Three in One: Advice for a Time of Big Decisions

By Wendy Belzberg

Published January 16, 2004, issue of January 16, 2004.

For the first time I am printing three related questions submitted at one time by the same reader. I read the multiple queries as a symptom of anxiety, hence the full treatment. Let’s hope this helps. In any event, our correspondent is entitled to his concerns; he’s taking a big step. He’s also asking all the right questions, after which let’s hope for his sake it’s clear sailing up the well-charted aisle.

I want to get engaged to my girlfriend of four years. We live in New York City and her parents live in Milwaukee. I have been to her parents’ home twice in the past month but I have not had a private moment with her dad to ask for his permission. Is it appropriate to ask over the phone or should I wait for the next opportunity — another crowded family gathering in two months?

Did you tell your girlfriend’s father that you wanted a few minutes alone with him or did you trail him around the house hoping to find him in his study waiting for you to appear? I am utterly charmed by your decision to ask for your future father-in-law’s blessing before becoming officially engaged. Having made that choice, I suggest you stick to your original plan: Ask him in person. If you are ready to marry, you are ready to sit down with your future father-in law, man to man. And you are ready to ask for his attention. Make an opportunity to talk to him privately; don’t wait for one to appear. Call him the night before you arrive and let him know that you would like to speak to him separately. Matters as weighty as these shouldn’t be left to serendipity.

* * *

My mom has offered me her engagement ring to give to my girlfriend. My girlfriend is thrilled and has asked me to wear her granddad’s wedding ring. I feel as though I am taking the easy way out. Am I just being blindsided by the material world in which I live? Please give me some insight.

Were your parents and her grandparents happily married? Does your mom’s engagement ring come with a history of happiness, nurturing and respect? If so, I would go for a family piece over Tiffany any day. Marriages and weddings are about sentiment and there is none greater than the passing of tradition from one generation to the next. The offer of your girlfriend’s family ring places you in a lovely history. Marriage is hard work. Start with a firm foundation. There is plenty of time later to splurge on a fancy stone and setting — that’s what anniversaries were created for. Take good care of the rings so you can pass them down to your children with the same blessings.

* * *

Is it my responsibility to tell my siblings that my mom has offered me her ring or do I just say nothing?

It is your mother’s ring and your mother’s decision about to whom it should be given. That done, it is her job to inform her other children of the choice she has made. If you are the first-born, the first to marry or her only son, your other siblings should have no problem understanding her decision. If you fear that your acceptance of the ring will spark civil war and ignite sibling rivalries, then talk to your mom about the possible ramifications before accepting it. My answer is based on the assumption — perhaps misguided — that the value of this ring is largely sentimental. If you have neglected to mention that we are talking about a flawless 12-carat yellow diamond, then I demand the right to revise my answer.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.



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