“My Boyfriend Returned My Engagement Ring!”

My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. We have a child together and he has a child from a previous relationship whom we have custody of together. A few months ago he purchased an engagement ring for me. I didn’t see it, much less know about it, until we got into a heated argument and he blurted out that he had spent a few thousand dollars on what I would call “the perfect ring!” I didn’t talk to him about it or even think about it. I didn’t want to ruin whatever he had planned.

About a week ago we were on a family outing. During the outing we made a quick run to the store. I had the kids and he wandered off. He came back all bummed and depressed. I asked him what the problem was, and he said, “I’m a little bummed out because of what I had to do.” I didn’t think anything of it, but the next day I overheard him speaking to his best friend. I heard his friend ask if the ring was still at the jewelry store, and my boyfriend replied with, “Yes, but I returned it.”

Usually, I don’t get bummed, but lately our relationship hasn’t been the best. (We are going through a custody battle and our life is stressful). I don’t understand why he wouldn’t just talk to me about this, and why he would be so irresponsible as to leave both the purchase and return receipt out for me to stumble across.

I am left speechless and sort of feeling like I will be the “forever” girlfriend and never his wife. Why would he just return the ring without even mentioning it but leave the “evidence” for me to see? By the way, I saw the ring online and it’s breathtaking. Seeing it made me that much more depressed. — Forever Girlfriend?

So… your boyfriend of five years, whom you are raising two children with, blurts out in a heated argument that he spent a few thousand dollars on “the perfect ring,” and you didn’t “talk to him about it or even think about it“?? And then, one afternoon when he’s acting depressed and tells you that he’s “a little bummed out because of what he had to do,” you didn’t ASK what it was he had to do? You simply — in your words! — “didn’t think anything of it.” Really?? Your boyfriend acts depressed and tells you he had to do something that bummed him out, and you honestly didn’t think anything of that? And you wonder why he left the receipt for your engagement ring out where you would be sure to see it?

Your boyfriend clearly wasn’t being “irresponsible” by leaving those receipts out; he left them out for you to find, hoping you would see them as a huge flag signaling a need to talk. Why he doesn’t just use his words, I don’t know.

It seems you both have a problem when it comes to that. But you have five years together and two children. Quit acting like a couple of babies and communicate what is on your minds! TELL him you saw those receipts and APOLOGIZE that you didn’t express concern about what was going on when he told you he was depressed and bummed out, and then ASK him what the hell is going on and then TELL him you are ready to make your relationship a priority.

I empathize that you feel stressed out with your ongoing custody battle, but life is stressful. It’s these times when you need to support and depend on your partner, not push each other away. Quit ignoring your boyfriend. Quit pushing things out of your mind because you don’t want to ruin surprises or you don’t want to face reality.

If someone blurts out in a heated argument that he spent several thousand dollars on the perfect ring, an appropriate response might be something like, “I didn’t know you were thinking along those lines,” or “You did?! I had no idea. Let’s talk about that.” An appropriate response might be letting the heat of the argument cool down and re-visiting this idea that your boyfriend of five years just told you he has a ring, and saying: “Hey, that thing you said earlier? When we were fighting? About the ring? You were serious about that? Does that mean you want to get married? I don’t want to ruin anything you might have planned in terms of a proposal, but I want to talk more about marriage and what that means for us.”

And now — now that the ring has apparently been returned, an appropriate response would be: “I saw those receipts for the ring. We need to talk. Because I’m done not talking and not thinking about things that are important, like you and our relationship. It’s time for us to communicate.” And then do that. Because five years and two kids and you and he are important enough.


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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. LW and the boyfriend both sound very immature.

    1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      Yeah…blurting out that you got a ring in the middle of a heated argument that your GF would supposedly identify as “perfect” is pretty much the opposite of mature. In fact, that is also the opposite of “appropriate time to bring this up.”

  2. I know I’m guilty of this too but I’ve noticed a pattern where one party in the relationship will avoid talking about something in order not to jinx it or scare the other off. (i.e. marriage) It’s mostly girls not talking to guys to avoid “scaring them off” but I’m not going to put definitive genders on it.

    1. It also happens when one party wants to make the jump from FWB to a relationship.

  3. WWS. Even though I wanted my proposal to be a surprise, my boyfriend and I still talked about marriage a lot before we got engaged. What it meant to both of us, whether we were ready, timing, etc. Even when the conversation didn’t go exactly the way I wanted, we both voiced our viewpoints and always knew what the other was thinking. You can’t just shut down communication and expect everything to be ok. It’s definitely time to start talking. If you want to marry him, tell him that! If you want to know why he returned the ring, ask him! That’s the only way to move forward here.

