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Help me be okay with non-commitment.
January 25, 2012 8:44 PM   Subscribe

I've been dating a guy for a few months who is really awesome -- but not ready for a relationship. How do I deal with this?

I've been dating this guy a few months and I really like him. Comparing him to past guys I've dated, he has a lot going for him. He's the first guy I've been with who I really feel like myself around. Communication is good. Most of the time everything is cool.

But there's this thing where he's not ready to commit, for various reasons. Part of it is he's in grad school and vowed when he started to not get into a relationship because in the past this affected his grades. The other big one is that he wanted some time to be single and have fun after being in relationships for the past several years.

I am, I think, ready for a relationship (if anyone feels like stalking my past AskMes, you will understand). I wasn't planning on getting into a relationship, but I was also at the point where I was sick of dating. I've been doing stuff to really be okay on my own after my last major breakup (including going back to school to get my B.A. in English for my dream career!) I had decided "if the right guy comes along, great. If not, oh well." And then this guy came along.

I'm usually one to jump into a relationship, but I've been mostly okay with not being exclusive with this guy. It's kind of been a security blanket for my fears about getting hurt -- but I'm in deep enough that I could get hurt now, so that's kind of irrelevant anymore. I think I'm at the point where I either need a relationship or need to move on -- but I don't want to stop dating him! I don't know that he's the right guy for me in the long term, but he could be, and I want to see where things go.

My main concern is that I know it took me a couple years of being single and dating around and having fun to get sick of that and be at a point where a relationship would be the right thing for me. I feel like he still needs to have the time to do that. And I'm concerned that that difference is going to make this not work.

Oh -- important note -- we have talked about this, and I basically told him if there wasn't a chance of it going anywhere, he needed to tell me. He wants to see where it goes, and he also said he feels like he's *almost* ready to commit... but that was a month ago. I don't want to force him into something that he's really not ready for, because I don't want him always feeling like he's not sure, or something. I've seen enough RomComs to know better :)

So here's my main question: I want to feel okay with dating him but not being in a committed relationship. What can I do to make myself be ok with this? Generally I have been going through stages of backing off emotionally, but then that pulling back makes me testy around him, and I don't like that. I want to be genuinely okay with it.
posted by DoubleLune to Human Relations (60 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know that he's the right guy for me in the long term, but he could be, and I want to see where things go.

Where could things go? He said he doesn't want to commit to you. I know people don't like to hear this, but you've given a lot of explanation about why he doesn't want to commit, but I suspect he really doesn't want to commit to you. People make all kinds of awkward and busy and difficult situations work out if they just really wanted to be with that person.

Also, I think it's kind of uncool that he said all this stuff about "almost" being ready to commit. When the topic came up he just should have been straight up, yes or no, not "maybe later."

I don't see anything to figure out here. This isn't the guy for you right now. There's nothing wrong with that. He might figure his stuff out later on, with you or someone else. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. But don't stick around and invent reasons in your head for why he's not committing to you. It's not a good use of your time.
posted by sweetkid at 9:02 PM on January 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think it would be more interesting for you to see if he's okay with 'you not being around'.
posted by bquarters at 9:02 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


What can I do to make myself be ok with this? Generally I have been going through stages of backing off emotionally, but then that pulling back makes me testy around him, and I don't like that. I want to be genuinely okay with it.

Be willing to possibly get hurt, or don't be willing. Your choice.
posted by nrobertson at 9:07 PM on January 25, 2012


Best way to be "okay" with it when you know you almost surely will be hurt? Check your self-respect and actual wants at the door and accept the scraps he's throwing you while he's also sleeping with other women. Just take the hit, and decide to chalk it up to experience later. Or you could consider this an exercise in self-victimization or martyrdom-- get really dramatic. Basically, this won't end well for you so wallow in the experience while you're subjecting yourself to it.

If you're asking for a way to do this while staying really happy? That's not possible as long as you're a woman who wants this guy to be your boyfriend when he says he doesn't want to be...

(wait for it-- if you work hard, say the right thing, do the right thing maybe he'll see how awesome you are--)

yet.
posted by devymetal at 9:08 PM on January 25, 2012 [24 favorites]


Please don't take this as a negative statement about you. However, when I read things like

I've been dating this guy a few months and I really like him. Comparing him to past guys I've dated, he has a lot going for him. He's the first guy I've been with who I really feel like myself around. Communication is good. Most of the time everything is cool.

and

My main concern is that I know it took me a couple years of being single and dating around and having fun to get sick of that and be at a point where a relationship would be the right thing for me.

you strike me as kind of blase about the dude. You could, of course, be trying to be measured and analytical about this, so my assessment could be off, but still.

Which raises some questions: do you really want to be in a relationship with him or just in a relationship? Are you following some sort of internal script about what type of relationship you should be in right now, or do you really have a burning desire to have an intimate relationship with him?

