Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Women, marriage, and extortion

Extorting a man to propose

A very common topic in relationship forums: “My boyfriend for 3 years (6 months, 10 years) has yet to ask me to marry him. Should I give him an ultimatum: Propose or I leave you?”. The reasoning behind this is typically along the lines of “If he does not love me enough to marry me, he does not deserve me.” and “Why would he buy the cow when I give the milk away for free.”—and the ensuing discussion tends to focus on whether the ultimatum will work, while the ethical implications are glossed over.

This shows a very twisted view of romantic relationships: A man could equally well argue that a woman who does not love him enough to remain at his side without a wedding is not worth marrying in the first place—possibly not even keeping as a girl-friend. Certainly, the egoism and lack of character shown by trying to blackmail someone else into marriage would, in and by itself, cause any sensible man to reconsider a woman’s worthiness.


There are strong factual arguments for US men not to get married under any circumstances—a position that has entire websites dedicated to it.

Read this discussion of divorcese and tell me honestly: Would you be willing to take even a risk of 1-in-10 that even a tenth of this nightmare scenario happens to you? Factor in other problems, like the cost for a ring and a wedding, and it is clear that the majority of US men who get married are complete idiots—that they would be more mature than the bachelors, is a preposterous claim; as is the claim that the latter would have commitment-phobia. (These are common female statements that are discussed e.g. in articles on commitment and women and alleged losers.)

For a more thorough discussion of marriage issues in the US, see e.g. http://www.nomarriage.com/e or http://abolish-alimony.blogspot.com/e.

Marriage as the artificial goal of a relationship

More generally, very many of the (US-American) female posters see the point of a relationship as getting married, and consider getting married at all more important than marrying the right man (within reasonable limits). Considering both the high modern divorce rates and the perfect validity of relationships for the purpose of having sex/fun/companionship/... this is a very unfortunate and restrictive view. In particular, seeing that marriage is an artificial concept without any basis in nature, there is little justification to this obsession with marriage. Indeed, one “justification” for the above extortion is the fear of never being married at all—and many women would rather leave their boy-friends and start over with a new man, rather than remain unmarried. (Which, again, shows that they are not marriage material in the first place.)


In contrast, if the same women would see the eventual goal of a relationship to as the founding of a family, living together, having children, ... they would have a case.

The problem is that “just” living together does not seem to be enough.

A discussion in the Cosmopolitan forumse gives an illustration on how different views on marriage can be: The female OP asks whether it is “too soon” to accept the proposal she just received—after four months of dating. My spontaneous thought was roughly “Normally, a sensible person would decline a proposal after so short a time—it is much to early in the relationship—but since she actually asks, maybe she is a valid exception.”; however, in stark contrast, several of the answering posters expressed thoughts along the lines of “Since you have to ask, it is probably best to say no.”, implying that normally the answer would be yes, but that the OP could be an exception... Several other posters replied with examples of known success stories, which I take as an attempt to lower the OPs fear of an engagement being premature...

Four months, too me, is a time where an exchange of keys can be an option, but not an exchange of rings—and even with keys it would depend very much on the situation and the woman.

Marriage as a pre-requisite

An interesting twist on the “milk” argument is that some women claim that they would never move in with a man before they are married (or, in some cases, engaged). This shows an incredible naivete, because a decision on the, theoretically, life-long commitment of marriage cannot realistically be made before the couple has already lived together—as can be testified by any number of other posts. A repeated statement by more realistic men, is that they would never consider proposing to a woman they had not lived together with for one or two years—something I certainly subscribe to: While I, myself, have never lived with a girl-friend, I can still testify that even spending an entire week-end with one can leave me feeling over-saturated and/or seeing her in a new, usually less flattering, light.

In an even more extreme example that I have encountered on two separate occasions, there seem to be women who argue that they should collectively refuse to have sex with men before marriage, using the argument that men would be much more prone to propose this way. (The irony: They would hurt themselves just as much as the men in that manner; in fact, I see a distinct possibility that the average woman would cave before the average man...) In an interesting contrast, I have repeatedly heard men from the pick-up communities claim that they, as a matter of principle, never pay for drinks or the woman’s share of a date before they have already slept with her—to ensure that they are not being strung along as walking wallets.


The above discussion obviously does not pertain to women (or men) motivated by religious reasons, cultural pressure, or similar; but is centered on scenarios involving bartering, extortion, and sheer naivete.

The (hypocritical) wish for life-long commitment

Yet another twist is that the female “I want a proposal” posters usually argue that they want to have the guarantees of a life-long commitment that a marriage brings—yet, about two thirds of (the many) US divorces are instigated by women (according to e.g. the Wikipedia article on US divorcesw, retrieved on 2009-03-26). In many cases this amounts to men reluctantly entering “till death us depart, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” arrangements that they do not feel ready for—just to see the woman who truly wanted this arrangement skip out as soon as better turned into worse or health into sickness...


I stress that I do not consider it wrong for one party of a relationship to leave, should (s)he find that the relationship is too unsatisfactory (with some reservations for couples with children). The difference between an informal boy-friend/girl-friend arrangement and a marriage, however, is that a marriage is based on the mutual promise to stay together, no matter what.

Breaking that far-going promise should be reserved for the most extreme cases. (With a termination by mutual agreement being a different matter.) After all, if someone is not prepared to fulfill her part of the marriage, including “for worse” and “in sickness”, she should have stuck to a relationship of a less formal kind. Of course, if someone is blackmailed into marriage against his own will, some leeway should be given—as in any case of extortion...