Tradition dictates that a man must save three months’ salary, secretly purchase an expensive metal or mineral (or both), and, when the timing is right, bend down onto one knee and surprise his girlfriend by popping open a little black box to reveal the ring—without or without a flashmob dance.
“Will you marry me?” he asks.
This is a proposal.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” she declares, perhaps with more fervor than she has ever given him before.
She squeals, she cries, she jumps up and down. He stands, he scoops her up, he spins her around.
And so, they are engaged.
The proud announcement is all over social media in the next few minutes. Pictures of the ring, sized to fit her finger, soon follow.
But why, in the age of social media and almost gender equality, is it the man that proposes to the woman?
Before women could have jobs and incomes of their own, it made sense that a man would be the one to propose. By proposing to the woman, he was agreeing to take financial care of her for the rest of her life—a duty that original belonged to her father (which is why it is also traditional that a man ask the father’s permission to marry the daughter).
But now that women are self-sufficient, often making as much or even more than their boyfriends, is there any reason other than tradition that she should wait for him to propose to her?
…yes. There is.
There is some truth to the stereotype that men want sex while women want commitment. Every person (man, woman, and everyone in between) is different, however men have less incentive to settle down and marry than women do.
Online dating websites and apps, like Tinder and OkCupid, make sex and relationships easy to come by, for both men and women. Divorce and child custody laws tend to favor women, as well, in many states.
So, why would a man bother getting married when he can have sex and a relationship without a legal contract?
The answer is love.
If a man truly loves a woman, he will want to marry her.
There is very little stigma against sex outside of marriage, and cohabitation without marriage. Yet, couples get married every day—most often because the man proposed.
The act of proposal by a man to the woman signifies to that woman his desire to commit in a world that no longer requires commitment and may even penalize it, depending on divorce laws.
He is risking everything because he loves you.
That is an extremely important gesture, perhaps the most important.
Still, there is nothing wrong with a woman proposing to a man.
Women propose to other women. Men propose to other men. It is 2015 and things have changed a lot since the time that women were property to be transferred from father to husband with the purchase of a ring.
If a woman has been in a relationship with her boyfriend for a significant amount of time and has the desire to marry him, a very good way to find out if he shares this desire to marry is to propose to him.
Just talking about getting married ‘someday’, or jokingly commenting about whose niece would be the flower girl at the hypothetical wedding, allows a mental distance between the mythical future marriage and actually deciding to get married.
By proposing to your man, you are showing him that you are serious about getting married. Now, he has to tell you, seriously, whether he wants to or not.
And if his response is “not yet” or maybe “not ever”, then it is time for you to move on if marriage is a goal you cannot live without meeting.
It will be hard to hear, after so long together and so many high hopes, but it will be better than waiting and waiting for a proposal from him that will probably never come.
So, go ahead. Buy a ring, get down on one knee, and propose to your man (with or without the flashmob).
If he says yes, then great! Start planning the wedding.
…and if he says no, then sorry but at least you tried. Break up, return the ring, and treat yourself using that money to a much-needed vacation.
Hey, you might just meet someone new who will one day propose to you.