“How long should I wait for him to propose?”
What a great question—and so tough to figure out! Through my life so far, I’ve seen two extremes in responding to this question.
First Extreme: The girl who wakes up one morning, comfortable in a relationship that’s okay, but not nearly what she’s dreamed of, with a man who may or may not be interested in marrying her. And yet, she stays with him—month after month, year after year, silently waiting and hoping for something more.
Second Extreme: The girl who rushes herself and her boyfriend into a marriage relationship before they’re both ready. In this situation, the guy often feels bitter because he wasn’t ready for marriage yet, while the girl never actually enjoys the dating process, because she’s always rushing toward the future. (Of course, this situation can happen with the guy-girl roles reversed as well.)
I think there are four factors that influence the answer to the “How long should I wait for him to propose?” question. I encourage you to talk about these factors with God, your boyfriend and other people you trust as you decide what your personal answer is.
Factor #1: Your stage of life
One friend of mine dated her future husband for seven years. Seven years! It sounds like forever, right? But I haven’t told you the reason: They were 11 years old when they started dating. (For real!)
I have another friend who also dated a man for seven years (or longer). The difference was that she was in her late 20s when they started dating, already in a season of life where she could get married. She waited for ages, only to find one day that her boyfriend had no intention of ever marrying her.
Are you at a stage of life in which you can realistically get married? For example, if you’re in high school or college, you may need to wait a while. There’s no “perfect time” to get married, but there are legitimate reasons to wait; it’s just a matter of figuring out if your season of life is conducive to marriage. Friends, family and mentors can help you figure that out.
Factor #2: How well you know each other
When I started dating my second boyfriend (not my husband), my mentors encouraged us to date for nine months before we talked about getting married. They knew my tendency to rush forward toward marriage without really getting to know the guy.
“Getting to know someone well” means spending time together in a variety of settings:
- With his family and friends
- With your family and friends
- In both church and non-church settings
- In both small groups and large groups
- Perhaps even volunteering together, etc.
If you’re in a long-distance relationship and rarely get to see each other, it might take longer to decide if you’re right for each other. Talking over the phone is a wonderful way to get to know each other, but seeing each other up close and personal in real-life situations is something else entirely.
If you’ve spent plenty of time together, but still don’t know each other well, look at the kinds of settings in which you’re spending time together. Are you only spending time alone together, or only spending time with friends? Look for a balance between all areas of life.
It also takes time to get to know someone well.
One of my friends started worrying if her boyfriend would ever propose—after only six months of dating! That’s awfully quick to start worrying, especially because it usually takes guys longer than girls to figure out what they’re feeling.
My pastor used to say, “Wait until the googly feelings disappear before deciding to marry someone.” That’s because over time, and especially after romantic feelings have subsided a little bit, a person’s true personality and interests show up more clearly.
Once you know each other well, you’ll be better able to figure out if he is someone with whom you want to spend forever.
Factor #3: Your communication
Communication is the foundation for a good relationship. Are you guys able to work through disagreements and difficult situations with both honesty and kindness?
Along the same lines, have you talked about marriage? My husband, James, used to call it talking about “the trajectory of our relationship”—meaning where we saw our dating relationship going, and its possible timeline.
Ask your boyfriend about this. I hate to see girls just waiting for a man to propose instead of asking him where he sees their relationship going.
It can be frightening to straight up ask your boyfriend where he sees the relationship going, because who knows if you’ll like the answer! But it’s better than waiting for years, like my one friend did, only to find out she had to start all over.
With courage and God’s grace, begin having these conversations with your boyfriend:
- Ask where he sees the relationship going, and what his thoughts are on marriage.
- Listen openly, but also share your own feelings and desires honestly and kindly.
- See if you are on the same page. If you’re not, talk with him, as well as with mentors and people you trust, to figure out how to get on the same page…or if it’s time to move on.
Factor #4: Your motivation for marriage
When I was dating my first boyfriend (also not my husband), my dad asked, “Tiffany, why do you want to marry him?”
I didn’t understand the question at all. Uhh…because I wanted a husband and was in love with this handsome, band-performer, worship-leader, 6’3” man?
Now I better understand what my dad was asking.
Marriage is a God-given, beautiful desire, but our motivation for marrying a certain person can sometimes be caused by other things—things like fear.
In past relationships I’ve been motivated by the fear of being alone…of never being loved again…of the unknown future. I’ve thought, “Shouldn’t I grab him while I can? After all, he’s a good guy. I don’t know if I can find better!”
My friend Joel once told me, “We are not called to walk by fear, but by faith.” And 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” We can’t see the future, but we can believe that God is good as we make wise choices in the present moment.
I’ve realized that marriage can be absolutely amazing (which makes me so glad I waited until 29 to get married, even though it seemed to take forever!), but I’ve also seen it be incredibly difficult and painful for friends who married someone simply out of the fear of being alone.
Ask the Lord if your motivation for wanting to marry your boyfriend is based on faith in God’s goodness or in fear of the unknown. If it’s based on fear, begin to ask God (and wise adults whom you trust) how to work through that fear, because it won’t go away just by getting married. Changing circumstances can’t change our hearts.
I encourage you to not only pray about these factors, but also talk about them with adults that you trust, as well as close friends. See how long they think you should wait for him to propose, and whether or not you two are a good fit.
I hope these things can help you find your own personal answer to the question: “How long should I wait for him to propose?”