“I Proposed With My Daughter’s Engagement Ring”

Broken Engagement

Several months ago I asked my girlfriend of one year to marry me. I gave her a ring that I purchased from my daughter who was going through a divorce herself. It’s a gorgeous ring that everyone who sees comments on. She accepted the proposal and, at first, the ring; however, after a few days she gave the ring back to me saying that, after giving it some thought, she couldn’t get emotionally attached to a ring that belonged to someone else, let alone my daughter whom she had, on occasion, seen wearing the ring. (I did talk with my daughter before buying the ring to ask if she would be weirded out about it and she said no).

Now I understand wanting to feel attachment to your wedding ring, but my girlfriend won’t go pick one out for me to purchase and she won’t get online to even design one of her own. She also does not want to change her Facebook status to engaged or announce any engagement until she receives a ring, yet, when we began to get serious, she insisted that I change my status to “in a relationship.”

I should also point out that I got your email from a link she had sent me where a woman had written to you about her fiancé purchasing a drum set rather than an engagement ring after they were engaged for eight months.

I would welcome your input on this matter as I am very confused. — On a Ring and a Prayer

Fortunately, unlike this morning’s column, I think I can answer this one successfully despite my utter lack of sleep for the past six weeks. LW, this really isn’t so complicated. Surely you can understand why your girlfriend wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a ring that, until very recently, she saw on your daughter’s hand and that now symbolizes, at least in her mind, a failed marriage, right? But it sounds like she DOES want to marry you — she simply wants a different ring, and, since she doesn’t want to pick it out or design it herself, you have to take the responsibility of picking one out for her yourself. Does she have a good friend or sister or mom you can ask for advice (or maybe to even go shopping with you)? If not, you could ask her what style she prefers and then do your best to please her. I bet she’ll be happy with whatever you choose as long as it isn’t your daughter’s ring. Speaking of which: You should ask your daughter if she wants to buy back her former ring, and, if not, sell it yourself and use the money for the new engagement ring you’ll be buying.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. for_cutie says:

    You could have the main diamond taken out of the ring and placed in a new setting, and sell the old setting without the stone.

    If your fiance sent you a link to this website, one might assume she is a reader. Did you think about the repercussions if she saw this post? It is a pretty specific situation – how many people could ever be in the position to buy a daughter’s engagement ring, really? I am worried about your judgement overall LW.

    1. Maybe he did this strategically?? 🙂

    2. What’s wrong with seeking advice here? Clearly she thinks Wendy’s advice is sound so he’s going to the right well. And it’s not like he didn’t ask the gf first to try and fix the mistake. He needs help. He’s asking for it. Judgement might be off with recycled ring (though definitely a male response to think that would be okay.) but trying to fix it? Nothing wrong with that.

      1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

        Um, if Nick Cannon did it with Mariah Carey then obviously it’s fine for the rest of us. 😉

      2. But that didn’t really work out so great in the long run…

  2. Spot on, Wendy! LW, of course your fiancee doesn’t want to have the engagement ring your daughter’s now-ex-husband gave to her, no matter how gorgeous it is.
    I like the advice of selling the current ring if it’s just not the LW’s fiancee’s style. But, I also like @cutie’s the idea of taking the stone(s) out of the current ring and using it to have a new one made, since the stones are probably the most expensive part of the ring and you won’t get full dollar if you just sell it. Either way, this doesn’t seem like a huge relationship problem to me. Just get another ring and surprise her with it, since she obviously wants to be surprised.

    1. Wonderland says:

      This is what my husband did. He had been engaged before me, and had a much bigger budget when he purchased her ring. When he proposed to me, he had the diamond put in a new setting for me. I was cool with this for a few reasons 1) Its a nice stone! 2) It wasn’t her ring 3) He took the time and effort to find a setting that he knew I’d like – and that’s the part that mattered to me.

      1. We did a similar thing, just with the diamond chips. I had a gorgeous diamond ring from my mother and my husband had the ring he’d given his ex fiancé, we combined the two into a Frankenring that cost way less to remake than what it’s now worth which is great!

  3. Avatar photo call-me-hobo says:

    I don’t think he’s done anything wrong- I think that he’s just trying to understand when he’s a little bit oblivious.

    I just really don’t think the LW sees the emotional significance the gf puts into the engagement ring. He probably just sees it as a simply a piece of jewelry, whereas she sees it as a declaration of commitment. I don’t think either of you is wrong; just different opinions

    If you’ve already proposed, I think that you two should go look for a ring together. That way it’s the ring is a symbol of the start of your marriage. It doesn’t mean that the ring has to be brand new. I have an estate piece and I absolutely love it. Just make sure it’s what she wants.

