Question

I’m dating a guy, and everyone is telling me to break up with him. It’s been more than six months since we started going out and I think he has commitment issues. He’s been in relationships before, and all the girls he dated had the same thing happen as with me. The reason why I didn’t break up with him already (although I have given him an ultimatum) is because I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me that happened to one of my friends. She dated a guy for two years, but he didn’t want to marry her. They broke up and he right away married the next girl that came along. Do you ever deal with such issues, and what usually happens in these cases?

Response

Commitment issues are not just reserved for men. There are also women who struggle with similar problems. There are many reasons why a person might have commitment problems. When you date a person, they come with a past. And the past becomes the pink elephant in the relationship. Sometimes it’s the fault of unhealthy attachment issues or childhood trauma that results in an inability to trust. These are situations where a person may have recently come out of a bad relationship and the details have not yet been disclosed to the new dating partner. Then there are those individuals who are afraid of getting hurt due to having previously made the wrong choice, which leaves them second-guessing themselves about the new person they’re dating. It’s almost as though they are waiting for the person to make one wrong move so they can say, “Aha! I knew it!”

However, we cannot exclude the possibility that the person is just not ready to get married because he fears he won’t be able to financially support a family, or simply because he doesn’t feel like it is something he wants to do at the moment. It has nothing to do with age. There are people who are emotionally ready for marriage in their late teens and others who are not ready until much later, and some not until their forties or older. Sometimes it is a fear of the unknown. Additionally, humans are creatures of habit. Whatever we become accustomed to is what feels comfortable, and change can be scary, even if it is for the better.

For those with commitment issues who eventually get married, it often takes one person with whom they feel a strong connection to push them to get engaged after a short courtship. This ends up stunning outsiders who are aware of their previous relationships and how they shlepped those dating partners around for a long time until one of them ended it.

There are other scenarios too, where someone in a long-term relationship quickly marries after a breakup. I recently had a case of a couple who dated for close to three years. They seemed to get along, spending every possible moment with each other. Then, one day, out of the blue, he broke up with the young lady, citing religious differences. Shortly thereafter, news spread quickly about his engagement to another lady. Everyone assumed it was a rebound relationship until it was discovered that he had met the lady while he was still dating his previous dating partner. In his mind, he mentally checked out, but he stayed with her until he was sure he had a chance with the other lady, with whom he eventually married. In essence, while everyone initially assumed it was a quick courtship, they had known each other for six months and dated clandestinely. It eventually was revealed that he was biding his time with the lady he was dating. He knew he had no plans to marry her, yet he didn’t want to break up with her until he met the person with whom he felt compatible enough for marriage.

What you need to understand is that every case is different, and no two relationships drag on without a commitment for the same reason. The problem is when one person wants to get married and the other doesn’t (for whatever reason), which creates a contentious situation. It is also unfair because of all the investment of time and resources by both parties.

I get where you’re coming from. You are scared that as soon as you walk away from him, he will quickly find someone else and marry her. That is a possibility that no one can predict. What you need to understand is that if such a scenario were to occur, you can safely assume he had no intention of marrying you in the first place.

So, where do you go from here? First and foremost, you should determine if he is stringing you along by selfishly keeping you around while he waits for another opportunity to appear.

There are several important questions you need to ask yourself. Who initiates most of the contact for dates? In the six months that you’ve been dating, have you introduced each other to your parents? Does he ever bring up the topic of getting married in the future, or is there any hint that he is leading in that direction? Do you ever get a nagging feeling that you are just an option when he is bored? Would he ever cancel other plans to be with you, or do you get a sense that you would be the first he would cancel on to attend something else? What does he consider that you have together? Does he verbalize being in a serious relationship with you, or does he consider getting together with you as hanging out? You might need to engage him in a conversation about any of those aspects that you are not sure about and see how he responds. If he seems uncomfortable and refuses to respond, that too, is an answer for you.

If you still feel unsure about his intentions about you, then you might need to spell it out for him. Tell him that you are marriage-minded and your purpose for dating is to establish compatibility and commonality regarding how you envision building a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael. If he looks at you as though you are speaking a foreign language, take that as a strong indication that you will probably not see a ring on your finger from him.

If he opens to you about positive feelings for you, but he also expresses fears of any kind, that is a step in the right direction. Gently inquire if he is aware that he might have a problem. Considering that this has happened to him in the past with other women that he dated, would he be willing to go to therapy? Only if you feel fine about joining him, offer to go to therapy with him. People who seek therapy to help them move along to the next big step can, with the right therapist, discover more about what he is carrying privately inside.

Impress upon him that when people are stuck emotionally in one place and cannot move forward, they risk remaining stifled for life and can, G-d forbid, run from one relationship to the next because the fear of the future can be so strong as to feel paralyzing. With good therapy, it should also help him gain enough confidence that he will want to live to his full potential. Maybe you are right for each other or maybe not, but he owes it to you and himself to make that assessment. Bear in mind that there is no time limit in how long this could take. 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, and what if it turns out that during his therapy sessions, he might actually discover that a relationship with you is not feasible after all? I will also suggest to you to be a bit patient if you see that he is really trying hard, especially if you feel he is a person worth waiting for.

You have the right to want to be married, and you have the right to want the man with whom you are investing your time, energy, and emotion to be willing to marry you. Time cannot be replaced; once it is lost it cannot be recaptured. Never be anyone’s option. You deserve to be a priority in someone’s life, not just an option when it’s convenient for them. And you certainly deserve that from the man you are dating and will eventually marry. n

 

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. Baila also produces and hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for 5townscentral.com, vinnews.com, Israel News Talk Radio, and WNEW FM 102.7 FM HD3, listenline & talklinenetwork.com. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com

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