I guess I think: if you really want him, really have an intense connection with him, then continued investment in a non-committed relationship could end up being super hurtful (possibly worth waiting for, though under very specific circumstances, which would require more details to understand). But, if you're just cruising on the relationship ride, maybe A) you won't actually be hurt by keeping things casual for a bit longer and B) maybe you should reconsider what your motivations for a relationship are, what with the whole general disasterness of being in a committed relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship (those often end quite poorly), you know?

I could be off-base. But that was my take on the general vibe I'm getting from this question.

And, frankly, I think a clarification of what you mean by "committed" might help guide the answers to your question. In many ways, that's a very ambiguous relationship descriptor.
posted by vivid postcard at 9:08 PM on January 25, 2012


I will qualify this answer by saying that I know relationships that have started out ambivalent like this, but eventually led to seriousness and marriage. I don't know how or why those people navigated things the way they did, but it does sometimes work out.

However, it sounds like the balance is off to the extent that unless he genuinely changes his mind soon, you'll be too vulnerable to patiently wait things out. Honestly, it seems to be dudes putting women in these kinds of situations all the time which irks me in a special way, but really it doesn't matter-- he likes you enough to want you around but not enough to "commit," which makes you a convenient hook-up, if you're feeling cynical about it.

It's impossible to know if he really feels the way he says he does--"almost ready"-- so you have to go with your gut, and the gut is often wrong in communication. You need trust to discuss sensitive issues of this register, and that's the thing that's missing from a casual situation like this. In the successful relationships I mentioned above, I don't know if the folks legitimately changed, or got desperate, or both, but it's probably not the most joy-filled way of settling down. You sound like you're doing really great for yourself, so I'd let this one go and wait for the next to come along.

On preview, I like devymetal's answer. (And I was going to ask the same question about "committed.")
posted by stoneandstar at 9:12 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This dude's bogus, stop wasting your time. People don't plan for relationships - you really feel you want to make a connection or you don't. If the person is worrying about *maybe* their grades *might* slip if they commit to you, then you are simply not very important to them and they are looking for an excuse.

If you just want a fling and he just wants a fling, this could work, but you seem to want more and for that I say move on. I second sweetkid's statement that the guy was "uncool" to give such a wishy-washy answer. What will probably happen is this guy will try to keep you hanging on with, "not right now....maybe next year after I graduate....maybe next year when I get a job....maybe next year when I get a promotion...." and then they will actually meet the person they want to be with and leave you in the dust.

Move on - you will be better for it.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:13 PM on January 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I want to feel okay with dating him but not being in a committed relationship. What can I do to make myself be ok with this?

I don't think you can necessarily be okay with it, and that's not some sort of personal, emotional, or moral failing on your part.

It sounds like you both legitimately want different things. And not only that: different things that are, by their nature, incompatible. It sounds like you are asking how to want something else that you don't want, or (to put it another way) to become happy with denying what you do want.

There is nothing wrong with being ready to be in a relationship -- but that requires a potential partner who also wants to be in a relationship (both in general and with you in particular). Right now, this guy isn't that person. That doesn't mean he's not a great guy; he may very well be a great guy. But he's a great guy who is telling you that he's not a candidate for a serious relationship. (And that's a point in his favor: he's evidently self-aware enough, and respects you enough, to tell you the truth about where he's at on this score. Lots of people don't show that level of courtesy.)

I think I'm at the point where I either need a relationship or need to move on -- but I don't want to stop dating him!

This was the basic conundrum of my 20s: I wanted to be in relationships with specific guys who liked me to some degree (often to a great degree) but didn't mutually want to be in relationships. But instead of moving on, I hung on because I didn't want to stop dating the particular guy in question.

This never worked out. Literally NEVER. I never made myself "okay" with the level of casualness they wanted, and I never made them want to commit to me the way I wanted them to. I spent years -- years, girl; years -- agonizing over some of these guys, to the detriment of my self-esteem, self-respect, and emotional health. I tried to force myself to feel things I didn't feel, to deny things that I did feel, to be someone I wasn't in the name of trying to make myself irresistible, and to deny the truth of who these particular guys were and what they needed, even when they told me point-blank. None of this made me happy, and it only got me further from what I really wanted.

t;dr: You know you want a relationship or you want to move on. If he says he doesn't want a relationship, then in my opinion there's really only one healthy, self-respecting choice left. That doesn't mean it's not painful, but it does mean that sometimes the right thing to do is the thing that feels like it sucks the most.
posted by scody at 9:16 PM on January 25, 2012 [44 favorites]


