The First Rule of Proposing: Don’t Ask A Question You Don’t Know The Answer To

Matt Forney (he’s good, you should read him) posted this anecdote from a Yahoo! column concerning “love makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do” (btw wtf is with the cropped hairdo in that photo):

I went to bat for her engagement ring 
“My girlfriend and I had been together for about three years, and I was sure she was the one I wanted to marry. Problem was, I didn’t exactly have enough money to get her a good engagement ring. So, in order to raise funds, I put my collection of baseball trading cards on eBay. We’re talking a collection that spanned, like, 20 years, thanks to some cards handed down by my dad. I was totally bummed to part with them because they were so important to me, but I really, really loved this girl. I ended up making more than enough money to pay for a ring. Problem was, when I got down on one knee, she told me that she couldn’t see spending the rest of her life with me. I should’ve stuck with Shoeless Joe Jackson.”
— Owen, 26, Chagrin Falls, OH [The hometown of “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoonist Bill Watterson – B]

I have to admit, I find this guy’s nonchalant aw-shucks attitude towards this kind of a rejection to be an indictment of his healthy masculinity.

Besides that, there’s a few betariffic delusions this guy was laboring under.

The first delusion was that he had to buy an expensive bauble simply for the privilege of asking a woman to marry him, to the point he would hock family heirlooms to pay for it. I think the idea of “saving for a ring” if you are near-certain you want to marry someone is silly. It’s the beta-supplicant script, that he has to beg and plead for the approval of a woman (don’t get me started on getting down on one knee either). The “three months rule” is complete bullshit and frankly financially irresponsible. Buy what you can afford on the spot without serious financing; it most accurately reflects the material situation you’ll both be entering, you don’t want to set up the idea that you’ll be doing special financial favors for her to your own detriment for the rest of your life.

The second delusion was that proposals should come out of the blue so as to be maximally romantic. The basic principle of trial law is to never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. That also holds for marriage proposals – proper setup for a marriage proposal involves a lot of discussion about how you really feel about each other, where you see your futures going, what kind of life you want, how you feel about kids, sleep schedules, career dreams, and on and on. You don’t need to sit down with a list of “I’m not marrying anybody until we work out everything on this checklist,” but most of that stuff should be out in the open by that point. If it’s not, what kind of relationship have you been having? More like an extended hookup than a real long-term arrangement. A proposal should be a formality to an already-understood conviction that marriage is your future. A proposal should be a surprise, but not surprising. Her answer shouldn’t be a surprise either.

I’m hoping that as more videos of surprise proposals gone wrong flood the Internet, this false belief will dissipate. I’m not holding my breath though.

The third, and most fundamental, delusion was to believe that he and his girl were communicating the same things when they said “I love you.” I’m sure she told him she loved him a thousand times, and he took it to mean what he means when HE says “I love you” – which as he outlined above includes the desire to marry and to go to absurd lengths to express his love. This guy obviously believed cultural tropes that women are all about romantic “love” and long-term commitment and just can’t wait for a nice boy to propose to them. She was no doubt flush with positive emotions, but that didn’t extend to the desire to commit to him.

I don’t have any criticism of the woman involved – if she didn’t want to marry him she did the right thing saying no – but it can’t be ignored that if the shoe had been on the other foot, and she wanted to get married and he didn’t, she could shame and cajole him up and down the block and get an army of sympathy from people asking accusatory questions about why this “immature” guy wanted to “break her heart.”


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24 responses to “The First Rule of Proposing: Don’t Ask A Question You Don’t Know The Answer To

  1. Candide

    First rule is don’t do it. :D

    I watched a movie once with a proposal scene. I have no idea what the movie is anymore, but the guy had a real alpha move for a proposal. He banged her brains out, and as he was laying on top of her afterwards, he pulled out the ring and said “marry me”.

    Fuck this getting on one knee shit. If I were to propose, I’d do something like that. I kneel before nobody.

    Still, see rule #1.

