I've known countless women (including my own 76-year-old mother) who've waited years for a proposal that never comes.
- Are you waiting for a proposal that never comes?
- Did you see living together as a prelude to marriage but now realize your boyfriend didn't?
- Do you regret making yourself too easy and available because he now takes you for granted?
- Does it seem the more desperate you become to get married, the more fiercely he resists?
If shaking your head yes to these questions, you're not alone. Find out why you and other women get in this predicament and if there's a way to end this impasse.
Stuck in Limbo, Waiting for a Proposal
With over a half century of life experience under my belt, I've known dozens of female family members and friends who've waited years for a proposal to come, only to be left heartbroken and ring-less. At this moment in time, my 76-year-old mother and my 28-year-old niece are both stuck in live-in limbo —somewhere between being single and being committed. It's not that they and others like them are too traditional and timid to propose to their men; it's that their guys simply don't want to get hitched.
While the intricacies of these relationships are unique as snowflakes, the big picture is essentially the same: a woman who desperately wants to seal the deal with a wedding and a man who sees absolutely no reason to do so. How do these women (all of them smart and desirable) get into these predicaments where they're left feeling rejected, unloved, and powerless? What can other women learn from their mistakes so they don't become stuck in a similar situation? While it's true that times have changed and women no longer need a man and a marriage license to feel complete, there are still plenty who see marital bliss as their ultimate goal and strive to achieve it. For these ladies in my family and yours who want marriage but can't quite get there, here are six possible reasons they can't seal the deal:
Ladies, if you're in a relationship with a man over 6 months who doesn't seem ready for marriage, then accept the fact that he probably isn't and move on and find a man who is. Just remember, when a man decides that he wants to get married, he does.
— Arnie Singer, dating coach
1. They didn't establish a meeting of the minds.
A meeting of the minds is a phrase that lawyers use. It means two parties hold the same understanding about the terms of an agreement. It must be present in order for a contract to be valid and binding. But how, you may be asking, is this legal phrase relevant in a romantic relationship?
For more couples than you'd ever imagine, there is no meeting of the minds or shared vision when they move in together. While many women absolutely see it as the first step towards marriage, many guys don't. They view it pragmatically as a way to share expenses, have companionship, and secure a sex partner. Without a meeting of the minds, women set themselves up for eventual heartbreak. If they're not straightforward, honest, and open about their desire to marry (to both themselves and their partners), they may be left ring-less and regretting their years wasted in live-in limbo.
In her 60's and recently widowed, my mother let her new boyfriend move into her home. In her mind, she saw this as the lead-up to an inevitable proposal, followed by marriage. The trouble with that was he never did. While most of us don't ponder statistics when head-over-heels in love, my mom and other women desiring marriage shouldn't hide from the facts. Contrary to what they believe, moving in together isn't always a prelude to getting hitched. According to figures collected by US Attorney Legal Services, only a little over half of couples who live together wind up being married within five years. Within that same time frame, 40 percent break up and roughly 10 percent continue to live together. If women see living together as a means to an end, the odds aren't great for a happily ever after.
What are feminine wiles?
Most young people haven't heard of feminine wiles. If they have, they may perceive them negatively—as something outdated, manipulative, and phony. For women of an older generation, though, feminine wiles were seen as wholly positive. Females who used them to their advantage were seen as fun, flirty, and feminine. They acted in a lady-like way with confidence, mystery, and seduction. They spoke softly, compassionately, and garnered much admiration. They felt in control when dealing with men.
2. They made it too easy.
The comedian, Groucho Marx, once famously quipped: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Although his self-deprecating remark elicited a chuckle, it also revealed an innate component of the male psyche—coveting the unattainable. Men love a challenge and often see an unavailable woman as the ultimate prize. When guys need to work for something, they see it as more desirable.
In the old days, ladies would play hard to get and use their feminine wiles because this made them more sought after and admired. A guy courted a woman—met her parents, brought her flowers, wrote her poems, and placed her on a pedestal. Today, many women are too easy (sexually and otherwise) and, therefore, are valued less and not seen as marriage material.
