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You met this handsome guy whose sense of humor and generosity eventually made you fall in love. The courtship has been filled with creative dates, romantic getaways, and intelligent conversation. Things are great!

Meanwhile, three, four or five years have gone by.

Sure, he’s the one you know you want to marry (you actually knew within the first few months), but you’re anxiously anticipating the day that he asks you to become his bride. I can relate to this all too well.

My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I had been dating for almost three and a half years when he proposed. Prior to that long-awaited day, I, like most women, knew he was the person I wanted to marry.

Since we were in our late 20s, I assumed that the average dating time of 3.3 years wouldn’t pertain to us as it shouldn’t take that long to figure out if a person you’ve spent a great deal of time with is the one — or so I thought.

As not to be a bothersome girlfriend, I tried to cleverly and covertly bring up the subject of marriage. Although my tactic was more lighthearted and at times nonchalant, as not to seem too eager, it often bred a witty response from my boyfriend, who I thought wasn’t taking the topic seriously. Maybe I misconstrued his reactions. Was he really not ready to discuss our future? Was he open to the conversation but just didn’t know how to articulate his desires? Or, did he already have a plan and wanted to divert our conversations?

Either way, as an already impatient person, I grew annoyed. We were about three years into our relationship when I established a deadline. Now, I never disclosed this deadline to him since I felt, and still feel, that a woman shouldn’t have to convince a man to propose, especially by giving him an ultimatum. If he wants to marry you, he will. It’s just a matter of if he will do it on your timeline.

My deadline was created based on a big upcoming event in the life of my boyfriend’s family. I told myself that I would not attend unless we were engaged.

This may seem harsh, but throughout our courtship, and early on, many of his family members and I really hit it off. We were so close that his cousins called me “cousin,” his aunt invited me over for Thanksgiving when my boyfriend wasn’t in town, and some of his family members communicated with me more than they did with him.

While I loved how my boyfriend’s family embraced me, it bothered me that I was treated like a family member, but was not family. So I held true to my word. Although, I didn’t ignore his kin, I did decrease the amount of time spent with them. My actions weren’t to pressure him into proposing, but more so to be honest with myself about my role at that time. I wasn’t down for playing wife with no ring, wedding date, or groom.

Also, my deadline wasn’t a date that would necessarily be the demise of our relationship. If we were not engaged by then, we would have one last talk. If I wasn’t satisfied with our discussion, I came to the conclusion that I still would have wanted to date him — but not exclusively. Why continue on in such a way if we’re not looking to move in the same direction?

With that being said, I don’t think there’s a magic number on the length of time a couple should date before getting engaged as there are no set rules. But if it’s a relationship worth keeping, be honest with yourself and your partner about what your expectations are. Make deadlines not necessarily for a ring, but for yourself.

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