Carolyn Hax: No work, no wedding? Jobless guy wants to propose

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By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 27, 2010; 12:00 AM

Adapted from a recent online discussion:

Hi, Carolyn:

I just want to know whether you think it's okay for me to propose to my girlfriend when I am not currently working? In other words, I can't afford a ring or a wedding right now, but I want her to know we are on the road to marriage.

USA

This is a grayer answer than I thought it was going to be.

I started out by typing that of course it's "okay" to propose. Then I started to type out the reasons it's okay - one of them being: The best time to let someone know you want to be with her for the rest of your life is when you're confident that it's true.

But then the next one stopped me. I also think it's important to share that information when you can be reasonably confident this information will be welcomed by its recipient. And if your girlfriend would be reluctant to commit to someone who is out of work, then this might put her on a spot she doesn't appreciate being on.

You could alleviate that pressure a bit by saying the engagement will be as long as it takes for you to get back on your feet - but then that raises this question: Are you proposing just to "lock her down," to make it harder for her to break up with you in case your joblessness drags on?

This might not be an issue between you two at all - she may, for example, have complete confidence that you'll be working again soon, or that you could be working if you wanted to but you have the resources and patience to wait for the right job. There are countless unemployment scenarios, especially these days.

And so the answer really hinges on this: If you're a stable, resourceful, mature person- in other words, if you're a good risk - then there's no reason you shouldn't express the love you're feeling.

But if your history says you're a bad risk, at least at the moment - lots of jobs gotten and lost, bad credit, lots of reliance on parents to help you out, etc. - then you might want to spare your girlfriend the decision. Tell her instead that you want to marry her, but you're not going to ask her to commit to you until you get your financial [stuff] together.

Re: USA's Proposing:

If it's mostly the "can't afford a ring or a wedding" part that's holding you up, go ahead and propose. Rings and weddings do not a marriage make, and if your girlfriend's answer would hinge on those things, why would you want to propose to her in the first place? You can certainly prolong the engagement until you can afford those things, but the type of girl you want to marry will say yes regardless.

Anonymous

Right you are, thanks. There's also nothing that says he has to "propose." He can also start a conversation with his girlfriend about marriage. Considering what it takes to make marriage work, I believe a mutual decision to marry is a better start than a bended knee.

This is why I don't write for Hollywood.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.


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