The Compromise Between Pushing Him & Being Clear - Advice on Getting Him to Propose
I appreciate the advice I have read in this column. I'm getting ramped up to have this kind of convo with my bf. We have talked about the future, we always joke about children's names, we both are well aware that marriage is in our future.
If I had to guess, I'd say that he knows he wants to marry me, but has issues regarding marriage in general...as many men do. I am 32, and he is 30. We have been dating for two years. After about 8 months together, I had to move 1500 miles away to be with my family. He made it clear that he thought it was the right move and that he wanted to continue what was, at that point and still is, an exclusive, committed relationship. We speak a couple of times a day, use webcams on occasion and visit about every six weeks. We even took a two month driving trip across the USA...for me, and I think for him, this trip really signified that we worked well together with only one silly fight the entire time. At this point, we have been in different cities for 16 months. The plan is for me to return to our original city and for us to live together within four to six months. (He is working on getting his business off of the ground before we move.)
So, I'm fairly happy with the way things are progressing, but I don't want to move blithely forward without being sure that my timeline (engagement within the next several months, marriage a year after) melds with his. I think we need to develop OUR timeline. (I'm flexible, but want to be married a year or so before we try to have children. Like everyone else, I'm getting no younger.)
He will be visiting for a week next month. I plan to tell him what I see happening, asking him what he sees happening and coming up with some sort of loose timeline. Although I hate to kill sponteneity, I don't want to kill my chances of a family. Also, and here might be my real question, I have my grandmother's engagement ring (minus the stone). My intention is to give him this ring, and let him know that he doesn't need to use it, but that if wants to he certainly can. (If he doesn't, I will return it to my mother.) It doesn't call for a big stone, and frankly, I can do without an engagement ring. (He might be too traditional and proud not to give one, however.) My hope is that this does two things. It signifies that there is strength behind my words. Yes, I love you, but no, I won't wait forever...in fact I won't wait another full year before setting a wedding date. Also, I want to be clear that I'm not particular about the sort of money spent on a ring...that should not be a barrier to engagement.
Am I on the right path? I realize that's a lot of question with so little information. Yes, he likes my family and my family adores him. I haven't seen much of his friends or family given our distance, but they are well aware that I am a large part of his life. (When on our trip, I sent the postcards to his friends and family...odd sending notes to people whom you have never met. :) I feel confident that we have the tools to maintain a long, caring, committed relationship.
So again, am I about to make a huge mistake? Or does all this seem kosher to you?
Many thanks and kind regards.
Thanks for this comment you left on my HUB When Your Girl Wants to Get Married and You Don't. Another Hub I wrote called The Difference Between Being Clear and Being a Nag is just about the best balance to the view I expressed. You expressed a need to find that balance, which sounds very healthy and smart. I have a lot of advice and thoughts on this so, let's get started.
It goes without saying that you should want to be in a healthy balanced relationship with a guy that agrees with you on several of life's basic decisions: getting married or not getting married, being monogamous or not being monogamous, having kids or not having kids. Establishing that you're both on the same page about these major life choices is key. Being with a partner who has clearly expressed he feels differently than you do should be a very big red flag that you should be moving alone. You should not be with someone expecting to change him into what you want, instead of loving him for exactly who he is.
It should also be that you want a man to propose to you without having to be pushed. A woman should never ever have such low self esteem that she believes the right way to get a man to profess his eternal love for her is by bullying him or threatening him. She "should" want a man to propose because he actually wants to propose. But the balancing act of being clear with him about what you want to do with your life and letting him be free to want what he chooses, is quite a feat.
In your situation, your ages are good ones to start thinking about marriage and the big life choices. Having had a relationship that endured distance is a sign to the positive.
However, I'm reading between the lines and I am not seeing that you two have had the clear conversations about what you each want from life. You're right, you do need to have these conversations. After so long together, I'm surprised that you haven't. I'm not sure what exactly I'm picking up here, but I think it's that you're packaging this in a pretty way with a nice bow, when the truth is that you really don't know for sure what's in that box.
The good news is, you sound articulate, thoughtful, and smart. You know you need some clarity from him on what he wants in his future. That's an excellent first step.