My 28-year-old niece became sexually active with her boyfriend during college and has been with him ever since. They bought a home together, share expenses, and enjoy one another's company. Their relationship, however, has plateaued with no talk of marriage. He's satisfied with the status quo while she's growing increasingly frustrated after seven years of dating. She now wonders whether she made it all too easy for him as she longs to be a wife and mother, not just a roommate.
Adam LoDolce, a professional dating coach, gives this advice to women like my niece who now wish they had played harder to get: "I want you to remember ONE thing: Scarcity creates value. When something is scarce then it's hard to come by , and means it's worth more. This is just as true for dating as it if for diamonds or gold...Available women are everywhere...but the woman who must be chased? She must be worth something."
I advise my clients to wait for an exclusive relationship before sleeping with a man. It’s okay to be physically intimate in other ways if the attraction is strong, but you need to be clear about what YOU need for emotional and physical safety.
— Sandy Weiner, dating coach
3. They appear too desperate.
A man can smell a woman's desperation for marriage like a shark smells blood. The more she wants it, the more he resists, creating an imbalance of power in the relationship. He's in the driver's seat, fully in control, while she's helpless in the backseat. Such asymmetry in a coupling can make a woman feel insecure. This is the dynamic at play with my niece and her boyfriend, leading to more problems in their relationship and an erosion of her self-esteem.
When women like my niece feel vulnerable—their needs going unmet and their voices going unheard —they become clingy and desperate. Once capable and confident, their insecurity about the relationship causes them to hold on tighter. They start demanding extra time, attention, and reassurance from their guys. They send too many text messages, check up with phone calls, ask for more compliments, and begin to lose their own identities and interests. This proves to be a real turn-off to their men who desire independent women with their own opinions, hobbies, dreams, and friends. The guys start to feel claustrophobic in the relationship and fear marriage will only make it worse.
Dr. Maya Angelou, the beloved author and poet, said: "Love liberates; it doesn't bind." If a woman feels desperate and clingy in a relationship, she needs to let it go. It's a sign she has lost sight of herself and needs to regroup, focusing on other areas of her life: career, friendships, health, family, hobbies, and spirituality. She needs to appreciate her own value before she goes looking for another partner.
Here is what you need to know: You are enough right this minute. Period. Not understanding this is a major obstacle to getting married, since women who don’t know their own worth make terrible wives. Why? You can fake it for a while, but ultimately you won’t love your spouse any better than you love yourself. Smart men know this.
— Tracy McMillan, author of "Why You're Not Married...Yet"
4. They're drama queens.
Most of us women have at least one girlfriend who's a drama queen. She's always in conflict with family members, co-workers, and friends. Her life would be far too mundane and unsatisfying for her if she wasn't constantly involved in turmoil. She welcomes it into her life and thrives on it. As her friends, we appreciate this idiosyncrasy and can deal with it on a limited basis.
Most men, on the other hand, can't tolerate drama queens for very long. If there's a problem in their lives, they want to fix it as soon as possible, make it go away, and return to a tranquil state. While guys may initially be attracted to drama queens, wanting to become their knights in shining armor and rescue them from chaos, they soon become disenchanted when new problems keep arising. God forbid, they'd ever want a lifetime of this tumult.
As an observer of their long-time relationship, I'd say my mother's boyfriend is wary of her drama queen ways. She's always befriending people down on their luck, gossiping about this friend or that, and stirring up conflict between neighbors on their cul-de- sac. He, on the other hand, just wants peace and quiet in his golden years. Marrying a drama queen would not help him achieve that goal.
Men do not want emotional drama queens who use their feminine wiles to manipulate them out of their time or money. Dealing with emotional outbursts, sneaky ways and pushiness does not go over well in the long run with a man. He wants a woman who is emotionally stable and authentic in both her words and actions. He is not looking for a spoiled little girl who is ill-equipped to handle the ups and downs of life; he is looking for a woman.
— Bree Maresca-Kramer, relationship expert
5. They're too negative.
Modern life is stressful enough with high pressure careers, long commutes, technology overload, demanding bosses, and a never-ending string of bills. Guys want a partner who brings joy and energy into their lives and doesn't deplete them with negativity. They come into contact with enough destructive people during their daily activities. The last thing they need is one at home. If you're not there to bolster your guy, he's not going to want you for the long haul.
