- Isabelle Morley, PsyD
When You're Waiting for Your Partner to Propose
Waiting to take the next step in your relationship can be difficult. If you're anxiously waiting for your partner to pop the question, here's how to stay grounded and what you can do.
If you're excited to be engaged and take the next step of commitment in your relationship, it can be very upsetting when your partner doesn't move at the pace you want them to. People often feel like their life is on pause or they're falling behind, and to make matters worse, they feel they have no control to change that.
Some partners voice that they, too, want to get engaged but then take no action (even for years), while others avoid the subject and try to push off the discussion around marriage. Either situation can be very difficult and emotionally fraught.
Many of my clients have been in this situation and grappled with how to be calm and patient, while also advocating for their wants and needs when it comes to marriage.
If you're in this boat, here's what to do.
It's Ok to be Frustrated
First of all, hopefully it goes without saying that it is perfectly alright to feel upset. Society does a great job of minimizing or denying people's feelings, and telling women that they should be the "cool girl" who is laid back about their relationships and doesn't worry about such things like getting engaged or starting a family. This is a great way of disempowering women and making many women feel like they "shouldn't" be upset or frustrated when their partner dodges the commitment question.
Society does a great job of minimizing our denying people's feelings, and telling women that they should be the "cool girl"
If you're feeling anxious, sad, disappointed, or annoyed, then go ahead and feel those feelings. Explore where they're coming from and what they're trying to tell you. Did you think you and your partner were on the same page, but now it seems like you want different things? Yes, perfectly alright to feel sad and disappointed about that. Or maybe you think your partner doesn't actually want to build a life with you and is just avoiding a break up? Who wouldn't feel anxious and annoyed in that situation.
Let yourself feel and explore your emotions. This will help guide you in what next step you should take with your partner, as it helps to have this insight before addressing the topic so that you have awareness of what you need to share and what you need to ask.
Have a Conversation
You'll see this piece of advice come up frequently in my posts because it's one of the best things you can do to address issues in your relationship. Before you spiral into imagining yourself alone for the rest of your life, start by having an open conversation with your partner.
Some suggestions for this talk:
Bring up the topic when you both have time to discuss it (as in, not when they're running out the door to work).
Try to avoid making assumptions or accusations, their feelings on the topic might surprise you.
Start by sharing your feelings and hopes; let them know what you'd like in terms of moving forward
Be curious about their idea of the future when it comes to your relationship, be open to hearing about their feelings and needs
Take Matters into Your Own Hands
Listen, some people have an amazing partner who is wonderful in lots of different ways, but is just not good at getting things done. You know, the person who doesn't book the moving truck until the day before you move, or who decides to iron their clothes right before you're supposed to be leaving for the party. There are lovely people who have intentions and goals, but struggle with planning ahead, initiating tasks, or execution. (Classic executive functioning issues, which we often see in people who had ADHD.)
If this sounds like your partner, you might want to take matters into your own hands. Want to get engaged? How about you grab a ring and pop the question yourself! It's 2021, people. While there are still some traditions around proposals, hopefully as a society we're letting go of those expectations and opening up to different ways of starting marriages. Be brave, keep it private or make it a big, and ask for what you want (to get engaged, obviously).
While there are still some traditions around proposals, hopefully as a society we're letting go of those expectations and opening up to different ways of starting marriages.
You're Allowed to Have a Timeline
I don't care if people tell you to just "calm down and wait," you're 100% allowed to have a time limit on this. You are always allowed to ask for what you need, including a timeframe for getting engaged. Your partner doesn't have to comply, but you can ask.
If you want to get married and your partner is dodging the question or really dragging their feet, it's not a threat to let them know that this is important to you to take this step and that you don't want to wait forever. But be prepared for the unfavorable outcome; if you say you need to get engaged within the year and they don't pop the question, you'll have to decide if you're going to say goodbye or keep waiting.
You are always allowed to ask for what you need, including a timeframe for getting engaged. Your partner doesn't have to comply, but you can ask.
However, you might want to be reasonable in your timeline. For example, if you tell your partner you want to get engaged and then say it has to happen within the month or you're out, you might be disappointed.
Ideally you would have already had some conversations about your relationship's future, and if it seems like things aren't moving forward, then you can share your timeline for when you'd like to take this step. Even better, have a conversation where you discuss a timeline together, so you'll both feel heard and that you were able to participate in making this big decision.
Remember- You Do Have a Choice
You're not stuck waiting until your partner decides they're ready to propose. Even though it's not a choice you want to make, you can always walk away if this relationship isn't working for you. You may not want to do that, and you may choose to wait for if/when they want to get engaged, and that is also perfectly okay as long as you remember that it's a choice.
We are never stuck in our relationships.
We always have a choice to stay or to leave.
Choose what works best for you.