We see it everywhere. They’ve been together for years. She really wants to get married but he’s still not proposed. Everyone’s wondering when it’s going to happen and why he is delaying things. I am going to look at two common reasons why I believe this situation is so widespread and offer some suggestions for women.
Reason 1: He is not sure he wants to marry her.
He might have NEVER been sure about marrying her. However, instead of treating her like a precious daughter of God and trying to protect her from heartbreak:
- He thought he would try her out as a girlfriend anyway to test his feelings and see if they would grow. He intentionally stirred up her love knowing he might not commit. He’s still unsure if he wants to marry her.
- Or she pursued him and he just went along with it.
- Or shamefully, he just wanted to be in a relationship and wasn’t thinking long term.
Alternatively, he might have been really SURE about wanting to marry her from the beggining. However instead of being cautious, knowing that feelings can change, he began treating her as if he was definitely going to commit for life. As he got to know her better:
- He became less sure that she is a good match for him.
- Or she grew in clinginess and desperation, and ended up devaluing herself in his eyes.
He’s worried about hurting her and is also now very emotionally attached so he just lets the months and years pass by. He’s not sure he will ever propose.
Reason 2: He wants to marry her but he sees no rush.
The most common cause of this in my experience is that a girl has let herself get caught too early. In the Bible, there is no concept of a girl belonging to a guy or having a “partner” who is not her fiancé/husband. Basically there is no concept of being a couple outside of covenant (biblically, betrothal is a covenant).
It’s now normal in our culture from the beginning of a romantic involvement for:
- A guy to treat a girl like she’s his.
- A girl to let herself get caught and become’s the guy’s partner.
Once this has occurred, she:
- Will often pursue him as much as he pursues her (even though the biblical pattern is men pursuing women).
- Considers him her man and prioritises him accordingly.
And guess what happens? He get’s comfortable. He doesn’t need to win a girl’s commitment if he already has it. She shows him so much interest he is confident that she will stick around indefinitely. Plus he has so many of the benefits of marriage already. He has someone to share his life with. He has emotional intimacy and companionship. He sees no need to run for the bus since he has caught it. He feels no rush to buy the car when he can use it for free. When people ask why he’s not yet proposed he mentions work commitments and financial pressures. Really, her behaviour has left him with no strong desire to hurry up and propose.
What can a girl do?
Here are some ideas for a woman to apply that can help encourage a man to either a) decide to propose or b) walk away if he was never going to propose anyway. Please don’t treat my suggestions as law, it might not apply to everyone and I don’t get everything right.
Step 1: Realise that however much she believes she is his and he is hers, they’re not each other’s!
In God’s eyes until betrothal and marriage, men and women don’t belong to each other. She has no rights over his life and he has no rights over hers outside of neighbourly love. He should not be her main priority and she should not be his. He has not committed to her and she should not think of him as if he had. See “A culture of stirred up love” to understand this more.
Step 2: Embrace her fears and cast them onto God.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Many women deeply fear:
- Being alone for life.
- Losing the guy they want to marry.
These fears lead them to hang on to a man for dear life. If she can embrace these fears and cast them onto God, she will feel free to give him the space he needs to make a decision. See “Idolising marriage” for more clarification.
Step 3: Gradually ease back from pursuing him.
She used to call him everyday? She can start calling him twice a week and in time call him only occasionally. She used to be the one to always ask to meet up. She can begin to only rarely do this. She used to go out of her way to see him when he rarely worked to see her? She can let him start to do the majority of work to see her. See “Should women pursue?” and “How to NOT pursue men”.
Step 4: Get her priorities straight.
And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:34)
If a girl is single or engaged (betrothed), she should not be spending the majority of her time and energy thinking about a guy who she is romantically involved with. Nor should she be spending the majority of her time being together with him or in communication with him. Rather she should remain anxious about the things of the Lord. If she get’s married the apostle Paul understands that she will be anxious about how to please her husband, but until then a potential husband should not be a woman’s priority.
Is the guy her main time priority? Does she think about him more than the Lord? Does she heavily invest in him over and above God Himself as well as above her friends, family and church commitments? Is she willing to drop anything to take his call or see him? She should repent, stop thinking of him as her man and reassign her priorities accordingly such as:
- Asking the Lord to help her put Him first
- No longer keeping all her weekends free for the guy.
- Getting a life outside of being with him by doing things such as a) Taking up ministry responsibilities b) Giving more time to her friends c) Joining that evangelism team that goes out on a Friday night.
- Asking God to help her mediate on Him rather than on this guy.
- No longer seeing him unless he has given her advanced warning.
If he proposes and marries her then he can become her life (after God) but before then, he should not be her life and her world.
What will be the likely result of a woman following these steps?
- If he doesn’t actually want to marry her and is only with her because she has kept things going, then she will probably find that he doesn’t work hard to pursue her back and it becomes clear in time that he doesn’t want to be with her. Better to find out now than 3 years later.
- If he stopped liking her as much because she became too clingy and desperate, these steps will help him see her as he saw her at the beginning and will prove to him she’s no longer desperate.
- If he really does want to marry her but has become too comfortable, these steps will help him see that he does have to work to get her and he does need to propose soon because 1) she won’t stick around forever, 2) he can’t take her love for him for granted and 3) she will no longer offer him any of the benefits of being his wife outside of lifelong commitment.
These steps sound too hard!
This will all often feel very hard for a girl to do because she has got into the habit of pursuing and prioritising a guy and she is deeply emotionally attached. She might also be worried that she is being rude. I’ll tell you what I think is rude:
- Guys stringing girls along indefinitely without proposing.
- Men who are happy to stir up women’s love when they are not even sure they want to marry them.
She is not being rude by letting him be the one to start doing the majority of the pursuing and she is certainly not being rude by no longer offering him number one priority in her life. Remember, he has not committed to her so it’s not her duty to a) pursue him or b) prioritise him or c) let him treat her as if she’s his. He has not yet proposed to her so he has not yet proven himself worthy of her deep commitment, love, priority or affections.
Often Christian women struggle to value themselves. They don’t really believe that they are precious in God’s eyes (Matthew 10:29-31). They don’t truly trust that they were worthy of Christ dying for their sins (John 3:16). They question if they are really God’s prized daughters (John 1:12). For this reason they don’t see themselves as worth being pursued, wooed and won by a man. This lack of self-value leads them to tolerate men wasting their time and not committing to them. Moreover, it leads to them chasing men and acting desperate.
It’s worth such Christian women repenting of their lack of trust in God’s word. In addition I would recommend they spend some serious time in scripture and in prayer, asking God to help them find their value in Him. See, “You’re nobody til’ somebody loves you”.
What if she follows these steps for a while and he still has not a) proposed or b) called things off?
I would recommend that she calls things off. She can make it clear that she still likes him but that she has invested more than enough of her time and her life and does not want to waste more years on a man who does not want to commit. She will then need to refuse to spend any more time with him unless he proposes.
Do you agree with this theory of why many men don’t propose? Do you agree with the suggestions given? Let us know by commenting below. [Rowina Seidler]