A proposal is a huge moment in your relationship and in your life. You’ve been imagining a future of marriage with your partner – but what if you propose and they say no? How can you cope with a rejection, and can your relationship survive?
What to do in the moment when your proposal is turned down
Remember that it’s absolutely normal to feel hurt or distressed if your partner turns you down, but it’s not okay to act badly towards them. Yelling at them, getting angry, or feeling entitled to a yes will not help persuade them to marry you – quite the opposite. Stay classy and try to be understanding of their feelings, and respect their decision.
It will feel tempting to try to argue with them – to say that they really ought to marry you for reasons X, Y, and Z. If you feel that you should be together as a married couple then you may want to explain to them all the good reasons for getting married. However, resist this urge. You cannot logic someone into wanting to marry you, and you should avoid pressuring them to say yes.
This is a good reason to avoid proposing in a public setting. It might seem romantic to plan a proposal at a ball game or concert in front of an audience of thousands, but this puts undue pressure on your partner. Make sure that they know that whatever their answer is, you will accept it, because you love and respect them.
What to do in the next few days
It’s likely that both you and your partner could benefit from some space after a proposal is turned down. Give yourself a few days to think and to allow yourself to feel sad and heartbroken. You will need some time to process your feelings about your relationship.
During this time, stay off social media. You don’t need to see constant updates about what your partner is doing, and it’s not tactful to discuss your relationship problems on a forum like Facebook where your partner can see. Instead, reach out to friends and family on the phone and let them know that you could do with their support.
What to do in the longer term
You need to think about your relationship, and in particular why you and your partner are not on the same page regarding marriage. It might be that turning down the proposal means that you will break up, so you should be prepared for this possibility. However, it may be that your partner wants to stay with you, but does not want to marry you (yet). In this case, it’s time to dig into the details.
It could be that your partner turned you down because of personal or political issues that they have with marriage. Some people do not agree with the history of marriage as an institution, or object to it on the grounds that it is an option only available to some couples. In this case, you could consider having an unofficial commitment ceremony, or a special celebration on your anniversary, where you and your partner affirm your commitment to each other.
Another possibility is that your partner may want to marry you in the future, but feels that now is not the right time. Take stock of your life currently: do you have a secure living situation, stable employment, and enough money to pay for a wedding? If not, you may want to wait until your lives are more settled before proposing.
Finally, you and your partner might not yet be at the point in your relationship where you are ready for marriage. There’s no set time for which you need to be together for you to propose, but you do need to have a very solid and strong relationship before you take on a lifetime commitment.
If you have doubts or uncertainties about your relationship, then you need to work on these before you get married – remember, marriage is not a way to fix a troubled relationship! The decision to marry should be a happy decision for you and your partner, not an anxious one.