My Love Story: The Proposal with a Nightmare Ending

Every love story is worth sharing. My clients', your parents, and yes, my own! This is part two of a three part series recounting my love story. Hit up the "How We Met" post for the first part!

Fargo, ND Wedding Photographer | Chelsea Joy Photography

I feel at peace when I'm with him. It wasn't just that he made me smile or that he would text me a simple "just thinkin about you" on his breaks at work. I'd been in enough relationships to know that those gestures can be fleeting.

No, I fell in love with Tjay because we met when I was transforming my life, and he stood by me through the ups and downs. Not as my boyfriend, but as my friend. 

He'd be on the couch, playing video games; I'd be in the kitchen, testing out a new recipe. But we'd always meet in the middle to eat, talk, and be together.

Fargo, ND Wedding Photographer | Chelsea Joy Photography

We were at a friend's wedding when I knew without a doubt that I was going to marry him. In retrospect, it sounds pretty cliche, but after being separated for most of the day in opposite sides of the wedding party, my heart swelled and ached with joy when I finally got to throw my arms around him. Since I'd met him a year or so earlier, I was happier than I'd ever been. I knew he wasn't the cause of my happiness (I take all the credit for that, because I firmly believe happiness originates internally), but I knew that I wanted nothing more than to share my happiness with Tjay. Indefinitely.

I didn't tell him that I wanted to get married.

I realized pretty quickly that if I waited for a proposal, it would never come. He only blurted out that he loved me after I first uttered it, instead telling me for months that "you mean the world to me" and "I can't imagine having a life without you" (which I later insisted were much weightier words than the simple "I love you").

So I'd propose.

North Dakota Wedding Photographer | Chelsea Joy Photography

I never quite liked the idea of waiting around for a proposal, anyway. Gone are the days when a proposal meant a dowry, a financial transaction in exchange for a bride. A proposal is simply proposing marriage - essentially saying "I'm ready for this next step". After all, if you want to get really historical about it, women used to propose to men all the time (admittedly, usually women in power). No, I didn't want to tell Tjay we should get married and then not-so-subtly send him pictures of rings I liked, waiting for him to drop money he didn't have on one and pop the question. After all, wouldn't it be a proposal just for me to tell him I wanted to get married?

I thought about all this for months before I finally bought his ring.

Okay, Tjay is a big nerd. I wanted to by him a ring that truly reflected his personality, the man I love, and embrace the parts of him that would likely never change. So his tungsten carbide ring is laser cut with Triforce symbols from the Legend of Zelda video games. And on the inside, an engraving reads "It's dangerous to go alone".

Fargo, North Dakota Wedding Photographer | Chelsea Joy Photography

The ring came, and I waited for months until we went on our long-awaited vacation in March. Terrified that I'd lose the ring, or he'd find it, or that I wouldn't be able to wait and I'd end up giving it to him one night while we watched a movie.

I was 100% certain he'd say yes. But my god, having that ring made me a nervous wreck. So many things could go wrong.

The month before our vacation, a snag in our plans rose up. I had my own apartment at the time, and that "renew your lease or move out" letter came. I originally had thought that I would renew my lease, but the letter informed me that my rent would go a lot. Too much for me to sustain on my own income.

We had talked about moving in together down the road, but not right then. See, from the very start of our relationship, I had a rule: I wouldn't live with another boyfriend. We could only co-habitate if we were engaged or married. I'd been in too many relationships that went horribly, horribly wrong when we broke up but still lived together.

But now it just made financial sense to move in together, since he and his roommates were going their separate ways and he needed a place to live, too. Tjay suggested moving our vacation back a few months while we looked for an apartment together. I adamantly objected. No, we'd figure it all out. He even asked me about my rule. Was I really okay to live with him? Yes, I told him. Internally, I knew it was because I would propose to him in less than a month, and we technically wouldn't move in together until after our vacation.

Everything righted again, and we went on our trip. If you're wondering where... well, we didn't have a destination. We like to take random trips, where we get in a car and drive until we feel like stopping. This was one of those trips.

Fargo, North Dakota Wedding Photographer | Chelsea Joy Photography

I kept that ring on me the whole time, but I was too nervous to propose. Not until the last two days of our trip, when we decided to stop in my hometown and visit my parents for a couple days.

We took a walk, alone, on one of my favorite trails by the Missouri River one cool March evening.

I knew it was now or never.

I stopped walking, turned him towards me, and told him I loved him. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you," I said, and offered him the ring.

Fargo, ND Wedding Photographer | Chelsea Joy Photography

He didn't take it.

"Can we talk about this some other time?"

And my heart shattered.

Maybe he heard it, because he hugged me. I started crying.

And we talked. I asked if it was over, if he never wanted to marry me. He explained that we were at a crossroads. I didn't want to live with someone I wasn't engaged to, but he was the other way around. He wanted to live with me before we got married. We each had our reasons, but (like me), he had to stay firm in this. I unloaded all my thoughts on proposals to him. It should be a two-way street, I told him. I wanted him to keep the ring so he knew I was ready to marry him, and when he's ready he can propose to me, too.

He agreed to that, at least.

So we walked back along the trail, hand in hand, tears wiped away and smiles in their place.

"It's too bad that we didn't move our vacation back a couple months," he said.


"Because if we had gone on this trip after we moved in together, I was thinking I'd buy a ring and propose to you."

Well, fuck.


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