  4. dinoceros says:

    I would find it odd to get my fiance’s daughter’s ring. My first thought would be that he chose it because it required the least amount of energy to get it. I don’t know if the link she sent was a result of this fiasco, but I imagine that if she sees the first ring as a lazy option, then you telling her to pick out her ring is not helping proof that you’re willing to put effort in.

    1. Totally agree. Going along with what Wonderland said above, picking a ring shows that you spent time and effort thinking about what SHE wants. She doesn’t want a ring that you just happened to have handy, she wants a ring of her own that YOU pick out for her.
      I can see why the LW might find look at this pragmatically and think that it doesn’t matter where the ring came from, but to his fiancee it does. So yeah, do it the old fashioned way– ask her for preferences, ask a close friend/sister/etc to help you, think about her tastes, and buy a ring.
      I have a super unique ring that people notice but what I like about it is not that it’s unique or beautiful (it is) or expensive (it wasn’t) but that my husband took the (few) opinions I had about a ring and picked one out with me in mind.
      Think about that LW: I love this ring because he picked it for me. Not because of what it looks like.

  5. Avatar photo GertietheDino says:

    Or she realizes she doesn’t want to marry him at all and is just too chickenshit to end it.

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      That was my initial thought. I felt like she was using this as a soft break up.

  6. Maybe if you gave the relationship more than 9 months before getting engaged you would have found out a little more about the situation. Why rush this.

  7. LW seems oblivious in the “Haven’t you ever seen a 90s comedy about wimmen and their marriage obsession” way, and also in a “you’re a grown man, you need to be able to pick out a gift without forcing the recipient to do half the work” kind of way, but … I’m kind of on Team Oblivious here. I don’t want to live in a world where it’s just common sense that a person would accept a proposal but then refuse to announce her engagement because she didn’t get the perfect ring. Isn’t that basically unaccepting the proposal? Refusing to announce the engagement till there’s an acceptable ring, to me, seems a lot like refusing to BE engaged till there’s an acceptable ring. That’s a pretty rotten about-face to pull on someone for the sake of an itty-bitty piece of jewelry. I sympathize with her disappointment in getting his daughter’s leftovers (especially if he did it partially to help his daughter or out of convenience, and not just b/c he thought she’d like it), but imagine HIS disappointment. He thought he was engaged, because she said yes, and now he’s being put on hold until he finds the right ring? That’s a much bigger disappointment, IMO.

    1. You perfectly summed up what I was thinking. She accepted the ring at first, but now it’s not enough. I would be questioning whether she wants to marry the LW because this just shouldn’t matter.

    2. Yes, thank you. I was thinking I was the only person who was as clueless as the LW. I mean, I guess I can understand about not wanting a ring from a soon-to-be-in-law’s failed marriage. But to give back the ring after having accepted it and then refuse to acknowledge that you are engaged until you get “the perfect ring”?? Though you’re unwilling to give any input on what you want? Please. LW, this woman does not want to marry you. Sorry.

      1. I wonder if she told a close friend or relative about it and they filled her head with all this doom and gloom about a recycled ring being bad luck. Maybe she was fine with it until she heard people’s reactions and now she doesn’t want to tell anyone else because of those reactions.

    3. Seriously? Seriously! says:

      I agree that it’s a disappointment, but to me, it would be a HUGE disappointment for my boyfriend to start to stutter and stammer while I start to well up, get down on one knee while the tears start to fall down my face, pull a box out of his pocket, open it and BAM, its a very familiar ring that i’ve seen a million times before that his daughter needed to get out of her jewelry box. I’d have done EXACTLY the same thing as her: say yes at the time because of the excitement and the happiness, then think about it more, and tell him that i can’t accept that ring, When pressed, I’d also tell him that I’m not going to just go to a store and pick it out myself, or go and design my own ring online — he knows what I like, I’ve given my sister and best friend specifics and sent them my pinterest board of rings I like; he can go figure it out. And while I love him, and really want to marry him, I can’t consider myself “engaged” until he comes back with a different ring.

      Not because I need a “perfect ring” but because, to me, getting engaged to be married is a BIG DEAL and the decision to do so requires thought, time, and effort. Sometimes, for some people, words alone can convey their intentions, for others, they need to see certain actions.

      What if he was just proposing because of how much he knew I wanted to get married and he was basically indifferent and/or wanted to shut me up? I would hate to think this of the man I love, but usually, the effort (and expense, no matter what budget) of going out and picking out an engagement ring is an overt act demonstrating a person’s desire to get engaged to the person for whom they are buying the ring. He didn’t do this. Offering up a diamond ring (with no GOOD sentimental value) that you just happen to have does not convey that same desire — is he purposefully trying to convey that to me?

