We've all seen the rom-coms: Girl dates guy; girl asks guy where relationship is going; guy freaks out; girl eats ice cream; guy realizes he's wrong, and they ride happily into the sunset as a song by Train plays in the background.
Real life doesn't always follow a script -- and sometimes guys just don't know how to take a relationship to the next level. Does that mean you need to take the reigns and make your guy propose?
"In a healthy relationship, a discussion of engagement should evolve naturally," says psychotherapist and divorce expert Deborah Hecker, Ph.D. "However, if that is not the case, one should express their needs directly and honestly to their partner."
Easier said that done. How can you bring up marriage -- and impose a deadline -- without freaking him out? It's all about how you do it, so we asked Dr. Hecker to give a few tips.
When to Bring It Up
Every relationship is different, so there's nothing saying that you need to bring up marriage at any certain point. That said, you're only going to freak him out if you've only been dating for a few months.
"Ask yourself, how well do I know my partner?" Dr. Hecker tells Yahoo! Shine. "If a partnership has developed to where the important aspects that make up a marriage -- compatibility, honesty, mutual respect for differences, children, finances, compromise -- have been explored, then, yes, it is the right time to raise the conversation about formalizing their commitment."
How to Bring It Up
Directly and honestly, says Dr. Hecker. If your relationship is healthy, you shouldn't feel scared or worried about bringing up a long-term commitment with your partner.
"These are the key components of a successful partnership," she says. "One should step up to the plate, allow themselves to be vulnerable and not mince their words."
What to Say to Him
The truth. Again, you should feel comfortable revealing your true feelings to your partner.
"Say something like 'I love you very much. I have given our future together much thought and want to get engaged. Do you think in terms of bringing our relationship to the next level as well?'" Dr. Hecker says.
But, don't dominate the conversation. Give him room to bring up his concerns about what you're saying and how he feels about marriage.
"However difficult it may be to hear what your partner has to say, this is a perfect opportunity to encourage him to be radically honest about his feelings and for each of you to take ownership of what level of commitment he has to your relationship," Dr. Hecker says.
Then, back off and wait.
What If He Doesn't Propose By the Deadline?
You have to be prepared to live up to your ultimatum and decide if it's worth staying in the relationship.
"Even those with a strong sense of self can feel crushed if their partner responds with 'I am not ready,'" Dr. Hecker explains. "On the other hand, if one can move past the immediate hurt this can be an opportunity to become closer with one's partner by talking honestly about the impasses he has to moving forward."
But, what if he says he'll never be ready? It's time to move on.
"The time has come for one to take charge of their life and move on," Dr. Hecker adds. "Real security and rootedness comes from being able to turn to oneself to weather the ups and down of life. To thy own self be true!"
Tell us: Did you give your guy a proposal ultimatum? How did it work out?
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