Knowing the excitement which goes into receiving a proposal, we were not surprised to find that this post was one of our most viewed over the years; but, perhaps it was not viewed so much by women who are excited, but by men who have the task of popping the question? We thought the topic was important enough to revisit during our year of Hindsight and we hope it blesses the next “generation” of pre-engaged gentlemen. ~smile~ If you find the article valuable, please like and share it with others!
Though I have never proposed to anyone, I imagine planning to do so is both exciting and terrifying. You may be wondering when your girlfriend is ready to take the next step from girlfriend to fiancée. She seems happy with your current relationship, but is she ready to commit to a lifetime? This post is dedicated to helping you know when she’s ready for you to propose. (We recently wrote about seven questions guys should ask themselves to know when he’s ready to propose.)
There are several aspects to consider before popping the question. Though I have never proposed to anyone, I have been on the receiving end of proposals, so please read on for a few ways to determine if she is ready to say, “Yes!” (and mean it… more on that below)
First and foremost, do not rush this process. Maybe you and she have a connection so spot on that you are afraid of losing it. Proposing will not stop a true connection from being lost. Some believe that rushing into marriage will keep their love from slipping away, but the opposite is true. If you do not take the proper time to build a deep foundation, which often comes with arguments and unpleasant moments of growth, then your relationship is more likely to crumble than if you do take the time to grow together. When relationships crumble after marriage, they are significantly more life-altering and painful than break-ups which occur before marriage (though we are taking nothing away from the intense pain of some pre-marriage break-ups). It does not pay to be hasty when it comes to an impacting, course-changing, life-altering question.
Additionally, women know when you put time and thought into their proposal. A rushed proposal screams: “I just want to get married because I’m insecure and don’t want to lose you.” A well-thought out proposal says, “I have thought about this from every angle, and I would be honored if you, above all other women, would be my wife. I am offering my commitment to you for a lifetime.” Which kind of proposal do you want your future wife to remember?
Just to note, there is a difference between a rushed proposal and a spontaneous proposal. If you choose to propose spontaneously because that is more in tune with you and your girlfriend’s personalities, it is still important that you know why you want to marry her and that you can articulate it in some way. Big plans are not for everyone, but know your lady and make sure you can tell her why you specifically want to spend your life with her.
Here are a few other questions to answer before buying a ring:
- Does she seem to be at peace in our relationship? If she frequently shares doubts and concerns about your relationship, she is not ready to move forward to engagement. Engagement will magnify these concerns, or cause them to hide until after the wedding. “I do” is not the magical phrase which makes all problems go away. Even though she still may go through with the marriage, beginning a marriage on a foundation of doubt and fear is like building a mansion in a Floridian flood zone – if it does not completely fall after a strong storm, it will inevitably incur expensive damages.
- Has she sought the advice of mentors on topics like being a wife, career choices while married, running a home, and raising children? Reading books on the topic from respected authors is great as well as gleaning from the experience and knowledge of other respected women. If she has not been talking to godly, older ladies about marriage and raising a family, you may want to encourage her to do so before asking for her hand in marriage. Obviously, women who enjoy “husband bashing” and mothers who appear to be constantly irritated by their children should be avoided as possible mentors.
- Has she remained in a consistent relationship with me or have there been multiple breakup cycles? Relationships which break up and get back together repeatedly will likely continue the pattern after marriage. If she (or you) runs away every time the going gets tough, it is not the time for her to consider marriage. It is either a sign of immaturity (on either of your parts) that your relationship has too many red flags or that there are still issues to work through. Several of my early relationships had this pattern and it was due in large part to my immaturity and selfishness. I was most definitely not ready for the selflessness marriage requires back in those days.
- Has she completely let go of old relationships or do they still seem to have a presence in her life (physically or emotionally)? If she is still hung up on an old flame, it is not the time to “secure her love” via engagement. Do not assume that by putting your ring on her finger that his presence will automatically leave her life and heart – it does not work that way. Engagement and marriage do not kill feelings for other people. They may distract those feelings for a while, but if they are still beneath the surface, they may emerge later. She has to be willing (and determined) to let go; and, if you have old feelings lingering in your heart for another woman, you need to completely deal with them before proposing. If you are pursuing a marriage with her, she is to be your one and only.
