You've heard the expression: "Shit or get off the pot." When a girl plunks down this sort of ultimatum, the translation, obviously, is that unless you're prepared to get dumped, you must finally--after months, years, or even a decade of waffling--ask her hand in marriage.
She just armed the nuclear missiles. Welcome to DEFCON 5. Let's not dwell on the metaphor. Let's skip past the odd, uncomfortable fact that she just called your relationship a toilet, and then she described your marriage--a lifetime of domestic bliss and unity--as "shitting."
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Is she prepared to launch them? And should you blink? That depends on where you are in the Ultimatum Matrix. It's the intersection of two key variables: 1) how you feel about her, and 2) whether her timeline is reasonable. (And be honest here.)
The Ultimatum Matrix:
If you know that she's The One (more on that here), then don't be a wimp. Step up. Assuming you haven't just met the girl--and frankly, if that's the case, we're guessing you wouldn't be reading this site--then why delay? We're some cynical bastards, but damn, if you're ready to get married, and she's ready to get married, and you both know it's right...then your indecision is looking more and more like cowardice.
Skipping ahead to the third row in the matrix: if you know she's NOT The One, then regardless of whether her timeline is reasonable or not, end it. Seriously. Don't waste her time, don't waste your time. She needs to move on and so do you. Her ultimatum is doing you both a favor.
And now for the more awkward, complicated area of the Ultimatum Matrix: when you don't really know if she's The One.
Let's say her timeline is reasonable. And by "reasonable" we mean she's been patient for months and months or even years, she's given you plenty of rope, and you're just hemming and hawing. Complicating matters is the biological clock. At the risk of flagrant stereotypes, if she's in her mid-to-late thirties and you've been dragging your feet, well, it's time for you to process some sobering news. As much as she loves you, she loves her unborn (and unconceived) children even more. She wants to be with you. She wants to have a family with you. But if it can't be you...then it'll be someone else. So if she thinks it's baby-making time...this is a tough ultimatum to shake. Don't call her bluff. Get in or get out. You need to make a quick decision. (And frankly, you owe it to her.)
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Alright, now if you don't know if she's the right woman and she's operating on an unreasonable timeline, then there's one clear move you should make: push off the deadline. Delay. Stall. Regardless of whether you're ready to get engaged or not, this will maximize your options, ensure flexibility, and even, paradoxically, sow the seeds for romance. (You'll see.)
To delay the ultimatum with tact and savvy, you must employ the DOOM technique: make the engagement contingent on some Deliberately Obscure Objective and/or Money.
Here's how DOOM works. It keeps you from saying something like, "Um...well...it's just that...I guess...I don't think I'm ready." That's weak. That guarantees a long, tedious, tear-soaked argument of don't you love me?! and what's wrong with us?!
SEE ALSO: The 10 Dumbest Reasons To Get Married
DOOM avoids this. Instead of shrugging your shoulders and mumbling that you're "not ready" to get married, you confidently say that before you get engaged, you must first complete either a Deliberately Obscure Objective...or hit some goal that involves Money.
The best Deliberately Obscure Objectives are pegged to your job. Let's say you're a database analyst. Explain that before you're comfortable getting engaged, it's important that you first "get your database career established." (God knows what that means.) The trick is keeping it deliberately obscure, refusing to cite a specific milestone. Otherwise, when you get promoted to Database Manager you've suddenly run out of rope.
As for the Money? Easy. You can blame credit card debt, student loans, buying a house, selling a business...the list is endless. Tell her that you love her (assuming you do) and that you envision a future with her, but first thing's first-you need financial security for both of your sakes.
The strategy of DOOM will let you both: 1) take more time to figure out if she's "the one" (click here to find out) and 2) recapture spontaneity. With DOOM you're working on your timeline, not hers. And even if you definitely do want to get engaged, you still benefit from DOOM. Imagine if she says, "I need a ring by New Year's Eve, or else I'm leaving you." Even if you know you want to marry her, it's best to still use DOOM to push off the ultimatum... then propose when she's not expecting it.
Under-promise, over-deliver. This way it looks spontaneous. This way it's romantic. Otherwise, if you meekly agree to her ultimatum and pop the question on December 31st, the proposal whiffs of obligation. And the proposal matters. Big time. For more on that click here.
The moral? No one likes to be hurried on the toilet. When you're sitting on the pot, if you need to read the paper, send a text message, or just clear your head before you take care of business, then so be it. Take your time. Otherwise you might get indigestion...and that's not good for anyone.
Wondering how engaged and married life is different from living together as "roommates?" Get a sneak preview.