“Well, you know, we haven’t like, talked, talked about it, but I’ve been making it pretty clear.”
One couldn’t help but worry to hear a friend of a friend at a party talking about her engagement plans. Not her engagement plans as a couple, not her partner’s thoughts. Just her engagement plans. Hinting and prompting is, unfortunately, still a way that some women try to procure an engagement—and it’s not a good idea. "Dropping hints about getting engaged is not really a direct, healthy way to handle an engagement,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, tells Brides. Deciding to get engaged is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life—do you really want to leave it to hints?
Meet the Expert
Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist with over 20 years of experience. As a counselor with advanced clinical training and expertise in relationship struggles she has contributed articles to a variety of leading publications.
And we know that it may not feel romantic to sit down and have a long talk about engagement—but it’s still important to do. There will be plenty of time for romance when the engagement actually happens and during all of the wedding planning (not to mention the wedding itself). But before that, before the whirlwind of romance, consider talking about it. Really talking about it. Here’s why hinting you want to get engaged isn't the way to move your relationship forward.
First, hinting that it’s time for your partner to buy a ring or pop the question takes away your agency in the situation—it’s really old-fashioned, but not in the right way. “It harkens back to a different time when there was more of a power imbalance between men and women,” Hartstein explains. “Men called the shots a bit more and really held the reins in the relationship. If a woman wanted something to happen she often may have found herself dropping hints or using some other indirect method of communication.”
Is that really something that we want to bring back? We have better, more direct communication methods available to us—shouldn’t we use them? And, more than that, just hinting and suggesting makes it sound like the decision is totally out of your hands. “It is also a style of communication that suggests that the ball is entirely in the man’s court,” Hartstein says. “He decides if and when a couple gets engaged and she just has to wait.” You don’t just have to wait. It’s your life—so if it’s important to you, then you should make some moves toward making it happen. And that starts with an honest conversation.
You Shouldn’t Put Pressure on Without Explanation
You have every right to want to get engaged. If you’re at a certain point in your relationship and you’ve always been clear about what you wanted, then it’s totally natural to want a proposal. But if you just start dropping hints without having a proper dialogue, your partner might feel that there’s pressure coming from nowhere—especially if they’re not feeling quite ready for an engagement yet. It’s not fair to just start hinting and nudging about such a huge decision without talking it through. And there’s a good chance that they’ll feel stressed out by it—in fact, they may even resent you for it. You don’t want a looming engagement to tear your relationship apart. If you have an open conversation, you can keep things from becoming toxic or stressed.
It’s a Huge Decision
Finally, it’s a big deal. A really big deal. And any big decision, like getting engaged, warrants a real discussion. “Relationships are very different nowadays,” Hartstein says. “They tend to be more egalitarian and major life decisions, such as an engagement, should be decided by the couple as a team. If the woman is simply waiting for the man to pop the question, then it suggests that this huge life step isn’t actually something that they are evaluating as a couple. This is a big life step—discuss it outright.” Sit down and check in about where you both are, how you’re both feeling, and what your expectations are. You need to talk about what getting engaged and married means to both of you—if things will change or if you’re both ready. And if getting engaged soon is really important to you, then say it. As a couple, you should be a team—that means talking it through and making sure you’re both on the same page.
Getting engaged is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make—it’s agreeing to marry someone, to be tied to them legally and, theoretically, forever. It’s easy to joke about dropping hints or nudging your partner toward the kind of ring you like, but it’s too big for that. If you want to get engaged, talk to your partner about why it’s important to you and why you think it should be happening soon. Be honest and direct. If you want the spontaneity and the romance, you can get that in the actual proposal. And, if all goes well, there will be plenty of time for it throughout your marriage. But, to create a strong foundation for the rest of your life, you should start with a grown-up conversation.