What To Say When He Won’t Commit To A Life Together

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Sometimes relationships can be amazing and we can feel like the only thing we need to make the relationship perfect is a commitment.   However, when he won’t commit no matter what we try, the entire relationship can feel painful and pointless.


I know how horrible it feels to love a man, know that he loves you, and yet find yourself waiting around for him to step up to the plate and shelf his male freedoms for a chance to share a life with you. In the relationship I’m in now, there was a long time where my man was very happy seeing me twice a week for a sleepover and then spending the rest of his time in his house, doing his thing and not dealing with me on a daily basis.


At first, it was a nice arrangement.  I had been married and welcomed a relationship where I didn’t have to have arguments about wet towels left on the bed.  But then, I wanted more.  I not only wanted to see him more than every few days, I wanted to feel like I wasn’t just his vacation:  I felt like he was living on this island and every now and then he’d leave his li’l paradise for a chance to have some good sex, good laughs and some good conversation.


I was starting to wonder whether he would stick around and love me during those hard times that are inevitable in every relationship where there are less laughs and more stressful moments of disconnect and misunderstanding.


I thought, “What’s to stop him from moving on when my smile fades and I start really pushing for more, or when I’m pregnant and bitchy and he’s missing those weekends of wine and black lacy teddies?  He won’t commit and I have be honest with myself about what that means for my future with him!”


I brought up commitment (even marriage) once or twice (okay, maybe three or four times) but didn’t get anywhere with him.  He’d say, “This is me and I don’t know if I’m the family guy.  I like my space and I like my freedom.”  His words were always cold and sprinkled with hostility.  They would sting and in order to avoid hearing him outright reject a future with me, I just ignored the issue.


Read More Relationship Advice For Women On This Love Blog: Have Intimacy Issues In The Relationship?  How To Handle Mr.  Cold


I tried really hard to pretend that commitment didn’t matter to me and that I was just being greedy and only wanting more because he didn’t.  So, to avoid the whole issue, I got busy with the rest of my life.  That worked for a while and I did end up feeling generally happy and whole in my life independent of him.  But I still couldn’t push down those feelings of wanting to be a twosome instead of a two-time-a-week girlfriend.


How I Got Him To Come Around


I soon became desperate for a commitment.  Not to mention that my biological clock was ticking so loud, I couldn’t sleep at night.  I was 30 at the time and my friend who was only a few years older was having complications with her pregnancy that were likely related to her age.


I was panicking and unsure whether I should wait for this man or cut bait.  I thought maybe I should rush to find a guy who wanted a family and could give me kiddies before another half-decade went by.  After all, time slips by fast and if I had left the relationship, I knew it would take a while to get over him and be ready to date.


My List


To gain the strength I needed to face this issue head-on and in a proactive manner, I made a list of all the things I wanted out of a relationship.  I analyzed the list and realized that I had most of those things with my man but that some of the things (the really important ones like emotional security and a need to feel unconditionally loved) were things that I didn’t have due to his apparent commitment-phobia.


I realized that, though I knew he loved me and we were exclusive, I didn’t feel safe!  I didn’t feel like his need to be close to me was more significant to him than his need to assert his autonomy.  That feeling of coming second to ‘man space’ will leave a woman feeling unsafe.  How can I relax into a relationship when I feel like at any moment, the man I love could feel too smothered or burdened to stay?  Committed people work it out and commitment-phobes bail when the heat goes up in the kitchen.


So I spoke with him. 


This time I didn’t tell him what I wanted him to do or how frustrated I was with him, which were the feelings that led my past commitment chats with him.  I only spoke about myself and addressed my feelings about the kind of life I wanted.  It went something like this:  “I feel really panicky and sad.  I feel my biological clock ticking inside me and I don’t think it’s something I can even control.  I don’t want to wake up one day and feel angry with myself that I didn’t listen to my heart and didn’t go after what I wanted.  I love you and want nothing more than a life with you, but I also want a relationship with a man who wants what I do and who sees life as a partnership.”


Read More Relationship Advice On This Love Blog: He’s Stalling!  How To Get Him To Commit!


Then I said the most important part of my statement…


“What do you think I should do?  I trust your opinion and this also involves you.  What advice can you give me?”


He looked at me and started crying.  He was taken aback and was very emotional at the idea of losing me.  Before when I brought up our future, he was defensive and even irritated.  Now I wasn’t making anything I was saying directly about him.  I was coming to him as my confidant, not my enemy; I even held his hand while we spoke together.  I was asking his advice without putting anything in his lap.  I was taking the responsibility off of him enough for him to hear my needs.


He told me that I should do what I had to do and that he understood if that meant that I had to leave.  We cried together and I told him that I had to go.  We said goodbye.


