4 Questions To Ask If Your Partner Hasn't Proposed & You Want To Be Engaged
Perhaps you thought for sure that last year was the year your partner would propose. And what better time than the holidays, right? Alas, New Year's Eve came and went, and the moment right after midnight left you ringing in another New Year without an actual ring on your finger. After another year waiting for a proposal that never came, you may now be wondering why it's not happening—and if it's time to move on. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself as you sort through your feelings about not being engaged:
1. Have you and your partner agreed on getting married?
You may have dropped subtle or blaring hints about the type of ring you might like and where you want to live postnuptial, but this form of communication does not substitute for the clear and honest discussion you should have with your partner about getting engaged. Have you and your partner already sat down, directly discussed the future, and agreed that you're planning to get married? The traditional "surprise" proposal is totally a ritual that couples can have fun taking part in, but the conversation and agreement about marriage should happen long before anyone gets down on one knee with a ring in hand.
Some people are hesitant to express their desires directly, fearing that "the marriage talk" will make them appear desperate or turn their partner off. That's usually a strong sign that your relationship isn't ready for engagement yet, which is OK. While there's no concrete rule about how long you should be dating before communicating your desire to get married, if you believe you've established enough trust with your partner, then it should be safe to broach the subject with care. Even if you're not sure where your partner stands on marrying you, you can still bring up the topic to see how they feel about marriage in general and ensure that your intentions are aligned before making a deeper investment.
2. How did you create your timeline for engagement?
If you're waiting on a proposal, it's worth exploring the root of your desire to be engaged as well as your timeline. Sometimes your timeline makes sense on paper but conflicts with your reality. Pushing for an engagement based on your desire to start a family, buy a home, or simply experience the process at the same time as other friends and family members may cause you to ignore really important factors. Making sure that you and your partner are aligned, truly compatible, fulfilled, and ready for the lifelong commitment that comes after you say "I do" takes patience and the ability to block out external pressure.
It's also a good time to evaluate any internal pressure you may be feeling. Assess whether or not your expectation to be engaged is more about where you believe you "should" be at your current stage of life versus the level of satisfaction you are currently experiencing with your partner. If you believe your partner is truly the one, then adjusting your timeline may be required to reach your goal.
3. What's the status of your relationship, seriously?
If you've been waiting on a proposal for some time, it's time to check on the status of your relationship. Perhaps all your needs are being met in order to feel comfortable going to the next level, but what about your partner's? Oftentimes there are unknown financial, spiritual, sexual, or emotional barriers keeping couples from committing on a deeper level. Ask yourself, "How would I know if my partner was truly ready to get engaged?" You may discover that further exploration is needed to ensure that you understand where your partner stands on the relationship as well as the pace they are comfortable moving forward at.
4. Is your current relationship worth the wait?
If you believe your partner is truly the one, then allowing your relationship to move forward organically might be worth the extra wait. Focus on other shared and individual goals, and remember that there are other ways to measure progress in your relationship. Are you continuing to grow in your relationship? Are you getting closer and closer and taking on new challenges as a couple? Remain emotionally present and engaged in the relationship.
How to know when it's time to move on.
The problem with ultimatums.
It might be tempting to give your partner an ultimatum if you believe they have exhausted your patience around the topic of engagement. You may have even rehearsed the line "Either you propose, or we are breaking up!" in the mirror a few times. However, it's important to assess whether or not there's any real value in giving your partner an ultimatum. Few people enjoy feeling pressured into making what may be one of the most important decisions of their life. Even if you strongly believe your partner is procrastinating or taking your relationship for granted, forcing a decision could backfire in several ways.
A proposal should come from a genuine place. Knowing you had a hand in getting your partner to commit might weaken your confidence over time in their decision to marry you. Also, some partners are inclined to back out of a relationship completely when they feel forced to take actions they aren't prepared for. If an engagement is about committing to a lifelong partnership, then honoring your partner's part of the process is an essential step in the process.
Follow your instincts.
All that said, it's important to follow your instincts. If your partner gives you reason to believe they won't be a person of their word or ever take the necessary steps to propose, then it's time to assess whether you're putting unnecessary pressure on the relationship and ignoring the signs that it's time to move on. Empower yourself by setting a personal deadline without giving a verbal ultimatum. If your partner doesn't make reasonable strides by your deadline, then it's fair to reevaluate your future together and take any necessary steps to ensure your long-term happiness.
It can be difficult to reset your expectations for a proposal when they haven't been met. However, added time provides the benefit of making sure you are choosing the right person and committing for the right reasons.
Weena Cullins, LCMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 15 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Her clinical advice has been featured at NBC News, The Huffington Post, Insider, Redbook, and many more mainstream media publications.
Cullins speaks to local, national, and international audiences about relationships, money matters, parenting, and the role of spirituality in achieving your personal goals, and she serves as a moderator/facilitator for community-based panel discussions sponsored by local nonprofit organizations. She previously worked as an adjunct professor and clinical supervisor at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she obtained her master's degree in family studies, and she has intensive clinical training in working with trauma survivors. She uses empirically validated treatment modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy and emotion-focused therapy with her clients.