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The Compromise Between Pushing Him & Being Clear - Advice on Getting Him to Propose

Updated on June 25, 2010

Dear Veronica,

Hi Veronica,

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 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 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.


Dear Mia,

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.


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    8 years ago

    This is such a great article. It's not about manipulating someone into doing something they don't want to do. It's about listening. And communicating. You're advice is so sound Veronica! I agree with your advice on the ring. I hope guys read these articles. It's always amazing how little guys know about what women want. There is a difference between listening to someone's problem and giving no nonsense advice and in being mean. I think that's why so many people write to you for help Veronica. You tell it like it is but you really do listen and peop

  • annmeadows profile image


    8 years ago from Mobile, Al.

    My sister went through this a 18 months ago. She told her boyfriend she would no longer waste her time with someone who wouldn't commit. They had been dating for almost five years. They broke up for a few weeks, then he called her to go out. They met at the park and he popped the question. Six months later they were married. They've been happily married almost a year now. I guess those few weeks showed him he couldn't be without her.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY


    There's nothing in this article about tricking, or "getting" him to propose. It's obvious that the HUB title is eye catching so that anyone who reads it will see that the entire article is saying you can not "get" anyone to propose, but that you can be clear about what you want, and you should never, ever have to nag your needs, or want to be with someone that had to be threatened and pushed in order to commit.

    I think your grandmother's ring is sweet, and opens a door, and would be nice after all the initial discussions are made. I don't think it's manipulative at all.

    Speaking theoretically about wanting kids is a far cry from realistically discussing Autism, private school, day care, etc... You didn't say in your initial note that you had not had these conversations, and I merely said I was reading between the lines and I didn't get the feeling you had, at least to the degree that you need to. And I reviewed what I think needs to be talked through.

    Good luck to you Mia.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Veronica - Thank you so much for the time and thought you put into addressing my issue. Boy, am I glad I wrote to you! :)

    and thanks for the other comments as well.

    I agree that you can't force a person to do something they don't want to...but I'd take it further...if your sincere desire is to force someone to do something that would make them unhappy then there probably isn't a lot of love there. I know that my boyfriend's happiness is a top priority for me as it is with anyone I love.

    Earth Angel! Your note was hard to read, but I read each word twice as I didn't want to brush it off your ideas just because I might not like what I'm reading. And I know, just as I knew when I initially wrote, that it is difficult to paint a whole picture through a few words.

    Veronica - honestly, we've had a lot of the conversations that you noted in your response...I guess since they were fairly organic rather than sit-down discussions, I didn't really validate them. But we both want to have children. This is an issue that he brought up before I did early in our relationship. And he has great relationships with his nephews and the children of his friends. They adore him, and he makes time for them in his life. We know that if we aren't able to have children for some reason we are open to adoption, but we have also said that we very well could be happy with a bundle of nieces and nephews while we enjoy our peaceful and quiet lives :) Basically, we can't hinge our happiness on something that might not be possible.

    Neither of us are terribly religious, but we both are spiritual people. We likely will make religion part of our children's lives as it is important to our respective families and we think it teaches many good things.

    We would both like it if I could stay with the children while they were young, but I'm prepared and qualified to obtain a teaching position at any point. He says this won't be needed, but I know that we can't predict everything (or anything!), so I'll be ready to make whatever sacrifices necessary for the happiness and healthiness or what would be our family.

    We believe in living simply. We believe in doing the right thing. We believe in seeing and learning about as much of the world as possible.

    And this isn't me speaking for him, these are conclusions we've drawn from conversations we have had. You made me realize that there are many more to have as we continue our lives together; thank you so much for this!

    I don't want to "get him to propose," and I certainly don't want to manipulate him!!! I feel like I should repeat that last line...

    You hit the nail on the head with the a couple of ways that's what I'm looking for. I want to make sure he case the casual or everyday conversations haven't made it clear...what it is that I see happening. And, I want to know that I'm not horribly misinterpreting his behavior, words, involvement.

    I had been thinking a good deal about your response, Veronica, and I spoke to a fair-minded and trusted friend who also said to give him the ring...she said, "it's a scary thing, but you don't have a thing to be scared of."

    now i'm not so sure. man, earth angel, I was trying to hold my tongue but I guess I'm not as couth as I'd like to be, you were SUPER harsh!

    i'm not sure what i'll do, but i've got some time to think about it more. i'm confident we are headed in the right direction, so i can probably let him know what i'm thinking without the ring.

    also, he is my best friend and my boyfriend. he is a wonderful person, i'm madly in love with him, and we are lucky to have found one another. my biological clock is ticking, but i'd be a fool to make any other choice.

    thanks again, Veronica, for your time and your thoughts. it's helped me to think a bit more, and i'll certainly let you know how things progress.

    it truly is a calling to exist somewhat anonymously helping those of us lost in our own hearts and heads. :)

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Thank you Earth Angel!

  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 

    8 years ago

    GREAT Hub Veronica!!

    Sound advice and thoughtful answers!! Your examples are priceless! I'm sure it will help the young woman asking the questions!!

    What came to my mind after reading/thinking:

    1. 'Getting a man to propose' seems a bit manipulative to me!!?? There is nothing wrong with mutual communication that leads to a mutual decision to marry!! Maybe not as romantic as the fairy tales, but certainly more authentic!!

    I know too many men who felt they were put in positions where 'they didn't have a choice' resulting in divorce, AFTER the kids were born!!

    2. 'Getting a man to propose' also sets a woman up for being in a 'less than equal' role!! There is nothing wrong with the woman proposing!!

    Women who still buy-in to the 'man as leader/protector/provider' are often dumbfounded after the wedding when they discover their opinions do not hold equal value!!

    3. Giving a man her grandmother's ring seems the most manipulative of all!! It's one thing to let your beloved know that there is a cherished family ring available if the occasion ever arises - it's quite another to give it to him 'but he doesn't have to use it?'

    4. I read the young woman's words about how well they get along! A great start to any relationship!! But 'bf' to her may mean 'boyfriend' and to him it may mean 'best friend!'

    These are not young teens thinking of spending the rest of their lives together; they are grown adults with responsibilites and business and work and family!!

    It surprises me too, Veronica that they have not yet had the 'meaningful conversations' that you so eloquently pointed out above?! Sounds a bit like the 'cart before the horse!!'

    I also didn't read anything in the young woman's words that spoke to shared values, integrity, spirituality, shared future etc.!! Mostly I read there is a biological clock ticking and he is the best choice at this time??!!

    This is a GREAT hub Veronica!! Thank you for giving us all insights and ideas to ponder and reflect!! Blessings to the young woman on her path as well!!

    Blessings to you and yours always Veronica, Earth Angel!!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    I completely agree. You can't, and you shouldn't want to. All you could do is to let them know clearly what it is you want. And if they don't want to same thing, you should move on if you can't compromise.

  • manthy profile image


    8 years ago from Alabama,USA

    You can never make a person do anything that they truly don't want to.

    Anyway it is a very interesting hub thank you for posting it


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