I was a teenager, I wondered why a man would get down on his
knees to ask a woman to marry him? From Day One I thought
it was weird and not necessary. However, for many, it is
thought of as enthralling. Some women look forward to the
day when a prince charming would kneel before her with ring
in hand and ask her to marry him. Forty-two years ago, I
did not get on my knees and I had no engagement ring, and we
are still in love.
IS IT NECESSARY?
Is it important for a husband-to-be to get down on his knees
with the expected or unexpected proposal with a ring in his
hands? Absolutely not. It is only a tradition. This
tradition has nothing to do with the quality of the
relationship before or after marriage. In fact, I’ve
noticed over my forty-three years of professional life, that
many men, standing before their bride-to-be with ring in
hand, were egotistical. It was only a show that made his
heart swell with pride. Even the “tears of joy” by the
future surprised bride could not prevent the “tears of
misery” in the marriage.
Based on my research, the origin of this tradition is
uncertain. One writer states: “The idea of kneeling on one
knee as essential to the standard proposal is not enshrined
in history; it appears to be a largely modern invention, but
it's not clear how it originated.” Hannah Crites writes in
the online blog, “Why should men propose on one knee?” “The
action itself has been around for centuries. Catholics bend
on one knee as a sign of respect toward the tabernacle
before taking their seats for the Mass.
Knights bend down on one knee before the king when being
knighted and when presenting themselves in a show of honor
to royalty. In war, the losing party would kneel in front of
the army who won the battle in surrender. . . In religion,
kneeling is appropriate during prayers and other religious
ceremonies, including wedding vows for some faiths. Kneeling
is also done to genuflect when entering a church or temple.
When proposing, kneeling can have the same spiritual
connotation and can be a sign of respect.”
RESPECT, HONOR, SURRENDER, HUMILITY
As I read further in the article and many others on the
topic, it became clear three words of importance regarding
kneeling: respect, honor, and surrender. One research
indicates that kneeling in general in European history has
been a sign of supplication, humility, and servitude.
Humility? Wow! Kneeling in all the above settings
suggests giving up power, or willing to let someone share
power with you, or admitting you are weaker than the other,
or acknowledging an equal or greater power before you.
If we apply these ideas to the marriage proposal on bended
knee, then the future husband needs to stay on his knees all
his life. Why? Because that symbolism of surrender,
respect, honor, and humility, dissipates quickly in the
marriage. The whole idea of “we will share power,” or “I
will listen to you,” or “I need you by my side,” or “I
acknowledge the greatness is you,” truly falls through the
cracks of male chauvinistic ideology, traditionalism, and a
painful and coercive views of “headship” in marriage.
Some husbands need to get back down on their knees and stay
there for a while until the
apply these ideas to the marriage
proposal on bended knee, then the future
husband needs to stay on his knees all
pain of tradition penetrates through the patella and
transmits through the nerves reaching the harden hearts of
stubbornness, pride, and selfishness. If bending the knee
is a symbol of respect, honor, humility and surrender,
shouldn’t both the man and woman bow before each other when
there is a marriage proposal?
IS THERE POWER IN THE RING?
How could a simple act of kneeling before your future bride
be so misleading? Because it is only an act; nothing
more. It guarantees nothing. Sometimes I wonder if it is
the ring itself when I notice the responses on the future
brides’ faces. They would scream, shout, jump, dance, cry,
after noticing the ring.
Here are a few questions: Is she happy for receiving the
ring because of what it means—getting married? Is she happy
because she can tell it is expensive? Is she happy because
she can now show off that she officially has a man in her
life? Is she happy because she feels equally honored to
give him a ring as well? In the Online Sun Magazine, writer
Harley Richardson states: “In the 1930s, De Beers launched
an incredibly successful “Diamonds Are Forever” advertising
campaign in America, insisting the stones were rare and
precious – and the only way to propose marriage.” The
advertising did a lot for this merchandiser but not for the
hearts of those getting married. These diamonds have done
nothing. Men, get down on your knees and stay there.
That’s brings me to the point why men do not wear engagement
rings. The reason goes back to ancient times and even
during the Victorian age when women were considered
property. The ring was a symbol of ownership.
owned her and therefore she had to stay put. He was free
to roam the country and have as many women he wanted without
When my son got engaged, he sought and could not find an
engagement ring for himself, so he bought a male wedding
band instead. I was proud of him. It is my view that
both should wear it. However, never forget a ring, no matter
how valuable, worn by just the woman or both the woman and
the man, does nothing to guarantee there will be no marital
discord or breakup. There are many still wearing their
wedding bands while receiving their Divorce Decree
WOMEN CAN PROPOSE TOO
Do you realize that believing that only men can propose in
marriage is false? It is a clear outgrowth of a belief
system that men are overall leaders of the home, marriage,
church, society. Hence, it teaches that he leads his wife
to the altar instead of both meeting there. Therefore, as a
marriage officer, I avoid asking in a marriage ceremony:
“Who gives this woman to marry this man?”
Why isn’t there a question: “Who give this man to marry this
woman.” According to theologian John Temple Bristow, the
tradition goes back to ancient times when daughters were the
property of their fathers who had authority over them. In
an ancient marriage ceremony, the fathers gave the daughters
to the husbands who then had authority over them.
Understanding equality in marriage, this practice is
irrelevant. It is not just the woman marrying the man, but
the man marrying the woman also and neither of them is
property of the other.
It is now time for women to wake up and know that
they have a voice in the direction of a marriage
relationship and even a proposal. The truth is that
there are many who are happily married who have
never had a formal proposal. No one got down on
bended knees. No one asked the question: “Will you
marry me.” They simply, together agreed to get
married and jointly made plans to do so.
What makes marriage lasts is the commitment to the task, the
actions on making it work, and the humility to listen to
each other. It is certainly not asking to marry on bending
knees with a diamond ring in hand.
As stated earlier, some men need to get back down on their
knees and stay there until they get the message.
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, JP, is
a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical
psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to
email@example.com or write to P.O. Box CB-11045,
Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or
call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.