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September 15, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I want to be engaged, but I want him to propose.

I live in a country other than the U.S., but am a U.S. citizen. He is in the military and has just gotten a promotion that puts him back in the states in May. We've had some talks about "getting serious," and we've joked about proposals, or getting married. We've both been in long term relationships before, and feel this one is more rewarding and the one. We've been together a little less than a year and a half. We both want me to move with or very near him at his new post.

Now I have to decide to: renew my current contract until May; take a new much better job offer (decision expected within the month, job starting in March) in this country (for a year); or begin shopping for a new life back home - job, PhD, transportation, insurance, continuous payment of student loans....I have a Master's, no credit card debt (but student loan debt) and no car.

The decision (and logistics) would be much easier if we were married/were going to be married. (that sounds like a cooler assessment than it should)

There's also the 1 month of leave he gets immediately after getting to the states... it'd be a great come home/get married/have a honeymoon/settle in time...but these things need planning in a bit of advance.

Should I just ask him myself and give up my ideas of romantic proposals? Am I being naive and missing huge red flags? Should I put myself first and just take the better job and see what happens after a little separation?
posted by nile_red to Human Relations (43 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Should I just ask him myself and give up my ideas of romantic proposals?

I don't see how these are mutually exclusive. If you make it a romantic proposal, it is one!
posted by carsonb at 10:14 AM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Can you tell him you want to get married but that you want him to propose, or does it need to be 100% his idea? I've heard folks say that they know they're getting married, they've discussed it, and a proposal is coming but they don't know when.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:15 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Should I just ask him myself and give up my ideas of romantic proposals?"

I don't see how these two things are inconsistent. Honey, you know how we've been thinking about getting married? I'm thinking sooner might be better than later, just make sure you do something romantic
posted by Blasdelb at 10:16 AM on September 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

Oh yeah, there's also the distinction between talking about getting married, joking about getting married, and actually proposing. Stop doing the middle one, try the first one, and that will hopefully lead to the third one.
posted by carsonb at 10:17 AM on September 15, 2012 [15 favorites]

Telling him you want to get married and having him propose to you are not mutually exclusive. My then-girlfriend, now-fiancee talked several times about getting engaged / married, including discussions of who would propose and how we both wanted it to be a surprise, and the expected timeframe.

When she proposed, it was very romantic and a total surprise (I had a suspicion about when she was going to propose; I was completely wrong). Even if I had been correct about the timing, it could have still been very romantic and wonderful.

So - talk to him! Let him know what you are thinking & feeling.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:17 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've heard folks say that they know they're getting married, they've discussed it, and a proposal is coming but they don't know when.

This is what we did, and it worked for us. We had pretty much talked about / decided to get married, and she was just waiting for me to 'officially' ask.

If he doesn't know he needs to make a romantic proposal, don't be surprised if he doesn't.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:28 AM on September 15, 2012

Should I just ask him myself and give up my ideas of romantic proposals?

I went with "I'm ready to get married now, hurry up and propose."
posted by DarlingBri at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

My wife told me to propose. I did so. She said "yes." That was eight years ago. A+++, would marry again.
posted by waldo at 10:36 AM on September 15, 2012 [51 favorites]

Ya, don't just hope that he'll know you want a romantic proposal. And then don't just hope that he will know what "romantic" means to you in that context. Really spell it out or you find yourself with the least romantic proposal ever.
posted by bilabial at 10:51 AM on September 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

Make sure he knows all about the decisions you're making.
Avoid the "if we don't get engaged before the end of the month I'm accepting the job offer" type ultimatum, but spend some time talking about the decisions you've got coming up, and all the repercussions that this has on your relationship, and that your relationship has on the decisions.

You're excited about some of the opportunities of choice B, but that would take a back seat to your relationship. You're excited about the idea of coming to the US with him, but anxious about making lifetime decisions without real certainty about where the relationship is going. You've talked about getting married before, and that's exciting, too; and while you don't want him to feel like the end of this month deadline on the job offer is a do-or-die moment for the relationship, you do want him to understand how interconnected it all is. You're anxious for practical reasons, yet you want to make sure that this proposal is about romance and not about practicality.