      So, I’m not unreasonable, and I’m not angry, and I’d give him a chance to demonstrate that to me, now that he knows that it is important to me (I may be frustrated that I thought I had adequately conveyed that before, but it is what it is), but I would not be willing to call myself engaged yet. If his response was that he never thought of a ring as being that important thing, and showed me houses he had been scouting out for us to live in once we were married, or venues for the wedding, or the paperwork he had picked up from city hall for changing our names, I wouldn’t be like – hells no until you put a ring on this finger! Then it would become a discussion about what we truly wanted and where we were going as a couple, a discussion that probably would end with us becoming formally engaged, even sans ring. But if his response was like, “whats wrong with it? you want me to go pick out a DIFFERENT ring when I already had that perfectly good one already? can’t you?”, I would hold out until his actions aligned with his declared desire to get engaged.

      1. A lot of what you say makes total sense, except for the notion of thinking it’s OK to un-accept an engagement because of something that’s essentially symbolic. And, Idk, I feel like saying he didn’t put in any effort so he doesn’t seem to want to be engaged — how many women are expected to put in ANY effort before they get engaged to prove that they want it? Waking up in the morning and walking out the door as a woman is pretty much enough proof to the world that you’re desperate to be married. That one lady who actually DID make an effort by making a jillion sandwiches earned the pity of every other woman in America. But the man has to prove he wants it by spending a whole bunch of money on a ring AND prove how well he knows her by picking out the perfect one with no input from her? It’s a lot of pressure for a guy this clueless, but also, a bit of a double standard, isn’t it?

    4. Anonymous says:

      Hmm this may be an immature way to think for someone about to marry a man who is old enough to have a divorced daughter: but perhaps she wants the ring prior to announcing on fb so that the ring can be in the announcement. Otherwise people may ask “let’s see the ring!” (Not that I think that would be a polite response but it wouldn’t surprise me) and she’d be tongue tied because I’m sure she’s not interested in Sharing this “cute/funny” anecdote about the daughter’s ring.

      1. Lol — actually, that’s the exact secret reason I judged her so hard. Because you can easily be engaged while still looking for the ring (or, you know, be engaged with no ring ever), but if you have a lot of people around you who won’t be happy for you if you don’t have a ring yet, and you actually care about other people’s shallow judgments like that, you’ll wait to announce till you have an awesome, shiny, new ring. And that’s kinda pathetic.

  8. I think this is a simple matter of two people with different perspectives. For her, as with some women, the ring IS the engagement. There is a tremendous amount of sentimental meaning in it. Traditionally, the ring was one of the few possessions that was really HERS and not her husbands. Although to him, and for me, it is just a ring, but her, it represents so much more and so she wants one he picked himself, as Wendy said. It makes sense that she wanted him to make public that he was seeing her, and she seems to WANT to make the engagement public now, but wants this gesture of the ring.

    1. The particular DW letter that the girlfriend sent to the LW is significant here. The point of the linked letter was that the author was NOT some high maintenance diva who needed a pricey perfect engagement ring, but that she would have been happy with any ring at all.

      It looks like his girlfriend sent the message earlier in their relationship (by sending him the link to the DW letter) that she was not super picky about the ring because it’s the commitment that matters. I can’t help but feel like rejecting the ring is exactly the same as rejecting the man. Maybe buy a $5 ring, as mentioned in the linked letter, and see if she’s satisfied with that?

      1. There’s a difference between being not high maintenance and instead saying and meaning that any ring will do and then not wanting your divorcing step-daughter’s discarded engagement ring, though. Who expects *that* when they say “any ring will do”?

      2. She gave back the ring AND refuses to announce the engagement, so she has completely backed out of her initial acceptance and basically called off the engagement. If I were the LW, I would be very hurt by that and not wanting to propose again.
        She refuses to announce any engagement until she receives a ring, but she already did receive a ring! And she gave it back. Are we really expecting him to get a new ring and propose again, as if his first proposal wasn’t totally rebuffed days after the fact? I could empathize with the dismay if the ring previously belonged to her boyfriend’s ex, but this is from his daughter. If this woman was fully wanting to get married then I think she would be willing to announce her engagement, with a ring or without.

      3. Or…she wants to get married, but she wants an engagement ring and she doesn’t want to announce her engagement, then have people ask to “see the ring,” and then have to explain the whole damned thing? I wouldn’t want to do that, either. Because, man, the longer I think on it, the more cringe-worthy getting proposed to with your fiancee’s cast off ring is.

