What NOT to ask a couple

We attended a black tie gala about a month ago.  We’ve been to many, so there’s a fair amount of predictability:

  1. At the last minute, I will hate my dress, hair and shoes (but it will be too late to change any of the above)
  2. In an odd juxtaposition, the BF will LOVE himself in his tux (because he loves himself in most things . . . )
  3. My feet will begin to hurt about 30 minutes into the event (I organize my shoes by how long I can wear them before my feet stage a coup.  Most formal shoes can be worn for less than an hour before my dogs threaten to defect.)
  4. We will run into people that we haven’t seen in a while (sometimes this is a good thing!  Other times, not so much. )
  5. 1/3 of those people will ask when we’re getting married (and here is the no-no)


Now, let me be clear.  We — the BF and I –  find the marriage question to be funny.  Having been together for seven years, it’s certainly one that we’ve heard a lot, but there’s something about getting dolled up in a formal wear that puts people in the mindset of a wedding, which is the catalyst for the inquisition.

Incidentally, my favorite questions come from people who have been married for a while and don’t really recommend it despite their claims that they’re a happy couple.  They tend to lean in, and ask “You’re not getting married, are you?”  and they sometimes follow it up with “Don’t do that shit!!”

What’s super confusing is that people often pose this question of me, rather than him.

Ummm . . . . y’all understand that doesn’t make sense, right?

Not to be sexist, but there are things that you can ask a woman, and expect that she’ll have a legitimate answer.  Those are usually questions of logistics and details, like, what are you guys doing two weekends from now?  She can probably run down the entire calendar.  Or, which day does the cleaning lady come?  THAT’S definitely a question for the ladies.  But, when are you getting married??

If a couple isn’t already engaged, why in the world would a woman have that answer?  Even if a woman has the majority of the control in the relationship, the timing of engagement is the one thing that’s entirely up to him.  (There are exceptions to this, of course.  In some cases the couple has discussed it, and the woman has made it abundantly clear that marriage is imminent by the end of the year [or whenever].  The other exception would be if the woman decides to propose to him, which is an entirely different post altogether.)

If you’ve ever asked this question of a couple, what is the intention and what behavior should ensue?

Is the ultimate hope that the couple blurts out a date and extends an invitation to the blessed event? Because that’s probably not happening.  Or are you hoping that a couple who has been chugging along with their own agenda for several years  will be jostled into a lifetime decision based on your inquisition?  That’s kind of unrealistic too.  Or EVEN if you ask the man and he’s planning to pop the question, is it your belief that he’s going to potentially blow the surprise by confiding in you, a person who he runs into semi-annually?

What’s more likely to happen is that you’ll cause an argument that happens either the moment you walk away, or later that night, OR the couple will find a way to turn the joke back around on you.

In my personal situation, asking that question gives me carte blanche to clown and fuck with the asker.  In the past, I’ve employed fun retorts, like “Oh, he’s already married . . . to someone else.”  I’ve also been known to thrust my left hand into someone’s face and do my best Eddie Murphy impression: “I don’t see no rings on these fingers!”  The BF has his own fun with the question, but typically says “If it ain’t broke . . . “, although a few times he made people uncomfortable by saying ,”Well, Gina already told me that she doesn’t want to marry me.”  It can be a wonderful source of entertainment if you’re in the right place.

Because on the flipside, I’ve seen other couples cringe when a nosy person unwittingly causes the next Civil War by asking about marriage.  Maybe the woman has been wondering that same thing, and now instead of a fun evening, she’s saying things like: “See . . . EVERYONE wants to know why we aren’t married.  And so do I!”  I’ve seen these conversations digress into breakups. (One could argue that the question only exacerbated what would have happened eventually, but do you REALLY want to be catalyst for a relationship implosion??)

And, honestly, I understand the intention and know that most of the time, the question comes from a good and innocent place.  Maybe you think this couple works really well together and should take the lifelong plunge.  There are just other ways to go about your inquiry that don’t involve a heat lamp.  Or maybe you just wait for the mystery to unfold naturally without trying to find the spoiler.

1 Comment

  • I love this post. And man, can I relate! The question and actions by nosy friends almost led to a relationship implosion in my life…

    After years of dating my commitment-phobic BF his best friend’s wife’s joking spurred a faux engagement party with her husbands family on New Year’s Eve, while we were on vacation. At first I thought everything was funny, until the joke went too far, my BF looked like he wanted to die, and I ended up in tears

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