When my then-boyfriend and I had been dating about two months, I went to the bar with a friend. She asked me how things were going. "I think I'm going to marry him," I said, not thinking about it.
Once the words were out of my mouth, I knew they were true.
Before we'd started dating, we'd become good friends. I knew so much about him, but never dreamed I'd be able to claim I knew "everything" about him, and I loved that. He had seen me at some incredibly low lows, he had supported me and encouraged me when there was no reason for him to be so nice to me. He was exactly the sort of person I wanted to spend my time with, be it an hour between dinner watching The Daily Show or the rest of my life.
Over the next year, he and I discussed our hopes for our futures many times. We talked about how we would raise our children, the sort of parents we wanted to be, the sort of life we wanted for ourselves and for these theoretical future people.
By the time we'd been dating a year-and-a-half, we both knew perfectly well we wanted to get married, but he didn't ask. Instead, we moved in together. It seemed like a practical first step. And still, he didn't ask. I held my breath through my birthday, but a proposal didn't come. Finally, I couldn't stand the suspense.
"You know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, right?" I asked him.
"So here's the deal. You have to pull your head out of your butt and propose to me before your birthday. Got it?"
He laughed, and agreed, sure, he got it. I figured I could wait four months.
Two months passed without a single mention of marriage. I began casually asking him to marry me at random times, and he refused to answer the question. I hoped maybe hearing somebody else say it occasionally would make it easier for him to spit the words out. After all, he knew I'd say yes. And I knew he was as in love with me as I was with him. Or almost, at any rate.
On Independence Day, from the time we woke up until we went to bed, the day was nonstop romance and fun. He took me to a friend's barbecue, on a long walk through a street fair, and we made love with fireworks above us in the sky.
As we lay in bed, he looked into my eyes, and asked me to marry him. No ring, no phone call to my father to ask for my hand, none of that. Just the right magical moment.
I said yes, of course.
The next day, he was rushed to the hospital after collapsing during a softball game. It turned out he had brain cancer, a stage four glioblastoma.
If we hadn't been engaged, I don't know what we would have done. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to advocate for him, I wouldn't have been granted the access to his care I needed by the hospital, the pharmacy, his insurance.
As "the fiancé," I fought his HMO for coverage for his brain surgery, and for his continued treatment at an out of network hospital. As "the fiancé," I was able to negotiate his way into an experimental medical trial, which extended his projected life span from months to years.
I have no regrets about the ultimatum I gave him. Without it, I can't imagine what would have happened. He probably would have refused to even think about marriage until his prognosis changed, he might have felt less confident to rely on me during his treatments and suffered more.
I was able to be there for him as his fiancée in a way I couldn't as his girlfriend. And then, to be there for him as his wife.
Maybe a proposal ultimatum isn't the best idea in the world, but if you really care about each somebody, if you really intend to stand with them through all the crap life might have to throw at you, there's no point wasting time. There's no reason to drag your feet.
And if it's an ultimatum that moves you forward, than so be it.