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He Won't Propose

He Won't Propose


Dear Rachel,

I've been dating a great guy for over a year now, and we are extremely happy together. The issue, however, is that I want to get married and he seems perfectly content with how things are right now. I agree that things are going really well, but I am ready for the next step and don't want to keep on dating. I also don't want an endless engagement. I am not going to give him an ultimatum or set a deadline, but I really feel that if he is not ready to move on in the relationship that I might have to move on without him. What do you suggest?


Dear R.L.,

You are unfortunately describing a pretty typical situation. It is all too common that a woman feels ready to move ahead in the relationship whereas the man is happy with the way things are. Often he simply doesn't want to rock the boat.

Often he simply doesn't want to rock the boatIt is interesting how you write that you are extremely happy together when in fact, it sounds as if you are not. Perhaps you have been happy but right now you really are not satisfied with where things are. It sounds like it is time for this relationship to progress and he is not feeling the need at all to make that next step.

In Jewish law, the actual commandment of getting married and having children is a commandment that only applies to the man. A woman is actually not required to either marry or have children, even though clearly neither one is happening for a man without her involvement. But the fact that he is the one commanded and she is not is a powerful idea.

The man is commanded because Torah is teaching us that on his own he might not ever be ready or willing to make this commitment. He might forever stay happy with the way things are, and it is not necessarily a natural desire of his to settle down in marriage; whereas, to generalize, the woman is more likely to naturally desire to marry and have children. This is one of the reasons why it is not a commandment incumbent upon her, as you do not need to be commanded to do something you would anyway want to be doing.

If you have not already, it is vital that you speak with him at length and explain to him how you feel ready to take your relationship to the next step. It is important that he realize that you feel stuck with how things are now and that you are not willing to remain like this for much longer. I do not suggest you give him an ultimatum, but rather that you give him the chance to recognize how you see your future together.

I do not suggest you give him an ultimatum It might sound easy to say that everything is perfect in your relationship except that he doesn't want to get married. But that is a huge exception and one that makes your relationship far from perfect. If you are ready to settle down in your life and enter into marriage, then you need to be with someone that likewise wants that for his future and is ready to take that step.

What must be clarified, though, is whether he is actually scared of the commitment of marriage and of taking that step right now, or if he would like to one day get married but for whatever reason doesn't see you as his future wife. If the issue is that he is having fun right now and enjoying your company but has no real desire to ever marry you, then it is high time that this relationship come to an immediate ending.

If, however, he very much wants to marry you and just doesn't feel ready, then it is important to discuss, either amongst yourselves or with a third party that you both respect, why he is not ready to move forward. Getting married is scary, it is a huge decision and a major commitment, but he needs to understand that what is holding him back could result in losing you altogether.

Clearly you don't want him proposing out of guilt or force, but simultaneously, you need to know for yourself how much longer you are really willing to wait. Try to focus your relationship on working towards the future and discussing the future. Does he talk about you in the plural like "When we have kids…" or "When we are old…" because if he doesn't, it might not be an issue as to whether or not he is ready, it might be a mindset in which he doesn't see this relationship lasting too long.

Clearly you don't want him proposing out of guiltI know this conversation with him won't be easy. And no one wants to feel like they are pushing someone to be with them if they don't want to, but I have no doubt that an honest conversation will show you really where things stand and where they are headed.

I hope you are blessed with clarity to be able to see if this man is truly your soulmate, and that you both have the strength to make the right decision as to how things should proceed. With wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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JDV June 12, 2012

why my BF won't propose I am so glad for the advice from "Posted by Boyfriend". I am certainly not going to share my seeking advice about them from with them but i have a master plan to make small architectural changes to our house so they can have a small -sort-of apt. and not have to worry about sky high rent to be in a dump or is living under the same roof just too far out? (I get along really well with the girl.)
that's what my parents did and isn't being old fashioned OK if it works?? Reply

JDV June 12, 2012

why my BF won't propose I am so glad for the advice from "Posted by Boyfriend". I am certainly not going to share my seeking advice about them from with them but i have a master plan to make small architectural changes to our house so they can have a small -sort-of apt. and not have to worry about sky high rent to be in a dump or is living under the same roof just too far out? (I get along really well with the girl.)
that's what my parents did and isn't being old fashioned OK if it works?? Reply

