Helen Fisher, PhD


On a mountain top?  At a beach resort?  In your hometown with all your friends around? Women spend a lot of time planning their weddings.   This is acceptable.  But it has not been acceptable for a woman to pop the big question: “Will you marry me?”  Women often drop weighty little bombs, like: “Is this serious?”  “What are your plans?”  “Are we in for the long haul?”  But women don’t get down on one knee and propose.  They wait. 

Is proposing the man’s job?  In our annual study of Singles in America, I and my colleagues at Match.com ask single Americans of every age and background about their dating lives.  And each year over 90% of men report that they are comfortable with a woman asking them out.  So why shouldn’t a woman propose as well–even plan the “ultimate proposal.”  

I hope you know what I mean by the “ultimate proposal.”  It begins as your would-be spouse naively enters the proposers set up.  Soon friends, relatives, dancing girls, marching bands, even jugglers and acrobats appear to sing and dance before the astonished partner—a gala surprise performance concluding as the proposer emerges from the chaos to pop the question.  And it’s all recorded—a film that regularly lands on YouTube.

People love to watch these pregnant moments.   Certainly I do.   There’s something incredibly special about the words:  “Will you marry me.”  I suspect they were used more than 200,000 years ago as the human brain took its modern shape.  And a proposal is still special.  With this person you will build the core of your future social, economic and intimate life.  With this person, you may also bear young, parent, and pass your DNA on toward eternity.  So why not make this moment of profound commitment dazzling.  And why not encourage women to join the fun.  One piece of advice, of course:  Be sure you know in advance that he (or she) will say “yes.” 

Indeed, as female planners join the festivities, the “ultimate proposal” might become the newest art form, one of many ways that singles are transforming modern courtship.  And it’s a good idea.  From the biological perspective, the more metabolic energy you invest in a partnership at the start, the more you are obliged to sustain it.  Moreover, in our 2012 Singles in America study, over 80% of American married people reported that they would remarry their current spouse.  And 75% said they were still “very much in love” with him or her.  Marriages can–and do–work.  And the ultimate proposal surely is the definitive way to tell the world: she (or he) is mine.