Knowing that you're ready to say yes will get him more ready to ask. Don't worry that talking about things is going to make him set down the paperwork and say "well, I guess we'd better get married, then, how 'bout it babe? want a ring?". And if he does, smile sweetly and say "yes, I expect my ring to arrive romantically in a way I can tell our grandchildren about."
posted by aimedwander at 10:58 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does he know what you mean by "romantic"? For that matter, do you? Exactly? Use words to discuss this with him. Do not rely on "but he should know!" when it comes to pretty much anything in a relationship, because that way lies resentment and madness. No one is psychic.

Neither my partner nor I was in favor of Marriage. Circumstances conspired, and we proposed to each other while on a very long drive in a kind of terrifying downpour. Least romantic proposal ever. Except it totally wasn't.
posted by rtha at 11:00 AM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Should I just ask him myself and give up my ideas of romantic proposals?

A bit surprised that many folks have answered this with "ask him to make a romantic proposal" and no one yet with "Why don't you make a romantic proposal to him?"

It's 2012!
posted by ftm at 11:02 AM on September 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

Marriage is a marathon (of love!) and it matters very little how the starting shot is fired.

Reflect on what romance really means to you personally. If this sort of ritual is actually significant to you, rather than merely a latent/assumed cultural script, then ask him to do that which you want. Otherwise just propose yourself! IME a proposal (or indeed the entire wedding process, ceremony and all) only carries meaning for the rest of the marriage if the participants decide it does, if they hold those symbols in high esteem. Otherwise it's just another curious milestone on a long journey together.
posted by ead at 11:24 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are talking about spending your whole life with this guy and you are not moving forward taking the next natural step because you want a "romantic proposal from him"?
Honestly, it just seems (to me) to be a petty thing that is standing in the way of a lifetime with someone you love.
I don't mean to be harsh or unromantic, but life isn't a script. We can't plan the moments we want to make it 'a great romantic proposal story!' Marriage isn't about the wedding (or the proposal) it's about the marriage. If you love him and he loves you, ask him to marry you - who asks doesn't really matter - just that you both want this commitment. The romantic moments will happen naturally on their own and be so much more romantic (and special to you) because they weren't asked for or planned.
Be grateful you found someone you love and who loves you and make the very best of your relationship together, regardless of romantic conventions that society places on these things.
posted by NoraCharles at 11:26 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

The logical next step at this point is a serious discussion (really a series of discussions) about marriage. All the trappings of engagement (proposals, wedding planning, etc.) are secondary. Have you had any serious discussions about actually getting married, including when you both see that happening? Joking is one thing; it can be a way to test the waters, but often leaves you with more questions than answers. Start with talking about marriage: if he agrees it's the right next step for both of you and when he pictures it happening. At this point, marriage might be some nebulous future state that he really hasn't spent much time considering. You need to communicate that you want to get married to him and you want this to happen sooner rather than later.

Once you've had these discussions and (assuming) you both agree you're headed towards marriage, suggest going ring shopping. If he's like many individuals I've know, he won't even be thinking about a proposal until a ring is purchased. (Obviously, YMMV).

Also, you stated above that you are both in agreement you should move to the States with him, but then you talk about possibly accepting a job in another country. This seems contradictory. Is marriage a prerequisite of your moving to the States? You asked a question at the end about "putting yourself first." Taking a better job isn't necessarily equivalent to putting yourself first, especially if it would be detrimental to your relationship. Some might argue that a strong, healthy relationship is just a valuable and important as a good job. Marriage and moving to the States will be a sacrifice for you in one sense if it involves giving up this job. Taking the job will also involve sacrifice if it entails putting off marriage or straining the relationship. You've definitely got a tough decision ahead that's going to require taking a long, hard look at your priorities.
posted by pecanpies at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just to note: unless he's planning to get out after his next tour or two, him being in the military will make it hard for you to have long-term plans like PhD programs if you want to be physically with him. He's getting a promotion and moving back to the States this year, in two or three years he could be sent to any number of foreign lands. And even if he stays in the US for the rest of his career, he's still likely to be moved every two to four years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:40 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The decision (and logistics) would be much easier if we were married/were going to be married.

A big part of marriage is working out logistics together. You're going to silently hope he does something that works into a plan you've made without him?

