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Life and Religion

The proposal that wasn’t
Popping the question can take a while – or never
 
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:07 pm
by Michaela Duckett

It’s a hot summer day in Charlotte. I’m hanging out by the pool with a group of girlfriends, and naturally the topic of men comes up. 

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Kiss & Tell: Michaela Duckett


A friend of mine who we’ll call “Nicole” announces she’s getting married next year. It’s a surprise to us.


Nicole and her live-in boyfriend “Justin” have been dating for over 10 years now.


They were high school sweethearts. He’s the only guy she’s ever been with (at least to my knowledge). Yet, he’s never proposed. He won’t even discuss marriage. It’s a topic he goes through great lengths to avoid.  A few weeks ago that all changed.


We were all over to Justin and Nicole’s for poker night. One of our girlfriends had just returned from a trip to Paris with her boyfriend of one year and was sporting a six-carat rock on her ring finger. She was telling us how she cried and jumped into his arms screaming “Yes!” after he proposed to her under the Eiffel Tower when Justin interrupted.


“So you really think you know this dude well enough to marry him?” he asked.


“Yes,” my friend answered. “It doesn’t take everyone 10 years to get to know someone and decide if they want to marry them or not, you know.”


That’s when things got awkward. Nicole shoots her a dirty look. Silence falls over the room. I drop my head and start rearranging my cards. Justin walks over to the refrigerator and grabs a beer.


“So, Justin,” starts “Candace,” who is one of those friends who is always speaking their mind and giving their opinion whether you want it or not. “When are you going to make an honest woman of my girl Nicole and marry her?”


Another dirty look from Nicole. Another awkward silence. Usually this is Justin’s cue to instantly go deaf and exit stage left. This time, he didn’t leave the room. Instead, he takes a drink of his beer, props himself against the counter and answers the question.


 “We’ve been together this long,” he says. “What’s a piece of paper going to change? My baby knows that I love her. Plus getting married is expensive. I want to be sure that I can do it right and give my baby the wedding she deserves.”
At the time, Nicole just rolled her eyes and downplayed it as if it wasn’t a big deal, but we all knew that it was.


‘I can’t keep doing this’
As we sit poolside, sipping margaritas, Nicole fills us in on what happened that night after we left.


“I told him either we are getting married or it’s over,” she says, taking a long drag from her cigarette. “I can’t keep doing this.”


Nicole goes on to share that she’s ready to settle down and have children. After all, she is approaching 30, and all of her siblings – two older brothers and one younger sister – have already beaten her down the aisle. Her little sister Rebecca is expecting her second child in the fall.


“I’m not getting any younger,” she says. “I can’t keep waiting on him forever. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have a ring. Next year, we are getting married. We can worry about the rings and all that other mess later.”


The big countdown
How long should a woman wait for a man to propose?


Some relationship experts will tell you a woman shouldn’t date a man for more than a year without getting a ring. But what works for some couples doesn’t necessarily work for others.


Had Charlotte socialite “Gabrielle Walker” followed that advice she would not be married to Steven Hughes, a well-known land developer who’s worth millions. When Gabby and Steve started dating nearly 13 years ago, he wasn’t wealthy at all. He was barely making $35,000 a year as a retail manager and part-time bartender. They met at one of his weekend gigs. One of Gabby’s best friends, who has a mansion in Ballantyne, was hosting her annual Fourth of July cookout and had hired Steve to work the bar.


“It was hot as hell that day,” recalls Gabby. “The AC had gone out downstairs where the bar was. When I walked up to order a drink, Steve turned around dripping with sweat. While that type of thing might have turned some women off, it didn’t bother me. You know I live in the gym; my motto is a little sweat never hurt anybody.”


Gabby and Steve went home together that night. I guess you could say she broke a few rules, because many relationship experts will also advise against having sex on the first night. But Gabby has another motto: If you want it, take it.


For the first year, Gabby and Steve’s relationship consisted mostly of hooking up and having sex. When they met, she was 31 and convinced she was in her sexual prime. He was five years her junior and always ready. She was just in it to have a good time and didn’t think anything would ever come from their arrangement, which was more of a series of one-night stands than a relationship.


“Then one day, we were laying in bed talking about our dreams,” she says. “It was about a year and half into our relationship. Steve was always carrying this black bag around with him. It was big and flat. I never knew what was inside of it. I never really asked. To be honest, I didn’t ask him a lot of things. I didn’t tell him a lot of things. We just didn’t have that type of relationship. But on this particular day, we were just opening up to each other. He reached beside the bed and grabbed his bag and pulled out all these sketches and told me about this complex he wanted to build.”


Gabby says she gained a whole new respect for him. After that day, they talked more and actually began getting to know each other. Two years later, Steve’s complex was under construction. Five years later, he proposed. Two years later they got married. “I never thought I’d be the type of woman to date a man 10 years before getting married,” she tells me from the balcony of her Uptown condo. “But in the end I married my best friend. I can’t see myself with anyone else. We had to do what was right for us.”


'That’s not for me'
My friend “Robin,” an unmarried 43-year-old dental technician, believes that any man who would date a woman for several years without getting married is running game and is not serious about their relationship.


 “I think a guy knows within six months whether or not he could see himself marrying the woman he’s seeing,” she says. “Even if he doesn’t officially propose, he should know whether or not he’d want to. If it takes too long for him to figure that out, then maybe it’s just not meant to be.”


She and I have both known Gabby for years. While I’ve never known of Steve to stray in the three years they’ve been married, I remember before they made that commitment he had his share of women on the side, especially after he started making money and traded in his $60 Timberlands for $800 Ferragamo dress boots.


“I just can’t see myself putting up with all that and waiting around on some man to make me his wife. That’s just not for me,” says Robin. “Besides, that man didn’t really choose Gabby.  She was just dumb enough to be the last woman standing.”

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