The Engagement Proposal Didn’t Go Well – Now What

Asking the person you love to marry you is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences most people will undergo. Everyone hopes for a “Yes,” but not every proposal has that outcome. In fact, roughly 25% of women have turned down a proposal at least once. 

If you asked your partner to marry you and they didn’t accept, it is easy to feel lost and adrift. This is totally normal, but a major curveball and feeling hurt and sad is nothing to be ashamed of. Take this personal account of a woman turning down a proposal from Steph Lynn, the project manager at BriteCo. She told us, “My best friend was proposed to at the stroke of midnight by her boyfriend at his family’s cabin. She turned him down because the location brought up less-than-desirable memories, long story short, she craved the perfect romantic proposal. Months later, and still very much in love, they went on a hike into the Sequoia forest, and he asked for her to marry him once again, and she tearfully accepted. They have since married and are still madly in love.”

In the aftermath of this event, you need a good plan. Knowing what to do next can help you through the pain and disappointment and help you take your next steps with confidence. Here are some steps you can take to get back on your feet and start putting the pieces of your life back together.

Take a Step Back and Assess the Situation

The very first step after “no” is to assess the situation and understand what is really going on. You will need to answer three major questions before deciding on your future. 

Did they reject your proposal because:

  • They didn’t like how you asked, the ring you chose, the time/location of the ask, or some other detail of the actual proposal?
  • They want to get married, but not right now?
  • They don’t want to marry you at all?

The answers to these three questions can tell you where to go from here. Many men find it helpful to try a meditative activity at times like these. This could include genuine meditation or guided visualization. But for other men, running, working out, woodworking, or lawn care can be meditative activities that help clear up unwanted thoughts and get down to the core of things.

Talk to Your Partner About What Went Wrong

Besides your own contemplation of what went wrong, it is critically important to speak to your partner and ask why they said no. Speaking candidly may be difficult with tensions running high on both sides, but it is good to speak as plainly as possible. There was clearly some miscommunication before, so be as honest as possible and encourage your partner to do the same. 

These conversations aim to answer the three questions, why they said no and if they want to get married eventually or not at all. Actively listen to their answers and accept what they have to say.  

Ask respectful follow-up questions to understand their answers better. For example, if they say they didn’t like the proposal, perhaps it was public, and they prefer private, or the ring was not to their liking. Get as many details as you can about what they didn’t like.

If they want to get married eventually, but not now, try to discern what sort of timeline they want. If they don’t want to get married at all, try to figure out why. It could be that they don’t like the institution of marriage, or it could be something about your relationship. 

It can be good to figure out what went wrong with the relationship so you can work on it moving forward and potentially turn this pain into an opportunity for personal growth. 

Talk to Your Partner About What Went Wrong

Understand Your Feelings About the Situation

It is important to take a few days to think about whatever answers your partner gave you. Seek help from a qualified mental health professional to discuss what is best for you moving forward with the knowledge you gained. 

The most important thing you need to consider when making new plans is the implications of your partner’s answers. If your partner rejected your proposal because they didn’t like some detail of it, you may consider asking again in a manner more suited to their tastes. 

This is a time to be extremely honest with yourself and your partner. 45% of rejected proposals are done in front of people or in a location where the partner isn’t comfortable. They might have found your timing or style awkward or disrespectful. If so, consider how you think about your partner’s feelings, wants, and needs. 

Likewise, your partner might have rejected you over something unimportant, like some small detail of the proposal not being to their exact standards. Consider what they say, and consider if their complaint is real or petty. 

You are a person worthy of dignity and respect, and breaking your heart over the wrong flowers or too small a diamond is not respectful behavior. If your partner was in the wrong or mistreating you, consider the implications that may have on your future together. 

If the person said no because they want to wait longer for marriage, think about the timeline they gave you and see how you feel about it. If you’ve only been dating for a short amount of time, perhaps your partner was the voice of reason here, but if you have been dating for several years, maybe you have different ideas about marriage and relationships.

If their timeline is not the same as what you’d prefer, consider if you want to live by it or if it is not something you feel would be best for you. 

Finally, if your partner said no because they don’t want to get married, whatever the reason, this could often mean the end of your relationship. You asked them to marry you because you want to be married to them. If they don’t want to get married, your life plans do not align. 

If marriage is what you truly want, then as much as this will hurt, it might be the end of the road for you and your partner.

Come Up with a New Plan - Either Together or Separately

After speaking to your partner and contemplating their answers, you need to develop an actionable plan. If you decide to try to work things out together, figure out exactly what needs to be resolved and what steps are needed to resolve it. 

If you are going to propose again, discuss how they would like it to happen, when, where, in private or public, and what sort of ring she would like.  

Many couples find speaking to a couples therapist helpful. They can help guide you through your feelings and can help you move forward as a stronger couple. 

If you decide to make separate plans and break up, first figure out what you need to do to resolve any remaining issues in your relationship. This will vary depending on how long you have been together.

Come Up With a New Plan

Execute the New Plan and Hope for the Best

Execute the New Plan-Info

Whatever plan you and your partner come up with, it will only be as good as its execution. For example, if you and your partner decide to stay together but put off marriage for one year, you should:

  • Return the ring if they didn’t like it
  • Schedule and attend couples therapy
  • Have detailed checkup conversations with your partner at the 3, 6, and 9-month mark
  • If things are good, discuss a proposal in detail with your partner, ensure they like the plan, and make sure it will be an occasion where they will be comfortable, confident, and happy to say yes

There is no guarantee that things will go smoothly, but if you treat this as a learning experience and an opportunity to know yourself and your partner better, there is a strong chance you will come out of this time a better, stronger person and a happier couple. 

Deal with the Aftermath

The aftermath of a proposal that didn’t go well can be truly awful. It is critical that you deal with all the feelings, pain, embarrassment, and anger you feel.

Our culture and society wants people to buck up and deal with their problems quietly and independently. This is not a good plan. Friends and family will be there for you, but often the best plan is to speak with a qualified mental health professional. They will be an enormous resource for you during this time, and they can help you turn your sorrow into understanding and growth.

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