Years ago, my now husband had done such a good job at convincing me he'd never propose that, when he finally did, I couldn't believe it. Literally.

Down on one knee, mid-bridge over a babbling brook, birds practically writing our names in the sky on my BIRTHDAY " I follow up his perfect, "I want you by my side forever," with my equally romantic, "Is this a joke?"

In my defense, the ring was still in hubby's pocket because - like the wonderful human being he is - he wanted the proposal to focus on our love ... I'm sure he would agree the whole thing was a vast success.

My point is, ladies, after a steady diet of "I love you, but I'm not ready to tie the knot," I understand how hard it can be for a woman to fit into her "patience pants."

I get it. It's enormously tempting to lose your cool as you wait for your boyfriend's feet to warm up, but now is not the time to get pushy. If you're currently having trouble fitting into your patience pants, here are three exercises that might help.

A disclaimer

Recognize the difference between "I love you, but I'm not sure I'm ready to get married" and "I love you - OK, maybe I don't." If your boyfriend is doing the hokey pokey and you're stuck pulling "he loves me, he loves me not" petals from innocent daisies, your relationship may not be old enough for marriage yet.

Can squeezing into your patience pants still help you? Sure. Patience pants look good on everyone. I'm just not sure I'd recommend them as an effective remedy for whiplash. If this scenario describes you, you might read this article instead. Assuming, on the other hand, you're in a loving, secure relationship, let's go ahead and get the most difficult exercise over with first.

1. Give your boyfriend space (Ouch. This one burns a little.)

I get it. Us girls want to believe that all men want is to look deep into our eyes every second of every day, breathing the same air back-and-forth forever and ever. But let's call em' like we see em,' girlfriend. Even though you may feel an itty-bitty pang of betrayal when your honey asks to spend Friday night with the guys, deep down, you know your man needs a little variation in his life - as do you.

If alone time makes you cringe, consider this. Both you and your partner have your own 'attachment styles,' ways you connect - or don't connect - with others. These emotional patterns, developed during childhood and formed throughout life, carry over into intimate relationships. If you and your partner have different personal space needs, it might be helpful to determine your styles of attachment. Once you understand how and why you are different, you can work toward a compromise.

2. Ditch the negative assumptions

Just because your boyfriend is not 100 percent sure about marriage yet doesn't mean he isn't in love with you. Sometimes, we females have a nasty habit of assigning motives to other's actions (or lack of action). Darn it all, we want reasons! Unfortunately, when we don't get any, we tend to make up our own. And we must delight in torturing ourselves because our logic usually goes something like this: "He's not proposing because he only really cares about his friends," or, "His mother hates me!"

Before you go about planning your future mother-in-law's unfortunate demise, let's analyze the facts. The truth is, you don't know everything that goes on beneath your boyfriend's devilishly handsome head of hair. If you've chosen to love a good man who makes you feel loved in return, it's not likely that a delayed engagement is coming from a hostile place. Assuming the best about your situation will make you feel happier now - no matter what happens in the future - and your boyfriend will recognize and deeply appreciate your positive vibes. Speaking of positivity"¦

3. Talk people up. This includes yourself!

We all know that ladies be lovin' the gossip. Sure, sometimes the occasional judgment or negative thought pops out of your mouth before you even realize it. You're only human. But if you find you've made a habit of backbiting, trash-talking, and judging, you might be scaring your honey off. When you criticize others, your boyfriend can't help but wonder how much you might criticize him in a few years when his devilishly handsome head of hair has transformed into a devilishly handsome combover.

Love on others, and love on yourself. As you compliment those around you, don't forget the woman in the mirror. You cannot expect your boyfriend to desire your hand if you don't even seem to love yourself. Show your honey what a catch you are - how confident you are in your beauty (inside and out). Remind him how good it feels to be around you, to hear you laugh, to receive your praise. After all, we believe what we hear repeatedly, so make sure your sweetheart hears good things from you, and make sure he hears them often.

While you should speak of your romantic future with faith and optimism, remember that marriage is an "invitation only" party. As much as you might like to, you can't nudge your boyfriend into marrying you. If you try to, you might find yourself alone. So, hang in there, sister. Change your environment, and come up for some fresh air from time to time. Assume the best. Love yourself. You look fabulous in those patience pants.

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