Here is a rule we all ought to be able to follow: If you want to marry someone and they have not asked you yet, ask them to marry you. Do not, under any circumstances, issue an ultimatum.

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Believe this—in spite of a recent xoJane call-to-arms, which insists that while ultimatums get a bad rep, they sometimes work out just great.

Lea Grover writes that she knew she wanted to marry her boyfriend after two months. They were a great fit, and spent the subsequent year getting to know each other more deeply; it seemed like they were both heading toward locking it down. But after dating a year-and-a-half, he still hadn’t asked. Then they shacked up, and he still didn’t ask.

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I held my breath through my birthday, but a proposal didn’t come. Finally, I couldn’t stand the suspense.

“You know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, right?” I asked him.

He knew.

“So here’s the deal. You have to pull your head out of your butt and propose to me before your birthday. Got it?”

He laughed, and agreed, sure, he got it. I figured I could wait four months.

For two months, no one said a word. Then, Grover got, well, pushy:

I began casually asking him to marry me at random times, and he refused to answer the question. I hoped maybe hearing somebody else say it occasionally would make it easier for him to spit the words out. After all, he knew I’d say yes. And I knew he was as in love with me as I was with him. Or almost, at any rate.

Then he finally asked her on Independence Day, she said yes, and happy ever after commenced. Well, not exactly: the next day while playing softball, he collapsed and had to be transported to the ER where it was discovered he had a stage four glioblastoma—brain cancer.

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It is for this reason Grover feels her ultimatum actually makes sense:

If we hadn’t been engaged, I don’t know what we would have done. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to advocate for him, I wouldn’t have been granted the access to his care I needed by the hospital, the pharmacy, his insurance.

As “the fiancé,” I fought his HMO for coverage for his brain surgery, and for his continued treatment at an out of network hospital. As “the fiancé,” I was able to negotiate his way into an experimental medical trial, which extended his projected life span from months to years.

While I don’t doubt the relief she felt being able to care for him through this incredibly difficult time, it’s a strange 20/20 victory dance. Yes, he very well might have let that brain tumor get in the way of making her wish come true. Or he might’ve proposed immediately after the coast was clear. Hard to say. In conclusion, Grover contends that sure, ultimatums are not the best choice, but, hey! [waves wedding ring].

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So listen—I’m genuinely glad the writer’s now-husband is okay. I think she means well. I think knowing what you want out of a relationship is a good thing.

However, there’s an incredibly entitled, determined I’m going to get my ring vibe to this essay, particularly when Grover sets up that her partner not wanting marriage exactly when she did could only be interpreted as dragging his feet—as a situation that needed remedying because he must be having trouble getting the words out. I would love to read his counterpoint to this essay, which might’ve been called something like, “Hey, I Did Want to Marry Her, I Just Needed a Minute!”

I gotta say, these commenters are absolutely nailing it on the clarity of the issue. Jackie Paper says:

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I think there are a few situations where it’s appropriate. If you’re watching your biological clock tick away and you’re with a partner who is being wishy washy, I think you have the right to say, essentially, shit or get off the pot. Nobody wants to waste their time. But it definitely depends on the situation.

But then she correctly amends that there is a huge difference between an ultimatum and a frank conversation about where a relationship is headed. It’s one thing to say “Ask or else!” and another thing to say something like: “I’m not sure if we want the same things, so let’s be honest with each other and figure out whether you just need time or it’s best to part ways.”

Another glaringly obvious solution to this is to simply take matters into your own hands. Women: you can propose to men. I promise you can! Don’t do it “casually” as Grover did, which was clearly not a serious proposal and frankly seems vaguely harassing. Do it up right, like you mean it. Yeah, some men might balk, but that’s telling enough, no?

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While it’s worth noting that men probably do sometimes “take forever” to pop the question, perhaps because they know they can, what’s so great about flipping the script is that it puts the power in both your hands. And no matter what the answer is, you’ll have gotten there fair and square—no medical emergency needed to justify it.


Animation by Bobby Finger, image via Shutterstock.