by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ
Question: I'm planning to ask my girlfriend to marry me, and here's the problem: I'm building us a new home, so cash is tight. While I want to give Stacy a diamond solitaire, I don't have the money. My plan is to buy her a synthetic "diamond," then replace it with a real one as soon as the house is finished and I get a little ahead. Must I tell Stacy the truth about the ring up front, or can I wait until I give her the real diamond?
Our Answer: Tell her when you give her the ring. Unless Stacy is different from most women, she's going to show off that ring to all her friends and family. Imagine how foolish she would feel, then, if she were to learn later that the stone she'd told everyone was a perfect diamond was nothing more than a perfect fake. She'd be humiliated, of course, and you'd look like a loser for putting her in that situation.
That's not the only problem with your plan. Spouses need to trust each other, and Stacy is going to have trouble trusting you if she learns that your first act as a prospective husband was to mislead her. For reasons that should be obvious to everyone looking to tie the knot, it's a bad idea, and you should forget it.
That said, we applaud your financial priorities. Putting the house ahead of the bling is certainly prudent, and we wonder if you're not selling Stacy short in assuming she doesn't share your sense of responsibility. Why don't you take the high road here and ask her what she thinks about all this? You may be pleasantly surprised by her answer.