“He Said Yes!”

Are modern couples ready for this? We asked three women who broke tradition by popping the question themselves to share their stories with us — and get the experts' reactions.

By Elise Nersesian

verything was perfect: the atmosphere was romantic, the conversation was flowing, and Mike seemed to be in a great mood. Sarah Larson knew it would happen tonight. She had been dreaming about this moment for months, and it was finally here. And she knew his answer would be "yes."

Larson took a deep breath and said, "Mike, will you marry me?"

Modern women are breaking out of traditional territory
Larson isn't an anomaly. More women are taking the reins when it comes to what's traditionally known as male territory and proposing marriage to their partners. "Women
She had been dreaming about this moment for months.
today want to cut to the chase," explains Bethany Marshall, Ph.D., author of Deal Breakers. "Many women feel that they're pushed to strive in all other areas of life and consider their romantic relationships [to be] no different."

Larson, a partner in her law firm, was no exception. Accustomed to pursuing cases and winning them, she looked at her own relationship as "another case I had to close." In 2007, she had been dating Mike for a year and a half (which was six months longer than her self-imposed marriage timeline) and wanted to take matters into her own hands. "I knew that if I didn't propose, we would wind up dating forever — and I wanted to have kids soon," she says.

Sadly, their engagement didn't last. Three months after he bought Larson a ring, Mike started acting distant, and when Larson pushed him to talk, he admitted that although he loved her, he'd felt pressured into to accepting her unconventional proposal. "Mike said he would probably have proposed in his own time, but the way it all went down was emasculating," she says.

Society's rites of passage: necessary?
"For better or worse, the mating ritual in our society dictates that the man should propose to the woman," says Marshall. "It may not be a perfect or fair system, but it's the one we currently have. What's more, in our modern society, some men are confused about their roles in relationships, so it's important to let them retain that tradition."

Just like many women dream of the day when a man will kneel and ask for her hand in marriage, proposing is also an important rite of passage for a man — and according to Marshall, when women disrupt this process, they risk stealing his thunder.

Lillian Moore from Austin, TX knew early on when she and Bobby were dating that this man was her future husband. After meeting on a beach in Hawaii and dating for just one month, Moore decided to pop the question to him in March of 2009. "We had been having very open and honest conversations about wanting to be together for the long haul," she recalls. "After listening to a lecture given by a couple who had been married for
My girlfriends were floored that I proposed.
30 years, I was so inspired that I asked him to marry me."

And although Bobby initially agreed, he subsequently told his new fiancée that he wasn't ready to take the plunge just yet. "I was a little pissed — more that he said 'yes' without thinking about it" than anything else, Moore explains. "We got married in October 2010, but it took a few months after I proposed to become officially engaged."

Emma Rose from Rutland, England can relate. She also proposed to her boyfriend after dating for just one month in 1994. "I was completely overwhelmed by my feelings for him, and proposing was the only way to express that," she recalls. "My inner voice kept saying: 'Husband, marriage, wedding.' It was like a dam that needed to burst and it was only a matter of time." One day while they were in bed, Rose decided to pop the question. "I told him I needed to ask him something, looked deeply into his eyes, and asked him to marry me."

Securing the ultimate relationship status
"Women are always trying to take the temperature of their relationship — 'Where is this going? Are we officially together? Do you love me?'" says Marshall. "Asking for his hand in marriage may be the most direct and instantaneous way to find out how a man feels about the relationship."

However, family and loved ones may have a difficult time wrapping their head around the concept. "My friends thought I was mental!" says Rose, who ultimately divorced her husband after five years of marriage and the birth of their daughter.

"Not only did both our families feel we were rushing things, my dad was pretty unhappy about it," says Moore. "He always said that all a guy needed to do to get his approval was to treat me like a princess. In his mind, the princess should never have to propose." Larson agrees: "My girlfriends were floored that I proposed," she says. "They gave me a lot of grief and said that if Mike had really wanted to marry me, he would have asked me himself."

So is there ever a right way to pop the question to a man? "When you propose, you should be putting to words what is already on his mind," says Marshall. "If you know for sure that he's contemplating marriage and you feel he's gun-shy because he's unsure of what your answer will be, hinting that you want to spend your life with him will make him feel secure, desired, and nurture him in the right direction."

Elise Nersesian has written for Redbook, Stuff and other national magazines.
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