I have been dating a guy for two years. After a year I wanted to get married, but he said that he wasn’t ready and that I should give him more time. I then gave him another year of dating. When that year was up, I had it with his promises, and I told him that it’s over between us. I never saw a grown man cry like he did that day. He begged me to give him more time, because he has a big problem committing to marriage. He promised to see a therapist to help him understand why he has such a problem. He tells me that I am the best thing that has ever happened to him. I told him that I am not going back to him until he is ready to commit and propose. He said that he will one day, but, in the meantime, he cannot imagine not having me in his life.
I don’t know what to do. I am in love with this guy and I really miss him. He doesn’t stop calling and texting me. My parents tell me to ignore him completely and not respond to his calls and texts. They tell me to start dating other guys. But if I feel so in love with him, how could I ever date another guy? The problem is that I really enjoy his company, and there is no one out there like him. But I also worry he will never change his mind and marry me.
Your dilemma is that you are in love with a man who is unavailable for marriage right now, and, quite frankly, you and I both know that it is doubtful that he ever will be ready. But because you don’t want to let an opportunity of such great love pass you by, you are hanging on to hope. Additionally, he is the one giving you the motivation to continue hoping.
You have not shared with me where he is coming from emotionally prior to the two years that you have been dating. Was he married before? Did he have a relationship where he was hurt? A person’s background and experiences will have an impact on any future relationships. For the most part, people are a byproduct of their past. That is not to say that someone who had a rough time in previous relationships is not marriageable. On the contrary, if such a person recognizes his or her issues and has a partner willing to stand by and assist, then it is possible. So let’s figure out if such a development is likely in your case.
My first question is why you even allowed your relationship with this guy to progress past the one-year mark. Most women refuse to wait out even one year. The fact that you did shows tolerance and understanding. Perhaps you know or suspect a reason for the way he is, and you felt that he is too good of a prospect for a spouse to just give up on him. Not only that, but the way he professes his love to you is indicative of a sensitive person, and you might believe that he is battling some inner torment. Since time has a way of slipping by quickly, you went into completing year two of a dead-end relationship.
However, since you now see that, two years after the fact, you are back to square one, you have to face the possibility that either he has no interest in marriage, or he may be dealing with a real commitment phobia. Issues with commitment are more common than people realize. Like any other phobia, commitment phobia can cause the afflicted person to have a paralyzing fear of marriage. People who have this phobia may crave marriage just like anybody else, but they just cannot get themselves to that point. Picture a person who has acrophobia (fear of heights). He or she might very much want to climb up to a high summit, but their fear emotionally paralyzes them.
If that is the case, then it is possible that he is not deliberately stringing you along. It appears that his feelings for you are so intense that he cannot imagine a life that you are not part of.
I am glad to hear that he is aware that he has a problem and is willing to go to therapy. Unless he is playing for more time, that is a step in the right direction. Therapy will help him unearth issues that caused him to emotionally stagnate such that he is brought to a standstill where serious relationships are concerned. Therapy should also help him be able to gain enough confidence so that he will want to live life to its full potential.
You might be thinking that this sounds like a great plan. However, you must realize that there is no time limit to how long this could take. Weeks, months, a few more years, perhaps? How long before his therapist feels that he has put in the work and is ready to get married? How long are you willing to wait it out? Moreover, you have to face the possibility that during his sessions in therapy he might discover that a relationship with you is not what he needs in his life. Then what?
You have the right to want to be married. You have the right to want a willing partner to marry you. This guy is not the candidate for that at this point in time. Your parents are correct in telling you to start dating other men. Why shouldn’t you? Because you are in love with him? You can love him all you like, but he does not represent how you want to be loved. I understand that it can feel odd to you to date others while still holding on to feeling for him. But with time, that may change too. When you date others, you may begin to discover that your feelings for this guy are taking a different direction. That’s why I advise you to put yourself in the dating pool.
I am not in total agreement with your parents to ignore his calls and texts. If you completely cut ties with him, you will never know if this relationship could have ever had the chance to materialize into marriage. There are many people who live life with regrets of should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. I don’t want that to happen to you.
There is a school of thought that by cutting off all communication with somebody, it will help one get over that person. I have found that to backfire in most cases. Such a tactic would work only if the feelings are one-sided. But you still love him. So ignoring him, in my opinion, will only cause you to think of him more. However, you should not date him anymore.
By still communicating with him, you leave yourself open to the possibility that being in his life (as a friend) while he is in therapy may eventually lead to marriage. And if it turns out that he will never marry you, you will at least be out there dating other people, which will give you the confidence that one loses when he or she is in an unbalanced relationship.
This is what I recommend. Tell him that you love him as much as he loves you, but that you are unwilling to wait it out any longer. Insist that marriage is important to you and that you have the right to have a life that you have always envisioned. He cannot expect you to give it up.
Convey that you will be always there for him, and that if he wants you to go with him to therapy, you are willing to do that (assuming that you are.) If you do go along, make sure that the therapist understands that you are seeing other people because you want to be married.
Whatever I am suggesting may have an entirely different outcome. I cannot predict his reaction, because where it relates to emotions, anything is possible. Once he hears that you are dating other guys, he may decide on his own to never contact you again, or the reverse may happen. The shock of realizing that a new person may enter your life, and the fear of permanently losing you, might help give him that extra push.
I mentioned earlier that dating other guys will help you in the long run. However, I must make it clear to you that it will not be easy. You will probably idealize him in your head and compare him to everyone else. Even the small things that bother you now may end up seeming cute when you start comparing him to another person. There is a strong risk that you may reject men who could be suitable for you. But time can heal, and as long as you are not dating him, even if you still communicate, your feelings for him will begin to shift, and you may find a connection with another person.
I will caution you about two more things. The first is that since you stayed so long in your relationship with this guy, you need to be extra careful about not jumping into marriage too quickly with somebody else on the rebound. The second and most important thing is that you do not allow history to repeat itself. There is a phenomenon where women keep falling in love with men who are unable to commit. And so I recommend that you, too, seek therapy to help you get in touch with what is important to you and learn new ways to choose men who are capable of viable relationships.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.