Ask Team Practical: Women Proposing To Men

My boyfriend and I have been together for eight years and have talked about getting married several times. We’re completely committed to each other and we’ve both agreed that we see ourselves together and married in the long term. After reading an APW post on proposing to your boyfriend and conquering my nervousness, I decided that’s what I wanted to do. Hooray, right?

About seven months ago, however, he got a serious injury. He is expected to recover fully, but it has been a difficult half year full of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy, chiropractors, more doctors’ appointments, and so on, and it isn’t over yet. Progress is slow, and it has taken a toll on his mental health. I wouldn’t say he’s full-on depressed, but it has made him prone to some serious blue and anxious spells, and all of his (and much of my) energy is focused on this issue right now.

During a period of time in this ongoing recovery when he was feeling a bit better, I approached an artist about creating an original piece of work where the proposal is embedded. The final product isn’t done yet, but I expect it will be within a few weeks. My original intention was to propose around our anniversary, which is now within a month. My question is, is this a terrible time to do this?

One the one hand, of course I wish he was feeling better and more himself and that our life was more its normal self. I hate the idea of asking him and having it be overwhelming given everything else that he’s dealing with. On the other, I’m excited about this and—especially without knowing how long a full recovery will take—dislike the idea of waiting indefinitely. Is this selfish?


My dear M,

Wanting to be happy is never selfish unless it is at the expense of anyone else involved. Just the mere act of you asking that question and considering your boyfriend’s feelings makes you not selfish, so let’s just get that little piece of self-loathing out of the way right now, shall we? Good. Now on to the question.

Society uses The Proposal as the benchmark for engagement. This means that there is the culturally sanctioned comfort in knowing that when one of you proposes with The Ring, you will be engaged (squee!). Add to that the fact that waiting for the Official Moment of Engagement can be, well, full of emotional turmoil, and you have a recipe pushing you towards getting engaged NOW NOW NOW. Here is the trick though: being engaged does end the “limbo” of pre-engagement, but it also puts you into the limbo of an engaged couple, which can be a thousand times better, but worse in its own way. (Funny how that works.) So, before you do anything else, take a moment to confirm that you want to get engaged because you want to get engaged, not because you think it will solve all your problems (pro-tip: it won’t).

Now, let’s move on to the fact that you (and all of us) are a feisty, kick-asstastic, barrier-breaking woman, and you (in particular) are saying “Eff convention,  I’ll propose instead!” This is excellent. We applaud you (fact: the APW staff is actually giving you a standing ovation). The thing is, deciding to propose throws you into a whole mess of other emotions and insecurities, the bulk of which, as any man or LGBTQ partner who’s proposed can tell you, is nerve-wracking. And of course, this is totally normal. This is what men-who-traditionally-propose have gone through since the dawn of time. And the great thing about women having more power over our lives, is that we also have more responsibility and worry. I say that’s a great thing, but it also sort of sucks. Tricky.

I wish I could come up with advice for you and all the other brave ladies who are proposing, but this is one of the most personal decisions you’ll ever make. So the simple truth is, there is no answer I can give you other than ponder it with your head and your heart, and then go with your gut. (And re-read this post on women proposing to men.) Remember: there is no one good time to propose. You just have to trust yourself and your relationship, and then make that giant wonderful leap. Hell, there’s no reason either one of you has to propose at all; you are engaged when you both decide that you are engaged. APW is full of people who got engaged with make-shift rings, off-hand comments and engagement puppies. They are proof that engagements, like wedding, come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are right and wonderful.

However, if you want a proposal, do yourself and your partner a favor and realize that the moment may not be what you imagine it to be. Yes, you want it to be special, but, darlin’, the moment you decide that you are engaged is special—whether there’s doves and violins and sunsets and mariachi bands, or a conversation in a grim room at a hospital. A proposal can even go terribly awry and still be amazing because OH MY GOD, YOU’RE ENGAGED!!!

But in the end, regardless of when you propose, or if you do at all, the both of you should think about going to counseling. Even if you haven’t had any marriage talks, have you had talks regarding your future in general since the accident? Your life may never be its “normal self” again, and you both may need to mourn that. A healing body takes a lot out of a person and makes it harder for an injured or sick person to feel anything but “I wish I were better.” Any kind of illness has long reaching effects and it’s best to talk to someone while your partner is having his blue spells and before he gets “full-on depressed.”

But if you do propose, you will come back and let us be your cheering section, right? Because we really want that. Good luck, lady. We’re with you in spirit.


So what do you think, Team Practical? How do you decide on when to propose?

Photo of reader Emily’s wedding by Rima Campbell Photography from the APW Flickr stream.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). We’re not kidding. It brings us joy. What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!

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