Jezebel reports on yet another advice book for women on how to force encourage their partners to propose to them. The charmingly titled The Get-Your-Man-to-Marry-You Plan: Buying the Cow in the Age of Free Milk, written by Lori Uscher-Pines, takes the Rules approach, encouraging mind games and blatant manipulation to get what you want out of your partner, in this case a diamond ring and a wedding date. Much of Uscher-Pines’ advice isn’t exactly revolutionary: she recommends against getting your friends to browbeat your partner into proposing, or having an emotional meltdown whenever the word “wedding” is mentioned in your presence. This is great advice if you want him to think you’re a complete fucking lunatic, not so much if you want to him to consider making an honest woman out of you. The “Do” advice ranges from reasonable (“give him an opportunity to discuss his fears about marriage”) to bullying (“proceed to shoot down all of those fears”) to passive-aggressive (“stop doing stuff around the house so he gets a taste of what life would be like without you”) to downright calculating (“force his hand by claiming you’re thinking about moving away, even if you’re not”). The message is clear: as long as you’re ready to get married, it’s always the right time to get married.
Gender stereotypes remain alive and well in relationship advice books. Women are obsessed with getting married, men are incapable of knowing what’s best for themselves. According to The Get-Your-Man-to-Marry-You Plan, it’s not that men don’t want to get married, it’s that they don’t know they want to get married. Any reasons they may have to avoid it, even something so simple as they’re just not fucking ready yet are merely excuses to avoid growing up and making real commitments to their partners. It’s up to women to systematically minimize or disregard entirely those reservations (Uscher-Pines even recommends telling your partner you’ll do without a ring if money is his issue) until they finally get the results they want: a resigned, defeated sigh and “Okay, fine, let’s get married.” Victory!
Within the publicity notes for The Get-Your-Man-to-Marry-You-Plan is this ironic statement: “Pushing for a proposal is about female empowerment, and this must-have guide will help the reader take control of her personal life without giving up the romantic, “then-he-got-down-on-one-knee” moment she’s always imagined.” I’m not really sure what’s so empowering or romantic about cajoling someone into marrying you, but okay. The thing is, do you really want to marry someone who essentially had to be pushed into it? Is that a solid start to what’s supposed to be a lifetime commitment? Is this how every major life change as a couple–buying a house, having a baby, changing jobs, etc.–will be handled, you’ll state what you want, and if your husband drags his feet on making a decision you’ll badger him into seeing things your way? Is that what “communication” means? Funny, to me it sounds like you’re the domineering shrew so many men perceive women as being.
Men don’t listen, this is true, even most men will admit that, if you can drag them away from the TV or computer long enough. But women, we don’t listen either. We don’t listen in a different way, though. We don’t listen to what our partners actually say, we listen to what we think we’re hearing between the lines. Here’s an example:
JANE SAYS: “You know, John, we’ve been together for a while now, and I think it’s time we take this relationship to the next level. Have you given some thought to us getting married?”
JOHN SAYS: “Wow, Jane, that’s a big step. I’m not sure I’m ready to get married yet. I really need some time to think about it.”
WHAT JANE HEARS: “Married? To you? Are you crazy? I would never marry you, you ignorant cow. By the way, your ass does look fat in those pants, and I think about your best friend when we have sex.”
Do you see where the problem is here? According to Uscher-Pines, all good relationships should ultimately result in marriage, sooner than later preferably. Ergo, provided the relationship is in good shape to begin with there is no valid reason for someone to not want to get married. Women read books like these, then try to sneaky talk their partners into taking the plunge, and when they show reluctance it means they don’t really love them or want to be with them. “I’m not ready to get married right now” is interpreted as “I don’t want to get married ever.”
Just as women are “entitled” to get married, men are entitled to have fears and reservations about it. Hopefully those fears will eventually resolve themselves, with or without the help of their partner, but if not, forcing someone into making a decision they’re not ready to make isn’t constructive. If you’re in such a hurry to walk down the aisle, if you want to feel “empowered,” propose marriage your damn self. If he says no, either stick around until he’s ready, or if he’s not move on to someone who is. Happy marriages don’t begin with ultimatums.