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Getting to the Ring

April 28, 2011

Always a bridesmaid...

Princess T says:

With Kate (oh I’m sorry, I mean “Catherine”) and William having just tied the knot, finally, after eight years of dating, I’m sure it’s got many people thinking ‘how long is too long to play the ‘waity Katy’ game?
There is a lot of advice (probably too much if you ask me) out there on how to get your man to propose.

Here are two posts (in one blog mind) on the very topic

How to get him to propose

The proposal deadline

Reading both articles together is actually quite ridiculous. Tricks to get him to propose, and if he doesn’t fall for them within 6-9 months, dump him.

Obviously it’s all rubbish. But it brings up a few good questions: how do you know if a guy is marriage ready? How long should you wait? How do you know if he will ever commit?

I really like the analogy from Sex and the City that men are a bit like taxis – when they’re ready to get married, their light goes on, and they’ll marry the next woman that flags them down so to speak. Yes, it’s true that a man might make slightly more effort in picking a wife than simply the next available woman once he turns on his light.
But I do think the idea that men have a “marriage light” if you will, is a valid concept.

Whereas women (or I’ll say most women) always seem to have their marriage light lit, and are “waiting for the right man”, men wait for the “right time” to turn on the marriage light. And, if you think about it, it’s kind of wise in a way. When women think about marriage (and again, I’m speaking in general terms), it’s the equivalent of when men think about sex – by that I mean there is very little cognitive reasoning going into the decision, and it is mainly driven by instinct.

Generally, there are some signs that can indicate that a man is lit or is likely to be turning the light on soon.

1. He is within the marrying age. There are countless studies that
indicate an age range in which a man is most likely to get married.
And it seems these vary based on culture and education. But generally
speaking somewhere in the years between 27-35 are what I would call
the marriage years. This does not mean that outside of those ages it’s
hopeless. Everybody, and every relationship, is different.

2. A significant majority if his friends, colleagues, and family
members are married. This boils down to a culture and upbringing thing
and really can be applied to many other issues besides marriage. It’s
basically far more likely for a man who is surrounded by married
couples to decide to take the marriage plunge himself because that is
clearly seen as normal in his world.

3. He is financially stable and has a steady job. Men seem to equate
marriage as requiring a certain level of financial stability, rather than purely

in terms of romance and feelings. I suppose the reasoning is that the
main purpose of marriage is really to raise a family, and if a man
doesn’t feel ready and able to raise a family, he is really not likely
to feel ready to get married. And for a man, being ready and able to
raise a family, generally means being the main bread-winner. Of
course, women work too these days. But this is a relatively new phenom

in evolutionary terms, so man’s instinct to be the provider hasn’t yet
caught up to modern standards.

Of course, a guy can tick all those boxes, and still be completely reluctant or unwilling to get married. Conversely, a man can meet absolutely none of those criteria, and propose after six months. But if we’re talking odds, those would be the exceptional cases.

So, what happens if you’re dating a man you’ve decided is “marriage material”. Is there any magic formula to “getting a man to propose”?

The short answer is ‘no’, because you can never force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. And, when it comes to marriage, why would you want to? Do you really want to spend your life with a man who was coerced into the marriage just so you can show off your sparkly ring, and tick that off your life’s ‘to-do’ list?

The long answer is no BUT if marriage is something that is important in your life, there are things you can do to make it more likely that you will get married.

The first, of course, is picking the right man. The more time you waste with Mr Wrong, the less time you have to find Mr Right. That means getting rid of this strange fear of being single. Haven’t you ever noticed life’s irony that it’s always the girl who was never
desperate to be in a relationship or in a hurry to get married who ends up marrying “Mr Right”?

Without going into too much detail about why that is, I basically think it’s because that girl was not the type to waste time with a man because having a boyfriend, any boyfriend, was better than being alone. By having the courage not to settle for any man who will stick around, she made herself available to the right type of guy (whatever
the “right” guy might be for that particular girl).

On that point, I refer to the wise words of Mr Rogers (Mr Kenny Rogers that is…):

‘you gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run…’

This is not only true of poker, but of relationships as well. Sometimes, knowing whether or not to walk away from a relationship that appears to be going nowhere, does feel a bit like a gamble. I think it basically comes down to whether you’re happy, truly happy, in the relationship. If you’re only sticking around because this guy is better than nothing, and he’ll probably propose eventually, and you hate being single, and all your friends are in couples, and if you leave him now you’ll never get married… well if those are your best reasons for staying in a relationship, you need to have a good hard look in the mirror!

