How Long Is Too Long to Wait for an Engagement Ring?


Marriage proposal

Depending on what you’re talking about, eight years isn’t really a big, long stretch of time. Eight years at a job won’t qualify you for any real perks besides more vacay time and a fully vested retirement plan. Eight years in a home barely puts a nick in the 30-year mortgage used to purchase it, and even an eight-year jail bid isn’t the end of the world — to a person not serving the time, of course. But eight years in a relationship where your man has never popped the question? Now that’s a whole other story.

For the better part of a decade, I was expecting the same thing on every gift-giving holiday: an engagement ring from my then-wonderful but slow-to-commit boyfriend of eight years. Eight long years. Eight long, proposal-free years. Homeboy made presents of a gorgeous leather jacket, some electronics, and several pairs of fabulous shoes, but that elusive velvet box never crossed my palm. So I waited. And waited. And waited a lil' more.

Even though he was an excellent father figure to my daughter and my family adored him, the frustration of being habitually unengaged started to wear on my self-esteem. What about me was so unmarry-able? How could I manage to let so much time fly by without demanding that this man make a decision about our relationship? One day I looked up, and I was hanging on to my 20s by a spindly little thread. In fact, 30 was pulling into my driveway and getting ready to knock on the front door. Eight years was a lot of emotion and experiences gone down the tubes if we never took that walk down the aisle, but being encouraged by episodes of I Propose was borderline pitiful.

Back in that day, I fell in love with a man who seemed like he was handpicked for me by God. After being given so much time to think, I wondered if this couple was going to live happily ever after or if the noble heroine was destined to die an old maiden. (I couldn’t qualify as a cat lady because I don’t like cats. Maybe, in my spinster-dom, I could be a world-class sweater knitter instead.)

That marathon relationship ended about three years ago, and what I learned from it has informed the decisions in my new dating life. Love is great but I had to start being strategic if my ultimate goal is to get married. Sometimes women — especially Black women — are so caught up in the being smitten part that we give everything of value away before a dude is forced to seal the ultimate commitment we’re looking for. We give up sex before he pops the question. Heck, sometimes depending on what our hormones are telling us, we give it up before we’re even sure he’s hubby material. We move in together and split bills and open joint bank accounts. All the accoutrements of married life are splayed out in front of him, ready and available to play house without him actually being forced to get married.

That adage about buying the cow might be old, but age doesn’t make it any less applicable in 2011 than it was when the great mind who thought it up coined it way back when.

When I finally decided to break ties with the marathon man, it was like the good Lord put me in a chokehold and made me take a realistic look at the situation I was banking my future on. The possibility of marriage, like my faith in the relationship, was fading fast. Between my frustrated outbursts, I realized that I needed to evaluate my good qualities as a reason to leave instead of using his as a reason to stay.

That wave of self-empowerment obviously didn’t come quickly. And I have to admit, when I saw what was waiting for me on the other side of singledom after an eight-year hiatus — guys with bad teeth, dumpster breath, and no manners along with upwardly mobile playboys with too many girls to choose from — I found myself somewhere between discouragement and sheer fright, depending on who hit on me that particular day.

When I met my current boyfriend I let him know, early and upfront, my expectations about marriage so no one would be wasting their time. I have to believe that God wants better for me than to be someone’s Guinness Book girlfriend, and I have to want that for myself, too. After investing so much hope into a previously hopeless relationship, I can finally say those two magical words I’ve been waiting so long to say: I do.

So, how long is too long to be in a relationship without a proposal if you’re looking to get married?


Image via LifeHouseDesign/Flickr

love, dating, dating mom, marriage, single moms


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Beths... Bethsunshine

IMO, after a year  of an exclusive dating relationship, if he hasn't popped the question, he's not going to. It blows my mind how many women will allow themselves to be strung along for years by someone who obviously has no interest in committing to marriage.

My husband proposed after we had been dating for 8 months. He said he was thinking of proposing to me at Christmas, but we had only been together for 4 months at that point, and he was afraid I would said no. I've told him that I would have said yes in a heartbeat!!! I knew very early on in our relationship, within the first few weeks, that he was the one.

MotoStar MotoStar

I disagree Beth.

My hubby didn't propose to me for almost 4 years. However, he did always tell me that we would be together forever.

It depends on the situation.

Lynette Lynette

one, maybe 2 yrs.  And you are right they propose much faster if you wait for sex till marriage.  DH proposed to me on our 1yr anniversary.

nonmember avatar jen

Beth - your belief that anything short of a proposal within one year implies that he will never ask is absurd. MOST normal people wait more than year. A year is nothing in the grand scheme of life. I don't believe it's possible to truly know everything about someone and your relationship in less than year. That's not to say however that getting engaged quickly implies you won't make it. I am just saying for many people it takes much more than 1 year to decide to commit to someone for the rest of your life. It's a huge decision and should not be taken lightly.

Beths... Bethsunshine

jen, it's my OPINION and if you don't like it, that's up to you. My parents were together 5 months before they got married and they've been married for 41 years. My husband and I have been married for 15 years. If that makes us "not normal" then I'm proud to wear that title!

nonmember avatar Annabee

Jen: That's kind of the point of not waiting for years for a proposal. You get engaged BEFORE you know every single thing about a person. Nobody is perfect and chances are the longer you're with someone, the more you are exposed to their imperfections, which will unltimately make someone pull out of the relationship. It doesn't take long to ask and find out about major deal-breaking subjects, and should not take YEARS to study and learn a person's character. Also, it can take an eternity to know "everything" about the other person. Getting engaged and married says "I commit to you and accept you just the way you are."

Jesse... JessecaLynn

Ideally I wouldn't have had to wait more than 4 years but I waited 7 before we got engaged and married.  It didn't have anything to do with me, my husband was scared.  Getting married is a big deal and a life changing decision.  I would have liked to have gotten married sooner but our first years of marriage would have been very shaky since he had to move to MO for a job while I stayed in WI for school.

Now on the other hand my sil just got married last year after waiting 12 years!!!!!  Yeah it was getting to the point of either do it or go your seperate ways.  They loved each other but he didn't want the whole production of marriage.  

bsawy... bsawyer84

Some of you have such set ideas on length of time and engagement and sex and whatnot. Each relationship is different and evolves at it's own pace. It's when you no longer feel it's evolving that the relationship is done. My partner and I have been together almost 5 years, friends for 5 years before that. We'll get married, and it won't be for all the wrong reasons like, "our religion says so", or, "it's just the thing people do". We'll be getting engaged and married because we want to celebrate our relationship with our friends and family. The day will be about everyone, not just us, and the party will be the best bash of the decade!

nonmember avatar India

My fiancee just propsed to me last month after a baby and 28 months of dating, he had been ready but said I was too impatient n rode him about it, lol it was def worth the wait though. There is a time though when its gets old waiting and anything much longer that 2-3 yrs is that time, if he can't commit by then he probably never will.

butte... butterflymkm

Hmm we got engaged after being on again off again for a couple years and then after living together for a solid year. My father told me never to marry someone you haven't lived with first. We are still engaged after almost three years though not because we don't want to get married we just can't afford a wedding right now. I think every relationship is unique. And I think most woman can tell the difference between a relationship where you are still getting to know each other and a situation where he doesn't want to step up. At least I hope most women can tell.

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