Getting Him From I Love You To I Do

True or false: If a man you've been dating for a year and a half hasn't gotten around to popping the question, patience is your best bet — pressure will surely scare him off.

That's false, according to John T. Molloy, author of Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others: The Fascinating Research That Can Land You the Husband of Your Dreams (Warner Books, 2003). According to Molloy's research, nearly three out of four engaged women — 73 percent, to be exact — got a proposal only after goading a gun-shy partner at least a little. "The thing about guys is, they don't think about it," Molloy says. "Women often have to bring up the subject of marriage."

Molloy's research reveals these additional facts that can help wanna-be brides choose a man who's the marrying kind and nurture a relationship toward bended knee.

About the men who marry:

  • College-educated men are most likely to consider marriage when they're 28 to 33, and that "high-commitment period" is 33 to 36 for doctors, lawyers and others who go to graduate school.
  • Men who wear bachelorhood as a badge of honor are unlikely to commit — the chance a man will marry diminishes after age 37 or 38, and decreases even more after 43. (However, a man aged 40-plus who's been married before is a better risk than a perennial bachelor.)
  • If a guy portrays marriage as a prison — says "My friends have to ask their wives' permission to make a move, but I want to be able to do what I want when I wanna do it!" — it's a red flag. He's probably not the marrying kind.
  • Some men are "stringers," i.e.they like a woman's companionship without the commitment, and should be given a six-month deadline to commit...or move on.

About the women they marry:

  • The women men marry are often a match in terms of their backgrounds — they come from a similar socioeconomic class and with congruent values and religious and political views.
  • Women who have talent and self-confidence and put an effort into looking their best are attractive to self-assured men.
  • Women who make the effort to spend time with single men (by joining recreational clubs where people have similar interests, for example) are more likely to wed. "There's a meet-guys lifestyle and a non-meet lifestyle," Molloy explains. "Women who go out of their way to meet men and have a good time are more likely to get married."

Mission: Marriage

Monogamy usually comes within six months for those who will marry, and after a year of exclusive dating, engagement is a realistic next step. But when you first meet a potential mate-for-life, nurture your budding relationship by focusing on the man's future, health and career, and avoid speaking of marriage, Molloy advises — at least for the first six dates or so. "Women scare guys off all the time by bringing up the subject of marriage too soon," the researcher says.

However, there are true commitmentphobes, who might never wed, warns Toni Coleman, a licensed clinical social worker in McLean, Va. Men's views of marriage as an institution are often shaped by the experiences of their family and friends who have taken the plunge, so look for clues: Have the people closest to him had failed marriages that made them miserable? Then, Coleman explains, your mate "could have developed a very deep-seated belief that marriage, in general, doesn't work."

Many men make no secret of their plan to stay single, Molloy points out: "If a man says he never intends to marry, he just might mean it!" Ask him again a little later in the relationship, then set yourself free to find a more commitment-friendly sort.

For more on convincing a man that marrying you is the smartest thing he could ever do, read Closing the Deal: Two Married Guys Take You From Single Miss to Wedded Bliss by Richard Kirshenbaum and Daniel Rosenberg (William Morrow & Company, 2005).