Welcome to Modern Etiquette, a brand new series where we ask the pressing questions of 2018.
This week we’re tackling a tricky, and timely question. What do you do when you reckon your OH is going to propose, but you definitely don’t want to get married?
Christmas is coming, and with it waves of proposals. Remember how in January you’d all come into school and talk about what toys you got from Father Christmas? Turns out that doesn’t stop, you just replace school with work and the question ‘what did you get for Christmas?’ with ‘So how did he pop the question?’
Perhaps it’s to save on buying more than one present, or maybe it’s because all the family are assembled, but Christmas is the most popular time to propose. According to Bridebook.co.uk, the highest numbers of proposals happen on 23 December, followed by Christmas Eve.
If you’re ready to get married then your engagement is often one of the happiest days of your life. But one sticky subject we don’t talk about often is what you do when you’re getting proposal vibes from someone you don’t want to get engaged to.
Maybe they’re a wonderful person and you’re not ready yet, or perhaps you don’t like the idea of marriage full stop. Either way, the stress of thinking that someone you love and respect is going to make themselves vulnerable (possibly in front of everyone you love) is scary stuff.
‘I knew my boyfriend was planning to propose three Christmases ago,’ said Kate*, 30, who is now married to the boyfriend in question. ‘I saw the ring payment on his bank statement. It was so stressful. I was terrified he’d do it in front of everyone. I spent all of Christmas worrying about it.’
So, how do you stop someone from popping the question?
As is so often the case (sorry guys) it’s about communication. Your partner shouldn’t be making all the decisions about your life together, and the choice to get married should be a mutual one that you’ve at least discussed a bit.
If you haven’t talked about the future yet, it’s time to start. It’s fine to act like you’ve got no idea they’re planning to propose as long as you’re nice about it.
Ideally you would have an open and honest conversation about how you don’t want to get engaged, and give them a time frame for when you might feel differently. But if you can’t face doing that, saying things like ‘I love things the way that they are’ and ‘I could imagine feeling ready to get engaged in a year or so’ gives all the opportunity they need to put the proposal on the backburner.
Asking your partner not to propose doesn’t mean you have to break up. As long as you’re both honest about your needs and expectations, and willing to compromise it’s perfectly possible to continue your relationship.
‘In the end,’ says Kate, ‘I told my husband that I knew he was going to pop the question and said that I didn’t feel ready. He was upset, I won’t lie. I reassured him that I did want to get engaged, just not yet, and asked him to wait a while. Eventually, a year later, I told him that I felt ready. I admit, it did mean that the way we got engaged was less romantic, but it was the time frame which suited us, and I’m so glad we did it this way.’
Just like Kate found, putting someone off from proposing might come at the expense of a super romantic, dramatic proposal. But then, getting engaged is such an exciting, romantic experience that you might find that doesn’t matter.
As we so often conclude in Modern Etiquette, communication is key here. You should be discussing your respective hopes and plans for the future throughout the relationship, not waiting for the other person to make the decision.
The most important thing is not to bury your head in the sand and then say ‘yes’ to a proposal because you feel obliged to. Planning a wedding is an expensive process and you don’t want to find yourself trying to get out of an engagement several months in because you were too polite to say no.
If you do find yourself in that situation, Metro.co.uk’s Sally Biddall has laid out all the realities of calling off a wedding.
Modern Etiquette is a weekly series. Rather than telling you what to do with a salad crescent or which shoes are most appropriate for Ascot, we’ll be working out how to navigate shared houses, drugs, ex-boyfriends and that moment when you send the screenshot of the person you’re bitching about to them.
In the festive finale of the first Modern Etiquette series we’ll be addressing all the etiquette issues which come with Christmas, including hating a present, hating your siblings and hating Christmas lunch.