I was panicked and angry.  I was heartbroken and unsure about whether or not I had the strength to move on.  But I also felt soooo dignified and proud of myself for taking care of my needs.  After all, he had no problem putting himself first, so why was I denying myself what I wanted and needed?


(I have to also say that working on my life outside of him for months before I spoke with him helped me to let go and not feel so lost without him!)


When He Called Me Three Weeks Later


Three weeks later he called me and told me he missed me.  I told him that I missed him, too.  I was honest and said that I was devastated and didn’t know how I was going to get past the relationship, but that I knew what I wanted.  He seemed frustrated that I wouldn’t see him or that I didn’t miss him enough to give him back the convenient relationship that had sustained him for years.


Read More Relationship Advice For Women On This Love Blog: What Are Signs He Loves Me?


Then a month later he called again and said that he loved me and wasn’t going to lose me because of his fear of commitment.  I told him that I didn’t want him to come back to me just because he didn’t want to lose me. I told him that he had to want the same things I did.  He revealed that he did want those things but that he didn’t know how to get there.  I told him that if I considered coming back, we would have to seek counseling.  I knew that as a proud, traditional man he hated the idea of counseling, and when he agreed to go, I agreed to come back.


Where We Are Now


It’s been over two years and we are now in a strong, healthy, committed relationship.  We still go to counseling.  We don’t have that baby yet but we do have each other (in a way we never did before).  I can see in his eyes that he is determined to make things work and that he prioritizes our love over anything else in his life. We wake up next to each other every morning and hold each other every night before bed.  I really love the way he puts me first now and I appreciate the work he has done on himself and his fears.  It makes me feel safe.


I’m not telling you that you have to follow in my footsteps and leave your man if he isn’t committing.  The truth is that you have to leave because you want more, not as a threat or ploy.  He may never come back and if you try to breakup with him just as a tactic, it may backfire in your face.


What I am telling you is that you have to know what you want out of life and if a man stops adding to that dream, maybe you should ask yourself whether you need him or not.  You could love him very much, but if you know he’s stopping you from having the bigger picture (or just causing you too much pain and suffering), love yourself enough to do something about the issue before years pass by.


Don’t forget, too, the words I used and the attitude I held during that talk with him before I walked out.  If I hadn’t have done that he says that he would have felt angry and manipulated when I left– like I was trying to trick him into a commitment.  It was only when I talked with him from a place of wanting him to see my dilemma and pain as my trusted companion that he was able to be less selfish and immature.


He was able to be accountable to my feelings during that talk because I had removed blame from the conversation. He was able to be selfless, telling me warmly and lovingly that I should take care of my needs no matter what even though it hurt him so much to say goodbye.


Read More Relationship Advice For Women On This Love Blog:  Don’t Chase A Commitment-phobe!


He claims that it was during that talk that he saw how well we worked together—that we could have an adult and practical conversation about a very touchy issue.  He knew we’d make a good team as parents and life partners and that helped make him less afraid to commit.




1 Comment

  1. Anna says:

    Hi Kristina,

    Thank you for writing this article, because I am going through a “somewhat” similar situation with my man (I guess ex-man now). He and I were in a relationship that felt too distant for me to be comfortable in the relationship. Our relationship was distant the past couple months after we got into a huge fight, and my man requested space. We were still exclusive, and saw each other once a week for an hour, spoke on the phone 1-2 times a week, and had no physical contact what-so-ever.

    Near the end of the two months of space, I wanted more. I told him I was starting to feel desperate to be closer to him, and I didn’t like feeling desperate. That next week, he called me everyday and spent more time with me (I did a lot of reading on your website to change my old habits, and I think it made a positive impact on our relationship). I REALLY appreciated how he responded to my feelings. It made me feel comfortable, but only for a few days. It took me a while, but I realized that I was uncomfortable in the relationship because he did not have clarity of whether he wanted to be fully committed to me.

    I followed your example of how to handle the situation. I told him all the things I admired about him as a boyfriend, but that I needed clarity from him in order to feel emotionally safe in the relationship. I told him my raw, vulnerable feelings of feeling desperate and disrespectful toward my needs. Then I asked him what we should do, and he went from having an agitated vibe to having tears in his eyes. He said he didn’t have clarity on what he wanted, and that the only solution was to break up. He still wanted to talk, and even asked me to call him when I can, but I reinstated what I needed in a relationship to feel safe. We cried and said our good-byes.

    It has been almost two weeks since that day. Kristina — you wrote an amazing article on this type of situation and it really helped me deal with mine. However, do you think you would be able to expand on your time during the weeks you didn’t see your man? I am fully accepting of the idea that my man may never come back like your man did, and I would really appreciate knowing how you dealt with your break-up. What was going through your mind, and what healing process did you use during that time?

    Thank you, Kristina, for all your work! Please keep writing more articles!! They are truly valued!! :)

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