  2. Old Glory

    Sounds like he missed the writing on the wall. Probably a relationship of convenience for her — and him somewhat, although he was blindsided in the end there. The better proposal would have been to give her a good ol’ Ring Pop. Remember those?

    That would have gotten the hamster spinning!

  3. FNG


    Somebody’s got to ask so it may as well be me. Pulled the ring out from where?

  4. Rock Throwing Peasant

    I asked my (future) ex to marry me after we’d discussed getting married for some time. Now, I didn’t exercise due diligence and properly interview her or calculate risk regarding obvious red flags (debt, mental illness, history of sexual abuse, etc.). This was pre-Red Pill. That said, I knew her answer and also didn’t buy a ring. I was never going to buy one and she had already offered to use a dead aunt’s ring (her side). In fact, I never bought her jewelry in the 11-12 years we were married. Closest thing was a bouquet of silk flowers on Mother’s Day with the flowers of our family in the arrangement. It could be pulled out every year to accent the living room.
    This guy obviously couldn’t read his gf. She was already one foot out the door and did him a favor. It’s an expensive lesson, but cheaper than divorce theft. He can always sell the ring back for ¼ of the price paid, because that’s what it’s likely worth. Seriously, if he could mis-read whether she wanted marriage, he was missing far more obvious clues.
    On a related note, I hear the new trend it to buy your prospective wife three months worth of Dutch tulip bulbs.

  5. Feminist Hater

    If you really, really have to get married and you are sure you have found the right lady, as impossibly fantasy like as that sounds, don’t buy the ring. Ask her for marriage and if she says yes, buy a ring later for a reasonable price. If she really is the right girl, she won’t mind and will be thankful that you want to spend the rest of your life with her.

  6. Buy up those bulbs quick before the bubble bursts!

  7. deti

    “A proposal should be a surprise, but not surprising. Her answer shouldn’t be a surprise either.”

    No public proposals of marriage should ever be made. The proposal must be in private. Not in a restaurant, an athletic stadium, or a shopping mall. There should be no cameras or recording devices within 100 yards of either of you.

    The proposal should be made in your audible words directed solely to her. Not on an airplane drag-banner, a Jumbotron, or a radio show.

    State it as a command or an imperative, not as a question. “Marry me” or “Let’s get married.” Not “Will you marry me?”

    The only acceptable answer to a proposal of marriage is an immediate and enthusiastic “yes”. Not “I don’t know”. Not “I need to think about it”.

    Any answer other than “yes” is “no”, and is the end of your relationship. If you are turned down for a marriage proposal, you should immediately leave, and immediately end the relationship. If you offered a ring, you should take the ring back.

  8. Candide

    FNG, I like your thinking :D

    Nothing fancy, just from the bedside table.

  9. Infantry

    I think Deti is on the money here. Its a pity good advice can rarely be taken unless you can ruthlessly lock down your emotions at will. A declination of a marriage proposal should set off a guy’s LJBF SOP (standard operating procedure).

    I like Candide’s proposal. Lets see her tell her friends how that one happened XD

  10. Taking a wife (‘getting married’ sounds like you lucked into it) should happen like the Second Coming of Christ. Those involved have had serious discussions about it and are agreed that it is a definite future event. The man knows the time and place.
    And I agree with Deti. It is a marriage imperitive. Not a proposal.

  11. Random Angeleno

    Dalrock has a couple of excellent posts on “interviewing” your prospective fiance. Required reading for any red pill taker who still contemplates marriage.

    Lawyers know the old saw about never asking questions unless the answer is already known; I’d say that applies to situations like the one in this post.

  12. “If you really, really have to get married and you are sure you have found the right lady, as impossibly fantasy like as that sounds, don’t buy the ring. Ask her for marriage and if she says yes, buy a ring later for a reasonable price.”

    I can’t find a flaw in this plan besides the betatastic self-interested retort of
    “girls want a ring and a big production when they get engaged.” (Essentially an extended form of “don’t do that or you won’t get laid.”) Women need to understand that with all the risks of marriage, his asking you to marry him to begin with is his putting massive chunks of his value on the table.