While I love being around my niece in small doses, she's become quite pessimistic. On holidays and other family gatherings, she's that one gray cloud on an otherwise sunny day. While she and her boyfriend have been together for over seven years, I have to wonder if her negativity is what's stopping him from proposing. The irony is her gloominess is caused by feeling insecure in a relationship with a man who doesn't want to marry her!
Fear of being alone is a huge factor that keeps people in bad relationships. The underlying message is that you’re not able to take care of yourself.
— Lauren Mackler, author of "Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness and Transform Your Life"
6. They're with the wrong guy.
We all know women who desire marriage so intensely that they overlook one crucial detail; they're with the wrong guy! No matter how much they change themselves or try to change him, the coupling isn't going to work because they're simply not a match. A woman in such a situation knows this deep down in her soul, but her thinking is clouded by the time and effort she's already invested in the relationship. It's too devastating to admit she made a mistake, wasted so many years, and now must look elsewhere for love and commitment.
Like many other women, my mother seeks a committed relationship with a man who doesn't want one. She stays because this dynamic is familiar from her childhood with her alcoholic mother. As a kid, she struggled to form a bond with a parent who was emotionally unavailable. Today, she does the same thing with an extremely aloof man. Likewise, my niece is now re-creating something familiar from her childhood. She stays with a controlling partner because he is the reincarnation of her domineering dad. He represents the dysfunctional relationship from the past that she's now trying to fix.
Instead of finding the right person to fit in their lives now, both my mother and my niece are reaching back to repair something from their childhoods. We're all prone to do the same if we're not aware of our motivations. Lauren Mackler, a relationship coach, warns women that their yesterdays can negatively impact their here-and-now. She writes: “What happens in the family shapes how we see ourselves in the world, our core beliefs and our behaviors. Then we take these behavior patterns into adulthood. “
That's why women like my 76-year-old mother and my 28-year-old niece are stuck in live-in limbo where they're unhappy, frustrated, and powerless. Their self-esteem suffers, but they stay put because it's familiar, safe, and comfortable. They're not with the right guys, but they're too scared to admit it, leave, and start anew.
What do you think?
This Book Helped Me Get Inside the Head of a Man and Understand Why They Fear Commitment
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why do men not keep promises?
Answer: Men tell lies, string women along, and make false promises in romantic partnerships for the same reasons people do so in all relationships—they're selfish, cowardly, and want what they want. I had a boss who did that to me at work. There was a problem that needed to get resolved, and she was responsible for it. She kept promising me day after day that she would deal with it. The days turned into months, and she did nothing. She wanted to avoid conflict, make her life easier, and take no responsibility. She was lazy, scared, and weak. I was foolish to keep believing her promises and not give her an ultimatum: either resolve this issue by next week, or I'm resigning. I had known her for many years and liked her, but this was the first time I saw her in a difficult situation, and her true colors got revealed.
Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” When we're in relationships, our partners are giving us clues to their characters all the time. We need to be with them for a long time—facing challenges, stresses, and hardships as well as having fun—so we understand how they'll react in various situations. Unfortunately, some women have sex with men too soon in their relationships and then feel emotionally bonded to them before knowing their true nature. Then, when they start to see they're not men of integrity, they're hesitant to leave because they've slept with them. Bad mistake!
If you're discerning about men you're dating and taking the time to really get to know them, you won't get bulldozed by fake promises. Stay strong, stay independent, and don't fall for the guys with the sweet lines. There are so many great men out there (I'm married to one of them), but you need to be patient and work on yourself first.
© 2017 McKenna Meyers
Shawn on February 22, 2020:
The vote options are not addressing the reasons, in fact I thout the vote options Apple to women not men.. it adreesed non of the reasons men won’t marry. 1. Western women are a train wreck . Only a fool would want to commit to diluted feminists. 2. It’s a shitty contract, the only reason to get married is for kids, but today’s women are willing to damage thier children’s odds of being edecated, well adjusted adults to get what they want. 3. The risk reward equation is completely one sided, the benefits for men is none existent. 4. Men are destroyed in divorce making them into wallets and indentured servant in case of child support. 4. Marriage means nothing, it’s a watered down sudo commitment that no longer serves the purpose it once represented. I married my dog, why not everything else goes. .
