We’ve all heard of the dreaded “friend zone,” but what about the “girlfriend zone”? That’s when you meet a nice guy and you become his girlfriend–and then you stay his girlfriend, for years on end. No progress, no plans, no growth. Just straight up, plateaued consistency (which, in this case, is SO not what you’re going for). So, what went wrong? You’re faithful. You don’t nag (or do you?) You treat him better than any other woman ever could. And, the piece de resistance, you keep it cute and classy. So, really, what is his deal?
*takes a deep breath and clears throat*
Okay, how can I say this as tactfully and gingerly as possible? Guess I’ll just come out and say it: It’s YOU, baby child! You are the reason your longtime boyfriend hasn’t taken a knee.
Before you curse me out and storm off this page, hear me out. I know it sounds harsh, but I promise I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t want to help. When a man stays in a relationship for an extended period of time and doesn’t propose, it’s because he doesn’t have to. That’s not to say that men who do propose only do it because they “have to” as in “are forced to do,” but it is to say that they’ve reached a point where NOT being your husband is no longer acceptable. They see that as wonderful as you are as a girlfriend, it’s no comparison to the way he’ll experience you as his wife. It is this added value that encourages men to propose. That leads me to the first thing women do to keep men from proposing.
1. Giving him too many benefits
If you two have been together for many years, chances are you’re already acting like a married couple. You may be washing his dirty clothes, dropping off his dry cleaning, balancing his checkbook, checking in on his errant younger sister (whom you’ve grown rather close to over the years) and giving him free and clear access to your body. You’ve given him so many perks in the trial version that he has no reason to want to upgrade.
Some women (many women, actually) fear that if they don’t take on this wifey position, he’ll move on to someone else who will. To those women, I say this: An interested man is hard to deter. If he’s truly into you–and I’m praying you know how to tell if that’s the case— he’ll stick around as long as he sees value. And if he does decide to leave because you’re not making it easy on him, all that means is that he wasn’t that into you in the first place (so go ahead and give him a hi-five for not wasting your time any longer).
2. Not setting clear boundaries
I don’t know what it is about a charming man that causes us to lose our minds, but that’s often what happens. It’s like the moment he says something sweet, we’re putty in his hands (and that’s why more women need to have their fathers involved in their mate selections). We all of a sudden become willing to go along for the ride while he takes the relationship wherever he sees fit. So even though you had no intention of becoming just another girlfriend, that’s exactly what happened. And even though you had no intentions of having sex, that’s exactly what happened.
For fear of coming off as controlling or manipulative, we allow ourselves to become mere passengers in our own relationships, forgetting the fact that we owe it to ourselves to look out for our best interests. Remember, setting boundaries isn’t about controlling him. It’s about protecting you, ensuring you don’t open yourself up (literally and figuratively) to someone who does not deserve that privilege.
3. Allowing him to be immature
Ok, so technically you can’t “allow” him to be anything, but you can behave in a way that makes it easy for him to be comfortable in his immaturity. For example, if he is lazy, unreliable and quick to put a bill off on you, you allow it every time you go along with it. Every time you make excuses for him or laugh it off as him just being his “crazy self,” you communicate that you’re fine with this behavior.
If nothing else, a man should be reliable and hardworking. When he doesn’t display these qualities, he might as well be wearing a flashing neon sign that says, “Not ready for marriage!” Few of us realize how driven our male counterparts can be, especially when it comes to us ladies. We get scared that if we hold him accountable, if we expect too much of him, he’ll disappear. When you’re dealing with a high quality man, that’s simply not the case. If he wants you bad enough and realizes just how valuable you are, his need for a good woman will force him to mature.
4. Letting your love be a weakness
We all know how wonderful it feels to be in love, but don’t let your love for a man force you into staying in a stagnant relationship. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should leave, but it does mean you should take a good sober look at where your relationship is and where you want it to be.
Sometimes, “because I love him,” isn’t enough. Sometimes, “because I love him,” is the exact reason your relationship isn’t progressing. If when you broach the topic of marriage, he is able to distract you with a, “You know I love you, baby. *soft kiss* I don’t need a piece of paper to prove that,” then he’s taking advantage of your weakness. He knows all he has to do is say the right thing, in the right tone of voice, with the right look in his eye and you’re rendered defenseless.
Set your love aside for a second and assess the true value of the relationship. Does it have staying power? Is it healthy? Do the two of you respect each other? Do you consider each other’s feelings? Do you guard each other’s reputations, even when the other is absent? These are attributes of a good relationship. These are the things you should be able to discuss without being sidetracked.
5. Trying to force marriage
Men do not like to feel like they’re being controlled. I repeat, men do not like to feel like they’re being controlled. So if you constantly harp on how much you want him to marry you, he’s likely to rebel just to show that he won’t be forced into anything. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married, but don’t make it about him. Make it about you. Here’s an example.
What NOT to say: You know, it’s 2013 and you still haven’t proposed. Is it coming any time this year? I just don’t know why you won’t marry me. You act like I’m not a good woman. You act like you don’t even know what a good woman is…
What to say: We just entered a new year and I’ve been doing some serious thinking about my life and where it’s going. I’ve reached a point where marriage has grown in its importance to me, and I’d like to see myself married at some point within the next year(s). I’m not saying this to pressure you, but I do want to check and see if we’re on the same page because this is very important to me.
Do you see the difference? The first one is all about forcing him into marriage. The second focuses on sharing your feelings about your life’s path. It actually has very little to do with him.
Once you’ve fallen into the girlfriend zone, it can be hard to get out. Men get comfortable and aren’t always ready to pick up and move, but they will if they really want you.