To the girl who didn’t get the engagement you were expecting, this is what you need to do to finally get a commitment…
You tried not to get your hopes up, but deep down you feel like it is time. He’s the man of your dreams and he says you are the woman of his. You’ve been together long enough for him to know if he wants to make that big commitment. And it doesn’t help that it seems like everyone’s boyfriend is popping the question these days!
Maybe you were hoping it would happen over the holidays… Then, Valentine’s Day… Or, perhaps you were daydreaming about the perfectly planned summer proposal leading to a beautiful fall marriage. You even dropped some hints.
But the holidays came and went, Cupid was a no-show, and we’re in the dead heat of summer, but still, there’s no little box and your man’s not down on one knee. You are starting to wonder how committed he really is…
You’re sad, a little angry, hurt, and jealous. This is normal. Feel it, girl! Process it and then get to action. You may feel like this is never going to happen for you. That’s not true, but there are a couple of things you may need to look at.
Many women don’t want to ask the commitment question because they feel like it may be pushy and make them look desperate. This is such a mistake.
Desperation comes across in your tone and energy—not necessarily in your words. If this is a man you want to spend the rest of your life with, you should feel comfortable enough with him to talk about a future. This is not just his life, after all, this is your life too.
Talk to him.
Let him know that you have been thinking more and more about your future and that you want to find out from him what his plans are and how you fit into them. Believe what he tells you (or doesn’t tell you)!
Guys are usually pretty straightforward with their information (unless they’re totally shady and that’s another article). Women usually try to read too much into their statements. If a guy says, “I’m just not ready”—he’s not ready. It doesn’t mean that you need to be a better girlfriend. It doesn’t mean if you hang around for another six months or a year or two that he will be ready.
You tried not to get your hopes up, but deep down you feel like it is time. He’s the man of your dreams and he says you are the woman of his.
If you ask him what he needs from the relationship to be ready to take the next step and he says, “I don’t know,” then he isn’t thinking of your future together in the same way that you are. He has not even considered you as wife material yet. (Take our ‘He Didn’t Propose’ quiz to find out whether your man sees marriage in your future.)
If he gives you explanations of what he needs from you, then you need to ask yourself, are these requests reasonable? Does it require me to change, to compromise who I am? Is this something that I can maintain long-term?
Anytime someone requests you to change in order for the relationship to move forward, this is murky water and you must be honest with yourself about whether you can to do it and if it is something you would choose to do regardless of the relationship.
This may be a good time to ask him if he would be willing to discuss any of these issues with a therapist—not to convince him to get married, but to make sure you have both communicated what it is you need in a marital relationship and you two can determine if the other is able to meet those needs.
Understand his side.
There are many reasons why a man might not be ready to pop the question. Some may have nothing to do with you and others may be totally about you.
One big reason could be where he is in his life. John Gray, author of Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus, explains, “He first needs to feel like he knows what he’s doing in the world and where he is going; women are more concerned about who they are going with.”
If he is still not settled into his career or if he is not financially secure, he may not be ready and this has nothing to do with you. Understanding where he is coming from, as a man, will help you communicate with him better so that he feels understood.
Know your role.
One of the best ways to ensure that your boyfriend is very comfortable staying your boyfriend is to give him wife benefits when he’s not willing to have husband responsibility and commitment.
It is critical for single dating women to have a descriptive list of how they will choose to behave and what they will give of themselves in a casual dating relationship, a serious dating relationship, an engaged relationship, and a marital relationship.
Newsflash, these behaviors should all be different!
His level of commitment and behavior should match yours. Many women in my practice, when given this task, can’t differentiate their behavior between those four statuses and then wonder why he isn’t willing to commit. She’s his “wifey” and he still gets to be just her boyfriend. If someone gives me something I want for free, I am not likely to offer to pay or work for it either (yep, the cow and milk metaphor).
But that metaphor shouldn’t just refer to sex. It’s about all aspects of the relationship. Are you living together, making his lunches, making appointments for him, or cleaning his house? Are you doing his laundry? Are you the soft landing when he comes home from work? Does your life revolve around him? All of that has to stop and you need to go back to appropriate girlfriend status until he is willing to work and commit to upgrade his status in your life. (See the video at the end of this article for more on this!)
Pick a date.
My husband got cold feet right before our wedding. You can imagine all the emotions I felt when he acted like he was going to back out at the last minute. I didn’t panic (on the outside), freak out, or express any of my desperation to him. I calmly told him that I understood how he must be feeling, that this was a big step, and he didn’t have to take it. I also let him know clearly and lovingly that if he backed out, I was not going to wait for him. Not because I didn’t love him and want to spend the rest of my life with him, but because I loved myself and I wasn’t going to be a long-term girlfriend, which he probably would have been comfortable with. We got married a few days later and we’ve been married for 23 years.
Moral of the story: if he loves you and wants to marry you, he won’t be willing to lose you and he will propose. If he doesn’t, then he has just given you the biggest gift ever and you need to take it and move on. I know, easier said than done, but it still needs to be done.
When my husband understood that I wasn’t desperate, that I would give him his space, but wouldn’t wait forever, he had the space he needed to make his choice all over again.
I’m not sure why the term ultimatum became so negative. Healthy relationships set healthy boundaries, which include ultimatums. Our world revolves around ultimatums. If you run the red light, you get a ticket. If you don’t finish your degree, you can’t apply for that dream job. If you wait too long, you might lose the girl. This is not about twisting his arm, but rather a statement of fact. There are natural consequences to our actions or inaction. Putting your life on an indefinite hold for someone else sends a message to him that you don’t value yourself.
Pick a date that feels comfortable for you to wait for him. Six months, one year, two years. Feel free to share your plan for your life with him and let him know that if he isn’t on board then you will be moving on in that time frame. And then stick to it. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it (get some help if this step seems too difficult), and for sure don’t keep reminding him about it! Move forward with your life and he can choose to join you or not.
Your desires matter!
I have seen a lot of advice on this topic that questions a woman’s desire to get married, telling women that they need to process why marriage is so important to them in the first place, encouraging them to consider not marrying or just going with the flow and seeing where the relationship goes. The advice sends a message to women that something is flawed in you because you want marriage.
Sure, the Disney version of marriage creates a lot of issues, but there is nothing wrong with your desire to get married—neither is there necessarily anything wrong with his desire not to get married yet. If marriage is important to you then you need to be true to yourself, just as he should be true to himself.
If you are thinking of staying in this relationship indefinitely, you must be real with yourself about whether you are okay with not getting married. Really okay, because you cannot force or manipulate someone to marry you in any healthy way.
Bottom line: he still didn’t propose. It’s okay that you wanted him to and you totally deserved it. It’s not the end of the world. You are stronger than you think. Talk to him. Think about your “wifey” status. Change it if necessary. Work on understanding where he’s coming from and don’t wait forever!
Have more questions about this? Don’t miss this video from Dr. Zoe herself!
Like what you find at Grit + Grace? Support our mission here:
Rethinking your relationship? You might like:
Is Marriage Just a Piece of Paper? or Is It Something More?
Establishing Healthy Boundaries in the Grit and Grace Life
He Brings Me Flowers, but Is That Enough?
If You Wait for Marriage, Will Your Sex Life Be Boring?
These 10 Red Flags in Dating Should Make You Run
Ask Dr. Zoe – Is It My Fault He Hasn’t Proposed?
And don’t miss these popular articles:
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Why Hasn’t Your Boyfriend Proposed or Set a Date? With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 140
You’ll also like this one: When to Leave an Unhealthy Relationship with Your Man – with Dr. Zoe Shaw – 024!