If a man proposes, and the woman says “no”, is the relationship over?
This was the basic question posed in an episode of talkshow/web series “Back Chat London”, (stylized as “BK Chat LDN” on their YouTube channel.) The question was discussed by a panel of 4 men and 5 women, and naturally branched a little farther out into the broader topic of engagement and the principles of marriage. You can find the full 30 minute video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKLC-QQdFfc&t=260s
If you aren’t up for listening to a heated half-hour discussion, (read: argument) then let me sum it up the way I heard it:
Basically all the men: “you should be so lucky I propose to you. Obviously if I’m ready, so are you, because the man always knows best.”
Basically all the women: “um ok but what if I’m not ready? What if I want to wait a couple years, or I feel I don’t know you well enough?”
Basically all the men: “WOW SO INCONSIDERATE. How could you embarrass me like that? I might never recover. You are so selfish, we’re through.”
The women: “That actually sounds pretty egotistical. I think yo-“
The men: “STOP INTERRUPTING, NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU.”
Of course, the discussion was a little more complex than that, and you might have heard something entirely different, but that was the vibe I was getting throughout. This post isn’t a play-by-play commentary on the video, though. It’s my own take on the question that was asked in the video, with some reference to the attitudes the panelists expressed.
Let’s get strait to the question:
If a man proposes, and she says “no”,
is the relationship over?
According to the men in the video, YES. According to the women, NO. Unsurprisingly, I personally side with the ladies. Let me explain why.
Breaking news: not every woman is chomping at the bit to get married at the first chance. That’s right, life isn’t a rom-com where all women want is a man to save them, and every woman is desperate and lonely and wants nothing else in life than to be loved. To be fair, not every man is anti-marriage and wants to be some kind of permanent bachelor, terrified of the ol’ ball-n-chain cramping his style. But those guys aren’t part of this scenario, because this is about men who propose and are turned down.
A woman might say no for a whole host of reasons. Maybe she never wants to be married, maybe it’s not the right time, and maybe he isn’t the right man. Maybe he COULD be the right one but she isn’t sure yet, and want to take it slow. Imagine that you are the woman being proposed to. If you have been dating for a couple years, and have known each other for even longer, you should probably know if he’s “the one” or not. But what if he proposes after dating for two months? Maybe HE’S sure and you’re not. Everyone is different, and has different goals and desires in life, so how can you be sure that your partner is ready at the same time you are?
Well, of course you could TALK ABOUT IT. Before going out and getting a ring and planning a cheese-ball romantic proposal and inviting all your friends and family, consider having a down-to-earth discussion about the future with your girlfriend. This is the clear choice for everyone, I feel, because not only will you be SURE when/if it’s a good time to propose, but you might uncover some unpleasant truths by having a few serious conversations. Would you rather have an uncomfortable sit-down about children, finances, sex, and domestic roles today, or find out over the next two years that your wife wants very different things than you? A short dating period could ultimately lead to a short marriage if you don’t put in the effort early on. You might find out down the road that your wife wants 8 kids when you wanted 1, or she wants separate bank accounts when you want to share, or she wants an open relationship when you want monogamy. Now you kind of wish you’d held off on that proposal.
The point is, you can’t continue on with a shallow relationship and expect to know that she’s the one and now’s the time. In the video, a man mentioned first that he would ‘know if she was ready,’ and another say that “it takes a man to show you that you’re ready,” and that at the time of the proposal, “you might not be ready, but if you love me, then I will MAKE you ready.” This was rather upsetting to the ladies, and to me as a viewer.
“It takes a man to show you that’s you’re ready.”
Boy, I don’t think I could come up with a more condescending or misogynistic line if I tried. Let me state for the record, that I am not a notoriously hard-core feminist, or anti-man. Just anti-idiot, and that was a seriously idiotic line. The channel “Live from Layfield” commented about this guy, “you must think you’re God, because only God calls the unqualified and makes them qualified when they get there.” GIRL PREACH. REALLY.
