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Do You Really Need to Say 'Will You Marry Me?'


I'm sorry; am I missing something?

I always thought a proposal was really just a pro forma question. At a certain point in a relationship, both parties know they are going to get married. There are details to work out —where, when, how — but the actual fact is not in dispute. It's nice when there's a formal, "Will you marry me?" on a bended knee, if possible, but I thought it was just formalizing a foregone conclusion.

Boy, was I wrong!

We recently heard from Chuck who'd been dating Laura for two years. He loved her and hoped she'd change her mind about never wanting to marry. She did. She got engaged to someone else and never bothered to tell him.

And here's Troy who says he met "a very attractive woman" at a downtown club. He lived a hefty commute away, but he would drive into the city every weekend to see her. They would spend most of the weekend together.

"It was more than a casual relationship. Many late nights ended in hotel rooms, since we were both still living with our parents."

One night Troy arrived at Maria's house, and when he got there, her younger sister told him she was "out with her other boyfriend."

"I thought it was just a case of little sister running her mouth like she usually did. But she insisted that there was another guy who knew nothing about me and who thought he was Maria's boyfriend. Now mind you, I was madly in love with Maria."

When she got home, Troy asked her where she'd been.

She was less than forthcoming. When he pressed her, she said she'd been "out with a friend." He told her what her younger sister had told him.

"I told her she had two weeks to tell the guy about me and end it with him, if there was anything going on with him at all. She denied that there was. I called her after a week had passed to see if she had done it. She claimed she couldn't get a hold of him. I told her she had one week left to do it or I was gone.

"A week later she admitted she still hadn't done it, so I told her I couldn't see her anymore. This was tough because as I said, I was crazy about this girl. But I knew I couldn't continue with things as they were."

A year later, Maria called Troy, "out of the blue."

"In a kind of a joking way, I asked her if she was married yet. I then find out she was getting married three days later to the guy! Like they say in sports: If you have to lose, you always want it to be to the eventual champion. I never heard from her again, but during that phone call, she told me that if I had proposed, she would have accepted. I didn't quite believe it because she was seeing two guys at the time. It seems like men aren't the only ones who can play two sides of a fence when it comes to relationships."

Did you get or give a formal proposal or was it just assumed you'd get married? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to To find out more about Cheryl Lavin, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit



4 Comments | Post Comment
I think the proposal is much more than just a formality. It lets the other person know you're serious about marrying them rather than assuming that they just know, and assuming you know how they feel. It doesn't matter how it's done or who does it, as long as it's appropriate for the couple involved. But if neither party ever says to the other, "Will you marry me?" how is it official?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Cheryl
Sat Apr 7, 2012 3:22 PM
My husband and I never said those words. It was a gradual process. Since we're going on 37 years of marriage, I guess it's official.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Sat Apr 7, 2012 4:01 PM
If it's NOT a foregone conclusion, then don't ask; you're running a better than 50/50 chance of killing the relationship, and that's the good news.
Comment: #3
Posted by: "Hank"
Sat Apr 7, 2012 7:02 PM
As Joannakathryn points out, not every couple needs to say those exact words -- the "proposal" takes place over time with a series of increasing steps toward commitment.

If you're not seeing those -- and as I recall, Chuck offered no evidence that Laura had EVER indicated she was moving toward commitment -- it's a pretty safe bet that the other party isn't inclined toward committing to you, so "assuming" is dangerous. If, on the other hand, you're together more often than not and your time together includes regular discussion of shared future Yetogether, and action toward making that shared future happen, then the proposal is more formality.

Yeah, I had a proposal. We'd been together in college, but found jobs in communities 6 hours apart by car, longer by bus.

Comment: #4
Posted by: hedgehog
Mon Apr 9, 2012 3:57 AM
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