Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the weekly column in which I dispense advice no one asked for to people who don’t even know who I am.
This week an interesting thought exercise arose when former Olympic skier and professional famous person Lindsey Vonn reportedly proposed to her boyfriend over Christmas. As it turns out, he had already proposed last fall. This was a “re-ask” of a sort, to make it “equal”, I suppose. Regardless, the situation got me thinking about the optics of a woman asking a man for his hand in marriage. And then I came across this on Facebook.
The advice gods seem to be telling me something, so I’ve decided to tackle this question this week for any women out there wondering: Should women be the ones getting down on one knee and proposing marriage?
The short answer is: ABSOLUTELY NOT.
The long answer is:
It sets the romantic hierarchy on its head from the beginning and sets a suboptimal tone for the relationship moving forward. There is a reason it has been up to men to propose marriage in our society since forever . Men are pursuers. They are conquerors. It’s evolutionary, biological, God-inspired…use whatever label you want. They all work.
Women are literally receivers and men are literally givers. Even our anatomy bears that out. Women are more likely to be primed for marriage. Our evolutionary/biological survival instincts drive us to seek out the stability and shelter of a committed relationship. Our bodies want to create families, but as the “weaker” sex we can only do that with the most safety within the boundaries of a provisional relationship. It may be a popular joke to label wives as the “old ball and chain” but there’s a reason that’s a cliche. Women are primed for stability. Even financial analysts will tell you that women take fewer risks with their money and financial futures. Those who make formal plans for their finances are more likely to stay with mutual funds or other long-term, low-risk investments. It’s in our blood.
Men have an evolutionary/biological calling to be providers, hunters. They are primed for the risks necessary to reap rewards. Again, financial analysts will tell you that men are more likely to take short term risks with their financial plans. We can fuss and fight about gender and “societal constructs” but that doesn’t make our nature any less real.
All this adds up to the complicated dance that we call “romance”. Like any dance it works best – and most beautifully – when one partner leads. That doesn’t make the other partner a “follower”. There is no dance at all without her. You might even say she is the choreographer. A good woman will help her man be a strong provider by setting him up for leadership from the start. A good man will be a strong provider by recognizing that the good woman he desires can only be won through effort. Nothing good comes easy. That includes love. That is exactly why we say things like, “She’s the kind of girl you bring home to mom”. That phrase isn’t talking about your one night stands. The woman who demands your respect through her countenance is the woman worthy of giving up the “freedom” of singlehood for.
Again, it’s a dance baked into our DNA.
When a woman gets down on one knee she thwarts that careful choreography. She becomes the lead. That may be all well and good for one moment on one day, but after marriage that woman will have to deal with a new dynamic that will eventually chip away at the natural structure of long-term commitment. A man needs responsibility, but the irony of it is that women are the arbiters of that responsibility. We bless them with the responsibility to be a provider and leader in the home, and in turn they rise to the occasion. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship when it works right.
Maybe some women get impatient and want to push things along, but if a man isn’t sure enough about you to propose he’s probably not going to be that much more sure after you propose. Men know what they want. Women need to let go of this idea that we can change a man’s desires if we’re aggressive enough.
When a woman proposes to a man she robs that man of the burden and blessing of responsibility. She robs herself of being thought of as a woman who’s love is worthy enough to be pursued, fought for and won.
The dance requires two people, equal in commitment, wearing the right dancing shoes and making the right moves…and it also requires someone to lead. When the pieces are in place the dance becomes so unequivocally magical that it will literally shape the landscape of an entire society, and the future of your own family.
Ladies, leave the proposing to the men. Trust me on this one. The tone of your marriage begins even before the word is ever first uttered in your relationship. Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success. If he’s not proposing quickly enough then maybe you need to think about moving on.