01/09/2015 01:00 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2015

Bummed That You Didn't Ring in the New Year With a New Ring? Time to Think Outside the Jewelry Box

Paige was sure that Kyle would be popping the question on Christmas. She was so sure, in fact, that she even subscribed to Brides magazine in early December. When the time came to exchange gifts and hers was in a little velvet box, she couldn't open it fast enough. But rather than finding an engagement ring inside the box, she found a pair of diamond earrings instead.

Paige was crushed. Now that subscription to Brides Magazine won't be any help at all. Paige doesn't need help planning a wedding. She needs help decoding the hidden meaning behind the gift she didn't want in an attempt to figure out when she might get the one she did.

Everyone knows what an engagement ring means. But what's the message behind diamond stud earrings? Should Paige try to push the whole thing out of her mind? Should she set her hopes on Valentines Day? Should she give Kyle another year and reassess after next Christmas? Or should she cut her losses and break up with Kyle now?

Paige isn't the only one with these questions. In the stretch of time between Christmas and Valentine's Day, a lot of women find themselves in the same quandary. But don't worry. When it comes to decoding your gift, I can help. If you got earrings or some other nice-ish piece of jewelry, that probably means your boyfriend genuinely cares about you and is not looking to breakup. But it also likely means he knows that you want a ring, but he is not ready or willing to go there. What is less clear is whether he ever will be. The earrings are an invitation for you to hang in there. But if you don't know the timeframe, how can you decide whether to accept or decline?

If he gave you something that's got some razzle dazzle but isn't necessarily all that personal, like courtside tickets to a Spurs game, the message is this: He's game to have fun today, but he's not making any long-term plans.

If the gift was something small and practical, like a household appliance, a pair of running shoes, or maybe some hubcaps (believe me, it happens), he wants to break up with you but he's too chicken to do it himself. He is trying to make you do his dirty work for him, and he will keep giving you crappy gifts and treating you with apathy until you do. But I'm sure you already know this.

Of course these aren't the only possibilities. There may be another message behind your gift -- or there could be no message at all. And all of that brings me to the much bigger issue here: Why are you handling your personal life like a helpless little baby instead of a grown woman? If you found a house you really wanted to buy, would you sit around secretly hoping that the seller would come ask you if you wanted to buy it? Of course not. You'd take a look at your finances to confirm that you could afford it, then you'd make an offer. In the end you'd either get the house for the price and terms you initially offered, you'd negotiate with the seller and meet somewhere in the middle, or you'd figure out it wasn't meant to be and move on.

When you hear about a position that is your dream job, do you sit around hoping that the company will read your mind and come make you an offer? No. You update your resume, forward it along, and then work your contacts. Applying for the job doesn't guarantee that you'll get it, of course. But not applying guarantees that you won't.

I assume that your relationship with your boyfriend is at least as important to you as your house or your job. That being the case, shouldn't you dedicate to it as much planning, attention, communication, and follow up as you do these other areas of your life? And if it's not that important to you, remind me again why you want to get married?

Look, it's not 1815. You're not a character in a Jane Austen novel. There aren't any rules of propriety that forbid you from speaking your mind. Rather than sitting around waiting for your boyfriend to guess what you're thinking, be above board.

If you want to get married, there's no reason you can't ask him yourself. But if you're wedded to the tradition of the man doing the asking, at least have a conversation with him wherein you let him know your thoughts and your general time frame. Then ask him about his.

If you're reluctant to have this conversation, you need to figure out why. Is it that you are uncomfortable with direct communication in general or are you specifically uncomfortable with communicating with your boyfriend? If it's former, you have some work to do on yourself; and if it's the latter, you have some work to do on your relationship. But either way, the work should be done before you enter into an institution that depends heavily on communication in order to have any chance of success.

Valentine's Day is right around the corner. Rather than tying yourself into knots over whether your boyfriend will ask you to tie the knot, give something with some real meaning. Act like a grownup and invest in some honest communication. That's a gift that will keep on giving. You, your boyfriend, and your relationship will all be much better off because of it.