    “If she really is the right girl, she won’t mind and will be thankful that you want to spend the rest of your life with her.”

    Oh yes. She should be thrilled at the thought of spending the rest of her life with you; the shininess of a ring should be but a drop in the bucket by comparison. The idea that you are sweetening the deal, polishing the offer to get a more firm acceptance, by adding an expensive bauble sort of makes my stomach turn.

    Try telling the girls’ hamsters that though. It’s a bit like when prenups are discussed – there is much wailing about how marriage should be “all about love.” Then you say, if it’s about love and you love me, then why are you trying to secure the cash and prizes? They you realize you’ve walked into a hamster farm, where the normal rules of logic don’t apply and they’ll say anything to justify their entitlement to free shiny things.

    I wager a majority of women would curl their nose at a ring-less proposal – showing their true colors, for sure. And that just backs up the Manosphere conviction that there aren’t that many marriage-worthy girls out there.

  13. Gwen

    My husband and I both had checklists, actually, and we discussed them at length. It was good. I attribute a lot of our marital success to the fact that we had such in depth discussions about everything we both valued before we committed to each other. Not exactly romantic maybe, but very effective, and that’s what counts, isn’t it?

    His proposal wasn’t a surprise, except for the timing. We’d been watching a video and he casually said, “We should get married.” We’d been talking about marriage so much that I didn’t think anything of his statement, just replied, “Yeah, we should.” *sound of crickets* He nudged me. “That was a proposal, by the way.” Cries of delight and repeated yeses ensued.

    My engagement ring was a surprise. He gave it to me a week before our wedding. It was cubic zirconia. From Walmart. $30. I was ecstatic to have it. The only more precious possession I have is my wedding ring. Also $30. ;)

  14. just visiting

    @ Badger
    Ringless engagements are a dime a dozen. Every single woman that I have ever known who was shacked up with a guy (and having kids) was “engaged”. Sorry, but if there isn’t a ring and a date , it’s not an engagement. I’ve seen zero marriages result from such engagements.

  15. “Every single woman that I have ever known who was shacked up with a guy (and having kids) was “engaged”.”

    How does that have anything to do with what we’re talking about? Where have I advocated fake string-along engagements?

    This blog doesn’t cater to men (or women) shacking up with out-of-wedlock children. I highly advise against a man moving in with a woman until/unless marriage is imminent.

  16. just visiting,

    I mean, I get what you’re saying – from the female side, a woman should consider that the engagement might itself be a feint move, a fake agreement he has no intention of following through on. Thus receiving an expensive ring serves as a sort of endowment-effect signal, a sign that he’s “serious” about the whole thing.

    But in the macro sense, that produces a perverse economy of commitment – where good guys, who have no intention of dragging out or cancelling their betrothals, are told they have to spend a lot of money so she’ll believe that he’s a good guy. Demanding that guys have to make up for the sins of other guys is just going to turn more men away from the institution. Then we’re back to the same place as the guy who asks “why do I have to wait weeks when she slept with the frat guy the night they met at the party?”

    I have exactly zero concern that any man in my cohort who proposes marriage to a woman of his own volition, ring or not, has any intention of not marrying her or stringing her along. I have read some stories of women who cajoled their men into proposing (using the threat of the takeaway), but a serious guy shouldn’t respond to that, and a serious woman should ask why she’s with a guy who doesn’t want the relationship path she does, as that can only get worse with time.

    The “you need to show you are serious” thing goes both ways, and that’s the point I’m trying to make in this post – women need to understand that they, as a whole, have been walking out on marriages at a 2:1 clip, and so THEY need to find a way of showing they are serious about marriage, and as a whole they’re not really in a position to be demand large investments before the marriage even begins. If a woman can’t be honest with me about whether she wants to marry me until and unless I present a valuable object to her, I’m mighty skeptical she’s genuine.