      4. Anonymous says:

        One million times yes.

      5. Seriously? Seriously! says:

        And the more irate I get when I read these responses that point the finger on HER for somehow being too materialistic in rejecting a ring that has tons of flash but no/uncomfortable substance.

      6. IF she had not sent her boyfriend the DW letter link, I would 100% agree with you. Since she apparently changed her mind between sending him the link and rejecting his proposal, how hard is it for her to say “I want you to surprise me with a ring YOU designed”? They clearly have communication issues.

      7. Seriously? Seriously! says:

        See, i interpreted her sending the link totally different than everyone else did (especially as it isn’t totally clear WHEN she sent him that link). Remember, he said he proposed MONTHS ago, and a few days after that, she said she couldn’t accept that ring. So, that leaves us, still, a few months ago. If after that, all he’s done in terms of movement on the proposal front is suggest that she go pick out a ring or design it herself, and has taken no other actions towards picking out/procuring her a different ring, I see sending the link as informing him that “people who want to get married take steps to get engaged — and common sense/good advice says I should be careful when people say that one thing, but don’t take actions to back that up.” Meaning that if he wants to get engaged, he should take those steps, or its fair for her to determine that he’s not serious about getting engaged, like the drummer wasn’t serious about getting engaged.

        And even if she did send him the column before his attempted proposal, I gotta go with what @Miss MJ said above — that even if sending the column implied that “even a five dollar ring” was ok with her, it isn’t really changing her mind for that blanket sentiment to cover the super-unlikely-impossible-to-predict-awkward-daughter’s-bad-juju-cast-off ring.

  9. Ouch, there’s some harshness in here. I don’t really see anything wrong with the LW’s fiancee being excited about getting engaged, fully wanting to get married to the LW and accepting a beautiful ring in the spur of the moment and then realizing that maybe she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life with her step-daughter’s engagement ring from her failed marriage on her finger.
    I also don’t see a huge problem with her asking the LW to sell it or whatever (since it was just going to be sold anyway and wasn’t picked out for her specifically or anything) and get her one that is “hers,” but she doesn’t particularly care what it is and doesn’t want to pick it out herself. It seems clear that she wants to be surprised and get a ring that he put thought into and thought it seemed like her. A lot of women feel like that. Sure a lot of them aren’t turning away a first ring at the time, but then, how many women have been proposed to with a ring that their step-daughter’s ex husband bought for the step-daughter before their marriage that failed? Not many.
    LW, just have the stones in the ring remade into something that you pick out for your fiancee that you believe she will love. I changed my mind on selling it – you’ll get more bang for your buck if you reuse the stone AND you can say that even though you understand why she didn’t want your daughter’s old ring, you didn’t want to part with the actual diamond (or whatever the stone is) that you proposed to her with, so you had it made into something that is uniquely hers and yours as a couple.

    1. Seriously? Seriously! says:

      Awesome answer. Totally dead on.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Once she has turned down the ring she may be insulted if it comes back again, recycled into a new ring. I think he should go for something totally new that reuses nothing. If the two of them could talk about this then he wouldn’t have to guess whether he could reuse the stones or whether she would be insulted to have them reused. This is a huge sign that they aren’t ready for marriage. When you have to ask strangers what to do because your partner won’t give you enough information to figure out what they want and why they want it then you have no business getting married. The man isn’t psychic so if she expects him to just know her well enough to do this right, probably to prove some level of commitment to her, then he shouldn’t propose.

  10. It’s kind of obvious that she doesn’t want to shop for or design a ring because she wants YOU to do it. My favorite thing about my engagement ring is that my husband put in some time and effort to pick something that he thought I’d like. And honestly, it’s probably not a ring that I would have chosen for myself, but it I feel like it’s better that it’s something that he had a say in, vs something I just picked out for myself.

    1. Seriously? Seriously! says:

      I compliment my fiancé all the time about how beautiful my ring is and how amazing of a job he did picking it out. He always gets this little embarrassed super-happy expression and smiles to himself, which basically says “I did good.” I love that and he loves that and that’s part of what makes the ring so special. He also feels great about it anytime anyone compliments it — it isn’t just MY engagement ring, its OURS.

      1. Awww that’s so sweet.

  11. I want to better articulate why I’m a little annoyed at the LW’s girlfriend. Most women have strong preferences regarding their engagement ring, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for having those preferences. My issue here is with communicating those preferences. She didn’t just fail to communicate her wishes; she actually went out of her way to miscommunicate her wishes.
    If I feel strongly about being involved in designing my engagement ring, I’m going to make sure my boyfriend is aware of my preference. If I just want him to pick out something from his heart, I’m going to communicate that to my boyfriend. If I just want a ring and don’t care what it looks like or how much it costs, then I would tell him so. This girlfriend not only failed to communicate her preference, she also sent her boyfriend a DW letter that indicates she doesn’t care at all what ring she gets as long as she gets a ring. I totally understand his confusion.

