Reader Question: What Do I Do If My Boyfriend Won’t Propose?

by | Jun 26, 2017 | Connecting, Preparing for Marriage | 29 comments

When Your Boyfriend Won't Propose

What do you do if your boyfriend just doesn’t seem that interested in getting married?

Last week was a big one–I spent the week tackling the idea that every man will lust, and I’m excited to get back to the regular swing of things!

Today we’re answering a reader question about how to actually go from dating to married. We’ve talked a lot about how to find someone, what signs to look for that signal “he’s a good man,” and the like, but we’ve been getting lots of reader questions asking for more specific advice. A lot of the questions are like this one:

Reader Question: What if your boyfriend won't propose?

Reader Question

I just came across your blog and have been really encouraged by it. I’m a single girl in my 20s and was intrigued by your relationship story – I understand your blog is mainly aimed at married women, but wondered if you’d consider more content on how you got from single to married – e.g. How you decided to marry your husband and general dating advice. And maybe how you handled general dating anxieties. Thanks again for your godly wisdom.

Good question! I’m taking a break today, so I’m handing this one over to Rebecca.

Take it away!

When Your Boyfriend Won't Propose: What to do if the relationship is going nowhere, but you want to get married.

Okay, so you’ve found a guy. You’re dating. You think he’s a good guy and would make a great husband. So how do you actually get from girlfriend to wife when he doesn’t seem too eager to propose? 

I’m not gonna lie: I had it easy when it came to getting married. I experienced my fair share of rejection before I met Connor, but both of us knew from the beginning of our relationship that we wanted to end up together. But for a lot of couples, that’s not the case. Instead, many women are caught in relationships with men they love but who don’t seem too interested in popping the question any time soon.

And that’s hard. And it’s even worse when you see women after these relationships break apart, having given sometimes 6 or 7 of her best dating years to a guy who never even considered marrying her.

So I thought today I’d try to help. It’s a tough question, though, so let me know in the comments what you’d add.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind if you want to get married, but he doesn’t seem too eager:

1. You need to openly communicate what you want from the relationship

If you want to get married, you’ve been dating for a long time, and he’s not making any moves, tell him what you want. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I really love you, I think we are amazing together, and I am just wondering if you think this relationship is heading towards marriage, or if that’s a road you don’t want to go down with me.” This isn’t a “trap-him-in-the-corner-until-he-proposes” conversation–it’s simply a question. He could say, “Yes, but I’m not ready right now and I don’t think I’ll be ready for a while.” And then you can talk about whether or not that works for you. But whatever his answer is, at least you know.

So many women are afraid to admit to their boyfriends that they want to be married. But it’s much better to have an awkward conversation than to be in a relationship that’s going nowhere.

2. Work on becoming the kind of woman who would make an amazing wife

Marriage is a big deal. A guy wants to know that the woman he marries is going to be able to be a partner he can depend on. I know many people who waited to propose longer than they would have liked to because their girlfriends hadn’t moved out of their parents’ homes yet, or hadn’t ever had a job before. They wanted to make sure that they were mature enough for a marriage. And that’s only fair–we have similar expectations for men.

The flip side of this is that even when a woman is completely ready for marriage, lots of guys still aren’t thinking about proposing. In these situations, when a guy won’t propose many girls react by moving in with their boyfriends, hoping that will show them “We work so well together–marriage would be amazing!”

But for a lot of guys, moving in together removes almost all incentive to get married. It’s sad, but it’s true.

Settling for less than you want from life for a chance that he’ll finally get on board with the whole marriage thing just isn’t a good idea. Instead, work on becoming the best version of yourself you can be without compromising your values–the “you” that God made you to be. That way, with or without your boyfriend, you’re getting closer to God and better understanding yourself. Both of which are important traits for adult life, single or married.

3. Some guys just aren’t worth your time

Listen, if you’re a good person who is dating a guy who just doesn’t want to marry you, that is not on you. Some guys just aren’t worth your time, and that’s hard to accept. Especially if you’re really in love with him.

I really wish I had an easy answer for these situations. But I don’t. So instead, I just want to say this:

Your identity, your worth, is so much greater than what a guy does or does not think of you. Whether or not you get married, whether or not he’s the one who marries you–you are still who God created you to be. And he didn’t create you to waste your time on boys who don’t respect you. You have been created for a purpose. And if getting married is a part of that plan, don’t waste your twenties on men who aren’t interested in that path. If he doesn’t want to marry you, that’s not on you–that’s on him.

If your boyfriend doesn't respect you, he's not worth your time.

So please remember: even if you get married to the man of your dreams, your worth isn’t found there. It never was, it never will be. Your worth is in God, so don’t be afraid to say “no” to people who just don’t see that.