If you're ready to get married, you are ready to have an adult discussion with him about the marriage and timing.
posted by spaltavian at 11:41 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The deal is that I am currently employed in a foreign country. My employment contract ends in February, at which point I need to have already informed my current boss (2 months prior) of my intent to leave the job or keep the job. If I keep the job, I need to sign another 6 month - 1 year contract. If I leave the job, I am homeless, jobless, without a visa to remain in country, and not allowed to cohabitate with him. I will have to move back in with my parents and wait the two months, in a rural area, lacking public transportation or a car, while paying at best only student loan bills, until he moves. I would find some sort of work for 2 months, but it's not exactly the best area for finding a 2 month job during a non-holiday season.

For financial security, I am getting/keeping a job. I figure, if it's true love, he can wait the 4-10 months (depending on the job/better job choice), but HIS waiting will be done living autonomously, while employed, all bills covered, with some portion spent in training away from home.

We have discussed all these options. If we were married - the housing situation would be different, his housing allowance would be different, and depending on the timing, the military would possibly cover some/all moving expenses etc.

It's not contradictory, just complicated.
posted by nile_red at 11:48 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm not secretly hoping he knows my specific difficulties and issues, we have discussed this.
posted by nile_red at 11:49 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: His next post will be for the remainder of his service time (6 years) and he will not be deployed from it longer than 3 months at a time. A PhD is very feasible in that time frame.

Guys, I appreciate the advice, but I'm having a hard time taking some of your wording as good faith, and not condescension. We have "adult" talks. I don't have "secret" difficulties he doesn't know about that I expect him to conform to. I don't want to put an ultimatum on him and feel that he's made a choice because of MY timing or feeling pressured.
posted by nile_red at 11:53 AM on September 15, 2012

Best answer: It sounds like you've had a lot of these discussions already, but I would really lay the conversation out in clear terms around your need to make the year-long contract / better job decision soon.

As you know, the military has a very marriage-centric culture for exactly these reasons; it's really hard to be in a long-term committed relationship with someone in the military and not be married, because of the PCSing, and Uncle Sam provides some nice incentives for marriage, too. It's not at all unreasonable to adjust the timing a wee bit to accommodate the logistics, and anyone who would make you feel bad or unromantic or calculating about that just doesn't understand.

That said, you may not end up with the spontaneous and romantic proposal of your dreams, because you may have to give him a practicality nudge. This is ok. Eventually the details of the proposal will fade away, heck, even the details of the wedding... and you'll be left with the man you love, embarking on an amazing adventure.
posted by charmcityblues at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Personally, I think you need to separate the two decisions. Make the job decision that works best for you. If this is a relationship that is meant to last, it will. You shouldn't get married just because it's a good time for it.
posted by echo0720 at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

well i think it sounds like you want a proposal without directly saying it. it's ok to not want to be direct or to not want to propose yourself, no matter what century it is. maybe you can frame your conversation as a 'hey we have a lot of serious decisions to make in our personal lives, and we need to talk about where our relationship is going because it's reached a point where I need to factor you into these decisions' hopefully the natural result of this will be him proposing. or anyway some sort of development that will help you.

i realize this might just be a slight rewording of some of the other suggestions.
posted by saraindc at 12:01 PM on September 15, 2012

Best answer: And by "practicality nudge" I mean you might have to lay out a timeline of, say, "we'd need 6 months to plan the wedding, we need to make sure I get on your orders so they'll pack out my stuff, therefore we need to be planning for a wedding in April and a proposal... around nowish (nudge nudge)?"

He may already have a plan, but it might not be on a realistic timeline. My husband planned to propose in January and get married (out of state, at a military chapel with lots of date restrictions) in May. Yeah no. We ended up getting engaged in November and married in September, and even that felt a little rushed.

Final thing: consider doing the legalities in Korea for logistics purposes and then having your "real" wedding stateside, later. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

bit surprised that many folks have answered this with "ask him to make a romantic proposal" and no one yet with "Why don't you make a romantic proposal to him?"

It was the very first answer from carsonb. (And I agree!)
posted by mannequito at 12:04 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think what people mean by making references to "adult" and "secret" is that you want something specific from him but you are hoping that he will guess that is what you want. It makes it sound like you are beating around the bush or playing games instead of getting serious.

