What It Means When A Man Gives A Woman A Ring — But Doesn't Actually Propose

Photo: Viktoriia Hnatiuk / 
young man and woman looking seriously at the camera

What does it mean when someone gives you a ring but doesn't ask for your hand in marriage? Was it a gift? A promise ring? Or is he just being flaky? 

We can imagine that this may feel a bit confusing, at least for the receiver, as he or she doesn't know for certain exactly what the ring means.

You know that your partner loves you and wants a future with you, but why won't they take the next step to elevate your relationship

How do you know if he or she is seriously ready to assume this role, or for that matter, if they truly want to. The only way to find out, is to have a serious conversation about intentions and demand that your partner be upfront and honest about where your relationship is headed.

It's possible he will never ask to marry you, but you need to know a few things to determine that.

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Here are some reasons why he might give you a ring, but not ask you to marry him: 

  • They are waiting for someone better to come along.

  • They are afraid that marriage will change the dynamics of the relationship.

  • They have a fear of failure. 

  • They are hanging on to a lost love that still holds the key to their heart.

  • They are not ready for the responsibilities that come with marriage.

  • They are not ready for a union.

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Here is one couple's story:

Julie and David had known one another and lived together for several years. They had met each other's families. They attended family functions together as a couple.

They had talked about marriage with neither one of them being in a big hurry, but both agreeing that eventually they wanted to be married. David joked that maybe he would be ready in 10-12 years, while Julie said she thought 5-6 years in may be more to her liking. 

David had been in a committed relationship before but never married while Julie had been married and divorced.  

One day they were out and about when Julie nudged David and said, "Hey, we are right by a jewelry store. What do you think about going in to look at rings?" By this time they had been together three years. 

She wasn't in a rush but was feeling him out to see his reaction. He said, "I guess so." Julie said, "I don't mean that we have to pick out anything today but what if I gave you some ideas of what I might like one day?" David responded, "Sure we can go in and look but I'm not planning on doing anything today."

Does David sound like he is sure of what he wants? Is Julie making him feel obligated?  

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Fast forward — David actually picked out a setting and a stone that he thought was beautiful. When the store called to say the ring was ready for pick up they went to pick it up together. Julie couldn't wait to see the ring and it was nothing less than stunning. 

She didn't want to take away from the moment so once they got back into the car, she said she would put the ring in the glove box so that when he was ready he could surprise her. 

Julie had always wanted that moment between them to be special but what happened next caught her off guard. 

He looked over at her and said, "Why are you putting it in there? You may as well wear it. You already know about it. I was going to pick out a ring on my own and surprise you at the beach one day but now you know already."  

He seemed insistent so Julie followed suit, but the truth is this was a huge disappointment and Julie felt hurt. Maybe she really had made him feel obligated but that was not her intention. 

She was in love with him but she wanted to feel certain that he truly did want to marry her. This created shadows of doubt in the relationship

Julie proudly wore the ring and David seemed excited to tell his best friends that he was engaged. Family members on Julie's side were some of the first to know. 

When they told David's mom, she was so excited for them. She responded, "I'm so happy to see my son so happy." 

The happy couple had the blessings of everyone important to them. That's all that mattered. But, was that enough?

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For quite a while, David would proudly introduce Julie as his fiance and vice versa. However, after more than a year he and Julie had never once discussed dates. Eventually, Julie expressed to David that before she would marry him he would have to officially propose and he said, "I know that!" 

One day she questioned David and shared her concerns about making him feel obligated when perhaps his heart wasn't really in it. He replied, "I never would have bought you the ring if I didn't want to." 

Yet another year went by with no discussions. Julie began to feel more hurt and resentful. 

This wasn't the only issue at the realm of their relationship problems but it certainly stood in the midst. One thing after another and pretty soon Julie stopped wearing her ring. She didn't want people to assume she was getting married when David didn't appear to have any intention of doing so.  

Someone who is serious about marriage will help plan the event or at least be willing to discuss ideas — how formal should the event be, location, wedding party, costs, etc. They would typically act excited to move forward in the relationship. 

As a couple (if you haven't done so already) you would discuss finances, talk about your dreams and goals. Where should you live? Do you want to have children? If so, how many? 

It would be important to them that you continuously make an effort to keep your relationship strong. This wouldn't be a situation where one person always brings up the subject while the other one says, "I don't care. Do whatever you want."

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Is it worth giving them the chance to decide to ask for marriage on their own?

The truth is that some people enjoy being taken care of. They like the thought of waking up next to someone and the perks of a "bedroom" relationship. 

They may enjoy the lifestyle of having someone cook, clean, do laundry, dishes, etc. 

The question is — are they reciprocating and meeting your needs in a way that feels at least somewhat balanced?  Are they looking for someone who assumes a mother/father, roommate, maid role, or do they sincerely want a life partner?

Someone who is serious about getting married is not going to leave you wondering about the importance of marriage in your relationship. Why is David so afraid of commitment? 

Marriage doesn't just require commitment — it also requires a deep level of trust and communication.  

Would they benefit from couples counseling? Only if they are both willing to be completely honest and transparent about what they want individually and as a couple.  

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David needs up front about his genuine feelings and Julie has to decide if she can accept his feelings or how she wants to move forward. 

Is she willing to stay in the relationship if he isn't willing to make a commitment? What exactly does the relationship mean to either of them?

Can Julie be content if nothing ever changes? Does David make her feel important? Does he treat her like she matters? Is he good to her in ways that truly matter?  

What you should do if you get the ring, but not the proposal

Just because your partner gives you an engagement ring, it does not mean they want the commitment we assume goes with it. Is he/she willing to put a genuine effort into your relationship? 

Are you included the the process of making important decisions? Do you and your partner support one another? Does the sentiment of a ring stand in the way of your ability to love one another? 

Ask yourself this, "Why is this ring so important to me?" Your answers may surprise even you.

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Kathy Thielen is an energy healer and life coach who focuses on happiness, self-care, psychic healing, and relationships.