(er, that's "tl;dr")
posted by scody at 9:18 PM on January 25, 2012


If you genuinely want to be in a committed relationship, this guy is probably not the one so I would suggest moving on. There is no way to make yourself not want something, how are you really going to feel about him seeing other women. You want different things, it doesn't make him a bad guy and he's been honest. He's waffling a bit and maybe that's cause he does like you but he still wants to be single. You can hang around and hope he realizes how wonderful/great/charming/sexy/etc you are while also hoping he doesn't see other women or make you a lower priority or whatever or you can date someone who wants what you want.
posted by shoesietart at 9:19 PM on January 25, 2012


The best relationship advice I've ever gotten from anyone has been from MetaFilter. That advice is: listen to what people tell you, especially what they tell you about themselves. This guy enjoys your company, but he does not want a relationship with you. If you're into someone, really into that person--the kind of into him/her where you're absentmindedly writing that person's name and feeling giddy enough that you wouldn't think twice yelling the same name from the rooftops--you'll know. You will want to be close to that person and make your feelings clear. It doesn't sound like he feels like that. It sounds like he's stringing you along because it's easier than being upfront.

As a girl who's been in the same shoes before, it really bothers me when I see people fighting in these silent re-enactments of The Battle of Who Could Care Less, trying to reshape their own needs and feelings to more closely match those of people who don't actually care much for them. Don't feel like you need to deny yourself or turn the volume down on your own heart just because someone else is only a little into you. Don't lower your own expectations for love and happiness to match those of some dude (yes, dude) who isn't even into you anyway. You want what you want and you need what you need, and if he doesn't? Not the guy for you right now. Go be happy on your own or find someone else who doesn't make you feel like you need to wait around. Life is too short. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh. I don't mean it to be. I think I wish someone had told me this years ago. You deserve more fun than this! Love and dating are supposed to be fun. Write that on a Post-It if it helps. (I did once. It did.)
posted by anonnymoose at 9:27 PM on January 25, 2012 [35 favorites]


Here's your script:

"Hey, you're awesome and I really like you. Really, really. In fact, I feel like I'd like to be in a more serious relationship with you. However, I'm hearing you and you're telling me you're not ready for a relationship right now. I respect that, and I'm not going to pressure you -- I understand that you have your own stuff going on right now, and it's not all about me and what I want. All the same, you should know that I am looking for a more serious relationship -- that's what I want in my life right now. It would be great if that could be with you, but if not, I think it's best if I go look for it elsewhere. Just know that if you find yourself feeling ready to get more serious, please DO NOT HESITATE to give me a call/text/email. If I'm not seeing someone else at the time, I'd love to pick it back up with you."

...and then go make an effort to date other people and DO NOT contact him again for at least 3 months.

I'm also going to pass along one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten: LISTEN TO WHAT PEOPLE TELL YOU ABOUT THEMSELVES. Sounds obvious, but it will save you a lot of trouble and heartache and many months/years of wasted time.
posted by ourobouros at 9:30 PM on January 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


You've stated that you want a committed relationship, so why would you want to "be okay" with not being committed with this guy? You have a lot of theories about why he's not ready, but none of those really matter if they all add up to him not being ready, interested, or "almost ready". Hear what he's telling you and spend your energy on someone who is truly interested in being with you.
posted by Piglet at 9:41 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Establish a deadline. That deadline is for you and reflects how long you are willing to wait around for this guy to get off the fence. It should be a hard deadline, and it should be chosen to suit you and you only. Don't tell him what your internal deadline is, because doing so will destabilize what you already have and enjoy with him in a pretty major way. You can continue to make it clear to him, at every natural opportunity, that an exclusive relationship would suit you better.

If he decides to commit before you hit your deadline, great! If not, take ourobouros's advice.
posted by flabdablet at 9:44 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's your script:

"Hey [dude]. I've been having a really good time hanging out with you. I'm not in a rush to get into a serious relationship and I don't want things to change between us, but I'm not sure if I'm still ok with us being in a situation where we're seeing other people".

If he's down with that, then he's into you but just trying to be careful not to get too attached. Proceed with caution.

If he's not down, you say "well that sucks. Let me know if you change your mind and start looking for something more serious". Then you back off because he's not that into you.

Everyone has a line where even if your head wants to keep things casual you start to get attached. Don't be ashamed about hitting that point, just be proactive about it.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:01 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Trying to fix commitment-phobia is one rabbit hole I wish I had never leapt into, headfirst, without a parachute.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:06 PM on January 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Don't lie to yourself or him about what you want. I've walked away from several guys who loved having me around at their convenience but weren't interested in exclusivity, and regret exactly none of those endings, because finding the guy who reciprocates has been worth all the little hurts. You will not find that guy if you're distracted by Mr. Maybe. State your needs and then honor them. All you can do.
posted by OompaLoompa at 10:56 PM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I want to feel okay with dating him but not being in a committed relationship. What can I do to make myself be ok with this?

Well, I don't think you really can.

he also said he feels like he's *almost* ready to commit

Almost, almost, almost ready.

