This month, a reader wonders how to get her man to propose.

My boyfriend and I have been committed to each other for three years. We’ve discussed marriage, but there’s been no proposal. Should I give him an ultimatum?
In a perfect world, a proposal happens organically because the two partners have spoken about it enough to realize they’re on the same page in terms of marriage, children and shared goals for the life they want to build together. So when a man does pop the question, his woman is thrilled, but she’s usually not completely surprised.

If, however, your conversations about marriage are occasional and general and you would like them to be more frequent and specific, I wouldn’t advise putting your boyfriend on the spot about it. Ultimatums are pure man repellants—as I know from experience. Many years ago, I fell in love with a guy I thought I could be with forever, but when a friend saw him out with someone else, I told him straight up: Either we’re exclusive or we’re over. Well, he promptly chose the latter, and even though in retrospect I realized he wasn’t the one for me, at the time I was devastated. Demands that put a man’s back against the wall never work.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to hold your breath waiting for him to show up with a ring. But before you step to your boyfriend about wedding bells, first understand what makes a man pop the question. A man proposes to a woman he knows to be a prize. He wants to marry someone who will be an asset to his life in every respect. He loves it when he walks into a room and all eyes turn to the woman on his arm—not because she’s a supermodel but because her abilities and accomplishments radiate from her in the form of confidence and warmth. In fact, it boils down to this: The happier you are with yourself, the more your man will recognize your worth and feel that he wants to lock you down. If you’re unhappy with who you are and think marriage is going to solve your problems, you’re (a) wrong and (b) sending out signals that will convince him you’re not the one.

Of course, it’s very possible that your man does value what he has with you but simply thinks the status quo is great, so why rock the boat. Then it may be time to initiate a conversation, beginning by telling him what you appreciate about your relationship. Say something like, “I know we’re great together and I know how much fun we’re having, but what I don’t know is how you feel about our future.”

Now the ball is in his court. See how he answers. If he says he loves you but he isn’t ready for marriage, gently try to find out why. Perhaps he wants something to fall into place with his career or education first. If it’s a matter of his being on a different timeline, you can then decide how long you’re willing to wait. On the other hand, if his response makes you feel that he doesn’t appreciate what he has in you, you should leave the relationship. That will be difficult because you love him, but you should never stay where you don’t feel valued. And best-case scenario, walking away may be the only thing that makes him realize your incredible worth.

How to get yours!

First things first: Love yourself. Before you can love anyone else, you must love you. So write down everything you love about yourself. And really believe that you’re special, wonderful and worthy of love.

This year
Have the confidence to initiate the conversation about marriage with your man. Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and have time to really talk, remembering that talking also means listening.

For Life
Even when you’re married, be your own woman. Maintain your own interests, friends and goals. Remember, you don’t merely want him to fall in love with you but to stay in love with you.