Should girls ask the question?
If you like to wear the trousers in your relationship, you don't necessarily have to wait for a leap year to propose. But how do you go about it?
Nowadays there's no rule saying that a woman can't propose to her boyfriend, whatever day or year it is. But in the fifth century when rules of courtship were far stricter, women were only allowed to propose during a leap year. This was later limited to just one day - February 29 - when men would be let off from having to pay a fine if they refused a proposal.
"Proposing to your boyfriend is a decision that should never be taken lightly or done as a way to 'speed things up' if you feel your man has been dragging his feet to the altar," says Brenda Della Casa, relationship expert and author of Cinderella Was a Liar.
"I know very few men who wouldn't mind a woman popping the question. This isn't because they don't love the woman they're with or have commitment issues; it's because men and women view marriage a bit differently and if a man hasn't proposed, it usually means he's not ready."
Men versus women
Make sure you know exactly how he feels about you and the idea of marriage. If he's already dropped a few hints that he's not ready then perhaps you should hold off for a bit longer. You also need to feel confident about where your relationship is heading. If you've only just started living together, for example, it may be too soon to talk about marriage.
"Men take longer to get used to the idea of settling down because they approach marriage more logically than women do," says Brenda. "Many women get caught up in the romance and the idea of floating straight into their 'happily ever after' at whatever age and point in their career. Men, on the other hand, can often view marriage as a lifelong emotional and financial commitment."
It's always good to have a few ideas up your sleeve for your big moment, but doing it in front of a large crowd may not be ideal.
Changing the rules
Sara, 23, is planning on taking the plunge and asking her boyfriend of three years to marry her. "I'm not sure if I need to buy him a ring and what type it has to be. Also, I have no idea if I should also buy a ring for myself and how much to spend on it. Then there's the question over whether I should ask his family's permission? I'm thinking of asking him at a party and surprising him."
It's always good to have a few ideas up your sleeve for your big moment, but doing it in front of a large crowd may not be ideal. At least if you ask him in private and he says yes he still has the option to ask you again if he feels you've stolen his thunder (or damaged his ego). This way you'll get the best of both worlds.
"Plan something he'll enjoy and get him a gift such as a nice watch", says Brenda. "You could do it at his favourite sporting event, or if he likes going to the theatre, get the best tickets you can and slip a note in the programme. Never buy yourself a ring. If he says yes, pick it out together!"
To propose or not propose?
Before you start planning your proposal, decide if you're definitely onto a winner. If you've got any doubts, perhaps you should reconsider your plans and drop some heavy hints that you're ready and waiting.
- Is your other half a hopeless romantic or old-fashioned in his views?
- Does he squirm at the sound of the word 'wedding' or 'marriage'?
- Are you asking him because all your friends are getting engaged?
- Are you proposing because you feel you want to 'take the pressure' off him asking you?
You may also want to prepare yourself for friends and family to question why you asked him and why he never got round to it. "I'd never do it, says 20 year-old Louise. "I'd feel like the guy would feel obliged to say yes even if they didn't really want to. At least if they propose to you, you know they want to do it." Matt, 24, disagrees: "My girlfriend proposed to me. I said no, and have regretted it ever since." Cliff had a better experience: "I don't see anything wrong with it. If he runs a mile then he isn't what you're looking for anyway."
If you're ready to get married, let him know and take a step back. "Let his actions tell you whether or not he is ready. If too much time passes then you can make a decision about whether or not you should propose," says Brenda.
Written by Julia Pearlman
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