Look, you're ready. And he's not (more than likely). And that's fine. You just need to find someone who is as ready as you are.
posted by mleigh at 11:17 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to feel okay with dating him but not being in a committed relationship. What can I do to make myself be ok with this? Generally I have been going through stages of backing off emotionally, but then that pulling back makes me testy around him, and I don't like that. I want to be genuinely okay with it.

Well, you can't force yourself to feel less about him, just like you can't force him to feel more for you. I think you've been very honest with yourself about what you need and want, and it seems like you've been honest with him. You gave him some time, after a month if he's not stepping up you need to stop seeing him altogether. It sucks to walk away from a "good guy", but you are doing yourself a disservice by sticking around and waiting for him to sow his wild oats. Who knows, maybe seeing you mean business and aren't willing to sell yourself short will make him realize you're a total catch and he'll put on his big boy pants and try a real relationship. If not - well, he wasn't worth it.

Good luck! It's hard, but you *will* find someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with them.
posted by starfyr at 11:18 PM on January 25, 2012


Wanting a loving, committed relationship is a beautiful thing! So please don't try to deny yourself one for the sake of someone else, because:

a) You deserve better

b) It won't work anyway! Trust.

Story time: last month I stopped seeing a smart/sweet/funny/successful guy. A guy with whom I had the best sexual chemistry OF MY LIFE! Why? He was too busy (like two Blackberries busy) to build a relationship. When we were together the sun shone and birds sang, but I wanted a proper boyfriend, damn it, and his actions demonstrated that he wasn't able or willing to go there. Ending it was a painful decision, but ultimately an easy one.

You like this guy. That's ok, but it's also irrelevant because he does not want the same thing you want. It's not your fault. Instead of hoping he'll change his mind (unlikely) or turn into someone else (impossible), use your energy to find a sexy someone who wants to be with you, and only you. He's out there.
posted by jessca84 at 11:19 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you been seeing other people during the relationship? For some guys, the hesitation about a more committed relationship is the freedom to "play the field"...and many will often do just that without you knowing -- since it is within the "rules" -- but they would be upset if they found out you did. Perhaps you haven't been seeing anyone else and he knows this, which gives him the best of both worlds.

Maybe try a test: even if you don't want to go out with somebody else, try being a bit elusive on a Friday or Saturday night -- maybe even telling him you are going out, and then not playing phone or text tag. When you talk to him the next day, try to get a sense if he is jealous/angry or if he is ok with it. If he is angry, then maybe he just wants the open thing for him and not you. That may be a decent indicator that he is in to you though, and might offer the starting point for a more productive conversation about making things more serious.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 11:48 PM on January 25, 2012


So many great answers here! Where were you guys when I was in my 20's? Oh yeah. There was hardly an internet back then;))

"This was the basic conundrum of my 20s: I wanted to be in relationships with specific guys who liked me to some degree (often to a great degree) but didn't mutually want to be in relationships. But instead of moving on, I hung on because I didn't want to stop dating the particular guy in question."

This was me, too.

Move on. Don't compromise yourself. Remember it's WHAT you want, the type of relationship, not WHO you want.

My husband is lovely and drop dead attractive. Following this prescription was how I finally recognized he was available and right in front of me. When he finally turned up in my life, that is!

Best to you.
posted by jbenben at 11:51 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well first of all, why should you have to be okay with non-commitment? You're talking about your own happiness and sense of worth here. Like others have said, there is nothing wrong with wanting a Committed Relationship. It goes wrong when you're the only one in the relationship that wants it.

How would you feel if you found out he asked out another girl?
I'm guessing probably devastated.

Would you even consider going out with another guy?
I'm guessing probably no, because you are really keen on him.

This is not a good combination. You're already committed to this relationship and he is not.

"he also said he feels like he's *almost* ready to commit"

Girlfriend, do not let him dangle some piece of delicious steak in front of you as if you are a hungry dog being trained to "sit-stay".

He knows your feelings. He knows your number. He can call you when he's serious about this.
posted by like_neon at 1:45 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"he also said he feels like he's *almost* ready to commit"

This does not mean what you think it means. What it means is "I don't want you to stop sleeping with me."

This is not going to play out well for you. The way this story ends 95% of the time is this- Dude will meet some girl he likes enough to quit his shit, and by that point his "shit" will include you. You will be left saying "wait, I thought you weren't ready for a relationship?!"

He is not a good dude. A good dude would not leave you on the back burner so he could see if he can find someone he likes better. A good dude would tell you "I'm not interested in being in an exclusive relationship right now. I might never be, and I probably won't ever be with you. I like you and would like to continue how we are, but if you want a relationship I think we should stop things here."
posted by Blisterlips at 2:51 AM on January 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


Does "dating" mean "sleeping with"? I don't see that in your post, but a lot of people seem to assume it does mean that.

