07/06/2012 07:36 EDT | Updated 09/05/2012 05:12 EDT

WHY Won't he Propose?

OK, it's been covered before, but women still have questions (all the time!) about just why men won't propose. What is it about the act that freaks men out and makes women weak in the knees? A conversation with a married man helped clear things up a bit...


Dear Colette,

I've been reading your blog about women who are with men who won't propose and I want to thank you for all of your great advice. It teaches women (including me) to manage themselves and their emotions, versus act like a "victim" of circumstance, and to leave their future happiness, peace, and contentment in the hands of the man they are with. And yet, I am wondering... why is it that men are so afraid to propose? I can't wait to hear what you have to say.


Dear Trina,

I love that this question about marriage proposals keeps coming up in all of its various forms. The more we ask the same question in different ways the more people we are going to be able to help. (So ladies, if you're reading this and you still have questions after reading this post, and this one, and this one, please don't hesitate to ask your very own Dear Colette question about marriage proposals.)

OK, let's get down to business.

Why are men so afraid to propose?

As it turns out, I was talking to Todd about this very question on the weekend while we were at dinner at one our favorite restaurants (Eleven 22 in Golden, BC). It was a rainy night outside, perfect for deep meaningful discussions inside over a bottle of wine and some delicious Atlantic Char.

As we were waiting for our meal, I gave Todd my take on why men are so afraid to propose. I said:

"From my observations about men over the years (including you) the number one thing that I believe men value most in the world, beyond any toy, electronic or sport, is freedom! And if I had to guess why men are so afraid to propose to a woman it would be because of the perceived loss of freedom that is associated with committing to another human being."

Todd gave me a knowing nod, as I continued on.

"I mean, if you really think about it, there are two sides to this marriage proposal thing. And men and women are coming at the topic from very different value systems. Because, unlike men, what women value most is security which is precisely what marriage offers them."

Todd piped in: "Yes! Marriage means a loss of freedom for men and a gain in security for women. Which is why so many women are so anxious to get this part of their life taken care of."

(Now it was my turn for the knowing nod as Todd carried on.)

"It's as if women believe that their life is uncertain and 'on hold' until they find a man who will commit to them. And for some reason it takes a proposal for her to finally accept, or believe, that she is 'good enough' or 'loved enough.'

"Giving her the impression that she can finally relax once he asks her," I added.

"Exactly," Todd replied. "And then that seems to be precisely when she seems to make it her 'job' or believe it's her 'right' to change him."

"Which leads to the male prophecy: Marriage = loss of freedom," I quipped.

"Absolutely! And it terrifies a man to commit to a woman who forces him with ultimatums into marriage. This is the perfect prediction or forecast of what life will be like if he decides to take the plunge," Todd shuddered.

"Ha! So, it's freedom -- or the perceived loss of it -- that is keeping a man from proposing to a woman. And if she adds fuel to the fire with anxiety and ultimatums, well then, that's just a recipe for disaster," I said.

Todd agreed wholeheartedly.

That's the WHY -- What's the HOW?

In previous posts on this topic, I've given some advice on how to handle the uncomfortable situation of holding out while your man prepares to propose.

In light of my conversation with Todd I feel there are a few points that would be helpful for me to add:

Keep yourself out of it. A man's proposal or lack thereof has nothing to do with how 'good' or 'loveable' you are. Do your best not to make it about you (or take it personally) when he hasn't yet popped the question.

Validate his feelings. It will go a long way if he knows that you understand how terrifying it is for most men to commit to marriage. And if you make it OK for him to feel the way he feels you'll do a great job of helping him relax into the idea of a proposal.

Nothing has to change. Let him know that you love and value him as he is. Make sure he knows that the last thing you'd ever want to do is change him. And the last thing you'll do (once you get married) is change yourself. Let him know that who you are today is who you will be once you are married. This will help him know that the freedom and flexibility that he has with you today won't change (despite the changes that come with more responsibility if you decide to have children together) But -- and this is a BIG BUT ladies -- be sure to check in with yourself and make sure that you don't have some ulterior motive of taking charge of him and the way you relate to one another once you've gotten him to commit.

The purpose (I believe) of marriage and commitment is this:

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" - Mary Ann Evans.

Do what you can to make life easier for him, validate him, spend a few minutes in his shoes and see the world the way he sees it. When you understand him you'll realize how big a decision this is for him; that is has nothing to do with how loveable you are, and that it has everything to do with the thing he values the most: his freedom.

One last smidge of advice

Everything is always perfect and purposeful. And because this is true you can rest easy and:

Let things unfold in their own way, in their own time.

Much Love,

Got a question of your own?

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