I’ve known countless women (including my own 76-year-old mother) who’ve waited years for a proposal that never comes.
If you want to get married but your guy doesn’t, you’re stuck in limbo.
With over a half century of life experience under my belt, I’ve known dozens of female family members and friends who’ve waited years for a proposal to come, only to be left heartbroken and ring-less. At this moment in time, my 76-year-old mother and my 28-year-old niece are both stuck in live-in limbo —somewhere between being single and being committed. It’s not that they and others like them are too traditional and timid to propose to their men; it’s that their guys simply don’t want to get hitched.
While the intricacies of these relationships are unique as snowflakes, the big picture is essentially the same: a woman who desperately wants to seal the deal with a wedding and a man who sees absolutely no reason to do so. How do these women (all of them smart and desirable) get into these predicaments where they’re left feeling rejected, unloved, and powerless? What can other women learn from their mistakes so they don’t become stuck in a similar situation? While it’s true that times have changed and women no longer need a man and a marriage license to feel complete, there are still plenty who see marital bliss as their ultimate goal and strive to achieve it. For these ladies in my family and yours who want marriage but can’t quite get there, here are six possible reasons they can’t seal the deal:
Ladies, if you’re in a relationship with a man over 6 months who doesn’t seem ready for marriage, then accept the fact that he probably isn’t and move on and find a man who is. Just remember, when a man decides that he wants to get married, he does.
- They didn’t establish a meeting of the minds.
A meeting of the minds is a phrase that lawyers use. It means two parties hold the same understanding about the terms of an agreement. It must be present in order for a contract to be valid and binding. But how, you may be asking, is this legal phrase relevant in a romantic relationship?
For more couples than you’d ever imagine, there is no meeting of the minds or shared vision when they move in together. While many women absolutely see it as the first step towards marriage, many guys don’t. They view it pragmatically as a way to share expenses, have companionship, and secure a s*x partner. Without a meeting of the minds, women set themselves up for eventual heartbreak. If they’re not straightforward, honest, and open about their desire to marry (to both themselves and their partners), they may be left ring-less and regretting their years wasted in live-in limbo.
In her 60’s and recently widowed, my mother let her new boyfriend move into her home. In her mind, she saw this as the lead-up to an inevitable proposal, followed by marriage. The trouble with that was he never did. While most of us don’t ponder statistics when head-over-heels in love, my mom and other women desiring marriage shouldn’t hide from the facts. Contrary to what they believe, moving in together isn’t always a prelude to getting hitched. According to figures collected by US Attorney Legal Services, only a little over half of couples who live together wind up being married within five years. Within that same time frame, 40 percent break up and roughly 10 percent continue to live together. If women see living together as a means to an end, the odds aren’t great for a happily ever after.
What are feminine wiles?
Most young people haven’t heard of feminine wiles. If they have, they may perceive them negatively—as something outdated, manipulative, and phony. For women of an older generation, though, feminine wiles were seen as wholly positive. Females who used them to their advantage were seen as fun, flirty, and feminine. They acted in a lady-like way with confidence, mystery, and seduction. They spoke softly, compassionately, and garnered much admiration. They felt in control when dealing with men.
- They made it too easy.
The comedian, Groucho Marx, once famously quipped: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Although his self-deprecating remark elicited a chuckle, it also revealed an innate component of the male psyche—coveting the unattainable. Men love a challenge and often see an unavailable woman as the ultimate prize. When guys need to work for something, they see it as more desirable.
In the old days, ladies would play hard to get and use their feminine wiles because this made them more sought after and admired. A guy courted a woman—met her parents, brought her flowers, wrote her poems, and placed her on a pedestal. Today, many women are too easy (s*xually and otherwise) and, therefore, are valued less and not seen as marriage material.
My 28-year-old niece became s*xually active with her boyfriend during college and has been with him ever since. They bought a home together, share expenses, and enjoy one another’s company. Their relationship, however, has plateaued with no talk of marriage. He’s satisfied with the status quo while she’s growing increasingly frustrated after seven years of dating. She now wonders whether she made it all too easy for him as she longs to be a wife and mother, not just a roommate.
Adam LoDolce, a professional dating coach, gives this advice to women like my niece who now wish they had played harder to get: “I want you to remember ONE thing: Scarcity creates value. When something is scarce then it’s hard to come by , and means it’s worth more. This is just as true for dating as it if for diamonds or gold…Available women are everywhere…but the woman who must be chased? She must be worth something.”
I advise my clients to wait for an exclusive relationship before sleeping with a man. (wait for marriage is better) It’s okay to be physically intimate in other ways if the attraction is strong, but you need to be clear about what YOU need for emotional and physical safety.
- They appear too desperate.
A man can smell a woman’s desperation for marriage like a shark smells blood. The more she wants it, the more he resists, creating an imbalance of power in the relationship. He’s in the driver’s seat, fully in control, while she’s helpless in the backseat. Such asymmetry in a coupling can make a woman feel insecure. This is the dynamic at play with my niece and her boyfriend, leading to more problems in their relationship and an erosion of her self-esteem.