By all means, stop sleeping with him if you are currently doing so, and explain that you need to reserve sexual interactions for the man who is committed to you. Then casually date him, if he still wants to, and--very importantly--date other people. Do it even if you really want to be with him, because 1. You may find someone you like who IS ready to be committed--to you, and 2. That demonstrates to him and to yourself that he doesn't get to reserve all of your time and attention and emotion without a commitment. It will regenerate some self-respect in you which it sounds like you are losing, and get your mind off of solely focusing on this one dude.
posted by parrot_person at 3:28 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


My rule (after having learned the hard way over and over again) is that if a guy can't say, "Yes, I want you to be a real part of my life and to be with you and only you," everything else he says, any qualifying, any hedging, any excuses, any euphemisms, really mean, "No, I don't value you enough to be in a real, committed relationship." Don't read hope or possibilities into those other things he says, because they all boil down to "No, I don't want to be with you." If he wanted to be in a real committed relationship with you, he'd make it happen.

And don't waste your time hanging around waiting for this situation to magically turn into what you want, for his insufficient level of interest to become sufficient. Men tend to resent even the most subtle or unconscious level of pressure from women who want more from them than they are giving, and lose respect for women they use (which is totally hypocritical and shitty, but unfortunately nonetheless the case).

So I recommend that you calmly tell the guy, "I'm unhappy with this situation and I've decided I'm no longer willing to sleep with someone who doesn't value me enough to want to just be with me,", stop calling him or spending time with him, and date other people. Don't try to be friends unless you are really happy about the idea of him meeting someone else next week and being all goo-gaa over her. Honestly, I'd recommend that you not be friends with him anyway. Stringing someone along is not what friends do.
posted by orange swan at 5:26 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


So. In addition to the invaluable advice to believe people when they tell you who they are (do not brush off casual assertions of "I'm an asshole" and "I'm not ready to settle down," because they are true and meaning laden. Not just full, but laden! He's telling you that he does not value your comfort. Think about this. Imagine you are saying that you want dinner and he responds, every 1/2 hour that you should wait. Because, you see, he's almost hungry. At 10pm you are getting ready to gnaw off your own arm and his buddies call to suggest meeting up for wings and beer. He says, "hey babe! Gonna go catch the playoffs with the guys. Enjoy your dinner!" He's doing that! With your life! And he's got no intention of cooking for you, or ordering you a pizza, or going out with you while you grab dinner. He's offering you the stale chips and curdled milk in his bachelor fridge. To further belabor this metaphor, you can go out and find yourself a delicious meal, and dessert, and breakfast in bed, all wrapped up in one guy.

But asking 'how can I get comfortable with just not eating' is kind of a wrong turn. You shlouldnt make yourself comfortable with this guy's tactics because they are hurting your long term happiness if you continue this charade.

Remember that the balance of relationship power rests with the person who wants it/seems to need it least. In your case, that person is not you. In an ideal (for me, anyway) relationship that power is matched on both sides. Currently, mr maybe holds all the face cards and you've got, what? Cooks him dinner, is available at his convenience, maybe provides sexy fun time, while he dangles long term potential as a future possibility.

Today is Thursday. I bet you $5 you can find a date for tomorrow night. A perfectly nice guy, an ugly jerk, a girlfriend you need to catch up with over cocktails. Hell, catch a mVovie all by yourself. Practice being without this guy before you officially tell him you're moving on to other pastures. The more comfortqble you are with he former, the less it will hurt to excuse yourself from his life.
posted by bilabial at 5:46 AM on January 26, 2012 [22 favorites]


Following the theme of the last three answers - yes, you should listen to what people tell you about themselves, but when people tell you maybe and almost and soon what you should hear is "I don't have the answer you're looking for, please stop asking and return to the status quo."

Almost maybe and soon do not mean "I'm getting closer to what you want," those weasel words mean STFU.

I am a person who did not want a committed relationship and it just suddenly dawned on me that I didn't want anyone else. (This was when I was struggling with, among other things, the fact that I had to end the relationship or be a user.) At no point did I say almost or soon or maybe. I went from an unqualified no to okay.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:16 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I got sick of the preachy "you're too good for him, he's a complete dog for not being ready for you" nonsense and gave up reading the comments half way down, so apologies if someone else has already said what I'm about to say.

You like him, more than he likes you. That's sad, but its nobody's fault - not your's not his.
You are therefore, not compatible right now.


Tell him so and walk away.

This isnt really about him "dangling a piece of steak" or you "having self respect". It's about not wanting the same things.
posted by tonylord at 7:35 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


This sounds like an excellent way to waste your time and get hurt. One good rule of thumb for relationships is to believe people when they tell you what they want.
posted by bananafish at 7:51 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


All right, I've gotten the point that I should stop thinking that I should be okay with it.