It might sound at this point that we’re drifting from the original question, but this attitude is relevant because it exemplifies that male attitude of entitlement. Both in this video and in daily life, many men cannot take “no” for an answer. This attitude is the same one that says any woman who won’t date you is a bitch, and if she dates you but won’t have sex then she’s a prude, and if she talks to another man she’s a slut, and so on and so on. I understand that it takes a certain amount of courage just to ask a girl out, so I can only imagine the emotional investment in proposing marriage. But too many men seem to believe that their side of the story is the only one worth telling, and there feelings are the only ones that matter. It doesn’t matter if the girl doesn’t like you, how could she not even give you a CHANCE? It doesn’t matter if she’s not ready for marriage, how could she say “no” when you went out such a limb?
Well here’s the deal, you have no right to a date, or a night, or a marriage, with the girl of your choice simply because you chose her. And a woman has no obligation to a date, or a night, or a marriage with a man simply because she wants it. Would this every fly in the opposite direction? Can a woman demand that a man marries her because she wants it, even if he isn’t ready? Of course not, people would say she was pushy and needy and obsessive. Family and friends would encourage the man to break up with her, and rightly so, because that woman doesn’t care about your emotions like she does her own, and isn’t the kind of person you want to spend your life with. So why do so many women feel the need to accept a proposal they don’t want?
This all plays into the original question of, “if she says ‘no’ is the relationship over” because the men in the video all said “yes” and the women said “no.” Let’s explore that.
The proposal isn’t really a question
The men seem to feel utterly betrayed if a woman turned down their proposal, and believed that there was no room for explanations, forgiveness, or hope of salvaging the relationship. The proposal was the be-all and end-all, and if they didn’t get the answer they wanted right away, then they would be victimized and never recover. The women felt that it was totally possible to say “no” because the time wasn’t right, but you could remain in a relationship and revisit the possibility of marriage at a later date. The men couldn’t comprehend that a woman wouldn’t be ready at the same time they were, and personally, I cannot comprehend what they are struggling with.
Let me be clear here that not everyone is like this. A few years ago I went to a girlfriend’s wedding. Her now-husband had proposed more than once over the course of their dating relationship, and she had turned him down more than once, because she was young and wanted to accomplish some personal goals first. She wanted to finish college, to start her career, to move out of her family’s home and try living solo, among other things. And she did all of that, was satisfied, and then they were married. The end.
I don’t know any woman who would disagree with her actions, and say that she the man should have left her after she first turned down his proposal. To a woman, that kind of commitment is admirable, and will ultimately make their marriage even stronger. On the other hand, MANY men would say that the guy in this story was weak, or foolish, or whatever else, and should have left her at the very beginning. Because hey, she said wasn’t ready then, so she won’t be ready ever, and even if she was, who would want to be with her after that pain and rejection? Well, a loving husband, apparently.
If there were mixed attitudes on the panel in the video, I might believe that this question was an issue of personal belief, but it seemed very clear-cut that it is an issue of sex, and the attitudes that go along with each side. I’m not trying to mock the men in the video, but they really believed that they would KNOW if their girlfriend was ready, and even if she wasn’t, when he was ready, he would MAKE her feel the same. If that’s the case, then the proposal isn’t about the two of them coming together and agreeing to a life together. It’s just about the man’s feelings be validated, and the woman blindly following along and doing what he wants, no matter what. The men aren’t even really asking a question. They’re not PROPOSING a life together, they’re just asserting their desires.
I don’t know really where this attitude of entitlement comes from, since it seems to be present in men across all social, economic, cultural, and religious boundaries. It isn’t glorified in media, or at least not in any media I have consumed in the last 20+ years. It isn’t glorified by women, clearly, so they didn’t learn it from their mothers. Is it their fathers? Is it their friends? Is it natural? How could a boy and girl in the same family, with the same DNA and upbringing, grow to have two polar opposite views like the ones in this video?
Photo by Stacy Kokes Photography, via bridalguide.com