A conversation is a give and take, it's an exchange of ideas. It is not one partner giving ultimatums, or pressure, or refusing to hear and acknowledge the other's thoughts and dreams. I hope you'll read my Hub about nagging. I've written many Hubs about ultimatums, and being an unhealthy partner. You can express yourself clearly without including "or else!" threats. And it is just as important that you hear him. That means, hearing and valuing what his life choices are. It does not mean hearing what you want to hear, or figuring out how you can change him.
I think giving him the ring from your grandmother is solidifying and very telling. It says, this isn't about money, and it isn't about craziness. This is about your being sure that you want to spend your life with him. I think it's a good idea.
Many people are opposed to a certain aspect of the marriage commitment, and lump all of the pieces of it together. It has many aspects. You can agree on one or two, compromise on one or two, but you really can't disagree on the big ones. It is so very important for you to break down all the separate decisions and deal with them individually.
Taking it a step at a time, the ring is the first biggie. this is usually the place where he reveals how well he knows her, with how money-orientated she may be. A lot of signals go off from here that will reflect many aspects of the future. You're having a ring needing a modest stone diffuses the money issue.
The second step is the wedding. I do know of many guys that would have wanted to get married, but didn't want to have a wedding. And I know of a gabillion women that didn't give two shits about the marriage, they just wanted the wedding of their dreams. This is another individual topic you two have to discuss.
Then there are the really truly big ones. A marriage is supposed to mean the rest of your lives. Setting the jewelry and the ceremony and the party aside, is this something that you both really want? Are you prepared to make that kind of promise, and do you really want to be monogamous and committed for the rest of your lives. And there are a great deal of intricacies to discuss after the initial concept. Monogamy is only one of them. Money is another, and it's a lot bigger than people seem to realize. Where to live, who will work, how bills will be paid, all of these things are many major conversations in the making.
And then there's children. I say this with the biggest caution sign I can: Do you really want to have children? Are you really ready to have children? And once you are sure, you need to have this all-important conversation with your man. You can't just accept an off the cuff, "Yeah! I like kids," as an answer. How will you pay for college, what will you do if a prenatal test reveals Downes Syndrome? Do you both believe in having the baby no matter what, or terminating a pregnancy under certain conditions? What will you do if the baby is born autistic? What are your thoughts about church, and boyfriends, and discipline. Will one of you stay at home, is the other OK with the burden of earning, will you feel comfortable with daycare. Do you realize the hit your money, sex life, private time, social events and hobbies that you're going to BOTH take? These are the aspects of the decision to have children that you need to discuss. You need to both be on the same page with these things.
Once you've really had the Future Conversations, then and only then should you make your life goals crystal clear. Having a loose or casual timeline is great. But you need to have the facts in under your belt first. You can't tell him you would like to be married and having babies in the next 3 - 5 years or so, if you aren't sure you and he want to raise kids together. The conversations have to come first.
I strongly advise that you actually listen to his responses. Not just the words, but the body language and the actions. It should be clear if he avoids these conversations, derails them, or says he doesn't want to talk about these things, that you two are not on the same page.
If he's telling you he doesn't know yet, you need to think about how long you'd be willing to wait and see, but realize that his not knowing doesn't mean that he will one day say yes to all the things you want. He has every right to not know, to never know, or to come to a realization that he doesn't want kids, or marriage, or both.
Looking at his actions will always speak louder than his words. Does he scoff if a friend is getting married. Is he adverse to talking to a child at someone's home. Is he saving money to buy a Porsche, or is he pointing out a band and saying, we should get their info in case we want them for our reception. Is he still going out with the guys 4 nights a week and teasing the guy that can't because he has a newborn at home and either has to work extra hours, or get home to babysit. Or does he race to his brother's house to hold their baby and offer to babysit so they can get away for a night.
If you truly are on the same page, then give him the ring and the clarity. And then drop it. Let him do some planning and thinking, and romancing.
Finding the balance between being clear, but also not pressuring him or jumping the gun, can be a little tricky. I just ran this by my husband who said to make one more point a little clearer, and I think he's right. He said to tell you, your man will either make your efforts toward clarity harder or easier. He will either engage in conversations with you about it, and share his feelings. Or, he will avoid these conversations. And that's a very good indication as to whether or not he's into this.
I hope this helped. I hope you find you're on the same page, and I hope you'll keep in touch with us, let us know what happens.
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