Refusing an Unwanted Marriage Proposal


For the most part, women have been contemplating their wedding day since they were little girls of five and six. They wonder what dress they will wear, what food will be served, how handsome their groom will look in his tux, and how beautiful their hair will be done. Pesky details like dating and serious relationships don’t enter their minds until they graduate high school, or maybe even later.

We all know that every relationship isn’t destined for marriage; in fact, we often know right off whether it will last or not, and we typically trust our gut when it comes to matters of the heart. But what happens when we aren’t on the same page with our current significant other?

No woman wants to talk about marriage with her sweetheart; they prefer to be surprised when he finally decides to pop the question. Men are aware of this little game that we play, and they are hard pressed to know the difference between coy waiting games and true disinterest. If we’re sending them the wrong signals, or unknowingly leading them on, then they certainly can’t be blamed for asking an uninterested woman for her hand in marriage. So how do we handle the situation?

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that there are ways to quietly and unobtrusively turn him down without causing a major scene or ripping his heart out through his chest. The bad news is that the situation will be uncomfortable, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

In the ideal situation, you will see it coming before it happens: a jewelry store brochure in his jacket pocket, a lovesick tilt to his grin, special dinner plans, or finding the ring in his sock drawer. I’m not advocating your snooping around his private things, but if you happen upon valuable information, you should use it to your advantage.

If you have no forewarning, however, and he pops the question out of the blue, there is no effective way to immediately diffuse the bomb. If you are in private, it will be easier to handle; if you are out in public, the solution is a little more complicated.

Firstly, here are the things you should not do:

1. Say ‘yes’ with the intention of later breaking the engagement.
2. Cry. And sob. And wail.
3. Look at him like he’s crazy.
4. Deliver a hateful line like, “Are you kidding? You think I’d actually marry you?”

That said, we can move on to what you should do.

If you are in private, such as your house or his, you are lucky enough not to be turning him down in front of others, which will greatly save his ego. When he pulls out the ring, smile kindly, and let him know how you feel. If possible, stop him before he actually proposes, but if he insists on getting it out, listen closely to what he says. Heartfelt speeches are more difficult to decline, but he wants you to know how he feels, then you should give him the courtesy of actually listening.

The best thing that you can do now is tell him the truth. Explain how you feel about him, as well (the good things, not the bad), and let him know that you honestly aren’t ready for such a serious commitment. If this changes your mind about seeing him in the future, don’t tell him now. A ‘no’ to a proposal is enough for him to deal with right now.

If you are in public, the least you say, the better. I recommend taking his hand and asking if you can go someplace private to talk. At that point, he will probably know that your answer isn’t favorable, but at least he won’t be embarrassed. If you are close to home, go there; if not, find a quiet place on a bench to talk. Explain your feelings, and let him know that you just aren’t there right now.

How a man responds to this type of rejection can tell you quite a bit about his personality, even if you’ve never seen this side before. It may make the difference between continuing the relationship and breaking it off for good. If he wants to continue dating, think long and hard for your motivations behind seeing him, and make sure that it is a healthy decision for the both of you.

Moments after a rejection will most likely be awkward, but if you are still interested in seeing this man, you shouldn’t let the night end just yet. If, for example, you simply aren’t ready for marriage, sticking around for an hour or so will show that you are still interested in him. His ego is very fragile at this point, and you don’t want him to feel worse than he already does.

In the days and weeks following the refusal, don’t bring it up. He is probably wishing that it never had happened, and is feeling vulnerable to rejection. Show him lots of attention and love, letting him know that even if you can’t get married just yet, you hope that you end up that way in the future.

Above all else, you must remember that you cannot feel guilty about rejecting a marriage proposal. With the divorce rate higher than it has ever been before, and the amount of infidelity rising as well, you don’t want to jump into anything that you might later regret. Marriage is one of the most difficult and important decisions of your entire life; take care in making the right one.

If you have decided to break off the relationship, or if he wants to end it, then let it go at that. There will be other men in your life, and if you can’t see eye-to-eye about marriage, then a life together would probably be more of the same.

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