You’ve seen this kind of thing before in movies, right? A romantic sidewalk cafe in springtime. A guy and a girl are sipping coffee. Suddenly the man is down on one knee. The girl’s hands fly to her mouth. She had no idea that he was going to propose. She’s saying yes. And they all live happily ever after — the end.
It’s romantic, I know, but in real life, that’s probably not the best way to go about things. If your boyfriend’s proposal takes you entirely by surprise — as in, you weren’t even sure he was thinking about marriage in the first place — it’s possible you and he aren’t actually ready to tie the knot.
We’re always being told that when we meet the man we’re meant to marry we’ll “just know.” And while that might be true for some people, it isn't true for everyone. Feeling madly in love is a good start, but that isn’t always enough to make a marriage last. There are all kinds of things that might give you pause or make it hard to commit, even if you really love the guy. (I mean, forever is a really long time.)
If you’re feeling like the guy you’re dating might be “the one,” but you’re not entirely sure, here are a few things to consider that might help you make up your mind:
Have you discussed marriage with your boyfriend?
The days of saying nothing and waiting for him to pop the question are over. Marriage is a big step for a couple to take, and it should be taken together. The exact moment he proposes and how he does it can be a surprise, but the idea that the two of you are ready to get married shouldn’t be.
If you and your boyfriend are comfortable enough with one another to be in an adult relationship — like marriage — you should be comfortable enough to talk to each other about your future. It’s all well and good to say “Yes!” in the moment, but if you haven’t talked about things like whether or not you both want kids, how you’ll manage your finances, where you’ll live, etc. then that “yes” is rather premature. (Imagine being already married before discovering that he’s dead set against having children and you were hoping for a brood of twelve!)
You should be comfortable enough to talk to each other about your future.
If you’re starting to think that your boyfriend may be the man you want to spend the rest of your life with (and you’ve been together for a while), it’s okay to ask him what his intentions are. Ask him how he feels about marriage, about kids, about finances. Find out what his plans are for the future. And then tell him that your plans for the future include marriage and see what he says.
What are your motivations for marriage?
I am someone who’s always wanted to get married. I’ve always longed for a home to keep and children to love and care for. And there was a time (before I met my husband) when I wondered if I’d ever meet a man who’d want to make that life with me. I looked at the guy I was dating (who was definitely not husband material), and I thought, what if this is as good as I can get? What if no one else will want me? If I marry him, at least I’ll get to have kids. But that would have been a terrible decision.
If what you want is to get married, but the guy you’re with isn’t really the guy you want to marry - don’t marry him. If you marry a guy you don’t love because you're looking for the life you’ve always dreamed of, then you’re going to find yourself living in a nightmare. Keeping house can be a joyful thing, but not if the man you’ve married isn’t worth keeping it for. Children are wonderful, but they’re not the solution to an unhappy marriage.
If you marry a guy you don’t love because you're looking for the life you’ve always dreamed of, then you’re going to find yourself living in a nightmare.
If you’re considering marrying your boyfriend for reasons that have nothing to do with your boyfriend, then don’t marry him. What you should do, though, is break up with him. If you’re looking for marriage, but the guy you’re with isn’t the guy you’re going to marry, get rid of him and start looking for someone new. Don't continue to waste both of your time.
Can you imagine your life without your boyfriend?
I don’t mean this dramatically, like, I can’t live without you! (Cue a convenient rainstorm and soaring violins.) I mean, is your life better and more meaningful because your boyfriend is in it? Is he the person you want to see most when something goes wrong? Is he the person you want to tell first when something goes right? Is he interesting to talk to? Does he make you laugh? Is he kind and considerate? Would he make a good father?
It’s all well and good to be passionately in love with someone, but if he’s always disappearing for days on end without calling, he’s probably not husband material. If he’s boring to talk to even though he's great in bed, he’s probably not husband material. If he makes you laugh, but he doesn’t celebrate your successes or mourn your losses, he’s probably not husband material. He can have all kinds of wonderful qualities but still not be the man you ought to marry.
He can have all kinds of wonderful qualities but still not be the man you ought to marry.
Do this thought experiment: Imagine your life without your boyfriend. Imagine away the initial sadness you’ll feel at being alone and the fear you’ll have about whether you’ll ever find someone else. Pretend those feelings won’t exist. And then imagine how your life would be. If the things you’ll miss are real things that you could only have with him, then maybe he’s the one. But if the things you’ll miss are generic things (like company, sex, someone to do stuff with), then maybe he’s not.
Only you can tell if the man you’re dating is the man you want to marry. But, if you’re on the fence, consider what your motivations are for getting married — are they about marriage in general or him in particular? Make sure you’ve discussed marriage before agreeing to enter into it, and that you've ironed out some of the nitty-gritty details of living together forever. And try to imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t marry him and how that would feel. It’s a big decision. Don’t make it lightly.