Which brings me to my second point: don’t commit to any relationship too quickly. This seems counter-intuitive, but it is my personal belief that taking things slow and not diving into a relationship with the first cute guy that comes along can actually increase your chances of finding the right guy. Obviously, there’s no real objectivity to attraction and love, but there is something to be said about thinking with your head and your heart, not just one or the other. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a completely disappointing relationship because you ignored the warning signs and rushed into things, hoping to fast-track your way down the aisle (see above re: wasting time with the wrong guy).

Finally, if you’ve been with someone for a year or more, there’s nothing wrong with talking about it. That doesn’t mean pressuring him, or offering an ultimatum. But expressing that marriage is something that you want in your life eventually is a good thing IF (and only if…) you’re in a serious relationship (because men are not psychic, and they also get nervous talking about feelings and stuff…).

That does not mean you should bring it up on the third date though (or the first, second, fourth… well if you can count the number of dates, it’s too soon)! This relates to my above point of not rushing into any relationship! Stop thinking every guy is “the One”!

If you’re in a serious relationship with someone, it should not be weird discussing the potential for a future together. If a guy makes you feel weird about it, be suspicious. Any man who thinks he can get serious with a woman but not commit is crazy. A man who is with someone he really loves should also be thinking future together, so if you’re not on the same page, it’s probably better to discuss that openly.

So, in summary, there’s no magic trick or potion (or even a chicken!) that will make a man propose. I wouldn’t even bother trying to get him to propose. Talk about it once when things have gotten serious to test the waters. If you get a bad reaction, it’s time reassess the relationship. I believe that you’ll know in your heart when things are right. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.

Rae Says:

If you watched the Royal Wedding, there’s a good chance that it inspired you to think about what your wedding will be like, assuming you ever have one. It won’t be quite as grand as Will and Kate’s, of course, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t fast-track “marry Prince Charming” on your resolution list. Right?

If marriage is on your plate, then you’d better start planning, examining the qualifications of potential candidates for the role. I can’t think of a more romantic process, especially if you’re hoping to marry your one true love. True love is something you can schedule, right?

Death cannot stop true love... It has a schedule to keep!

I- I mean, a friend of mine… named, um… Miss… X… (*ahem*), had these two boyfriends (no, not at the same time). Their names were… uh… A and B. Their parents weren’t very imaginative.

‘A’ longed for a lady to sit with, fall asleep with and wake up next to in the morning. Someone who would make him feel comfortable, appreciated, and loved. In short, he was lonely. Their friendship became a relationship seemingly by osmosis- X eventually just stopped going home after an evening of movie watching. At no point did he declare his affection for anything about X personally. In fact, there were times when he barely seemed to like or even notice her at all. By his own admission, the only reason he called her on a Friday night instead of someone else was that he knew she’d be available. But he seemed to like having her around. It didn’t make sense, until she realized- he had no real interest in her as a person. X merely filled a girl-shaped hole in his life.

After they broke up, X made a resolution: never again would she settle for someone she was merely “comfortable” with.  She would enforce higher standards for her mates, and to this end, developed a kind of checklist to rate men against. Qualities like kindness, wit, charm, humour, humility, intelligence, talent, physical attractiveness and a downtown apartment all became pre-requisites to gain even the time of day from her. Naturally, this meant being single for a long time.

When X met B, she was floored by her good fortune. He was sweet, smart, and excessively cute. They had enough in common to get along, but were different enough to make it interesting. He was everything she’d been looking for. It seemed to be a perfectly reasonable assumption that she was in love.

When he turned out to be a self-centered emo wannabe with delusions of grandeur and the emotional maturity of a KFC Double Down, X realized that she never really knew him after all. He was ‘good on paper’- marked off all the points on the checklist- but they were never actually real to each other. He treated her like a sacred cow, an idealized, fictional being cast as the love interest in his autobiography, while she tried, and failed, to see him as something other than a fine accessory for her eventual high school reunion. Needless to say, the breakup was messy.