  17. just visiting

    I get that. And I don’t advocate that a ring has to be splashy or expensive. And, a ring doesn’t mean anything without a date. I’ve been told by enough guys how they lock down a girl by giving her a ring, but have no intention of going through with it. The thing is, these are usually less expensive rings. So, if I had a daughter, and she tells me that shes engaged, but no ring or date…..or a small ring, but no date, or a date, but no ring, I’m going to think that the guy is full of it. I’m sorry Badger, but for us gen x types, this scenario played out way too often to ignore. It wasn’t the exception to the rule, it was the rule. And yeah, alot of the guys doing this were nice guys, but it was too easy for them to be flaky. And yes, women made it too easy for them to flake.

    If you want to get around the ring, then perhaps an older tradition. A betrothal ceromony, announcement in the paper, or in your church. Something that proves sriousness and intent.

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  19. jv,

    I don’t get what’s with the “I’m sorrys,” – do you think you are offending or shaming me by disagreeing?

    “I’ve been told by enough guys how they lock down a girl by giving her a ring, but have no intention of going through with it.”

    How many guys have told you this? Literally, what is the count? Because I have literally NEVER once heard a man tell me that this was his plan. Maybe it’s a demographic thing. I wager that a portion of these guys are simply responding to the woman’s pressure for marriage, setting up an engagement to silence the nagging – I do not think this is a primary male strategy.

    Going further, I have my doubts that those were the only signs the guy wasn’t serious or that the marriage wasn’t going to happen. There are some people for whom it’s clear that marriage and family is a goal of theirs – you can tell by the examples set by their parents and siblings, and who their friends are and how they speak of their lifestyles. Likewise, relationships and people that don’t go on to marriage have textbook flags and problems.

    Now, it’s not that I’m totally hostile to what you are saying. I have known friends in the “eternal engagement” state, and it irritates me that they keep basking in the attention of “when are you going to get married.”

    However, in the cases that I know, the reason they don’t up and marry isn’t because they want to hold out the option of backing away from things. It’s because they are in a marriage-lite already – living together, essentially 100% confident they’re going to spend the rest of their lives together (and overwhelmingly usually do). Because they already trust in the security of their commitment, they can delay the actual marriage ceremony until it’s “the right time,” whether that’s when they have the money, when their jobs are set, whatever.

    Modern society has suborned this kind of arrangement, particularly for the educated upper middle class, and in fact encouraged it by making marriage something you do not to start out your adult life but to show the world that you have “arrived” – a sort of adult debut – and pushed out the age at which people think they have entered real “adulthood.”

    Usually, I don’t buy those couples wedding presents. With the travel costs I pay to go to their eventual nuptials, I don’t feel the need to refresh their silverware stocks when they’ve started their “new life together” years ago.

  20. just visiting

    It would be the upper class marriage lite crowd that I’m referencing. Secure in the knowledge of their commitment, and waiting for the right time.

  21. just visiting

    And this is why, when I accepted my proposal, I had to accept the ring and the date. When I suggested that I would accept his proposal but that we should wait for the right time, I was was told in no uncertain terms that if I accepted the ring, I accepted the date. I was either serious, or I wasn’t.

  22. jv,

    Ah, all of a sudden we’re on the same page.

    “When I suggested that I would accept his proposal but that we should wait for the right time*, I was was told in no uncertain terms that if I accepted the ring, I accepted the date. I was either serious, or I wasn’t.”

    If a dude is serious about getting married, I expect him to arrive for the proposal the same way he would on a date – with a front-to-back plan for the whole thing, consulting her but not letting her turn it into a narcissistic me-party.

    If a dude is serious about getting married, he should want to get it done, because if marriage is the goal what’s the point of all the waiting through a prolonged engagement?

    Besides, a guy who defers to his fiancee on various terms of getting married is setting himself up for a soft fem-dom in the domestic sphere, and eventual smack by the hypergamy hammer.

    *This sounds vaguely like a fitness test – do you think that was your motivation? I’m sure his “take it or leave it” move increased your respect for his leadership?

  23. just visiting

    I had concerns about timing. His education, my business building and our relatively young ages. Though, I have to admit, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Best memories of my life. And Yes, His take it or leave it attitude increased my respect for his leadership.

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