All too often we see people being rejected on their viral proposal videos, in front of family first and then again in front of the entire world. But what I’m coming to realize is that people seem to put more thought into a beautiful, intricate proposal than they do the marriage and what marriage means. You see, good marriages are rooted in communication, and the fact that people are proposing without knowing the response they’re going to get, speaks volumes about the lack of communication. Or, at the very least it points to the fact that they don’t know their partner well enough to commit to marriage.
A marriage proposal itself should not be a surprise. A couple should be very clear on where they are in a relationship, their goals for the future, and ideally when they would like to take that next step and if they want to take that next step. Going into a proposal, you should know your partner’s answer based on the relationship you have together. The grand gesture? Well, that’s the surprise and the only surprise. Throughout the dating phase, you should get to know one another in a way that allows having discussions around desires, boundaries, values, and core beliefs.
These topics are also a point of discussion in the article, "5 Relationship Standards You Shouldn’t Compromise On," a piece that I think is very much applicable here because many people are afraid to have these necessary conversations early on. In my opinion, these conversations grow more challenging to have the longer they are postponed. You become enamored or smitten with a person and instead of focusing on learning how compatible you are with someone long-term, the fear shifts to, “What if they don’t respond in the manner that I would like?”
Talk about the important things before trying to get engaged.
First, you want to find out if each of you is even interested in marriage – and to what degree. If each of you falls on the extreme point of the spectrum, that may not work and there may not be room for compromise on this topic. This is indeed a question that should come up in the year of being in a committed relationship with a person. You also may want to ask questions surrounding timelines of what feels too soon and what feels like a realistic time to start talking about marriage or getting engaged. Lengthy engagement period or short? Living together prior to marriage? Are there boundaries on your willingness to do certain things for your partner prior to marriage?
If marriage is important to you, and it's been a couple of years, you might want to ask directly if your person sees themselves marrying you and perhaps rehash the specifics covered earlier in the relationship at that moment. Circle back to questions regarding the timeline and such because now those answers can be more concise and less hypothetical as they now know you more and furthermore know if they would like to say "I do" to you. If your visions for the future aren't aligned, consider if the relationship is worth further investing in, if there is a trajectory that works better for you as a couple mutually, or if you'd just like to move on from the relationship altogether.
Either way, this conversation in particular should be a huge indicator of if and maybe even when a marriage proposal should follow. If you're not on the same page, why even pop the question?
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Full disclosure, I am not a dating coach so this is a gentle suggestion for when these discussions should be had. However, I did specialize in a sex therapy track that allows me to stand on a soapbox and tell you relationships that don’t have these types of conversations are often relationships that will fail. Just the same as a house without a strong base ain’t lasting!
So it’s with love that I say please don’t make a fool of yourself with a romantic gesture of a proposal when you haven’t gotten a direct answer from your person about marriage and a future together. Take a beat and ask yourself if you’re standing on solid ground to even ask for their hand in marriage. Be sure you’ve asked all the tough questions, both through internal dialogue and aloud with your partner.
A communicative marriage is a lasting marriage.
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Featured image by Dean Mitchell/Getty Images