Our dear friend Sarah is in a committed relationship with her boyfriend, but he won't take that commitment to the next level. He says that he's not ready to commit to her further.
Here's her email:
A few months ago, my boyfriend of 2.5 years (he's 28 and I'm 32, and we don't live together) and I were planning on buying a house.
We discussed legal aspects (i.e. what happens if things don't work out), financial aspects and I felt like we were on the path to home ownership. We decided against it because the market is not very good and I think we both realized it was too soon for us anyway. Since then, we haven't had any conversations about moving in together.
I got the feeling from him that he had changed his mind and wasn't ready.
The other day, I asked him if he would ever want to live with me, and he gave me a very confusing answer - that he loved me very much, but felt like he wasn't ready to settle down. That he never got to live the bachelor life and that he doesn't feel ready financially, mentally or socially. The confusing part is that he said he feels like he wants to meet more people and have more fun and I'm not sure if he means guy friends or females.
We have a connection that I've never experienced. We are very easy going, communicative and don't fight. We have the same goals, don't want children, and make long term career plans with each other in mind.
His family, friends and I get along amazing. We have a ton of fun whenever we're together, and thoroughly enjoy our quality time together. We have a lot of the same interests, have the same sense of humor but also have our separate interests and passions that we encourage each other to pursue.
We vacation together for weeks on end and don't drive each other crazy. We are always in each others plans for the future, the near future anyway, such as where we want to vacation during the next year and how we can prepare for our financial future. He kisses me on the forehead regularly and looks at me with a love in his eyes that makes me believe I am truly his number one.
In short, his actions and his words are saying two different things and it's got me really confused.
During our lengthy discussion about commitment, I told him I would not be someone's second choice, if indeed he wasn't sure if I was the one for him and wanted to keep his options open.
He told me he wishes we had met when he was a few years older. The thought of us breaking up made us both cry as we held each other. We decided to stay together, even though I'm aware that anything can change, but realistically, that's a risk we take even if both parties are committed.
I don't have a lot of friends and we talked about how our social lives consist of us hanging out with his friends/family and doing things that he suggests or initiates. I have a business that requires me to work alone and I've found it has made me slightly isolated and I don't have a lot going on in my life.
I think a part of him wishes I was more outgoing, fun, exciting, and engaging.
In the past few days, I've found myself trying to make myself appear more appealing to him, dressing nicer, trying to be funnier and not bring up stressful topics. I've also been analyzing his words and actions, I think in search for some clue that he's swaying one way or the other and so far, he's just like normal; loving, fun and committed to making me happy.
But I know I can't do this forever, looking for proof he picks me/commitment, as it will drive me crazy. My brain says break up with him, as I've learned from previous experiences that we always miss the red flags and I don't want to feel stupid down the road when/if he breaks up with me.
But in my heart, I know that he loves me more than I think anyone has ever loved me and I think he's smart enough to know he won't ever find anyone as good as me - actually he's told me that.
I've been thinking of giving him 6 months and then coming back to this with him to see if anything's changed. If not I'll have to end it.
I don't want a commitment to move in together right away, just a "Yes, absolutely one day I want to live with you" from him. I know what I deserve and want in life. Everything I read on your site says to me I need to end this relationship. Do you think maybe this is different?
Thanks so much,
The part that makes every relationship different is that it’s your own.
You know what he has to offer. You know where he stands. You know what you have with him. And you know very clearly what you want – a commitment that says "Yes, absolutely one day I want to live with you."
But that isn't what you're getting from him. You have a guy who is being honest with you, letting you know that “he loves you very much, but feels like he isn't ready to settle down.” And you are. And you are being very wise to believe him, to hear what he’s saying, to not make excuses for him, but to take him at his word, even if his actions give you reason to hope.
The fact that you're 32 and he’s 28 may have something to do with this; as you're ready for more of a commitment – and understandably so! – while he doesn't feel the same urgency.
And because for men in our culture, there is never an expectation that he should be settling down like there is for women, it feels normal for him that he would want to experience that bachelor life that is widely marketed in so many ways around us.
I suspect this is what he’s talking about, too, and why he feels he isn't in any hurry to commit to you, regardless of his feelings for you. It’s two different things.
But this isn't about him; it’s about you.
It’s about what you need to be happy, it’s about what you can live with and what you can’t. It’s not about settling, it’s about making a choice knowing full well what it is your choosing, and what you’re giving up and what you’re not. It’s about being honest with yourself about what you’re looking for from him and what he is and isn't able to give you.
My concern is that you’re “trying to make myself appear more appealing to him, dressing nicer, trying to be funnier and not bring up stressful topics.”
When we go down the path of trying to be more of what we think someone wants us to be to try to convince them of our worth, and why they should want to be with us in the committed relationship we’re looking for, we can do so much damage to our self-esteem and confidence by feeling like because we are not getting our desired response that there is something “wrong” with us, or that we’re somehow not “good enough” for them. When in reality, this isn’t about you being enough of anything for him, it’s about his own desire to live the bachelor life, as he says, and do what he feels he needs to do for himself. This has nothing to do with you.
Take your own power back, Sarah, because this is about what you can do, not what you can’t.
Because you can do a lot.
You have a timeline, which is your own inner gauge of how long you’re willing to wait to see if anything changes. But in that timeline, don’t spent your time waiting. There’s so much more to life than waiting for someone to be ready, to be on your same page, to see what you can see so clearly.
Don’t let your business isolate you; go find the life that you want for yourself. Don't make him the center of your universe. Give him some space to be himself while you discover your own true self. Be true to yourself. Find the people, the hobbies, the activities that fuel your own passions.
Don't spend your time focusing on him and where he’s at – that does more damage to you than you can imagine. Don’t nag, don't try to manipulate or control him. Don't play games. Just be yourself. Be honest with him and yourself. And be your authentic true self.
Keep your own options open and adopt the mindset that you are the one who’s the prize here - because you are!
When you make your own life so full and happy with the things that bring you joy, you won't be looking to him to complete you or fill you up or come around and be something he can’t or won’t be.
And when you live your life like this, you’ll allow him to discover if he's ready to take things to the next step on his own, because that’s the only way you want it.
That's what this is all about; living your own beautiful life in such a way that what someone else does or doesn't do doesn't matter; what matters above all else is your own happiness!
Do you have any words of advice or support for Sarah? Or can you relate to her story? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!