As our society develops, challenging gender roles and societal norms, women are proposing more to men now than ever. But for traditionalists, just once every four years, on February 29 (leap year) a woman can ask a man to marry her. The tradition is believed to date back to the 5th century, when, legend has it, an Irish nun called St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. So, they agreed a deal.

Harley Street Life coach Karl Rollison has some advice on how to propose to your boyfriend and coping with the stress and worry that comes with it:

'Over the years as a martial artist, I’ve trained, sparred and been knocked out by women. I’ve also raced against and been beaten by, women in motorsport. I grew up in a strong, female-dominated household with a no-nonsense mum and older sisters and, when it comes to intellect, my wife beats me hands down. What surprises me in this age of enlightenment, is that there still seems to remain a stigma attached to women proposing to men. The February 29th leap year proposal tradition dates back to 5th Century Ireland, amazingly forward-thinking for the time.'

If you are a woman who believes in gender equality and feminism and you wish to propose to your partner then my advice is to get with the times; it’s becoming more and more common and acceptable.'

Here are some of my tips:

Do your research.

  • Be practical and realistic about it. You’re an intelligent person and know how things are going. Don’t jump on this date because it’s acceptable and doesn’t succumb to the pressure that it only comes around every 4 years. The fact is that if you’ve only been dating a short while it probably isn’t a great move. Unless you are sure, wait!
  • You’ll know how he feels about marriage and commitment by paying attention. There are references everywhere and it doesn’t take much work to bring the subject up and test the water. If he flatly refuses to discuss it, then marriage might not be on the top of his agenda.
  • Have you both attended a wedding together? Did he go willingly or kicking and screaming?
  • If you’ve read any of my books, articles, heard, seen or met me you’ll know that I bang on about instinct all the time. They will never let you down. Instincts are a feeling DON’T confuse them for the voices in your head. Sit down in a quiet place and focus on your breathing. Make a ‘shhh’ noise. Imagine you are trying to calm a baby. Use the same noise on yourself. Breathe out longer than you breathe in and make a long ‘shhh’ noise on the exhale. After a while, you’ll feel peaceful. This technique quietens the mind and will allow you to tune into your intuition. Now ask yourself if the proposal is really what you want and knowing him as well as you do, is it really what he would want? If you get a nice, warm positive feeling that’s great. If however, there is any genuine doubt then don’t do it. To pre-empt this, don’t make your intentions common knowledge, only tell a few key people. If you read the situation on the day and decide it’s not for the best you can always back out without anyone ever having to know.
  • Remember that relationships are supposed to be fun, otherwise what’s the point? Be sure this gesture will benefit your union. Pressure is the enemy of relationships.

So you’re gonna go for it...

  • Keep it light-hearted.
  • I would never recommend a big flamboyant proposal to anyone. I proposed to my wife (my first time) at her birthday party in front of 100 plus people. It couldn’t have gone better, it was a magical night, but there is no formula to this stuff, it could have just as easily gone badly. It’s a lot of unnecessary pressure!
  • Remember, this is you taking the initiative, not him. Your dream might involve romantic music, flowers, candles and the Eiffel tower, but it’s not about you. You need to make him as relaxed as possible. I think food is important in most successful campaigns. Cook him his favourite meal or order his favourite takeaway.
  • Do things that will make him feel relaxed and special, imagine it’s his birthday. Put his favourite music on, run him a bath and stock up on his favourite treats and sweets.
  • Rings are very traditional, but we’re talking about modern life. Engagement is more about the gesture than the symbol. If it feels appropriate, take some pressure off by getting him a necklace or bracelet and having it engraved. Again, don’t use a date in case you want to postpone it to another day.
  • If he drinks, get a wine cooler full of ice and fill it with his favourite tipple. Remember, just because you would like a chilled bottle of Laurent-Perrier Rose Champagne it doesn’t mean he does if he loves Guinness then put a few cans in.
  • Remind him that you are not rushing him into anything. The average engagement time is around a year and a half. Point out that engagement is a commitment in itself and that the wedding can wait. That takes the pressure off any financial concerns regarding marriage.

What if he says no?

This is another reason to keep things intimate. If the worst does happen, then at least you haven’t got an audience. Remember this: you are not jumping out of a plane or juggling chainsaws, you’ll only suffer a bruised ego, you’re not going to die. However, you WILL need to have a frank, candid conversation as to why. Maybe it’s not the right time. Maybe he’s not that serious about you. You have no downside – it’s ALWAYS better to know where you stand with people. There is nothing more unsettling than uncertainty.

What if he says yes?

Chances are, it’ll be a magical experience, and he’ll eagerly say yes. Like most things in life, asking someone to marry you is never as scary as the voices in your head will have you believe.

You do need to reassure him that you are not putting any time constraint on this. Remember why you are together; you love each other and enjoy each other’s company. You’ve got nothing to lose, go for it. GOOD LUCK!