There are two types of marriage proposal: the total shocker, and the one you can see coming from miles away, as if it’s traveling on a Goodyear blimp. Depending on how long you’ve been dating—and how much you’ve talked about marriage with your partner—you can probably guess which type of proposal awaits you.
Regardless, even if you can sense that the big question is imminent, it’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly when it’s going down. So unless your fiancé-to-be is a total master at the art of surprise, here are all of the surefire signs you’re about to get a view of him on one knee—so you can prepare accordingly. (See: manicure.) And if you’re worried about larger relationship questions, here are the 15 Signs Your Partner Is Marriage Material.
Huge tell. “You may notice that he is acting strangely and you feel that something is going on,” says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, founder of online relationship community Relationup & Relationship Therapist. “When you confront him, he is vague and awkward.” If things are generally good in your relationship, she urges you not to assume the worst. “This may mean that he is planning the marriage proposal and is nervous about the big step.” (If you’ve been having doubts about your relationship already, though, watch out for the 20 signs he’s going to ghost you.)
If you notice that he’s suddenly a lot more chummy with one of your closest friends or family members, he might be preparing to pop the question. “That’s because he’s asking them to keep the secret and help him pick a piece of jewelry with which to propose,” explains April Masini, a New-York-based relationship and etiquette expert and author. “He’s also getting some counseling from them, and this newfound closeness may be a sign you’re about to get a marriage proposal.”
If his salary hasn’t changed but he’s suddenly opting to eat in all the time and isn’t spending money on himself the way he used to, “this means he’s likely thinking about the future and a way to buy you the ring of your dreams,” says Slisha Kankariya, co-founder of Four Mine. If you’re both looking for a way to make a little extra pocket money, though, try The Best Way to Earn $500,000 in Your Spare Time.
One of the biggest signs he has marriage on the mind? “He regularly starts talking with you about a future life together,” notes Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist and marriage counselor. “This shows his heart and intentions.”
“If he starts to sweat or get uncomfortable any time marriage comes up when he didn’t before, it’s definitely a way to tell that something’s up,” says Vikki Ziegler, celebrity divorce attorney, relationship expert, and author of The Pre-Marital Planner. ‘It’s likely that, while he’s very much in love with you, the commitment is very nerve-wracking and he wants you to say yes!” If you’re stressed because you’re the one trying to plan how to propose perfectly, we have what you need: Here are The 20 Best Ways to Absolutely Nail Your Marriage Proposal.
To be fair, this could be a warning sign of something sinister, but if he’s usually an open book and lately he’s been careful to not leave you alone with his phone, he may not want you to see that he’s planning something big that involves your friends and family—like a marriage proposal. “Don’t assume what he is hiding is going to cause you heartache,” cautions Milrad. “In fact, the opposite may be true. It may be that he is emailing with jewelers, hotels, restaurants, and family or has pictures that he needs to keep a secret.”
Holidays are a pretty popular time for proposals, so if he’s asking to spend one like New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day together “just the two of you,” something may be up. “If you’ve been together for more than a year, he’s a traditionalist, and he’s told you he’s taking you somewhere extra special for the holidays, prepare for a proposal,” recommends Masini. “Whether it’s dinner at a luxurious restaurant or a weekend in Paris, many men use a romantic holiday to leverage that seasonal goodness and make it a night to remember.” Who knows, he might even choose one of the 5 most picturesque places to pop the question.
Chances are you’ve made comments to him about your friends’ engagement rings in the past, and he didn’t really have much to say about them. But Kankariya says that a sudden interest in your friends’ rocks and asking whether or not you like them may be his subtle way of trying to determine your tastes.
Another easy tell? “He wants to go golfing with your dad or spend time bonding with your little brother,” says Kankariya. “He’s made the extra effort to be around your family on special occasions.” If the two of you are going to be family, it makes sense that he’d want to get to know yours.
“If you’re coming up on your birthday or the anniversary of your first date, there’s a chance he’s going to propose,” says Masini. “Lots of guys like to propose for your birthday, or because it’s that landmark anniversary—one, two, or more years—as they feel it’s a good time to pop the question.”
If your guy doesn’t usually look twice at your newest wardrobe additions, but lately, he’s been taking an interest, he might be trying to gauge what kind of ring you’d like. Kankariya also says that if he’s been interested in your accessories in particular, he might even be trying to stealthily figure out your ring size.
Your S.O. is generally super transparent about his whereabouts, but in the past few weeks, he’s been a little less open. Sound familiar? “He starts to tell you he’s going one place, then comes home hours later with no proof of where he’s been. He’s most likely been spending secret time shopping for a ring, talking to your parents, and asking them to have your hand before popping the question,” Ziegler says. Again, this one comes with the caveat that things are generally going well in your relationship.
Maybe you usually plan the trips, but for an upcoming vacation, he’s said he wants to handle the itinerary. Kankariya notes that this could be because he’s planning the perfect destination marriage proposal.
“Your family may be overly excited to hear from or check in with you. You get a lot of ‘so what’s new’ or ‘anything to report?’” says Milrad. “It is likely that they have been informed about the upcoming marriage proposal and their excitement is palpable.”
Asking you not to open his dresser drawers or go into the home office is a pretty unusual request and a bit of a strange one, so when this happens, it’s pretty clear that something is going on. “Saying ‘you can’t go in here or there’ is a telltale sign that he’s leading up to proposing and may be hiding the ring somewhere that you could stumble across it,” Ziegler notes. Once he pops the question (and you say yes), make sure you have a conversation soon about the 10 Pre-Marriage Solidifiers All Savvy Couples Agree On.
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