I could go on but it all boils down to why the hell would I marry? Next time I get the urge to marry I’ll just buy a house and give it to someone I hate. Same outcome
Adrien on May 05, 2019:
This article is good, but definitely not complete. There is an other main source of explanation, based on evolutionary psychology : men (most of them) want younger women, because youngness = fertility. And women (most of them) want men same age or older, cause aged men = more ressources, experience and self-confidence.
Proofs exists (check David Buss's studies), but of course they are (highly) politically INcorrect.
--- SO, women DO NOT have to wait until 30-35 years to get married, but have to try to find a good husband in their twenties, when law of supply and demand still work for them. And this is where feminism turn against women, by telling them their sexual value never decrease.
(Sorry for my grammar mistakes, but my mother language is French, not English.)
McKenna Meyers (author) on January 15, 2019:
Thanks for sharing your opinion on that, Graham. That's certainly something we don't often hear these days.
Graham on January 15, 2019:
This article covers most of the common reasons I think, bar one. No easy way to say this. There are lots of things that are important if you want a man to take you seriously as wife material. Yet there is one that women seem determined to ignore.
Did you lose your virginity to him, or to some previous boyfriend? Most men will deny it out of embarrassment, but it matters a hell of a lot. Any previous sexual experience a woman has will sit like a brick wall between you and your potential hubby and will kill a lot of passion. There isn't really much you can do if you've made this mistake, which is why women don't like to talk about it. There is nothing more depressing than being rejected for something that is completely irredeemable.
I went through two long-term relationships, each lasting several years and making various excuses for not wanting to get married. I convinced myself that marriage was outdated; that the money should be spent on something better; that I should be older, etc. There was nothing terribly wrong with either of these women; they were both attractive, well spoken and hard working. But they had both had 'a past'. Then I went back to university and started going out with a young woman several years younger than me. After a few months of courting, we went to bed together. It was her 'first time'. I proposed the next day and we married about two months later. Everything about it felt right in a way that it never had with previous girlfriends.
That was eighteen years ago. We are still in love and we have three children together. Whilst I fell in love for many reasons, I cannot imagine that the outcome would have been the same if I had been simply the latest of many lovers.
McKenna Meyers (author) on January 13, 2019:
It sounds like you have enough experiences and opinions on this subject to write an article of your own! Believe me, I'm glad that I'm not young and dating today. Looking for a partner online would have caused me great anxiety. As an introvert, I don't even know if I would have done it. It seems so superficial as people look at a photo and then decide if the person is worthy or not. Whether you're a man or a woman on the dating scene today, it requires a lot of persistence and not getting discouraged. I agree that young women today are different than the past. They're ambitious and hustling to make a living and get ahead just like the guys. If you really want to find a partner, hang in there! There are still nice women out there.
Most Women Today Aren't Like The Good Old Days on January 13, 2019:
Well most women today aren't like the good old days anymore at all, especially when the great majority of the women back then were real ladies and the very complete opposite of today. Most women nowadays are very picky, selfish, greedy, spoiled, and very money hungry as well. It is these type of women that will only want the very best of all, and will never ever settle for less either. The rich type of men is what most women are looking for today unfortunately, and they will never be able to Accept many of us good single men for who we really are at all. Since this is a very completely different time we live in now which made most women like this today as well. And there are certainly many women nowadays that are real Gold Diggers altogether to begin with since many of us average good single men will always struggle to find real love because of all this today. And there are so many women nowadays that have no manners and personality at all when many of us men will try to start a conversation with a woman that we would really like to meet, and most of the time which they will be very nasty to us and walk away anyway which really makes our chances very difficult to meet a real nice one. And back in the old days it never would've been no trouble at all meeting a good woman since both women and men hardly had any money, and they really had to struggle at that time just to make ends meat to get by. So this is the very excellent reason why so many of us men are still single today as i speak unfortunately, and many of us men today as i speak Aren't Single By Choice to begin with. Now i really know why our family members were very lucky and blessed back then since it was definitely a much easier time for them finding real love with one another at that time.
