healthy, productive conflict. Sure, it’s all peachy when things are going well, but conflict is inevitable and how both people deal with conflict (and, with each other) goes a long way in making or breaking a marriage. You both have appalling conflict management skills and have acted horribly towards each other. On your part, even if you were fed up and needed a break from the argument to cool down, there are better ways to communicate that than causing unnecessary drama by giving back the ring. That’s a pretty serious (and petty, and hurtful) thing to do. On his part, holding grudges and ‘getting even’ is ridiculous and damaging. Both of you should not get married to anyone (let alone each other) until you change and grow up in that area.

  12. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    Have you apologized for your part in all of this conflict? Have you owned your own hurtful behavior? You say you’re in this for the long term but you’re the one who broke up with him and gave the rings back so your actions say you really aren’t in this for the long term. Committed people don’t break up because they are angry, they take a break to cool down and think of better options. Committed people look for a win/win solution as a resolution of the conflict. I hope you realize that the two of you could have put the conflict aside and celebrated his birthday and gone on the trip and come back and continued discussing the problem but you didn’t do that. You chose the nuclear option and now you can’t seem to understand how hurt he is, only how hurt you are by his reaction to you. He’s seen an absolutely ugly side of you he didn’t know existed and he dislikes it so much that he can’t stand the idea of going on a trip with you because the trip is a reminder of how ugly and hurtful you are. He’s also being ugly and hurtful and you can see that but you can’t seem to see how awful your own behavior was. This relationship sounds damaged beyond repair. If the two of you can’t work out a major issue without breaking up you aren’t ready for marriage. You’re both too immature to make this work. If you would like an idea of how people in a healthy relationship can work on issues I suggest you read, “He Wins, She Wins: Learning the Art of Marital Negotiation.”
    You can buy it on Amazon or you can probably find it at your local library. Even if this relationship is done and over you would benefit from reading this book so that you don’t destroy your next relationship in a similar manner.

  13. wobster109 says:

    An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. This old saying is the perfect mirror of your life.

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