    1. Same here – the proposal itself was a complete surprise that I loved, but we had talked about how we wanted to get married in the next year or two. Plus, imagine how much easier it’ll be for the guy to propose if he already knows for certain that you’ll say yes! You can talk about your intentions for the future without giving up a surprise proposal. Yes, you’ll know it’s coming, but you won’t know the details, or when exactly it’ll happen.

  4. WWS. Clearly, LW, your boyfriend didn’t intend for you to be the “forever girlfriend” but something made him return the ring. What was that something? Ask him. And then LISTEN to him.

  5. Skyblosom says:

    First, just a guess, but I’d say he returned the ring because he needed the money for something more pressing, like paying the lawyer for the custody fight.

    Second, the two of you don’t sound like you are ready for marriage. When you are ready for marriage your partner will be your primary partner. That means they are the one you turn to with the ups and downs of your life. They are the person you set short and long terms goal with and with whom you share your hopes and dreams. They should be the person you turn to first with a problem. The fact that your boyfriend either can’t or doesn’t turn to you with problems and even when you know he has a problem you think nothing of it shows that the two of you are not yet primary partners. You need to ask questions when you see he is stressed. You need to let him know you are there for him and you need to let him know your ups and downs in life. The two of you need to be able to share a goal, like marriage, by setting a time frame for when it will happen and how you will pay for the ring and the wedding. To be lifetime partners you have to share your lives and you do that by talking.

  6. Bittergaymark says:

    “I wonder why…” Actually, no, I don’t. I sure don’t.

  7. Just communicate! Why will no one do this???

    And what is up with the super low comment numbers and lack of regulars lately?

    1. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

      Yeah I have noticed that too..it is really bizarre and sad 🙁

    2. Yeah, I’ve been noticing that too. My guess is the holiday weekend? I know people who extended their vacations.

      1. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

        Idk its been going on longer than that though, maybe just summer vacations etc. I wish I was on a beach somewhere with no computer access myself.

      2. Oh yeah, I was gone for 2 weeks halfway around the world. I forget, summer in general is when a lot of people get away…

    3. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Communication is hard! You have to know what you want (that can be hard) and know how to express it (that can be even harder) *and* know how to react and deal with whatever your partner says back. Ahhh, so hard! I am not good at relationships at all.

      1. The timing and location too. I once told someone I didn’t think discussing big relationship stuff was appropriate for lunch at a very busy campus Noodles and Co.

      2. Skyblossom says:

        I don’t think you even have to always know what you want, you can say you’re conflicted and tell your partner all the reasons you like something and all of the reasons you don’t like it and say you don’t know what to do.

      3. But even if you’re not good at saying what you want or spelling out your feelings, you have to make the effort to try! Like, your partner is not a mind reader and won’t know how you’re feeling if you don’t even try to talk about it. It should be worth the uncomfortable-ness, though, I think.

      4. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Definitely agree

  8. findingtheearth says:

    I had a boyfriend tell me in a fight that he had bought an engagement ring for me. It was after we had broken up and he was wanting to work it out. We got back together and a few months went by and we had another argument. He then brought up that he had not actually bought a ring and used it to lure me back.

    However, I think Wendy is spot on. You can’t “ignore” depression. You need to talk with your boyfriend and discuss what is actually going on. Custody battles can be ugly and mean, he needs you most right now, and just “forgetting about it” or “not thinking about it” helps no one and will drive the wedge further between you.

  9. Exactly WWS: communication. Focus more on the state of your relationship and being on the same page than ruining some surprise. He’s brought it up more than once, so I think the cat’s out of the bag anyway.
    I’ve ruined almost* every surprise Bassanio has ever planned for me and I used to blame nosiness or him being a bad liar or something, but I’m gonna just start blaming good communication.
    *There is one notable exception: somehow he planned a whole trip to see me once without giving it away. I was talking to him on skype and opened my door and there he was. I’m still in awe of how he did it.

  10. Skyblossom says:

    I love how good communication keeps spoiling the surprises!

  11. snoopy128 says:

    Wendy is so spot on.

    If you can’t talk to him about these things, and “ignore” when he is being depressed, you need to work on your communication skills!

  12. My first thought on why he had to return the ring was money especially if they’re in the midst of a custody battle then legal fees are probably an issue. Obviously communication is completely necessary no matter what the circumstances but I feel the need to point out that getting engaged/married in the middle of a custody dispute can look an awful lot like an attempt to make a better case for them as parents in case they are at risk of loosing custody. I saw this happen in a friend’s custody case and while the engagement was legitimate it definitely contributed to anger and resentment in all parties and certainly didn’t help anything move forward.

  13. “Why would he just return the ring without even mentioning it but leave the “evidence” for me to see?” Why don’t you ask him?

  14. Let’s be careful here, people! If we keep telling people to communicate with their SO, we are letting out the big secret. Half of DW’s LW’s will just stop writing her if they learn this “one weird trick.”

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