So there she was, single again- to A, she was a cross-out on his life’s to-do list, and B was more of an enticing candidate to her than a person. And that’s when she realized how fucked up the common approach to relationships is.

It was like an explosion in my- I mean, her- mind, a phantasmagoria of enlightenment, the True Path laid out before her in a thousand rumpled bedsheets: HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Relationships happen because people meet, something goes back and forth between them, and they create and develop their own unique little two-person culture as naturally as apes evolve into Atheists. Did dinosaurs plan to develop feathers? And when they did, did they cry over the loss of their scales?

A relationship is an experience, and a transient, ineffable one at that. You can’t plan to find a soul mate any more than you can plan to have a spiritual revelation, or an existentialist breakdown. Sure, some people try to schedule such things, but even they know that they usually happen when you least expect them.

There are many reasons to get married- money, loneliness, procreation, political alliance, citizenship in a foreign country, etc. But if any of these are your primary motivation, then you should probably just start holding job interviews, or order a husband online (you can do that, right?)

If your goal is to prove the existence of eternal true love by means of finding a mate to pledge himself to you for life, you may as well plan to discover the cure for cancer on the surface of Planet X, the mysterious dark giant supposedly orbiting in the tenth slot in our solar system (*ahem*- I mean ninth. Sorry, Pluto). In other words, you’re structuring your life around a hypothetical miracle. Yeah, good luck with that.

Let me put it to you this way- at some point in my life, I realized that I loved to draw. Just loved it. I could do it all day and not get bored. Now, I’m an artist. I never planned to be one, to devote a part of my life, a part of my very identity, to this activity. It just sort of happened, and I never saw it coming. What can I say? It’s love. And that’s the way love happens.

To me, planning to find a man you want to marry by the end of the year is like planning to suddenly develop a passion for something you never thought twice about before. Sure, you can make an effort to appreciate it, but you’re really just using it to fill a perceived void in your life instead of loving it for the thing it is. If you’re bored, or want a challenge, you might try to develop a hobby, and that’s fine. But when you truly love something, it’s a part of you, and you’re a part of it, even when you don’t particularly want or even are able to be. There are stories of people who go to Law or Med school with dreams of opening up a practice of their own some day, but somewhere along the way, they decide they love juggling. Sure, they’d make more money and be better respected as a doctor or lawyer, and their parents probably wouldn’t disown them, but they quit anyway to devote themselves to their new passion. Because damn it, they just really love juggling.

Love isn’t convenient. It doesn’t wait until you’re ready. It doesn’t happen when you want it to. It doesn’t necessarily even fit into your life.  Love just happens to you- it’s not something you can go out and get. It isn’t something you can achieve. It just happens.

The idea that anyone can list “Find True Love” on their list next to laundry and doing their taxes strikes me as utterly absurd. You might as well write:

TO DO:

  1. Update resume
  2. Go to bank
  3. Walk down the street just before twilight, and there, suddenly, unexpectedly, catching the last glimpse of the sun’s final rays, come to terms with the transient nature of existence, realizing that all things end, but in that end, they are all beautiful.
  4. Don’t forget the milk!

When you set goals for yourself like “be married by the age of 35” (assuming you mean happily married), you’re doing the same thing. It not only cheapens the act of marriage, but it proves that you don’t really understand what love is.

Love is not finding someone with all the positive qualities you’re looking for, and then making that person a part of your life. Love is recognizing someone’s faults, and still wanting to be a part of theirs.

That’s a truly rare thing, one that doesn’t even necessarily lead to marriage. Which, by the way, is perfectly okay.

So please, don’t put “getting him to propose” on your to-do list if you have any intention of marrying for the right reasons. That kind of commitment happens when it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. But it cannot be forced. It cannot be coerced. It cannot be manipulated. And it certainly can’t be planned for.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 1, 2011 4:22 pm

    Just to note: this entry was updated on May 1. The original version of the accompanying illustration was a rough draft, so it was replaced with a better version. Also, I had originally forgotten to update the text of my section, which I had originally written at the beginning of the year, to reflect the Royal Wedding. This does happen from time to time- we notice little errors here and there and e go back and fix them. We’d never re-write an entire entry just to make the commentors look like fools or anything like that. Because that would be disingenuous.

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