As far as the people who say he doesn't like me as much as I like him... I actually frequently wonder if it's the opposite of this. I don't tie commitment to how much you like/love someone. I also know (from his ex) that he was similarly afraid of committing to a relationship there, so whoever mentioned commitment phobia was closest there.

That being said, it is time for another serious talk with him. And I'll do my best to be prepared to walk away if that's needed, as sad as the thought makes me.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:57 AM on January 26, 2012


I think he's Mr. Right Now, not Mr. Right. Walk away if you are not getting what you want out of this. I had crippling fear of commitment when I met my now-husband, but I worked through it because he was worth it and we have been married for nearly ten years. You don't have to be okay with his lack of commitment to you if you're not, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with either of you, just that you're not right for each other. Better to find that out sooner rather than later if commitment is what you want.
posted by biscotti at 8:25 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well he certainly freaked out fast enough when I sent a "we need to talk" text (I hate sending those...sigh). The conversation will happen tonight... (sigh).

biscotti, you raise a good point of differentiation for me. I wasn't looking for Mr. Right, per se, when I met him, and he's been a perfect Mr. Right Now. I've kept myself at a pretty far distance because of a deathly fear of getting hurt, but he's broken through my fears somehow and I've started to feel like he could be Mr. Right. We shall see.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:51 AM on January 26, 2012


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he knows he has the upper hand and he's making excuses. The whole "I'm concentrating on grad school" thing is an excuse or overcompartmentalization. Most people I know who were in relationships during intense graduate programs did well particularly because they had emotional support from their partners during grad school. It's healthy to want a relationship.

You're not important to him, your feelings and needs don't matter to him, and you actually won't get what you need from him. End the relationship. This guy isn't as great as you think he is and his is not Mr. Right for you. He's actually even telling you this.
posted by anniecat at 9:14 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, enough with the "he doesn't give a shit about you" comments, please. There's a lot that I didn't include in the original post because I don't need the entire details of my life on the internet, but he does care about me and has proved it several times with his words and actions. I have taken the advice given here to heart and I appreciate it. But "you're an idiot for believing in him" really is just not going to help.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:29 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the question is exclusive sex and dating, ask for what you want. If "committment" means something else, let us know.

But if you just want exclusivity, let him know that.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:39 AM on January 26, 2012


Please don't stay with him. If he wanted to be with you, he'd be with you. His feelings would overcome is rationalization about his grades. He's stringing you along. 'Good on paper' doesn't count for much if he isn't in to you. Don't make someone a priority if you're only an option for them. You're wasting your time hoping for this person to change how he feels about you, even though no one ever goes from 'casually dating someone they aren't into' to suddenly being 'in love and committed'. It's never happened, and you aren't the exception. If you were someone he wanted to be in a relationship with, then he'd be in a relationship with you - no one is ready until they meet the right person, and that person is what makes them ready. You are not the right person. You're wasting your time on him on someone who doesn't want to be with you. Stop wasting time, and go meet people who want to be with you.

These are the things i want to yell at Past Kololo, for doing exactly what you're doing now.
posted by Kololo at 9:46 AM on January 26, 2012


I don't really get all the hate towards this guy. They want different things and he's being honest about it. Now it's time for the OP to be honest, too. It might suck to not want the same things, but she's not a victim and he's not an asshole - although the whole "almost" business is pretty tacky in a sense, but it could also have been genuine.

I think what worries me here is the whole "another" serious talk - it really only took the one for you to know that you weren't on the same page, and no amount of talking is going to change how he feels or what he wants. I don't think this needs much of a "talk," just a clean break. You can't (and shouldn't) make yourself feel good about being an option instead of the only choice, and while it's entirely possible that the thought of losing you period might make him feel like he should commit, it'll only lead to more questions on your part.

[Also, being exclusive and being in a serious relationship aren't actually the same thing, and it sounds like he's conflating the two. If he wants to date around, that's one thing. But if he/you just wants to see where this is going between just the two of you, that'd be ssomething else.]
posted by sm1tten at 10:30 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well he certainly freaked out fast enough when I sent a "we need to talk" text

That's because using texts for relationship conversations is a horrible mistake. Don't do that.
posted by flabdablet at 10:41 AM on January 26, 2012


OK, enough with the "he doesn't give a shit about you" comments, please. There's a lot that I didn't include in the original post because I don't need the entire details of my life on the internet, but he does care about me and has proved it several times with his words and actions. I have taken the advice given here to heart and I appreciate it. But "you're an idiot for believing in him" really is just not going to help.

Maybe it's not that he doesn't give a shit about you, but he doesn't give a shit about you in the way that you would like. We're not trying to be assholes here on Metafilter - we're just speaking from experience. Look at my previous questions :)

Clinging to the "But he really likes me! He wants to be with me - but he can't! But maybe if I wait for him . . ." That way lies madness.