The decision on your job is expected within the month - if you've had all the conversations you say you have, and you still don't know for sure if he is going to propose to you, then you haven't been direct enough with him and he definitely hasn't been direct enough with you.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:05 PM on September 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

I don't want to put an ultimatum on him and feel that he's made a choice because of MY timing or feeling pressured.

Asking for what you want greatly increases your chances of getting it. Just ask for what you want: for him to propose to you so that the next six years of your life can come together.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:18 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd be careful with that wording. Some if us ladies proposed to our husbands and found the whole thing VERY romantic.

But mainstream society pretty much tells us a man has to ask or else a harpy woman is strong-arming him into it. It's sexist and not really accurate--practically, very few of the successful marriages I know worked that way. But if your guy us military, he might be more traditionally minded than most. In which case, I say, raised the issue seriously and flatly state your desires. "I would like you to propose by x date. What do you think?"

A lot if mainstream dating advice seems to emphasize that women shouldn't state their needs, though, so what do I know?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:20 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My fiancee proposed to me [I proposed first, it was a long story] while I was driving on the interstate, completely out of the blue. It was incredibly sweet and lovely and surprising and totally lucky that I didn't wreck the car. Was it a conventional "romantic" proposal? No. But it was so special and wonderful. If you had asked me beforehand, I would have hated the idea.
The point is, it's not about where or when or how you propose- it's who you propose to. And why, why matters a bit too. If you're popping the question to someone you love with commitment in your heart, that's all you're going to think about. So talk to your partner- about your ideas, desires, expectations. And don't be afraid to propose yourself. You could always do what we did- I proposed to her, then she surprised me and proposed to me with the ring she bought me shortly thereafter.
Of course, I still joke her about it to this day, so there's that, too.
posted by shesaysgo at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your updates clear up a lot, so it seems like your remaining question is about getting the kind of proposal you want, since you indicate that he's fully aware of and understands the complicated nature of your job and residency status. (He does, right? It seems so.)

So, have another (series of) conversation(s) in which you both lay out the various timing stuff of your jobs and how a wedding will fit into that, and what kind of proposal you'd like. And rather than you framing it as an ultimatum you're putting on him, frame it as the limitations/requirements of your (both of your) circumstances. There is just going to be annoying and practical shit that has to be worked out when it comes to planning weddings, as well as the fun, romantic stuff.
posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2012

Best answer: Make sure he's really going to get a month of leave when he goes back. I don't know where you are so I don't know if he is considered deployed right now but one of the things they have started doing recently is shortening leave after deployment to a couple of weeks (I think they get the other time later but I'm civilian and just following this from what I read in the local paper-I live near Fort Bragg if it matters.)

And fwiw I understand your wish for him to propose to you. Just because it's 2012 doesn't mean some folks aren't traditional; in fact I'd say if you have a really traditional guy (not all in the military are but a good number are) he might not wish to be proposed to.

Having said that you may need to weigh the practical needs versus the romantic ones; but fwiw my experience in dealing with military types is they don't take forever to make a decision and once they make one they know how to just make it happen without any dithering. If I were you I would simply ask him if he has any imput for you that would be helpful as you make YOUR decision re employment. You're both adults; he will know what you mean.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:33 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and on preview- a metric crapton of people have quickie justice of the peace weddings for military purposes and then relax and plan a real wedding. I work for a florist so we see this all the time (they'll come buy a quick bouquet for the civil wedding, or come in already married to plan the ceremony they really want.) With deployments and such, and having to plan around Uncle Sam (which is an absolute pita all by itself from what I have seen) this is becoming almost a norm. So, food for thought.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:37 PM on September 15, 2012

Oh and I want to second st. Alia...my college roomie got engaged in December with plans to marry in November. But her fiance is in officer school and was instructed to marry her ASAP so they eloped in march. Pretty standard, from what I gather.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:43 PM on September 15, 2012

Should I just ask him myself and give up my ideas of romantic proposals?

Yes. You know what you need. Waiting around for the emotional aspect to catch up with your very real financial needs is counter-productive.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:59 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

It seems to me we are talking about two different things here. You two know you want to get married (to each other) so go ahead and make your plans together around your job and moving and so on. The part you seem to be asking about is the part with the ring and the bended knee. You can go forward with the one and your fella will likely follow with the other. Especially if your discussions include you saying something like "So between this month here and that month over there, a nice romantic proposal with dinner and candlelight would work out well."

