Joe O'Shea advises: I want to ask my boyfriend to marry me, but my friends are appalled
I'm a 36-year-old woman and have been with my boyfriend for going on five years. He is the man of my dreams and our relationship is really solid. We live together, have an amazing love life and lots in common. I absolutely love the man.
You're probably wondering what your woman's problem is then. Well, here it is: he hasn't popped the question yet.
Nor does he seem too concerned with asking me any time soon. But I'm a woman of a certain age and don't have too much time left to have children.
I think five years is long enough for any man to find time to ask a woman to marry him. I'm sure he feels the same way about me as I do about him, we both want to have children and our lives are completely invested in each other. So, I was thinking of speeding things up a little by asking him to marry me.
We live in 2010 with equality among the sexes, so why not? But when I've told my friends that I'm thinking of asking him to marry me, they're horrified, saying it would be a huge mistake. Some of them even say it's pathetic or unladylike for a woman to ask a man to marry her! But I think that's old-fashioned thinking that went out with the 19th century.
Surely it's a sign of my confidence as a woman and the hard-earned freedom my mother fought for to say to my boyfriend, 'What about it Jack?'
Am I going out on a limb by asking for my boyfriend's hand in marriage?
Oh lordy, girl. Listen to your friends -- they are absolutely right. Do not propose to your man, not unless you want to see a boyfriend-shaped hole in the front door.
Irish men may have come some distance towards maturity over the past while with personal hygiene, domestic skills and... um... y'know, talking about feelings and stuff.
But no Irish man wants to be trapped in a corner. Give him an ultimatum (and no matter how gently you put the proposal, that is exactly how he will see it) and his natural reaction will be fight or flight.
He may be a great guy, he is probably even thinking along the same lines as you when it comes to marriage, kids and long walks on the beach in your old age.
But, like many Irish men, that's a general aspiration off in the distance and he probably has vague ideas about two tickets to Paris and a romantic moment underneath the Eiffel Tower.
Most men, and most Irish men in particular, like to think they are vaguely in control, calling the major shots; you know, the same delusions enjoyed by our fathers before us.
And if you decide to propose, there is every chance he could take it as an affront to his manly manliness, before getting over the initial shock and switching into escape mode.
You do sound happy enough with the situation and the problem may be that, as a couple, things are going too well for you. He's probably thinking, "Sure isn't this great, she's happy and we can go on like this for ever".
A lot of Irish guys, even into their mid-30s, live week-to-week, while their significant others are planning year-to-year (it is truly a tragedy there weren't more women executives working in our banks over the past decade).
They really do believe that as long as they remember the major holidays and anniversaries, take you out for the odd posh meal and do their duty with the in-laws, they have got it covered.
What you now need to do is move him, firmly but gently, out of that comfort zone. You are 36, you guys have been together for five years and you are absolutely right when you say it's time for him to make that final commitment.
But you need to box clever. You can start by subtly changing your social life so that you spend more time with married friends and nieces and nephews and far less time with unattached friends who are still out there playing the field.
Start talking about long-term plans and accept every wedding invite that drops through the letter box. What we are talking about here is conditioning your man in the way that a good trainer will get a horse to run straight and ignore distractions by using blinkers.
Wait until he is in a relaxed and cuddly mood then ask him how he sees your future together. Men are suckers for romance at the right time and he will naturally start moving towards what you are both hoping for anyway.
You sound like a smart, spirited woman who knows what she wants. All you have to do now is help your man realise what he wants. And in a timely fashion.
One last bit of advice, though: Don't pick the moment when he walks in the door after a big day out with the lads at the rugby.
That's just not fair.