Insecure Pittsburgh, PA June 10, 2012

What If.... Take my situation for example. I have been with my boyfriend for over a year now and we have had this talk. He was married before, and the thought of doing it again scares him. He says he is committed and wants to be mine for as long as we live, but he doesnt "need paper to prove it". I hate that.... "just paper". I have values, he knows that. I want him to be able to ask for my hand and show me that he does want me forever. And if it is "just a piece of paper" then whats the big deal? Plus, I dont believe its fair that since he ended his previous marriage and felt it wasnt right. (says he was rushed into things)... doesn't mean it'll fail with me. Does he have doubts of our relationship? Why is he so scared if he feels we';ll be together forever anyways. I feel like if the paper isnt there, its just an easier out for him in the future. We have a great relationship and I love him to death, but It makes me insecure that he won't commit in that way. Reply

Boyfiend February 5, 2012

To JDV Hi JDV. I understand where you are getting at but there is one thing you should know. In this age one cannot expect parity in terms of finance and status in society. Six figure income come and go. Today's middle class become the new poor based on the instability of the job market. Hence the world has changed and it is crazy to try and align traditional lifestyle the way you know it in your heydays and our modern day lifestyle and values. Things are just not the same. So if these two are in love they better discount the "financial situation" factor out of their lives and focus on what is truly important and stable that is their love for each other not their fluctuating bank balance or status. Personally I have always had girlfriends who had more cash and of higher job status than myself but this didn't bother me. Unfortunately the most important part was missing in my relationships & it was true love and willingness to commit and go all the way 2 marriage. So that's what matter truly. Reply

JDV January 26, 2012

BF won't commit My son, 24, has a lovely girlfriend but he has a long way to go towards establishing himself professionally and/or financially. she is doing better than him job wise right now (does that sound familiar). I do not want to but in, but if he doesn't propose, he might lose her (they have known each other since HS and college) and financially, he is simply not ready. any advice from anyone? Reply

Boyfiend June 19, 2011

On trial I'm a guy who cannot propose either. I've got a girlfriend who loves me & wants to settle down but this situation is so scary to me. I cannot say that I'm gaga over her in all honesty but she's the first one to want to consider me as a potential. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she's fat even though she's so smart and educated. It's a shock to me as the idea of spending a lifetime with her in a bond without knowing if my love for her is strong enough really throws me off. It's painful 2 have 2 wrestle with oneself everyday over a decision that my heart of heart cannot reach. Her proposal has paralyzed me & created a conflict deep within my soul. I cannot decide what my soul hasn't decided yet. However it used 2 be much better between us before she proposed. Now we cannot even have a cheerful conversation together without a fight. Love, laughter & good times were the order of the day before that absurd & shocking turn of event. It's like being on trial 4 having loved ! Reply

Jackie Boston, MA June 16, 2011

Boyfriend Won't Propose Come on. You've been dating for over a year. Give the boy some time. Good lord. Or take it into your own hands and propose yourself. It's the year 2011. Reply

Anonymous New York, NY June 12, 2011

rhl, he has stated his plans in plain English. There is no need for clarification. I don't mean to sound unpleasant, but please do not be silly. With respect, your question is silly. Good luck, and don't waste your own time, it does not grow back.

Did you expect him to say, "yeah, it's YOU I don't want to marry"? What would you think of him if he had said that? What would he think of you, if you had asked that? Is this good manners on your side? Have you heard of respecting other people's stated views? Respect his, and leave.

How proper is a man who says what this man has said, followed by, "are you free for dinner?" Is he a scoundrel? Why are you talking to people like that?

You are the daughter of a King, and not available for anybody's temporary amusement.

Are you too pale? Is your hair boring? These things are easily fixed. And don't tell me you are fat. Spend more money on better clothes, that drape smoothly over the body you have, and don't worry about it. Fat doesn't matter. Brains do. Reply

Anonymous Canberra, Australia February 7, 2011

Boyfriend unwilling to get married It depends how old you both are, whether you are able to set up a home together. You only have one life. My wise father says, "This is no dress rehearsal." I agree with the saying to beware of what you wish because it might come true.

