How To Talk About Engagement Without Being Pushy


Earlier this year I was feeling discouraged and in a moment of emotion I sat down to write:

While everyone around me is getting engaged or married I’m sitting here thinking, “Will it ever be my turn?”

Today my younger cousin got engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely happy for him, but it hurts a little bit at the same time. I always thought that I would be married by the time I turned 30, but I’ll be 29 in a few months and highly doubt that my boyfriend is going to pop the question any time soon.

We have talked about marriage here and there and about getting hitched in a few years, but what if I don’t want to wait that long? How can I even go about talking about engagement without being pushy or making him feel rushed? I don’t want him to feel like I’m backing him in a corner or giving him an ultimatum. I definitely don’t want the relationship to end, but I also want more.

I don’t want to be in this same spot a year from now, heck I don’t even want to be in the same spot a few months from now. I guess I need to be patient, but it’s hard when you want something so bad, especially when everyone you thought you’d be married before is already married or getting to be.

Although my boyfriend and I have been friends for years and have been dating for one year, I was scared to bring up the subject of marriage with him. I knew from the start that he had mixed feelings about marriage, mostly because he is watching his dad go through his fifth divorce. All those divorces in the family have made him hesitant about marriage. He and I both agree that we want our first marriage to be our only marriage.

But I got the feeling that marriage didn’t matter as much to my boyfriend as it did to me, and I didn’t know how to talk to him about it. It’s not that I want to get married just because everyone else is—I think marriage is an important commitment, pretty much stating that you want to be with that person for the rest of your life. It is the most sure and public way of saying, “I’m choosing you and only you.”

In the past I wanted to get married just because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. But with my boyfriend now it feels like he is who I’m supposed to be with. I want to marry him because I want to tell the world that I am choosing him and only him. I’m now ready for that kind of commitment. In past relationships I’ve never tried to fix problems or invest effort to make sure the relationship worked out. If a guy made me mad, I’d leave: “See you!” With my boyfriend now, I’ve learned to communicate and compromise. He brings out the best in me.

Which is why I didn’t want to mess things up by bringing up engagement and scaring him away. I stayed inside my mind and played out all the scenarios of how things could go wrong. But I also found an article that helped me stop being so chickenshit and instead just talk to him. The writer talks about why she went ahead and asked her boyfriend directly about engagement, instead of just waiting for him to propose, like a friend suggested that she should do.

Some of the most helpful tidbits that I took away from the article were that it’s pointless to try to be the “cool girlfriend” and pretend that you don’t care about marriage. You need to “listen to yourself and acknowledge your needs.” Furthermore, “Women shouldn’t need to resort to petty games in place of having a grown-up discussion.” It was tempting for me to just drop hints and then stew in frustration if he didn’t pick up on them. But it’s better to “Say what you feel directly, clearly, and honestly. State your intentions and expectations. Listen to theirs as well, and then let it go.”

Since reading that article, I’ve had multiple straightforward conversations with my boyfriend about marriage. We talked about the difference between how he thought about marriage and how I thought about marriage. In our conversations I came to better understand his family background and fears about marriage that he still needs to work through. I think he came away with understanding that I don’t just think of marriage from a legal standpoint. I’m not after his money and possessions. I just want him. I think he realized that I see marriage as a lifelong commitment—because if we marry we are not getting divorced. When we’re in it, we’re in it for life.

Getting engaged has to be a mutual understanding and decision, and opening our line of communication on the topic was an important first step in the path to marriage. In the end, it wasn’t as difficult to talk about as I thought it’d be. Our conversations actually exceeded my expectations. So to anyone who wants to get married but it struggling to bring it up to their partner, here is my message to you: Seek out advice and do a little research. Quit avoiding a discussion and just ask.



Flickr/bryan thayer

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