Dear Penina,

I’m a marriage-minded woman in my mid thirties who has been in a serious relationship for over a year. I feel strongly that the man I have been dating is the one for me. The chemistry is great, we want the same things out of life and I know he will make a wonderful husband and father. Basically all of the ingredients are there for a successful marriage. The problem is that he isn’t proposing. I feel that, unless I give an ultimatum, we will be dating forever. But I am afraid that if I do this, I will lose him. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Julie

Dear Julie,

From what you have written, it sounds like you have spent time thinking about what is most important when evaluating someone you are dating to determine their appropriateness as a life partner. Attraction, character traits and common life goals are the key ingredients of a successful marriage and it sounds like this relationship has tremendous potential. I totally understand why you would be afraid of scaring this guy off.

On the other hand, if the man you are dating doesn’t feel the same way that you feel, the potential for marriage might be somewhat diminished. My first question to you would be to ask if you have had an honest discussion with him about your desire to make the relationship permanent. Is he afraid of commitment, just clueless that you are waiting for the ring or is he having a great time but not really in it for the long haul? If you haven’t broached the subject with him already, this should be your first step.

If you have clearly communicated to him what you have expressed to me, that you are quite sure he is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, what was his reaction? Did he affirm that you are both on the same page, make excuses or change the subject altogether? The fact that he has not proposed so far does not mean he has no intention of doing so. However, his reaction to your expression of what you need from the relationship at this point is of the utmost significance.

If you have not had a serious discussion about marriage, and hopefully you feel that you can communicate honestly and openly, I would not hold back. Tell him how you feel and that you desire a permanent commitment. If he is the one for you, you won’t scare him off. If he has commitment issues, find out if he is willing to go to therapy to explore his fears about marriage.

I've seen too many women fall into the trap of giving it “just a few more months” because ”he’s working on it.”

As for an ultimatum, the only way you can use this approach is if you are totally willing to follow through with the terms. You need to have a date by which you expect to be presented with an engagement ring. If he’s really the right one, you’ll know fairly quickly because he will want to work on any issues and focus on taking the relationship to the next level.

If the date you choose passes with nothing but excuses, you need to be firm and call it off. People may disagree with me on this but I have seen too many women fall into the trap of giving it “just a few more months” because ”he’s working on it.” True, there are exceptions to every rule and every situation is unique. However, if you want to marry this guy you need to take your life into your own hands and be up front about what you expect from the relationship.

I think that a maximum of three months from the time you communicate your expectations is enough time for him to take the relationship to the next level at a reasonable pace, especially if you have already been dating for over a year. And, if you are serious, you need to make sure that you can walk away if he cannot make the commitment. And the commitment needs to be in the form of a ring, not a promise.

Be honest about your wants and needs and don’t be afraid to draw the line. If he is the one for you, he will be happy to know that you are crazy about him and will likely get to work on making the relationship permanent. If he continues to procrastinate, give him a few more months to work through any issues, but in a proactive manner. Three months is more than enough time at this stage in the dating process.

There will always be stories of people who did not follow similar advice and things worked out for them. Just as there will always be stories of those who waited for the ring and just kept waiting. You can’t control the outcome of the situation but you can put forth your best effort to get what you want out of your relationship.

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Dear Penina,

I was expecting to marry the man of my dreams about six months ago. We had been dating seriously for almost two years and things were perfect. However, whenever I brought up the subject of marriage, he always said that he just “wasn’t ready”. I finally gave him an ultimatum. I told him in a gentle and loving way that if he did not propose by the second anniversary of our first date, our relationship would be over. Although it was devastating, I walked away from the relationship without the ring. Three months have passed and now he is pleading with me to give him another chance. He insists that he has been working on his commitment issues and knows that I am truly “the one” for him. How do I know if he is really serious this time and ready for marriage?

Sincerely,

How Do I Know

Dear How Do You Know,

I applaud you for having the strength to be able to walk away from this relationship after your deadline for a formal proposal had passed. That took a lot of courage and I'm sure was not easy.

If you genuinely feel that this man is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, the only way you will know he is ready is if he demonstrates tangible evidence of a lifelong commitment to you. This means that he has a ring and is contacting you to schedule a meeting to choose the wedding date, the caterer and the band. Don't accept anything less. The only reason you are allowing this man back into your life is for the sole purpose of becoming your husband. Period.

He needs to show up, in person, with an engagement ring and a calendar so the two of you can plan a date for your wedding.

He needs to show up, in person, with an engagement ring and a calendar so the two of you can plan a date for your wedding. Sending an email, text message or writing on your Facebook wall are unacceptable forms of communication with respect to a subject of such paramount importance.

He should also be able to tell you exactly how he has been “working” on his commitment issues and what he has accomplished to get past them. Has he been in therapy or just in another relationship that didn’t work out?

Flowers, perfume and promises to change are nice but frankly irrelevant at this stage in the game. Unless he shows up with a ring, or is picking you up to go to the jewelry store to purchase one, you should stop him dead in his tracks. Your objective is to embark on a lifelong partnership, not to get back on a merry-go-round of uncertainly and doubt.

Be strong and remain focused. If he can’t follow through on his end, take it as a sign that you made the right choice to walk away the first time. If he is able to demonstrate that he is determined to be your husband and won’t take no for an answer…mazal tov!