The Valentine’s Day proposal. How many of us, I wonder, are waiting with bated breath to see if this might be the day they’ll propose.
Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, a January birthday have all gone by and nada.
The problem is that you can rarely be entirely sure a proposal will be forthcoming particularly if you already live together.
It’s bad enough wondering if they’ll remember to get you a Valentine’s Card but if you are expecting a marriage proposal then the whole day will be fraught with waiting and hoping and longing …. and potential disappointment.
So before you risk having to crawl miserably into bed nursing your dashed hopes of the dress, the ceremony, the doves, the champagne and the vintage car, it’s time for a little Valentine’s reality check.
Here’s what you need to ask yourself.
You can’t use Valentine’s Day or any other annual celebration as a sticking plaster for a relationship which just doesn’t work.
Receiving a bouquet of roses or a diamond may well signify intent but there’s many a step between popping into Interflora and writing your vows.
Have you been getting on? Have there been arguments? Are there fundamental things upon which you just don’t agree?
These are red flags for a long-term relationship. Money, sex, children, religion, ambition, hobbies – all of these things can throw a spanner in the works of romantic happiness.
Check in with how you actually feel about your partner and ask yourself “if it wasn’t Valentine’s Day, how would I feel about my partner?”. Do they make me happy? Do I feel confident and loved when I’m with them? Do they boost my confidence and self esteem? Would they be the person I would turn to first in any emergency?
This probably matters more than you might think. If your friends and family hate your partner then you really need to ask yourself why. Obviously sometimes we are constrained by cultural or religious expectations to do the right thing but, generally, if everyone else hates your other half then it’s time to wonder if they might have a point.
In my weekly problem page, I often come across the issue of mismatched expectations. The most memorable is a lady who had been with her man for 3 years and was asking how much longer she had to wait for a proposal. My question to her was “why have you waited so long to raise the subject with him”?!
This is still, I think, an enduring problem in long-term relationships where the couple live together.
There is no longer the impetus to marry for the sake of children or to conform to society’s expectations because the landscape of gender, sexuality and the way we relate and live have changed almost beyond recognition from our parents’ day.
I think marriage has to be firmly on the agenda pretty early on – especially if you are both over 30 and want to have children. I married at 41 and had my kids at 43 and 45 and wish I had done the whole lot at least 10 years’ earlier – but life’s not like that, is it?
You do need to be open and honest about what you want for your future, and clear about what commitment means to you.
Many of us want the big white wedding to have our ‘day’ but in lots of cases a ‘day’ is all it turns out to be, plus a debt of around £33,000 , the average cost of a UK wedding in 2017.
Making the wrong choice of partner could be very costly indeed – and that’s before the cost of divorce, not only in terms of money, but in terms of friendships and your social life.
Far easier to gently ask “do you see us getting married and having kids one day” than lugging stacks of bridal magazines home and sighing loudly every time a jewellery commercial comes on.
This could leave you, like the lady from my problem page, in limbo for a very long time. You have to be clear in your own mind how long you are prepared to wait. If you do get a ‘not yet’, you have every right to ask what would need to happen for the time to be right.
Putting pressure on your partner will not work. “When, then!” is not the right thing to ask. You need to understand whether ‘not yet’ really means a future marriage or whether, frankly, you are being fobbed off.
There’s a big difference between “yeah, I suppose so at some point ” and “when I have finished studying my business course and we have saved up enough for a deposit on a flat”.
Most of us can tell when we are being fobbed off but acknowledging that means having to be honest with ourselves about whether this relationship is the one – and if you have had quite a few ‘the one’s’, it’s understandable that you may feel panicky at the thought of going back on the dating scene again.
Lots of people hate being put under pressure. Equally lots of men hate Valentine’s Day – the commercialism, the cost, the fakeness of many of those hearts and flowers. If your partner is going to propose you can probably tell you know. But you shouldn’t assume they’ll conform to your expectations and do the big Valentine’s proposal.
If they are talking about settling down with you, buying a home, having children, planning future holidays, commitment in general then that’s a good sign and a basis upon which to have a grown-up and honest conversation.
If they are muttering about Valentine’s being a load of crap, arriving home later and later and going out more often with their friends, then the signs aren’t good, are they?
If the big proposal doesn’t appear on Valentine’s Day, the worst thing you could do would be to have a major strop, start a row and end up splitting up because one of you said something unforgiveable and unleashed the floodgates of every little irritating thing they’ve ever done since you met them.
Which will just convince them, if there’s any doubt, that you weren’t the right person anyway.
Your best strategy, if you’re hoping for a proposal, is to play it cool, calm and collected. If you are going out make sure you look gorgeous. Try to stay in the moment and enjoy your food, the location, the ambience. Talk to your partner rather than scan the room for a lurking violinist!
If no proposal appears and you are hurt and upset then say you are feeling under the weather and have an early night – rather than start the relationship wrecking strop I mentioned earlier.
In the morning with a clear head you can then make plans to have the conversation you need to have with your partner.
There’s one last question you should ask yourself too.
I often hear of people who after just a few short months are so overcome with love that they are ready to hear the “will you marry me” and run off into the sunset. For most of us that is much too short a time to decide whether someone is worth spending the rest of our life with.
For others, having enough money saved up and making sure that their friends and family like their other half really matter.
I suspect lots of engagements happen just to keep the other partner quiet after too much nagging about setting the date. And, as we all know, an engagement can be dragged out for years – anything to avoid actually setting the date.
Desperation isn’t attractive and even today, I think a bit of mystery and independence work wonders when you’re trying to snare the partner of your dreams. What’s that antiquated expression? “A man chases a woman until she catches him”.
If you haven’t been together long and haven’t even discussed marriage, then Valentine’s Day is most likely not going to be the day your big proposal happens.
What if that proposal does turn up and you just don’t know how you feel? Actually I think most of us have a very strong gut instinct which tells us exactly how we feel but we often ignore it.
It’s so tempting to put the ring on, accept the congratulations, start planning the big party but if it’s wrong, a wedding isn’t going to put it right.
If you are really not sure just say “that’s so lovely and I really care about you but I’d like a little more time for us to get to know each other (or spend time together) before we make such a big commitment”.
Be kind but above all – be honest!
I really hope you get the Valentine’s Day proposal you long for (if that’s what you truly want) but just remember, it’s how you partner treats you the other 364 days of the year that is the truest indicator of their love.