07/11/2012 07:33 EDT | Updated 09/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Hey Ladies, What's Stopping YOU From Proposing?

So many women ask the same question: why won't he propose? Well, this week, a man wrote in and flipped the script -- hey ladies, what's stopping your from proposing? (Or for that matter, asking men out on dates, and paying for that date?) We've come a long way from the 50s, maybe we should start acting like it...

Dear Colette,

I've noticed a recurring theme in your columns: Women asking why men won't date them; Women waiting for a man to propose, etc. Here's are a few controversial questions -- Why don't women ask men out on dates? Why is the man usually expected to pay all the costs of dating? Why don't women propose? Women have broken all kinds of barriers, they're even serving in the military, but the social norms for romance haven't changed much. It's the 21st century after all, women (at least in Western countries) are supposed to be liberated, but women initiating romance is still rare. Is it because women are afraid of rejection? Until things change, men have to deal with rejection all the time.

- Paul

Dear Paul,

Thank you for this question. After the 'lambasting' I received from men on the writing of this post "Why won't he propose?" I am so grateful for the opportunity to correct what I consider to be a massive misunderstanding.

But before we get to the part where I get to redeem myself, let's begin with the biggest reason:

  • Why women don't (always) ask men on dates (because sometimes they do),
  • Why women don't (always) pay for dinner (because sometimes they do), and
  • Why women don't (usually) propose (because I'm sure in the history of the world there may have been one or two that have).

It's all about polarity

I believe (after everything I've read this is what seems most logical to me) the answer to your first two questions is because of a simple little thing called "polarity."

What is polarity?

Well according to best selling author and tantric teacher David Deida, polarity is the essence of attraction between a woman and a man. The greater the polarity between the masculine and feminine energies, the stronger the attractive force between them.

But there is a catch. The equation isn't as simple as men have masculine energy and women have feminine energy.

It's more like there is a masculine-feminine continuum and every person (man or woman) has their place on this continuum at any given point in their lives due to the amount of estrogen and testosterone in the body (that's according to Anthropologist Helen Fisher). And to make things even more confusing, where you sit on this continuum changes as you grow older due hormonal changes as you age. According to Ms. Fisher:

Masculine-men are high in testosterone. Feminine-men are low in it.

Feminine-women are high in estrogen. Masculine-women are low in it.

So just what does any of this have to do with the three questions you've asked? Well... with this polarity thing in mind, let's look at each of your questions individually.

Why don't women pay for dinner?

Masculine-Man / Feminine-Woman: in this scenario it would actually be detrimental for a woman to pay for dinner, because this would send a signal to her masculine-man that she is also masculine. No polarity. No attraction. After this date he might talk to his buddies and say something along the lines of, "she's a real ball buster."

Feminine-Man / Masculine-Woman: in this scenario it would be fantastic if the woman paid for dinner, because this would send a signal to her feminine-man that she is masculine and can take charge. Lots of polarity. Lots of attraction. But, a caveat: Unfortunately, masculine-women don't always tend to fall in love with feminine-men. It probably has to do with societal conditioning, but as a general rule, masculine-women want an even more masculine-man. A Mr. Macho, so to speak.

Why don't women ask men out on dates?

Masculine-Man / Feminine-Woman: in this scenario the woman can still ask the man on a date and he probably won't mind. He might think it's sassy and intriguing. However, how this woman behaves on the date will be the clincher. If she comes across as forceful, directive, a know-it-all, with a list of her accomplishments, he'll be turned off and heading for the hills. Masculine-men don't want to date women who remind them of their buddies. Remember, polarity means attraction, which is why he's attracted to a feminine-woman, not someone that reminds him of his masculine-man friends.

Feminine-Man / Masculine-Woman: in this scenario the woman is more than likely to ask the man on a date because he's more than likely not to take the initiative. So if she likes him enough she'll "man-up" (or masculine-up) and ask him. She may not like that she has to do it, but she'll be willing to give it a try, to see how things turn out. Another caveat: Once again, masculine-women (at least the women I've worked with) prefer to get their polarity not by falling in love with a feminine-man, but by attracting an even more masculine-than-her kind of man.

Why don't women propose?

Proposals in the 21st century are quite a bit different than they were before the feminist movement began in the 1960s, with the most notable change being that couples today actually talk about getting married before either one of them proposes.

Back in the 50s it wasn't like this. And although I can't say with absolute certainty why (because I'm a therapist not a history buff) it appears to me that in the 50s we lived in a fairytale la-la-land which was crafted by the "perfect" families that joined us in our living rooms every night on TV. Shows like Father Knows Best made us believe that men propose, men provide, and women... well, they stay home to cook and clean.

These days we can see through the façade of the perfect nuclear family. We realize that really, there is no such thing. We realize that marriages end in divorce. People actually do get depressed. They get addicted to drugs, sex, and gambling, too. Life is not the pretty picture that was painted for us on TV in the 50s.

But, for many women the vision of undying love of a man who proposes... Well, these women haven't quite gotten the message. They're still living with the façade.

Please don't misunderstand me; I don't have anything against marriage at all. I believe that if it's important to you and you want to get married and you find a partner who wants it to, that's great! All the power in the world to both of you -- not that you'll be likely to need it -- because if you both want it equally, and there's no pushing, shoving, forcing, or coercing to get either one of you to the alter, then you at least stand a fighting chance in a world where 50 per cent end up in divorce.

So why don't women propose?

It's not that they can't. Of course they can. The polarity equation we talked of earlier could have something to do with why women might not want to propose, but even more important than that.

I believe the number one reason why a woman shouldn't propose to a man is if he says he's not ready to get married.

In today's age:

It is my HOPE that men and women will talk about marriage, before either one of them proposes.

It is my HOPE that whomever proposes (and whomever says yes) will only do so if in fact they are doing it because it's something they really want, not something they think they should or have to do.

It is my HOPE that whoever proposes (man or woman) will only do so once they know that their partner is ready to be proposed to.

It's no longer the 50s.

Women can ask men to get married if they want to. Please, just be sure to talk to him about it first, and make sure it's something he's ready for, and open to.

If he's not?

This woman has got a decision to make. And that decision is whether to stay or to go.

But before she goes, it is my hope that she'll ask herself why she's with him. I hope she'll allow herself the opportunity to view a vision of life without him, to see if that's what she really wants. I hope she'll question her beliefs about what marriage means. Whose belief is it? Is it hers? Her parents', society's, TV's?

I hope that before any of us decide to walk away from love, we dig deep and get clear about all of our beliefs, ideas, and motivations.

Lots of love,