The scene is set. You’ve got a ring in your pocket and all your closest friends and family members gathered to witness you pop the question. Your proposal will be romantic and unforgettable … but unless you’re sure about your lover’s answer, it will also be manipulative.
I recently watched the reunion show of “Love & Hip Hop,” where Chrissy, rapper Jim Jones’ love interest, invited friends and family to an event where she planned to propose. Before they showed what happened that night, the show ran footage of her discussing her feelings about it with the other cast members. She explained:
I am tired of wasting time. What are we doing? If you are not going to step up and decide, then I am going to help you. I don’t want to force him into anything, but I want to know what’s going on. Are we going forward? Are we at a stand-still? It has to be movement. One way or another.
As I watched the proposal, I thought, “How manipulative!” Chrissy orchestrated this scene to coerce Jones into marriage. After all, he would risk looking like a fool (or making her look foolish) by telling her, “No, I will not marry you,” in front of all those people – and a television audience. He attempted to sidestep the question and save face for both of them by simply saying, “I am with you.” But she pushed the issue further, telling him that they were living in sin and if he didn’t “get it together” and marry her in less than three years, they would be living in separate households.
In a previous blog, “‘We’ May Not Be Representative of Me,” I wrote about how using the word “we” to describe what you think or feel is manipulative, because in speaking for your partner, you put pressure on him/her to agree – even if that is not the case. To propose marriage in front of other people without knowing for sure that your partner wants the same thing takes this type of manipulation to a whole new level.
Manipulation didn’t work for Chrissy in this situation. But if it had, if he had said “yes” to spare them both some embarrassment, how healthy do you really think that marriage would have been? I certainly wouldn’t want someone to marry me just to save face, and I wouldn’t be very happy in a marriage with someone who used other people to get her way with me.
On this matter, and possibly any matter, the classiest woman I have ever known (or heard about) is my mate. After the birth of our first son, she made it clear to me that she wanted to get married. Having been through one divorce, I told her that I wanted to be with her but not legally. We could continue to grow in our relationship through shared experiences, ventures, residences, children and whatever else husbands and wives do, but I did not want to get married again.
“OK, we don’t have to get married,” she said. “But know that I would like to get married in my lifetime.” That was the end of the conversation. The irony is that we eventually went through with the nuptials. Why I changed my mind is a story for another time, but it did not require any manipulation, coercion or public embarrassment.
If you want to make your engagement official in front of those you love, talk to your partner before your public proposal. Make sure he/she wants to marry you (or get married at all, for that matter). Respect his/her decision-making process and provide the space he/she needs to make it. If being legally wed is what you are after, resign yourself to the possibility that you may not get it with your current mate. But if you are after partnership, don’t write off the idea that a successful long-term relationship may not require wedding vows.
After all, understanding that our partners want what they want as much as we want what we want is the very foundation of being a Powerful Person in a Partnership.
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