If you are both at a stage where there can be no practical objection to marriage, the be honest about what you want. If it is marriage and childlren, and your boyfriend is unwilling, you have every right to find out his intentions. If they do not match yours, I believe it is better to part. Who knows whom you might meet. And isn't it better to be available rather than miserable, trying to get someone do what they don't want to. It might make him stop and think. He can always propose. My sister was in your situation. 20 years and heartache later, he left (for another woman). Good luck and be true to yourself. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 1, 2011

Boyfriend Won't Propose Maybe your boyfriend isn't ready for marriage or he might be afraid of marriage. Even though you've been dating him for over a year, and feel YOU'RE ready for marriage, you can't force him to be ready against his will. You'll only lose him.

You need to have a serious talk with your boyfriend about your relationship as a whole. Even though you say you're extremely happy together and he wants things to stay the way they are, you have to remember that to get married, you have to share the same feelings and want the same kind of life. If he doesn't, you'll have to break up with with him and find someone else. Reply

rhl November 27, 2010

question i recently started dating a man. he told me he has no desire to marry for the next couple of years. I did not ask if he meant it was me he felt no desire for marriage towards or if the general idea of marriage. how do i clarify this in a subtle way nxt time we speak? Reply

Anonymous Pittsburgh, PA, USA October 6, 2010

No commitment after years of dating There is a saying: "Beware of what you wish. It might come true."

Some 30 years since I first started pinning and waiting and arguing for marriage, I am divorced. My husband was not a mama's boy, but putty in his favorite daughter's hands. She had been a thorn on my side during our long courtship and marriage. But after she finished establishing a successful and lucrative career, marrying and having children, she set out to split us up. It sounds incredible, but she actually succeeded. It took her weeks. I saved myself by moving out and -- when there was no longer hope of my husband coming to his senses -- eventually filing for divorce. We did have some good years. But I never anticipated that I would end up with a spineless man, with no will of his own about the marriage to which he had been so hesitant to commit. May G-d guide you. Reply

Batsheva Union City, NJ October 5, 2010

Long Term Relationship Thank you so Much for this answer. I am going through the same situation. My BF always said:"You know that you are my wife, I love you, etc. etc." but I never talk about our future. Maybe I have to do the same thing. Thanks. Reply

Nikki Akron, Ohio September 1, 2010

Thank you I very much needed to come across this questions, because i am going through the exact same thing except i have been with my beloved for 8 years. We have spoken on many occasions in depth and he says that he is not afraid to be married to me but he feels like all his ducks aren't in a row right now. He gets vehement when family of even our Rabbi asks why he hasn't proposed. This fact is what saddens my heart. He has yet to explain that one but we still have many conversations to come.

Thank you Sister! Reply

Miss Aysel Agayeva August 3, 2010

relationship+marriage There is another side of the wall. The thing is that love is one thing but marriage is another thing, we must not mix them up. There is such a famous saying: Marriage kills the love.
As for me i am dating with my BF for 6 years. Of course every time we speak about our future life and marriage but currently it is a matter of future for us. I think that we must not loose our love just for marriage. When a person wants something and passionately goes towards it then sure he will get it. It is very difficult to find a right partner. It is difficult to find, easy to loose and very very hard to forget. So I think that each person should take one of these two steps. Either be with a person he LOVEs or MARRY. Rarely we can meet a big love that ended with a happy marriage. Reply

Rob West., NY October 18, 2009

marriage Excellent response, Rachel. I would emphasize that the relationship is the most important thing and there may very well be underlying issues that both parties have with each other. Reply

Anonymous September 23, 2009

Follow this advice I do hope you take the advice given here, as it might save you from great heart ache. I went through something similar and failed to heed this wise advice. I wasted 4 precious years of my life waiting and hoping. Some men never will make the commitment.

It was a lesson learned. Two years later I met my husband. Who only after 4 months of dating, wanted to make a commitment. This past April we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary.

In most women’s siddur there is a prayer to find a suitable mate, begin to pray this daily. Trust that whatever the outcome of your conversation with your boyfriend The Almighty will help things work out for the best. Reply

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