Just move on. Stop having "serious conversations" with him, stop projecting your own feelings onto him, and just stop seeing him and move on with your life.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:47 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm going to take a different approach and advise you on ways you might be able to change your own expectations and be able to enjoy this relationship for what it is.

Date other people and appreciate all of them for what they can offer, including this guy. You may realize he has good things to offer even if the future is unlikely or uncertain.

Try to be more in the moment with him and not worry about the future when you guys are together.

Explore alternative ways of thinking about relationships, such as polyamory. Read up on it and talk to people who practice it. If nothing else, it will open your mind to other ways of relating to people, even if you end up deciding it's not for you. Try to think about the ways our culture has shaped your attitudes about relationships and question your own assumptions. It's OK to want a monogamous relationship but it's also fine to want an open one or not want one at all.
posted by xenophile at 11:54 AM on January 26, 2012


Agreed. If you already told him a month ago that he you needed to know where this was going, and if he already told you he wasn't ready take it somewhere serious (or said "almost" and didn't follow up), is there really anything to have a serious discussion about? This is a crappy situation and I know it's hard. He could be a really fantastic guy who cares for you and checks all the boxes you need except for the one where you're on the same page about wanting tone together. But that one box is a deal breaker.

I know you didn't ask for advice about this part, OP, but since you both said your piece and are still not seeing eye to eye right now, isn't it better to walk away with your dignity and self-respect intact, give him room to miss you if he's going to, and get on with finding the committed relationship you do want? Like that corny old saying, if he cares for you and you let him go, maybe he'll come back. If he doesn't, he doesn't. You will already be On Your Way Somewhere Else. I can't tell you how much I wish, in retrospect, that I hadn't tried to have dramatic exit conversations with a guy in this situation. It just made it way, way worse. Why not move away on a quiet note that leaves the door open, but doesn't make him feel like you're standing there waiting for him to walk through it? Prizes don't beg, and you are a prize, I'm sure.

Sorry, I won't make any more comments. I really do wish you the best!
posted by anonnymoose at 11:54 AM on January 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Sorry, I meant "that you needed to know where this was going". That was unreadable. Bah!)
posted by anonnymoose at 11:55 AM on January 26, 2012


By the way, i don't think anyone is shitting on the guy. We're all just saying things that we know are true from experience: he does not care about you as much as you care about him. Based on what you've told us, that is definitely true. You just don't believe it, because when he says he's "not ready right now" you believe him because you want it to be true.
posted by Kololo at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe he does like you more than you like him, I don't know and I don't think anyone here is saying you are fool (or any more of a fool than we've all been.) However, we have one story from someone who said she wasn't ready yet and ended up being wooed. The rest of this thread is from people who have always experienced this situation as a situation where the non-committer was plainly not interested in making the relationship serious in that way.

It's difficult for me to see an explanation other than the harsh reality that what you want does not interest him.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2012


I've been dating a guy for a few months who is really awesome -- but not ready for a relationship. How do I deal with this?

Here's what I did in a similar situation, although in my case we'd only been dating for a few weeks.

Me: Hey guy, I think you're really keen and would like to date you exclusively.
Him: I think you are a totally cool girl. I'm not really in a place where I want to date someone exclusively right now, though.
Me: Ok, that's cool. Since I'm not interested in dating casually, thanks for letting me know. We'll just stay friends.

We didn't date any further and we stayed friends. I was happy I'd asked for what I needed and decided not to hang around in a relationship where that wasn't in the cards.
posted by MsMolly at 2:04 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's probably not going to go down this way, but I'm going to relay the story my male friend told me a few months ago.

He was dating (read: sleeping with) a few women casually. One of the women said, "Hey, I like you, but I don't share. Sorry." Now, this is a single woman in her forties when supposedly we're all desperate 'n stuff for a Man.

They parted friendly. He went away to a conference and (according to him) thought "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?" They're pretty much over the moon right now. She got the Man. And even if she hadn't, she has her self-respect, which is worth a lot more.

Good luck. Also, stop sending dramatic texts. Nobody needs or likes that.
posted by cyndigo at 2:16 PM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sorry, that should be single mother in her forties.
posted by cyndigo at 2:28 PM on January 26, 2012


This is the oldest guy trick in the book (sorry to generalize, but I don't think I've ever met a normal guy who was like, "Hey let me be your boyfriend and meet your parents and stuff!"). He probably thinks you're cute, likes boning you, but knows already you'e not girlfriend material. As others have said 1) It's not you, and 2) listen to what he's telling you.

My boyfriend of 5 years (just celebrated last Sunday) started out saying he didn't want a relationship. While we are still happily together, we're not married or engaged and now I'm 29 instead of 24, and probably a lot less attractive to potential mates. I just...maybe I should have listened to him and waited for someone who was ready to be in a relationship. Because while I don't regret staying together, I do feel a bit like a sucker.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:31 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


He wants to see where it goes, and he also said he feels like he's *almost* ready to commit... but that was a month ago.

