Some men face the prospect of proposing with sheer terror, while others feel compelled to pop the question on the second date. Regardless of where your personality falls, here are seven ways to be sure you're ready for marriage.
You're Open About Your Finances
Make no mistake about it: Despite your undying love and devotion, money matters. Even if you and your girlfriend aren't swimming through pools of gold Scrooge McDuck-style, you should at least be familiar with your financial situations (and okay with the fact that your big splurges are video games and sneakers). If one or both of you are deeply in debt, money (or your lack thereof) could be an immediate source of conflict in your marriage. You don't need to know each other's salaries to the dime, but if you're open about your savings, you'll avoid any "You owe a bookie how much?" moments.
You Hit a Milestone
If you've just made a big professional advance (like a raise or a promotion), it may be the perfect time to take the next big step in your personal life too. "A lot of guys set goals for themselves," says Matt Bean, senior editor at Men's Health magazine, "and until they've reached a certain level in their careers or feel they've squirreled away enough money to support a family, they're just not in the mode of getting married." For Steve, 25, the time felt right when he became a homeowner. "I realized my house wouldn't be a home without her in it," he says. "I was just ready to move forward with my life." Your relationship is just like anything else you've worked hard toward, and the payoff is equally as rewarding.
You've Discussed Your Future
Have you talked about your plans for going on vacation together this summer, and your plans together 10 years from now? If you and your girlfriend speak naturally and sincerely about your future together (even if you're not sure where you'll be or what you'll be doing), that sort of confidence bodes well for your relationship. "We never spoke of marriage, but we did speak of later times in life," says Dave, 32, who surprised his girlfriend with a proposal in the Santa Monica Mountains. "She had no clue, and, when I asked, she had no doubt."
She's Aware of Your Ambitions
Everyone has ambitions (your goal to eat your weight in Buffalo wings? Sure, that counts too), but make sure your aspirations don't conflict with those of your girlfriend. If you plan to spend all your savings to start your own business in five years or, better yet, plan on spending a few months roaming with nomads in the Sahara, your girlfriend should know about that before you ask her to marry you.
Your Friends Are Fans
Chances are you've dated a woman or two who your friends didn't like much. Regardless of the root of their disdain, a relationship becomes tough when your friends don't want anything to do with your girlfriend. "A guy's friends are, in various ways, reflections of his own character," Bean says, so animosity between friends and girlfriend can be a definite red flag. If, on the other hand, your buddies have given her a resounding thumbs-up, you can rest easy knowing you won't have to spend your life choosing between her and them.
You Know She'll Say Yes...for the Right Reasons
This may seem obvious, but if you feel the chance of her accepting your proposal is iffy, it's probably not the right time to ask. If the ups and downs of your relationship have left you dizzy, don't try to steady the ship by asking her to marry you. If you propose just because you want a quick fix, she might turn you down or -- even worse -- she might be blinded by the moment and accept your proposal only to doubt her decision later on. Ask her to marry you when you know you're both on the same page about spending your lives together, not when you're trying to salvage a relationship gone awry.
She's Dropping Hints...and That's Okay
Maybe she's mentioned how she's really into cushion-cut diamonds. Or that she'd love to honeymoon in Venice. Or perhaps her hints are a little less subtle (The Knot magazine mysteriously appears on your coffee table). Her mind is on marriage, and she's feeling out whether you're ready. If your instinct is to change the subject, cower in a corner, or shrug off the idea of an engagement entirely, you're likely not in a position to propose. But if the idea of marrying your girlfriend excites you, the only thing left is to buy a ring and start brainstorming ways to propose (start with this list of marriage proposal ideas).
Popping the Question