If a woman wants to get married, she has several options to make it happen. Some modern-minded brides just cut to the chase by proposing to their boyfriends themselves. But the more traditionally-minded may use other means of persuasion. Of these, one of the most drastic is The Ultimatum.
No one likes the Ultimatum, but in some cases a woman may feel it’s a necessary evil. When it comes to proposals, the tradition is that men ask, and women wait for them to ask. But as the Tom Petty once sang, the waiting is the hardest part. The Ultimatum is the clearest sign that she is tired of waiting (a Kinks reference, btw, for you classic rock nerds).
There are plenty of sayings that express the message of The Ultimatum: “A little less conversation, a little more action;” “Put up or shut up,” “Put your money where your mouth is.” But perhaps the most appropriate is “Shit or get off the pot.”
It’s gross, but gets to the point: unless you’re prepared to get dumped (see what we did there?), you must finally—after months or even years of waffling—ask for her hand in marriage.
See also: Romantic Proposal Ideas That Don’t Suck
Is she prepared to follow through with her demand? And should you blink? That depends on where you are in the Ultimatum Matrix, the intersection of two key variables: 1) how you feel about her, and 2) whether you think her timeline is reasonable.
The Ultimatum Matrix:
If you know that she’s The One (more on that here), then don’t be a wimp. Step up. 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 the relationship. 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 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 or even years. She’s eager to get hitched, but you’re just hemming and hawing.
Complicating matters is the biological clock—a cliché, but one with some basis in fact. As a man, you could have kids when you’re in your 70s (we don’t recommend it), but women don’t have that option. By her mid 30s, a woman’s ability to successfully bare a child starts to get slimmer and slimmer. 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 owe it to her to make a decision.
Choosing a ring can be tough. Make it a little easier with The Plunge’s Ring Finder.
Alright, but what if you don’t know if she’s the right woman and she’s operating on an unreasonable timeline? (“Unreasonable” being something along the lines of “I said I would be married before my cousin,” or “A ring by spring is how I roll.” )
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.
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 got to start ring shopping.
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. You can 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, the proposal whiffs of obligation. And the proposal matters. Big time. (For more on that click here.)
Wondering how engaged and married life is different from living together as “roommates?” Get a sneak preview.
Know she’s the one? Better start looking for engagement rings and figuring out how you’re going to pop the question.