I proposed to my boyfriend. Here's the story...

"he was totally on board with me proposing, and that it was just the *when* that was going to be a secret to him"

Alice Tapper

The Romance Gap: the discepancy in behaviour expected from men/Masculine presenting people and women/Feminine presenting people when dating and in relationships

It's where outdated gender dynamics and expectations play out which make it difficult to build healthy relationships.

A couple of months ago, I worked with Bumble on their Romance Gap campaign. You can catch up on the highlights here. Off the back of the conversation, a community member very kindly offered to share their story. It's the perfect example of how challenging gender norms when it comes to money, dating and relationships can actually be a really liberating thing to do. I hope you enjoy the story below.

1) Could you tell me a little bit about your relationship, where did you meet? How long were you together before you got engaged?

We worked together shelf stacking at Waitrose when we were in very similar transitional phases in life - I was in my final year of school about to go to uni and he was in a gap year after finishing his last year of school and figuring out what to do next. We were “best friends” for a while before him moving onto a scientist apprenticeship forced us out of the “do we don’t we” phase very abruptly. When I proposed we’d been together just short of 6 years, living together for 4 - I was 23 and he was 25!

2) Where did the idea to propose come from? Had you talked about it?

We’re both queer so have had “non-conventional” relationships, and before him I had only really been in relationships with women so the idea/desire definitely came from there. Besides that, I just really liked the idea of curating the ultimate romantic experience for him - I’ve always liked planning grand gestures!

We’ve been talking about marriage since about 6 months in, where we had decided we’d be engaged by 2 years in and married by 4! Thankfully we cooled off on that idea when we got to that point as we were busy enjoying uni life. Post the crazy teenage speculation about marriage, we talked about it a lot and he was totally on board with me proposing, and that it was just the *when* that was going to be a secret to him.

3) How did you prepare/what was the plan/how did you feel?!

I started planning around April 2021 right up until October 2021 when I proposed. I planned a week of activities, gifts, custom art and meals out, culminating in a proposal at sunset on the Saturday and a well earned hungover sofa day on the Sunday. Looking back no wonder I was so stressed with the amount I planned but it all went off pretty well! His reactions, especially to the custom art and the proposal itself, were worth it 100x over.

We had discussed it so much it was only really positive feelings leading up to it, but this did mean I had to tell him the entire time that I WISH I’d planned the proposal for this week but I actually forgot to which I’m not sure he bought 😅 I wasn’t nervous about the outcome or being engaged at all, but that didn’t stop me freezing up when I had to think of romantic things to say in the minutes before and basically just grunting and shoving the ring box at him!

4) What do you feel about the 'romance gap'? The fact that women are expected to make the first move etc?

I did definitely worry that I would come off as the clingy girlfriend who’d had enough waiting for a ring! But even if people did see it that way, we knew that it wasn’t the case - we had talked about it so much and my partner was really excited to be proposed to and was constantly asking me if I was going to do it on our week away. Luckily people we know haven’t perceived it that way at all and have not made a spectacle of it at all, which is a relief but also as it should be!

I can’t say our whole relationship has been devoid of gender roles - as they rule everyone's lives so much I think it would be pretty naive to think so! But it has been without noticeable gender roles. We split on the first date and have been splitting everything based on what we can afford since and he was thrilled when I was earning 50% more than him (more chance of getting a snack when I went to the shop, hello). I cannot remember the last meal I cooked for myself that wasn’t beans on toast, while he cooks I do whatever drilling/hammering/screwing/painting that needs doing - he calls me the DI-wife 👷‍♀️ I feel incredibly lucky to be in a relationship where we both allow each other to be who/what we want to be without giving others’ opinions any thought.

5) Did you buy the ring? And did he buy you a ring? How do you feel about the financial expectations around proposals/marriage?

I did! I toyed with getting him something else as I’d seen other people proposing to men get them non-jewellery ornamental items but settled on a ring as I’d found a type of metalwork I knew he'd love which is meant to mimic wood grain in precious metals.

I’ve been told to book a long weekend off in the near future where I will be getting my ring! I really love the idea of both parties in the relationship getting proposed to so I am very much looking forward to it 🥰 As long as it is green, he will have ticked my boxes!

The expectation that I’ve heard the most is that the proposer should spend three months’ salary on a ring which I think is absolutely unbelievable! It already feels like an incredible privilege that I was able to spare just over a month’s net salary for the whole week and a ring, which is a lot in my eyes. I can’t imagine spending 3x that on a bit of jewellery, and I would be absolutely aghast if my partner spent anywhere near that on my ring as well. That money is meant for our cats!!

6) Tell me a bit about the wedding plans!

Can’t tell you too much as we decided that having gotten engaged, bought our first house and both having been promoted or got a new job within the same year we decided to take a year off from even thinking about big life events. I would not be surprised if it were another 6 years before we got married - I would be very OK with this too. Marriage itself is not super important to either of us as we live a “married” life anyway. We’re focusing on doing our house up, going on some holidays now that we aren’t on student budgets and aren’t locked down, and waiting to accrue the funds for a huge party! The only concrete plan is an open bar 🍾 I’d love to be sensible and do what my ma and my stepdad did (got married for under £1k in 2005), but I fear I have already fallen for the allure of the party of a lifetime!