What advice do you have for women in relationships that don’t seem to be going anywhere? Let’s talk about it in the comments–this is a tricky one!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. libl

    I was dating a fellow for 3 years and was really interested in getting married. But, our relationship just didn’t seem to get serious. It dawned on,me that he liked me and found me to be a bit of fun, but he didn’t love me and certainly wasn’t ready to get married. I also realized we weren’t compatible. I wanted to be a stay at home mother and he would have preferred an intellectual career woman. (Not saying SAHM’s aren’t intellectuals, so don’t read into that).

    We were still sort of together when I met the man I would marry. Hubby made it clear from the start that we were to either just be friends or to pursue marriage. He was done with games and flings. So, I broke up with my boyfriend and told him why. He was fine with it. Within a month of dating hubby decided he indeed wanted to marry me, but suggested we wait and date each other before engagement. But, we were married within 18 months of our first date.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Great story! Whatever happened to the first guy? Did he ever marry?

      I knew a guy who had a girlfriend for like 6 years. She really wanted to get married, and he could just never decide. So he let the relationship go. A few years later she was married, and he really regretted it. But he just couldn’t take the plunge.

      • Libl

        I have very little idea what happened to the fellow. He lives in Europe and has a good job, but I don’t know if he ever married. But, I really don’t think he regrets me. It was fun and nice to get to know each other, but we were worlds apart politically, religiously, culturally….

  2. Doug

    Generally speaking, this is a sign that a man lacks loving leadership. It is a pandemic problem. A woman should abandon this type of guy or she will suffer the consequences. Either she will drag on with him in a unmarried “relationship” wasting her years as was said, or if he does eventually marry her at her prompting, she will probably be having to prompt him for everything in life.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      So true: “she will probably be having to prompt him for everything in life.”

      • Smith

        Yeah, I completely agree with you.

    • Eliza

      Not every guy who is laid back, shy, or an overthinker is bad husband material, though. Some of them make great, steady, reliable husbands who do what’s in front of them and don’t rock the boat. And in a society that isn’t set up to fast-track relationships toward marriage any more, that prompt may have to come from the girl simply because it’s not going to come from anywhere else.

      • Sheila Gregoire

        That’s true! I know a couple very dear to me where he was just plain shy, and a big thinker who never did anything in a hurry. Finally after several years of dating, she said, “enough is enough. Either this is going somewhere or we’re done.” He proposed. They have a great marriage! Being shy or a deep thinker isn’t a bad thing.

  3. regrets

    I think your last point was spot on. Don’t waste you’re time on some one who isn’t interested and don’t try to push a guy to marry you. I was thr guy who wasn’t interested in getting married. I have always wanted to get married and dreamt about being married. The thing is I got involved with my current wife in the wrong way. She was lonely and had just fled from her country and we met through church. She says that she was convinced from the beginning that I was the one God had chosen for her. I wasn’t that sure but sadly our relationship soon got physical and I didn’t act as the godly man I always wish I would be. We did everything but intercourse and sadly that got us together. I was insecure about my feelings band she knew it but she still wanted to be with me. I was immature, stupid and didn’t take my responsibility as a man to break it off. Soon she wanted to get married but I was not sure and tried to skip over it but i couldn’t. As I said I was stupid. I guess I thought that the feelings would come along after I got married and I was to afraid of hurting her and to afraid of upsetting her family. So she pushed me to ask her father for her hand, she even decided the day and so on. I know marriage can be fixed and now after three years things are better maybe but I sti have regrets. I sadly don’t see the day I married as the most beautiful day in my life, I don’t have this feeling of how wonderful it is to be married. Instead I regret it very often but my wife can never know. So please girls if the guy doesn’t want to marry you just break it of. Maybe it will give you some perspective to be away from each other awhile. Maybe he will really understand what you mean to him or you will both realize that you just weren’t meant to be. Don’t let your dream of marriage lead both of you into a nightmare. Believe me it’s awful.

  4. Blair

    There a really obvious solution to this problem. The answer to the question, “what do I do if my boyfriend won’t propose,” is “so you’ve found a wonderful boyfriend that you think would make an even better husband. That’s great! So . . . what’s stopping YOU from proposing to HIM? What are you WAITING for?” I’m serious. There’s about a billion and one ways to propose marriage to someone, pick whichever one you like best and go for it. Why wait around for him to ask, if you love each other and you think you two would be perfect for each other? That’s silly, just woman up and do it yourself. No need to beat around the bush, just ask. Better to know sooner than he doesn’t want to get married, than to waste years in a relationship with him on the off chance that he might one day pop the question unprompted. That can be so easily avoided by just being direct and upfront about it, so why wouldn’t you be?

    • Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach

      You know what, Blair, if that works for you, GO FOR IT! 🙂 Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the one to propose. And here’s why:

      As a wife, I’m going to have to go through a lot of crap my husband won’t that causes me to be more dependent on him than he is on me. Mainly, having his kids and being out of commission for a few months at a time because of it. Also, I want to be able to stay home with kids.

      If he hadn’t been sure enough about me to ask me to marry him, how can I know he’s sure enough to handle all the rest of it? If I’m going to have to rely on someone when I’m pregnant and have newborns, I want to be darn sure he’s willing to take the initiative and ask me to marry him. Then I know that he’s willing to take on not just me, but our future, too. And he does that of his own planning, not because I asked him to.

      But again, I don’t think it’s wrong for women to propose! 🙂 I just personally would not have wanted that.

      • Blair

        Sure, naturally. It’s not something that will work for everyone, and that’s fine. There’s not a single piece of advice anyone can give that is universally useful to everyone across the board. But I feel so many women lock themselves into this particular gender role, the proposee instead of the proposer, and that role doesn’t work for everyone either. They feel like they shouldn’t be the one to ask, that it’s wrong somehow, when in reality there is nothing wrong with it.

        Nowhere is it written that women shouldn’t propose to men, and yet so many behave as if it is. And when it’s not even MENTIONED as a possible solution in posts like this one? Well, then that idea is only reinforced in people’s minds, when it should be challenged instead.

        After all, wasn’t it Ruth who propose to Boaz? And wasn’t he just as pleased as peaches by it? He certainly was mature enough and ready for marriage, but he never would have asked her himself, even though it’s clear from the text that he cared for and admired her. He felt he was unworthy of her, due to their age difference, he felt she deserved someone younger. He was perfectly content to take care of her in his own way, without taking the relationship any further. And he would have done so indefinitely, I think, if Ruth had not asked him to marry her. They both wanted more, but neither would have gotten more if one of them hadn’t stepped up and asked. He wouldn’t have, so she had to. The fact that she did was in no way an accurate measure of his maturity, love, commitment, initiative, or anything else that matters. So it would be a mistake and a disservice to other men to assume that it is.

        • Doug

          Blair, Ruth simply showed affection toward Boaz. It was Boaz who “bought” her to become his wife. Jewish law of inheritance was also in the mix. That said, we know nothing about the quality of their actual married life. A woman shows affection toward a man simply by being in relationship with him. If significant time has passed, it is direction and leadership that the non-proposing male is lacking. He is lacking masculinity. He is acting selfish and inconsiderate of the female he is holding on the hook. He is not loving her. There are many marriages today that in effect were initiated by the woman. The man simply followed the woman’s prod. Many of these women will eventually be looking to Sheila for help.

          • Doug

            Blair, In the “one body” relationship of marriage, anatomically speaking man is the head. God has so differentiated male and female, leadership and direction belong to the man. He is wired for it. Yes, the woman in a stalled situation is partly responsible in allowing the man to keep her in the shopping cart so to speak, but ultimate responsibility belongs to the man. A relationship – where the man is not effectively being the man – will sexually break down in due time.

          • Blair

            Agree to disagree, vehemently.

      • Praying wife

        Having children is not “going through a lot of crap”. It´s hard work for sure, it affects your body, your feelings and your time, but honestly, we´re lucky to be women and able to carry and nurture our children. The vast majority of grown-ups consider themselves a lot closer to their mothers than their fathers = lucky mothers!

        It´s important to marry someone who´s willing to go the distance, willing to love, serve and care for their family and so on, but is that really shown in the proposal itself? If you want it to feel appreciated and loved, fine, but that´s not a sign in itself that the man is capable of married life.

  5. alchemist

    My ideal was to not even start dating until we were both sure that this wasn’t just for funsies. We were dating to get married. Use your words. It helps. For heavens sake don’t do the thing where you expect him to read your mind. That’s a horrible strategy for anything relationship related. Don’t hint around either.

    Sometimes guys need a little kick in the pants. I told my boyfriend there was a time limit. I wasn’t hanging around forever. My sister was dating a guy since high school. by year 5/6, after she had graduated he still hadn’t proposed. My sister applied for a masters degree in another country. Somehow that got the ball rolling ;). They were married within that year. Another friend went to study abroad in Japan and she gave her boyfriend a time limit.