    1. dinoceros says:

      I’m not sure it’s clear that she cares about the design. All I gathered was that she wants him to pick it out and wants it to not be leftovers from his daughter. If she shoots down what he picks out, that’s a whole other story, but I haven’t seen anything yet that implies that she’s picky about what it looks like. If she does have a strong concern about what it looks like, then I agree that she is not doing a good job of communicating, especially by turning down an offer to shop with him.

      1. Seriously? Seriously! says:

        It didn’t even sound like it was an offer to shop WITH him, but basically an offer to shop FOR him/it. Browsing with your fiancé sounds nice; having to actually definitely pick it out and wait while all the haggling and back and forth go down? less fun.

  12. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I think you should slow down. This fiasco with the engagement ring shows that you don’t know her well enough to get engaged. You’ve only known each other a year and it shows. You don’t know her enough to know what she would or wouldn’t like, your daughter’s engagement ring for example. If this is a relationship that will last a life time it will certainly last a few more years while the two of you get to know each other better. Develop communication skills. She should be able to tell you why she won’t help you look for a ring. She should be able to tell you what it means to her to have you find the ring. If the two of you can’t talk about basics like these then neither of you is ready for marriage.

    Get engaged when the commitment to spend your lives together is already there. Get engaged when you don’t need an engagement ring to show your commitment because you both know the commitment and you are living the commitment. Then get engaged and get a ring if you both want it and get married because then you are ready for marriage.

  13. My ex-fiance didn’t have a ring when he proposed. I said yes, and we agreed to go shopping for one together. I can’t begin to tell you how many people had the gall to tell me “it’s not real until you have a ring.” While it 2as incredibly rude of them, I did learn that him not having a ring already picked out was an indication of his laziness (and cheapness). The whole ring shopping process was hellacious because of him. No surprise we broke up a few months after that. This time, I would not accept a proposal without a ring, and if it was a ring that I disliked to the point of asking for a different one (which would have to be pretty extreme), I would also wait until I had the new ring to announce the engagement. Yes, I shouldn’t care what other people say about not having a ring, but having done it once already, I’m not interested in doing it again.

  14. I don’t know this girl but some women are really serious about “the ring.” My husband and I talked about our ring together, I wanted to use my grandmothers, he wanted the honor of buying me one. In the end we used my grandmothers and he had it inscripted with something special. I think he could probably trade the ring and buy something special to her, I would guess she wants thought put into her ring not just one he got. Being thoughtful goes a long ways. Maybe he can find something else, plan a nice re-proposal ? he should just make it special for her and if that other ring takes away from that then it’s her feeling and heart that are hurt. Sounds like she does not care what ring as long as it’s hers.

  15. She seems more concerned with the ring than the relationship and has handled it in a very spoiled way. If I were the man, I’d be reevaluating the relationship as a whole.

    1. Seriously? Seriously! says:

      SHE handled it in a spoiled way??? The LW complains: “my girlfriend won’t go pick one out for me to purchase and she won’t get online to even design one of her own.”
      So in terms of procuring a ring to propose to the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with, he is wiling only to (a) give her a ring he already has lying around, but which has no positive sentimental value, under circumstances he knew were “Weird” enough to ask the daughter if it was ok with her; or (b) pay for a ring she does all of the legwork to find and pick out. It doesn’t seem to dawn on him that he should have taken an active role in getting her a ring that is supposed to symbolize his commitment to her.

      Not to mention, his “tit for tat” example of inconsistency or confusion from comparing her insistence that he declare (on Facebook, don’t get me started) that he was in a relationship, when they progressed into a serious relationship, to her reticence to post on Facebook until he proposes with a ring he spent any effort on, is totally misplaced. It is entirely consistent. If she were just about the appearance of a perfect “ring” or just about the act of getting engaged as a status symbol, she’d be happy to announce it on Facebook with a picture of the original (and seemingly expensive and beautiful) ring. But she isn’t, because after reflection, she didn’t want to get attached to something that didn’t stand for what it was supposed to stand for, and she is giving him the chance to demonstrate that he just missed the boat in the first instance, not that he doesn’t care enough to do it right.

      Someone should be reevaluating the relationship as a whole, but It shouldn’t be him.

      1. Yeah, seriously.

        If the objective is to be happily married, this isn’t a good start.

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