There have been AskMe questions in the past about romantic proposals that weren't romantic "the right way", which is I think where people are coming from with the "tell him what you want so you'll be sure to get it' kind of response.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:03 PM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

No you should not ask yourself. Yes you should let him know in clear, unambiguous terms that circumstances are dictating that you both need to make some big decisions sooner than later.
posted by GeniPalm at 1:18 PM on September 15, 2012

I like ThatCanadianGirl's level of specificity, and urge you to do something along those lines.

That was exactly the kind of thing I didn't want for myself, which was a big part of why I proposed to my husband. But it's a great thing to want, and to be clear in asking for, and to enjoy.

posted by Sidhedevil at 1:39 PM on September 15, 2012

wow...here I am an old guy, over 80--and you want a romantic proposal?
Tell the guy you love and adore him and want to be with him forever so let us get married.
The rest is but a time worn romantic thing that makes little sense...you make it sound assive aggressive
posted by Postroad at 2:07 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Former US military here. I'm sorry you seem to be getting some unhelpful advice; it may be because a lot of people aren't aware of the complications of the situation/reading the post fully.

You've stated you don't want to ask him to marry you or make the proposal, which I think is eminently reasonable. It has the potential of really throwing off the dynamic of the relationship, especially if your guy is military. I would not personally advise it. I would let him propose to you - but be aware that it may not be the most romantic. With military guys, it's about half/half.

If you want a romantic proposal, here's what you do.

First, you want him to know that marriage would be a good idea sooner rather than later.

"Hey honey, I know you want me to move with you to or near your next post. How do you think that would work? At your rank, would you be able to live off post so that you could live with me? If I leave this job, I'm just not sure I'll be able to get a good job nearby you so I can afford an apartment by myself."

Let that percolate. If he mentions "We could get married" or any permutation like that, you could agree that would be nice - but mention something like, "But I don't just want a BAH marriage - you'd have to actually propose!" If he doesn't mention, leave it be for the moment.

Do you have any friends in his unit, or people that you at least socialize with? Female is better - so you can go out and drop a word in the right ear. "I would love to be married to him, but I always dreamed about romantic proposals.."

Also, read your memail for a clarifying question.
posted by corb at 5:08 PM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: When I wanted to get married to my now-husband, a lot of the timing was to do with boring practicalities: my student visa was about to expire, and I would not be able to remain in the country we were living in, while he had residence and any spouse of his would also get that. We wanted to move in together, and he had a great apartment he didn't want to leave, but his landlady was a super conservative Christian and had a "no-co-habitation" rule. Also I had recently learned that if we were married we would have got more than 10,000 Euro back in taxes that year!

But I absolutely didn't want to make those factors the focus of the face-to-face discussion/proposal of marriage. So I wrote him a letter laying these things out, and also the romantic reasons why I wanted to marry him. And I gave it to him when he was about to get on a plane to travel for a week, and asked him to read it and think about it, and not to talk to me about it until he got back.

So when he got back, the practical stuff was already laid out and we had a romantic talk about the love stuff instead. It wasn't a traditional proposal, but he knew I didn't want that. If I had, I might have put that in the letter too.

The letter is kind of cool because it feels like it "doesn't count" as a proposal - it's just background information and the real proposal is when he comes back and you talk about it.

Maybe you can make something like that work?
posted by lollusc at 8:05 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: I asked him; he wished I had waited; then he managed to surprise me anyway. Now I'm engaged!!

If I could reach back into the past though - I'd advise myself to try to buy time, wait a few weeks, and be less oblivious to the clues around myself. Especially for any MeFites who click on this later and DON'T have a time sensitive issue - wait a few weeks. Ask yourself - do you have a birthday or special vacation coming up? Wait, just a little longer. The jumpiness you feel might be that you are half-aware of clues he's already giving out.
posted by nile_red at 8:49 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, guys! I'm engaged!!!!!!!

Now on to planning a wedding......sheesh. *goes to askme archives*
posted by nile_red at 8:51 AM on October 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yay! I suspected there'd be a stupendously happy ending in there somewhere
posted by Blasdelb at 9:15 AM on October 3, 2012

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