How long is too long to wait for a marriage proposal?
For the past few years, I’ve quietly anticipated the same item on every gift-giving holiday: an engagement ring from Aleem, my wonderful, on-again-off-again-because-he’s-so-slow-to-commit boyfriend of six years. Six long years. Six long, proposal-free years. As part of my pre-Christmas and Valentine’s Day rituals, I’ve made sure my nails were done so I could set off my rock with a well-manicured hand. So far, he’s made presents of a leather jacket, a laptop, countless pairs of shoes and sneakers, and a DVD player, but that elusive velvet box has yet to cross my hot little hand. So I waited.
Even though he was a good father figure for my daughter and an honorary member of the Harris clan, the frustration of being habitually unengaged started to wear on my self-esteem. What about me was so unmarriable? How could I manage to let so much time fly by without demanding that this man make a decision about our relationship? To put it bluntly, I ain’t 21 anymore. In fact, 30 is pulling into my driveway and getting ready to knock on the front door like a bad blind date. Six years is a lot of emotion and experiences gone down the tubes if we never take those steps down the aisle, but being encouraged by personal testimonies on “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway” was borderline pitiful. Once upon a time, I fell in love with a man who seemed like he was handpicked for me by God. After being given so much time to think, I wondered if this couple was going to live happily ever after or if the noble heroine was destined to die an old maiden.
I don’t know if I should be relieved or disappointed that I’m not alone. But 31-year-old Mahogany is in the waiting game, too. She met her man, Jason, through a mutual friend eight years ago and they’ve been a couple ever since.
“I guess in the last year it became an issue for me because we were both kind of damaged when we got together,” Mahogany admits, “but after three or four years, it was like, ‘OK, what are we really doing here?'”
On one hand, she has a partner who supports her and cares for her child like his own. But on the flipside, she’s concerned about his aversion to taking those vows. Right now, marriage is something even she is a little uncertain about, but it’s an option that Mahogany definitely wants to have. “I’ve told him, ‘I will stay until I’m not happy. And whenever it comes to that, I’m not going to beg anybody for anything.’ But I haven’t reached the point yet where I say, ‘this isn’t enough for me. I need more.’”
More is just what sistas who want to take that walk down the aisle should be expecting, says psychologist and author of Confessions of an Ex-Bachelor, Dr. William July. What he calls “frozen relationships” is the arrested development of otherwise good couples. It’s a vortex of hope that sucks women in time and time again. Because men see relationships as mini-business transactions, Dr. July says ladies have to come with a strategy if their goal is marriage. “The problem with so many relationships where people want a commitment is that they’ve already given everything away that would be of potential benefit,” he shares. “You don’t have to get married today to have kids. You don’t have to get married today to have sex. You don’t have to get married today to share bank accounts. Where’s the benefit?” According to Dr. July, brothers are still wondering why they have to buy the cow if the milk is free from sistas—like me—who are willing to let it flow.
So a few months ago, I broke ties with Aleem the marathon man. It was like the good Lord put me in a chokehold and made me take realistic stock of the situation I was banking my future on. The possibility of marriage, like my faith in the relationship, was fading fast. Statistics show that after five years, the chances of getting a ring—without the use of firearms or gunplay—are slim to none. Between my frustrated outbursts, I realized that I needed to evaluate my good qualities as a reason to leave instead of using his as a reason to stay.
This wave of self-empowerment hasn’t been fast in coming, obviously. And I have to admit, when I see what’s waiting for me out here on the singles circuit after a six-year hiatus, I find myself somewhere between discouragement and sheer fright, depending on who’s hit on me that particular day. But I have to believe that God wants better for me than to be someone’s Guinness Book girlfriend. I have to want that for myself, too, and after investing so much hope into a hopeless relationship, I can finally say those two magical words I’ve been waiting so long to say— I do.