When women like my niece feel vulnerable—their needs going unmet and their voices going unheard —they become clingy and desperate. Once capable and confident, their insecurity about the relationship causes them to hold on tighter. They start demanding extra time, attention, and reassurance from their guys. They send too many text messages, check up with phone calls, ask for more compliments, and begin to lose their own identities and interests. This proves to be a real turn-off to their men who desire independent women with their own opinions, hobbies, dreams, and friends. The guys start to feel claustrophobic in the relationship and fear marriage will only make it worse.
Dr. Maya Angelou, the beloved author and poet, said: “Love liberates; it doesn’t bind.” If a woman feels desperate and clingy in a relationship, she needs to let it go. It’s a sign she has lost sight of herself and needs to regroup, focusing on other areas of her life: career, friendships, health, family, hobbies, and spirituality. She needs to appreciate her own value before she goes looking for another partner.
Here is what you need to know: You are enough right this minute. Period. Not understanding this is a major obstacle to getting married, since women who don’t know their own worth make terrible wives. Why? You can fake it for a while, but ultimately you won’t love your spouse any better than you love yourself. Smart men know this.
— Tracy McMillan, author of “Why You’re Not Married…Yet”
- They’re drama queens.
Most of us women have at least one girlfriend who’s a drama queen. She’s always in conflict with family members, co-workers, and friends. Her life would be far too mundane and unsatisfying for her if she wasn’t constantly involved in turmoil. She welcomes it into her life and thrives on it. As her friends, we appreciate this idiosyncrasy and can deal with it on a limited basis.
Most men, on the other hand, can’t tolerate drama queens for very long. If there’s a problem in their lives, they want to fix it as soon as possible, make it go away, and return to a tranquil state. While guys may initially be attracted to drama queens, wanting to become their knights in shining armor and rescue them from chaos, they soon become disenchanted when new problems keep arising. God forbid, they’d ever want a lifetime of this tumult.
As an observer of their long-time relationship, I’d say my mother’s boyfriend is wary of her drama queen ways. She’s always befriending people down on their luck, gossiping about this friend or that, and stirring up conflict between neighbors on their cul-de- sac. He, on the other hand, just wants peace and quiet in his golden years. Marrying a drama queen would not help him achieve that goal.
Men do not want emotional drama queens who use their feminine wiles to manipulate them out of their time or money. Dealing with emotional outbursts, sneaky ways and pushiness does not go over well in the long run with a man. He wants a woman who is emotionally stable and authentic in both her words and actions. He is not looking for a spoiled little girl who is ill-equipped to handle the ups and downs of life; he is looking for a woman.
— Bree Maresca-Kramer, relationship expert
- They’re too negative.
Modern life is stressful enough with crowded streets, long commutes, heavy traffic, demanding bosses, and a never-ending string of bills. Guys want a partner who brings joy and energy into their lives and doesn’t deplete them with negativity. They come into contact with enough destructive people during their daily activities. The last thing they need is one at home. If you’re not there to bolster your guy, he’s not going to want you for the long haul.
While I love being around my niece in small doses, she’s become quite pessimistic. On holidays and other family gatherings, she’s that one gray cloud on an otherwise sunny day. While she and her boyfriend have been together for over seven years, I have to wonder if her negativity is what’s stopping him from proposing. The irony is her gloominess is caused by feeling insecure in a relationship with a man who doesn’t want to marry her!
Fear of being alone is a huge factor that keeps people in bad relationships. The underlying message is that you’re not able to take care of yourself.
— Lauren Mackler, author of “Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness and Transform Your Life”
- They’re with the wrong guy.
We all know women who desire marriage so intensely that they overlook one crucial detail; they’re with the wrong guy! No matter how much they change themselves or try to change him, the coupling isn’t going to work because they’re simply not a match. A woman in such a situation knows this deep down in her soul, but her thinking is clouded by the time and effort she’s already invested in the relationship. It’s too devastating to admit she made a mistake, wasted so many years, and now must look elsewhere for love and commitment.
Like many other women, my mother seeks a committed relationship with a man who doesn’t want one. She stays because this dynamic is familiar from her childhood with her alcoholic mother. As a kid, she struggled to form a bond with a parent who was emotionally unavailable. Today, she does the same thing with an extremely aloof man. Likewise, my niece is now re-creating something familiar from her childhood. She stays with a controlling partner because he is the reincarnation of her domineering dad. He represents the dysfunctional relationship from the past that she’s now trying to fix.
Instead of finding the right person to fit in their lives now, both my mother and my niece are reaching back to repair something from their childhoods. We’re all prone to do the same if we’re not aware of our motivations. Lauren Mackler, a relationship coach, warns women that their yesterdays can negatively impact their here-and-now. She writes: “What happens in the family shapes how we see ourselves in the world, our core beliefs and our behaviors. Then we take these behavior patterns into adulthood. “
That’s why women like my 76-year-old mother and my 28-year-old niece are stuck in live-in limbo where they’re unhappy, frustrated, and powerless. Their self-esteem suffers, but they stay put because it’s familiar, safe, and comfortable. They’re not with the right guys, but they’re too scared to admit it, leave, and start anew.