McKenna Meyers (author) on August 06, 2018:
Yes, it's probably too late for marriage and accepting that will bring you peace. It's never too late, though, to take control of your life. When we're older, we have the wisdom and experience to make better choices. Maya Angelou said, "When you know better, you do better." Don't let mistakes from your past haunt you. We all have them, but they can propel us forward to more meaningful lives. Take care!
Vee on August 05, 2018:
I’m 57 it’s too late I suppose ...
LimeyFeline on October 01, 2017:
I never understand these types of articles. If someone (in this case, a woman), wants to get married to her boyfriend, why can't she propose to him then? Seems easy enough.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 26, 2017:
Great suggestions for the single woman wanting marriage. Hope they takes these helpful hints seriously.
McKenna Meyers (author) on June 15, 2017:
Wow, dashingscorpio, thanks for adding the male perspective! With so many things in life, timing is everything. You're so right about that. You may find the "right one" at 22, but you're not ready for the commitment of marriage. You have other goals to pursue. A recent study said the best time to get married (and stay married) is between 28 and 32 years of age. I got married at 32 so I'll go along with that!
dashingscorpio from Chicago on June 15, 2017:
Truthfully it really depends on who (the man) is and how much "in love" he is with the woman.
The two basic reasons why men don't propose in my opinion:
Most men didn't grow up playing with baby dolls, decorating Ken & Barbie's Playhouse, or cooking cakes in an Easy-Bake Oven. In other words they haven't been practicing to be married and having a family since their childhood.
Naturally this means men usually don't make marriage a top priority or goal until they're near age 30 or beyond.
Any woman in her 20s looking to get married needs to realize that guys her age either just left a college dorm room or escaped from their parent's basement.
These guys want to explore life, establish a career, party with friends, watch sports, play video games and get laid!
The last thing on their mind is (becoming their parents); settling down, getting married, taking out a 30 year mortgage, and having children is like watching their lives flash before their eyes!
For men over the age of 30 there's a chance they're happy with their lifestyle of freedom and view marriage as stressful drama. People tend to be on their best behavior knowing their mate can (easily) walk away if he or she becomes unhappy with them. Oftentimes after marriage people tend to "relax" and gradually take each other for granted. If a guy has been married and divorced. He probably doesn't view marriage as a fairytale!
2. YOU are not "the one"!
According to statistics by age 44 over 85% of men have been married at least once. Now that we have "marriage equality" laws we're likely to see that number rise as now gay men can legally get married. This would suggest about 95% of men are going to get married at some point. It just may not be to YOU.
It's also not uncommon for a man to exit from a long-term relationship of several years and become engaged within a year to the next woman he begins dating. Why? She is "the one"!
Another scenario is a man who swears he will never get married or marry again and tells this to every woman he dates. He's a "serial monogamist" ala George Clooney.
After only 6 months of dating Amal Alamuddin he proposes!
No woman can control the timing/priorities of a man nor can she force him to believe (she) is "the one". He'll either feel that or not. Most men don't even bother listing marriage as a "goal" because it's fairly easy to find women who want to get married!
The days of playing hard to get or refusing to have sex are pretty much ineffective because a woman has lots of competition from other women who WILL give him sex.
Also a lot of women see themselves as being equal to men when it comes to dating, relationships, and sexual behavior. They have their own careers are not as in a hurry to get married as previous generations of women were.
This makes it harder for women with a "traditionalist mindset". Some of them choose to engage in (shaming) "progressive women" for not engaging in manipulation tactics that they believe are necessary to get a man to marry them.
Essentially there are (women) who view the "double standard" as a good thing when it comes to sexual promiscuity. They will be the first to call another woman a whore or a slut based upon how she dresses or her willingness to have sex without strings simply because she is in the mood. There is no "sisterhood".
Traditionalist women don't want these "progressive women" around their male prospects and they don't trust these women.
They truly believe if these women stopped "giving it away" and acting "slutty" then all women would have a better chance of getting men to commit and marry sooner. They're the enemy!
Where as men don't put down other men for being promiscuous. Oftentimes they admire them and want to know their "secret". A man with a "Playboy" for a friend nonetheless doesn't worry about his friend meeting his girlfriend or wife. It's usually the woman in his life that worries about him having such a friend!
One man's opinion! :)