In the social media age, videos of women proposing to men often become a viral moment and even a point of ridicule. But have we ever really thought about why proposing to a man is so frowned upon? The new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) series Marry Me Now is challenging stereotypes around who does the proposing. On the show, eight women from Houston propose to their long-term partners, and if the guys say yes, quickly plan a wedding.
While we await the premiere of the first episode on Saturday, March 19, ESSENCE spoke with Rebecca Lynn Pope, the relationship coach who guides and supports the eight women on the show along their journeys.
We asked Pope what she thinks about attitudes towards the idea of women proposing to men, how to know whether a man is ready for marriage, and when to go after what you want.
ESSENCE: What are some common stereotypes related to women proposing to men?
Rebecca Lynn Pope: That they’re desperate, right? That it’s just desperation, that they are delusional, that these men are not in love with them or he would have popped the question. That’s not always true.
What are telltale signs that a man is ready to marry you?
Men who want to marry you are going to be talking about it. People talk about whatever they’re thinking about. So, if he sees forever with you, he’s going to be talking about things like merged futures. He’s going to be talking about plans, about when you guys are going to buy a house, or when you guys have kids, or what you’re going to do in your business plans. He’s thinking along the lines of partnership. So, there’s going to be things he talks about that [include] you in his future plans.
In other words, he’s going to be getting to know you because if he’s contemplating merging his life with yours, there’s lots of very important data that he needs to know and understand.
Women tend to focus on weddings, bridal moments, and Instagram. Men are thinking about the fact that if I married the wrong woman, I could lose half of everything. If I have children with this woman, she could destroy my life, take my children from me. So these decisions for men are huge. It’s not flowers and unicorns and rainbows and the fairytale stuff or the warm and fuzzies.
Why do you think a man would be in love and not propose?
There are so many issues that men have. I think one of the things that women have got to come to realize and accept is that men have just as many issues as women, if not more. For women, the feminine part of who we are allows for softness. Society says men cannot do that and be considered a strong, good man.
Therefore, imagine men having all of the same issues, pain, everything that women go through and it’s just buried.
You begin to realize he’s scared to death. His parents got divorced when he was young. He witnessed a traumatic divorce as a child at a certain age where it left a mark on him and scarred him. And he said, “I would never want to be married and put my kids through this. Maybe I don’t want kids. Maybe I never want to get married.”
There [are] so many different reasons. Men can absolutely love you and be committed to you, but at the same time, have all kinds of phobias and insecurities and issues that cause them to want to back away or shy away from marriage.
If a woman proposes and it doesn’t go the way she planned, how can she deal with that rejection?
It’s going to be rejection no matter what and that’s going to hurt—that’s going to sting. There’s different types of personalities. Someone that can’t handle that at all, she’s going to break up with and leave him. Some women would want to know why and they’re going to really know and understand exactly why you are saying no, because that’s going to weigh in on what they’re going to do next. They’re going to plan. Whether [she] stays or leaves is really based on his explanation of why now is not the right time.
And I think you have to pay attention to all of that conversation, pay attention to everything he says. He’s saying exactly what he means. You know, women tend to hear what they want to hear. They don’t really listen to exactly what men are saying. So I think it’s important to deal from a place of reality, not fantasy.
Some people say when a woman proposes to a man, she’s pressuring him and he’s eventually going to resent her. What are your thoughts on that?
You know what? We as women need to always be applying pressure.
Pressure should be applied for whatever it is you want. You can not be ashamed for unapologetically going after whatever it is you want in life. I don’t care if that’s your money, career dreams, business—you need to go after what you want. You are responsible for creating the life you want to have. I would rather somebody go for it and find out sooner rather than later that this isn’t it and he ain’t it; be crushed for a period of time and have to heal and get over it. But then sooner, rather than later, get to her forever after partner.
I think some women need to be pushy. There’s a large demographic of very wonderful, big-hearted, beautiful women who are very mute. They’re very passive. They’re there. They fall back. They think “If I just am good to him and I show him that I’m a good woman and I’m wife material, he’s just going to marry me.” That’s not the world we live in anymore.