Two Sense: Do Marriage Proposal Ultimatums Work?


Welcome to our new weekly blog of half-truths and educated guesses on love, sex and relationships in San Francisco. Here's a little background on who's dishing the advice:

He is a novelist living in SF who’s had one marriage, two live-in relationships, 10 girlfriends and a very wise therapist.

She is an SF health journalist who’s been married, single, communal, and bi-curious, and has studied tantra and orgasm—for research purposes, of course.

And here are the answers to the first round of questions. Have a question of your own? Send 'em over to

Do ultimatums work? I gave my boyfriend a deadline to propose and now I’m scared: If he doesn’t, I’ll have to walk.

He Said: Sorry to sound all Obi-Wan, but if you’re overly worried about giving an ultimatum, then it probably wasn’t a good idea. Healthily communicating what you want and when you want it is a sign of maturity. An ultimatum, on the other hand, though it often uses similar language, arises from fear and a need to manipulate. In this case, you’ve already thrown down the gauntlet, but listen up: If he doesn’t propose, you don’t have to walk. Maybe you will, or maybe you’ll have a good conversation that leads to unexpected options that work for both of you. When a girlfriend has given me a deadline, I’ve tried not to take it too personally. It’s about her needs, and if I’ve chosen to be with her, those are important to me. If I focus on what she’s really asking for (in your case, commitment), the timing takes care of itself. Hopefully your man will feel the same way.

She Said: Let’s dig a little deeper. Why didn’t you just propose yourself? I’m guessing it’s because, no matter how much you profess to be a modern woman, you wanted to be asked. But ay, there’s the rub. If you ask to be asked, then you’ve actually done the asking! Better if you had gone down on one knee, à la Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. (Tip: No matter what the dilemma, always picture Julia Roberts playing you in the story of your life. She’s moody, troubled, confused—and adorable. That’s you.) But now that the cat is out of the bag, you have three options: (1) Take it back. Say, “What was I thinking? Deadlines are for term papers.” (2) Make light of it. Kneel down at Quince and hand him a black velvet box—with concert tickets in it. (3) Hang tight, see what happens, and cross that bridge when you come to it. Contrary to popular opinion—especially in a city where everyone is so ready to diagnose and reject potential mates—relationship checkmates are not always done deals. Everything you believe, say and do influences your boyfriend’s behavior. Stop thinking and talking yourself into a corner.

My bisexual guy friend claims that most hetero men have had at least one gay experience, often beginning in high school. He’s always talking about the straight guys he seduces. As a straight man, I’m skeptical.

He Said: As far as teenage gay experiences, do you mean hour-long afterschool “wrestling” sessions at your best friend’s house while playing Van Halen really loud to muffle the sounds of your confused but obvious pleasure? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Of course it happens. After high school, too. But guess what, dude? You live in San Francisco. Lesbians hook up with straight men. Longtime sluts turn monogamous. Your local barista dances at Lusty Lady on Thursday nights. Get with the program.

She Said: This reminds me of the awful time my brother and I, both raised Catholic, got into a long, agonizing discussion of homosexuality on one of those six-hour drives back from Tahoe. By the time we had crossed the Bay Bridge, I was so sick of his barely-couched homophobia posing as faux-theology—he pondered whether Roman orgies had possibly tainted our forebears’ DNA, causing the “gay gene”—that I suddenly, to my own horror, yelled, “Face it! You’re just afraid of getting it up the a--!” (He assures me he’s over it, but I’m not.)

By the way, Kinsey found, way back in 1948, that 37 percent of men have had at least one homosexual experience—and we know that 37 percent of men aren’t gay.

My boyfriend is more passionate about rock climbing than getting it on with me. Short of strapping myself into his harness, what can I do?

He Said: The thing you don’t want to do is take up rock climbing. I could get into why this would be a dumb idea for a number of reasons, but trust me on this one. That settled, I want you to think about why your boyfriend—or anyone—climbs rocks: adventure, unpredictability, high drama. If you’re going to pry your man’s hands from those carabiners, you’re going to need to embody all of those qualities at least twice as much as a slab of granite does.

Your assignment: On a regular basis, show him that you’re a force of nature. Make him find a foothold in your heart. You think I’m kidding? If you don’t like the place he picked for a date, let him know. Pout. Seethe. Be a woman, for chrissakes. At the same time, if something he says or does makes your toes tie themselves in knots, let him know, too. Be capricious. Volatile. Some guys reading this will hate me for telling you this. These are not the guys you want to date.

I know. It’s easier said than done. But show your boyfriend what you’re made of, for real. If he can’t hang with that, tell the big man to go climb a rock. And find a bigger man who can climb you.

She Said: Um, what he said.


Confused? Heartbroken? Curious? Send your questions to and we might just answer them here. Have thoughts about this post? We want to hear 'em! Comment below.


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