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LOVE LETTERS

Put a promise ring on it?

It’s too soon to move in or get engaged, but she wants a way to show commitment

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / September 17, 2011

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Q. My boyfriend and I have been together for a few years. I’m in my late 20s, and he’s in his early 30s. We have had ups and downs like most couples, and dealt with personal and family chaos, career changes, and all the other crazy stuff life throws at you. At the end of the day we love each other very much and have stuck by each other through thick and thin. We do not live together, although we have talked about moving in together recently and decided that we’re not quite ready to take that step. We spend most nights together at his place.

Now for my question. I’m not 100 percent sure about marriage in general. Some days I think it would be fun and exciting to have a wedding and a marriage, while other days I think I’m cool with the life partner thing. I do want a commitment, though. I see moving in together as the “big step’’ that would solidify that commitment. I just re-signed my lease, so the earliest something could change is a year from now. I’ve decided I would like to show him that I am committed. As a 21st-century woman, I am thinking about getting some kind of matching jewelry (sort of like promise rings?).

My question is: Am I rushing things? I want it to be a joyous occasion and not uncomfortable, but I would also love for it to be a surprise, so I don’t want to have a conversation with him about it first. I know he is committed to our relationship, but I don’t want him to think I am pressuring him into proposing soon or that I’m not respecting the conversation we had about the next step in our relationship. I wouldn’t expect us to wear them every day (I wear very little jewelry, and it changes from day to day). I would view it as a sweet symbol of our commitment to each other. It feels empowering when I think about buying this gift for us and could see him either loving it or feeling nervous about it. He’ll never think that I am hinting at an engagement ring; I have told him on several occasions that I do not believe in engagement rings because I think they are archaic and misogynistic. (Sorry, Beyoncé. I still love “Single Ladies.’’) Any guidance? Is this old fashioned or corny? Will he view this as too much pressure?

LONGING FOR COMMITMENT, Massachusetts

A. I’m confused. So. . . He won’t think that the matching jewelry is a hint that you want to get engaged, but to you it will mean that you’re on your way to making some sort of big commitment. I don’t think that the idea is corny, but I do think that it’s misleading.

You want to start living with him after your lease is up, so why don’t you focus on that? If you’re going to buy something that celebrates where the two of you are right now, get something great for his apartment that you can share. Or maybe spend the money on a weekend trip.

Just know that no matter what you buy, wear, or say, you can’t speed up this relationship. You have to accept where you are now and fight the urge to pretend that you can control where you’ll be next year. You’re in a great partnership that’s still evolving. Putting a promise ring on it doesn’t change anything. I’m sure that Beyoncé would agree with me.

To summarize: No promise rings, please. But ask him if there’s something you can contribute to his apartment to make life easier for both of you since you spend so much time there. That says commitment - without any mixed signals or manipulation. And when you’re ready, talk about cohabitation next year. It’ll take some real planning, so you should be discussing the change within the next few months.

READERS RESPOND:

Aren’t promise rings supposed to mean that you will eventually get engaged? I feel like those are meant for high schoolers who are going away to different colleges. Focus on your relationship. Don’t worry about the material aspect of it. Work on moving in together when both of you are ready. NOUDON

So you’re fixing to get ready to commence to beginning to think about marriage? BOBLFF

What the bleep is a promise ring? You aren’t ready for the “big step’’ of living together and being pragmatic that you’ll have to wait a year, but you spend most of your nights over there with him? Live with him and figure out if you two are compatible on a day to day basis, at times when you’re not dating. That’s my suggestion. Should’ve broken that lease instead of renewed it. You sound like too much of a planner. SOXROCK2

If he’s not ready to move in, he’s definitely not ready to wear a symbolic ring. You have to let your relationship progress naturally, and this symbolism seems a bit premature. Bring up the moving together thing in another three months and see what he’s thinking. Do not buy promise rings. It could be a very awkward surprise. JKOZMIC

To me, promise rings sound childish. My bigger concern is the ambivalence the letter writer has about this relationship and marriage in general. I’m also concerned about her moving into her guy’s place. You know, when you do that, the balance of power shifts. Kudos to you for not moving in too soon. Is there any way you two could get a new place together? And decorate it yourselves? It might lessen the tension of moving into “his’’ place versus “your’’ place. I think this year will be critical for you to clarify just want you want from this guy long-term, since I found your letter pretty confusing about that. OLDERNOWISER

I’m trying to figure out how in the world an engagement ring would be viewed as misogynistic but a promise ring would not? SHANAO621

I can’t even begin to understand what the heck a promise ring is about when it involves actual adults. Does that mean you will be going steady? Get a bed or a Cuisinart or something practical. Jeez, I can only imagine this poor guy telling his friends he is wearing a “promise’’ ring. Wait until your lease is up and rethink what you want. Live together - engaged then married. Use this year wisely. MOVA

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@ globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.