How Can I Get My Boyfriend to Propose?

November 13, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

Dear Kathy,

I have been with my man for 9 years and we have 3 kids together. We operate as a married couple in every sense of the word except for the fact that we’re not married. I feel like I’m in perpetual limbo with him and it’s embarrassing.

At the beginning of our relationship, we used to talk a lot about getting married when we saved enough money to do it right. I don’t even care about a big wedding anymore. I just want to get married. We could do it at a church hall or Central Park and I’d be happy with that.

For the past few years, we get into nasty fights whenever I bring up the topic. At first, he tries to placate me by telling me that it’s just a piece of paper and he loves me and our family. Then, if I persist, he tells me I’m acting crazy and that I’m the one causing problems in our relationship. We don’t talk to each other for days afterwards sometimes and I suspect that he’s secretly relieved because he doesn’t have to deal with me.

My parents are planning a big celebration for their 40th wedding anniversary in March and I’m dreading attending. My two married sisters as well as my married cousins will all be there and I am humiliated to be showing up at yet another family gathering with my “boyfriend” and our 3 kids, especially  an event celebrating marriage and family.

I know he loves me and the kids, I don’t doubt that. I just can’t understand why he won’t fully commit to me and make me his wife. If it’s only a piece of paper to him, then what’s the big deal? How can I get my boyfriend to propose? I would dearly love to walk into my parents’ party with an engagement ring and a wedding date.


Dear Shemida,

     There is nothing you can do to get your boyfriend to propose. The ball is entirely in his court. You do, however, have a decision to make.

There are three options: (1) continue living with him and arguing about the situation, (2) continue living with him and accept the status quo, sans arguing, or (3) draw a line in the sand and tell him that the only way you will continue to live with him is as his wife, officially. If you choose to exercise option no. 3, he may or may not propose. If he doesn’t and you stick to your guns, the relationship will end.

I encourage you to obtain counseling as you process your feelings. Once you make a decision regarding your relationship with your boyfriend, I suggest that you see a couples therapist together. Whether you continue the relationship or end it, it will help both of you as well as your children during this transitional time. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a particularly powerful theoretical approach for couples and I highly recommend it.

You are facing an intensely personal decision and I support you in taking the path that feels most authentic to you. Don’t worry about what other people think. This is your life and, ultimately, you are the one who will face the day-to-day reality of your choice. I wish you the best of luck. Please update me on your situation.

My very best,