  6. Rare One

    It’s not really all that tricky. Don’t have sex or live together until married. 😉

    • sunny-dee

      Milk, cow, free … some assembly required. 😉

  7. Momof3

    I think defining for yourself what a “good boyfriend ” is first is very helpful. Then define what you want in a “good husband.” Sometimes you may realize that the guy you are dating isn’t really good. They may just be comfortable to be around right now. It’s ok to realize this and make a solid decision for yourself. It is not the amount of time you date someone that determines if you’ll be getting married or be good for each other. Anyone you date will either be someone you break up with or someone you marry. Put a lot of quality time and prayer into deciding what/who are really right for you.

  8. Mom of 2

    I would add that if you’re living with your boyfriend, having sex with him, doing his laundry, etc… He’s already getting the benefits of being married to you without having to commit to you, and that’s a big part of why he won’t propose. That’s obvious, but it still needs to be said. My own brother did this to his girlfriend for 8 years and even told me “what’s the point in being married? We basically are except we don’t have the piece of paper.” It wasn’t until he realized he vulnerable that left her that he finally proposed.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      I agree. And there is a reason that God wants us to save sex for marriage, too!

  9. Andrew Sargent

    I’m sure some have already noted this, but I would press further into the idea of “removing incentive.” If a guy gets all that he wants from a relationship without having to step up and be a responsible man, he often will. I waited until marriage, so meeting the woman I wanted to spend my life with lead naturally to the legitimization of that relationship through marriage (29 years this October). Sex is a huge incentive for a man… like my Mom always told my sister growing up… male logic is basic… why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

  10. Aimee

    Make sure you’ve discussed marriage. If you value marriage and plan on it for your life, this should be a normal part of dating. Don’t feel like discussing marriage is going to chase a man off. If it does, he is not the man for you. If this is a new relationship, obviously the conversation doesn’t start with “when are we going to get married” but maybe “is marriage important to you; do you plan to marry?” This can get a bit tricky if you’ve had conversations about marriage and he hasn’t followed up by popping the question. Follow up questions and discernment about his character and life goals and values are warranted.

    One of my favorite things about dating my husband was that he didn’t respond weirdly to talk of marriage and children because it was something he wanted for his life. When I told him, at 16, he shouldn’t use foul language because one day we might get married and have kids and he couldn’t talk like that in front of them, it didn’t scare him off. It influenced his behavior.

    You want a man who wants marriage, too.

    • sunny-dee

      Exactly! If there were something else, like …. “My dream for life is to move to France and become a famous painter,” that would be an important (and natural) thing to mention if you were dating someone in your hometown in Iowa. It’s not an ultimatum; it’s stating what you want out of life and where you’re going and seeing if you’re compatible.

      • Jessica

        My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3 and a half years. I ask him every once in awhile if he wants to get married. Every time I ask him this he gets upset. I just want to make sure we are on the same path. A couple of months ago he ask me if I wanted to go on a trip. I said yes and ask when and where. He blurts out that he wants to take me to new York and propose to me. I said why did you just say that. All you had to say was New York and the dates. He says you were pushing me. I said know I wasn’t. Anyways we go on the trip and long be hold there was no proposal. On our last night there it still never happened. So when we got back to our hotel I asked him why he didn’t propose. He got super upset and started yelling at me. Told me I shouldn’t be upset that he didn’t propose. I said it hurts my feelings. I feel like he is playing with my emotions. So I told him to just forget about getting married. What should I do??

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          I’m so sorry you’re going through this, Jessica. I’m going to say something that may sound a little harsh, but here it is: if he hasn’t made up his mind after 3.5 years, how much longer do you want to wait around for him? If you want to get married, and he’s not going to give that to you, why waste any more time on this relationship if he’s not willing to give that to you?

          If you had been dating for just a few months I think that would be different. But people don’t change unless there is a need to do so. You don’t have to stay indefinitely, waiting for a proposal. You can tell him you expect a proposal and if it doesn’t happen soon, the relationship is likely not what is best for the two of you.

          Getting married is not too big of an ask of a relationship. A man who loves you, admires you, and wants to be with you forever should have no qualms getting married. If he doesn’t want to marry you, then you obviously want different things from a relationship.

          I hope that you find some peace, and that you are able to decipher what the best decision is for you through all this–I really really can’t imagine the anxiety this must produce for you. But just remember that you are valuable, you are worthy of love and commitment, and you are a child of God who is dearly beloved. And a good man will see those things, too.

  11. What I know now

    Initiate the conversation. Find out if your goals are the same. Watch the body language. It can help you decide. Body language and voice tones can be very revealing. I had an ex tell me they may never get married again. We broke up shortly after that and that next year the person did remarry, although short lived.

  12. Kathleen Calado

    Thanks for sharing this tips for us! I know someday my boyfriend will propose to me and he’s just waiting for the right time. Keep up the great work!


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