This is why everyone is saying this guy is not quite on the up and up. If he had just told you he didn't want a relationship and then stuck to it, well, no, he wouldn't have been at fault at all. But saying the above is either a symptom of confusion, appeasement or straight-up manipulation. Not good.

So yes, there's a more not-quite-right stuff going on here (on his part) than the two of you simply wanting different things. Don't you feel, in your heart, that there's something very rum about that *almost*... with no follow-through either way?
posted by devymetal at 5:04 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I appreciate what everyone is trying to do for me, but I need to take my own risks and make the risk of making a mistake. We talked, and decided to be a couple. The summary is that I was fully prepared to leave (and almost did) but he basically said he has wanted a relationship and was scared. If I come back in a few months with a broken heart, feel free to say "I told you so," but I am happy with my decision and it feels like the right thing.

What I really appreciate is that you all made me see that I need to stand up for my needs in my relationships. My last relationship was pretty scarring, so this is something I do have trouble with.

Clarification: while I said we'd have another serious talk, previous talks weren't about this issue. It did come up before, but not in a way where I decisively wanted a relationship. I wasn't really sure until recently.

Now this: stop sending dramatic texts
Seriously... is a "we need to have a talk" text dramatic? I needed to talk, we talked. I know it freaked him out somewhat but I really don't know another way to communicate that we need to have a talk than saying it...
posted by DoubleLune at 6:18 PM on January 26, 2012


>is a "we need to have a talk" text dramatic?

Yes. You said yourself it freaked him out. The way to have a talk with someone is to sit down when you're already with them and say "we need to talk." Using a text message for that seems over dramatic, abrupt and scary. Trust me, that phrase scares guys anyway.

I hope it works out for you!
posted by cyndigo at 7:57 PM on January 26, 2012


Using SMS for anything with more emotional loading than "meet me at the station at six" or "please pick up some milk" is inviting unnecessary drama into your life.

I know, I know, I'm an old fart, not a digital native, don't get it, yadda yadda yadda. But I'd bet good money that by the time there are 50 year old digital natives, the perceptive ones will be telling the youngsters exactly the same thing.

Emotionally important communication needs tone and nuance and SMS simply doesn't have the bandwidth to transmit those. Even talking on the phone loses enough information to cause frequent emotional misunderstanding. Unless and until communications technology is good enough to offer lag-free, high-definition audio, full-body visuals and touch and scent transmission, relationship talk is always going to work better face to face.

The only relationship talk where SMS and phone calls are operating in their natural element is the unambiguous no-further-discussion-wanted hostile breakup.
posted by flabdablet at 8:54 PM on January 26, 2012


But SMS has emoticons for nuance! Lol WTF :) :( :P XD

Seriously though, she called his relationship bluff and won. Often the only way to win is to be willing to walk away.

Good for you DoubleLune. And good luck.
posted by FrotzOzmoo at 9:02 PM on January 26, 2012


"we need to talk" is always dramatic, and is even more dramatic in writing, when no one can hear tone of voice.
posted by Kololo at 9:25 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


> is a "we need to have a talk" text dramatic?

FYI, if I got a text from my husband that said "we need to have a talk", I'd assume I was about to receive life-shatteringly bad news.
posted by hot soup girl at 2:55 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Devymetal:
This is why everyone is saying this guy is not quite on the up and up.

NOT everyone is saying this. At all.
posted by tonylord at 3:09 AM on January 27, 2012


Seriously... is a "we need to have a talk" text dramatic? I needed to talk, we talked.

Yes. "We need to talk," sounds incredibly ominous and dramatic because it's said as if you're preparing the other person for a conversation that's apparently going to be so difficult/upsetting/serious that he needs forewarning. I've heard "We need to talk," a couple times, and it's always unnerving--typically much more so than the actual conversation that follows.

Unless the conversation is actually going to be life-changing, I think a better approach is just to let the other person know you'd like some time with him: "Hey, are you around tonight?"
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:44 AM on January 27, 2012


Perhaps not advice, but a related personal anecdote... I began dating my husband under similar circumstances. He has recently left a bad, long relationship and was only just beginning to consider dating. I really really liked him and could see a future with him. He had several crises about dating me in the first three months, and broke up with me twice. I KNOW. I kept going back for more because I knew he was being dumb and knew that we would be great together. And, four years later, we are. So... sometimes he's just being dumb. It can be good to persevere if you're really feeling confident about him. Good luck!
posted by annie o at 10:31 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


And New Years follow-up... The relationship lasted ~ 6 months. I don't regret going for it -- I'd rather have loved and lost, as the saying goes. And while we aren't compatible on a romantic level, we are still very good friends.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:59 PM on January 1, 2013


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