- Have the two of you discussed getting married before now? It may seem romantic and culturally correct to have six months of fun and games to be followed by a surprise proposal on a mountaintop on Christmas Eve, but it is important to discuss the possibility of marriage before deciding to propose. You don’t need to tell her when or where you will propose – though be sure to plan something memorable which fits her personality – but, don’t propose out of nowhere without her having any notion of your plans. She may be so overcome with excitement that she says, “Yes!” without giving it much thought (and then regrets it later… and tells you – or worse, does not tell you). Get to know each other and talk about all the ins and outs of getting married and life together before popping the question. Losing a few surprise romance points (which only Hollywood would take from you) to gain life-long peace points is an invaluable trade. (We also work with couples who are considering marriage and would love to work with you too!)
- Is she comfortable leaving her parents’ home and protection, or her single lifestyle, to begin a new life with you? If she is not, you can expect drama. When you marry her, you will be joining a new family, but your relationship will need to be its own, separate family. If she is uncomfortable making decisions without seeking input on most of them by her parents, this will cause drama when the time comes to make decisions between you two as a couple. Or, if she is so used to living on her own that she is not comfortable making decisions with you – this will be an issue in your marriage. Watch how she normally makes decisions and if you see some warning signs, work through them before moving forward with engagement (some counseling sessions may be helpful).
- Could you picture her being a mother at this point in her life? Can she picture you being a father at this point in your life? You can plan to wait all you want, but unless you are choosing celibacy or surgery, there is no guarantee you will not become parents sooner than you had planned. When going into marriage, it is important to be comfortable with the idea of parenthood. Babies often come against all odds. Is she ready and mature enough to be the mother of your children?
- Does she have a full, realistic understanding of your financial situation, and is she comfortable with the change in lifestyle she will assume once married? You may think that love is all you need, but you will eventually get hungry and need new clothes. Money fights are common in marriages, but they can be few and far between if both people go into marriage on the same financial page. If she is used to a comfortable lifestyle at home and you know it will be a while before you can achieve a bank account similar in size to her father’s bank account, then it is important that she understands what to expect (and that she’s willing to live a more meager lifestyle than she is used to). This is not the time to be vague or overly optimistic. Once engagement is on the horizon, tell her your whole financial truth and discuss her entire financial situation too. If she is making her own living at this point, it is still important that she understand what your family’s finances (yours and hers together) will look like after marriage.
Women look forward to this season of engagement for years before it happens. Many girls play wedding and house when they are little. Some plan out their weddings before boys are even old enough to notice them. It is in the heart of a woman to dream of being loved and cherished by a man. Take this into consideration when you propose.
If she is going through a really stressful time in her life, be there for her, but wait until she can see the sun again before you propose. For example, if she’s grieving the death of a loved one, wait until she has had some time to heal before proposing marriage. It is more tempting to make emotional decisions when you are grieving than at other times. Plus, when she looks back on her proposal, she will want to remember it being a happy time in her life. Another stressful life example would relate to schooling. If she is stressed with mid-terms, finals, or certification testing, wait until there is light at the end of the tunnel. An engaged student is usually a distracted student. I was! ~smile~ Married couples can complete their degrees; but, in many cases one, or both, do not due to changing life circumstances. This does not mean you should avoid marriage while in college, but be sure to count the cost and get a lot of advice from wise people who know both of you well before deciding.
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22, ESV)
Though this post gives you a number of angles by which to contemplate her state of preparedness, I am sure there are even more aspects to consider. Ladies, if I have missed something, please add it below in the comments! We wish you all the best as you plan for your future! And, if you are considering taking that next step, we would love to walk with you on your journey! If you are interested in working with us, please contact us! We look forward to meeting with you!
How will you know when your girlfriend is ready for your proposal?