I’ve written about men and commitment but one question I get asked again and again is what to do when a guy is afraid of commitment. It’s a tricky question to answer because the way men and women view commitment is uniquely shaped by their experiences.
Some people have grown up with parents who’ve had a loving marriage and healthy relationships whilst some have experienced their parents go through divorce leaving them with a sense of abandonment, loss or rejection. The experiences we have as adults and the experiences we have as children can shape how we show up in adulthood. If you’re dating a guy who’s afraid of commitment, know that there are no dating ‘rules’ you can apply. However, there are things you can do to help you and your guy cope.
Understand your own relationship story
Do you find yourself attracting the same kind of men over and over again? If so, it’s no coincidence. I have many readers who tell me they’d really like to meet someone but when I dig a little deeper, I realize that it’s them who are afraid of commitment and therefore unconsciously attract men who aren’t ready for a relationship.
Maggie first came to me asking for dating sites that worked well for women like her. Knowing that picking the ‘right’ dating site wasn’t the problem, I probed further. Maggie wasn’t having much luck with online dating apps. When she showed me her online dating profile I found she had one profile picture and no description. She told me that when men texted her, she rarely replied saying it took too much effort. In short, Maggie wasn’t putting any effort into how she was showing up at all. When I asked her why she explained that she was lazy but also that she was hesitant to get into a relationship because her previous one deprived her of her independence. She was secretly afraid to lose it again and used her luckless love life as an excuse to stay single. There are so many stories of self-sabotage like this, I could write a whole novel on it! A relationship takes 200% effort. If you’re not putting in 100%, it wouldn’t be fair to expect that from others. Look into your own relationship story to understand if you’re standing in your own way.
2. Take a step back
Men and women have completely different commitment timelines. From what I’ve witnessed, it takes men longer to decide he’s ready to commit to a woman. I’ve coached and spoken to many men who tell me they are not afraid of commitment, they are just afraid of committing to the wrong woman. For them, getting into a relationship is a long term investment in his future. Recently I met a man who had been hanging out with a woman for more than a year before he decided that they were right for each other. I don’t know too many women who are patient enough to wait a year for a guy to decide he’s ready but what this woman did right was that she never put pressure on him. She expressed her interest in him and let things take its natural course. Sure they took the long scenic route but because the dynamics of their friendship never changed, he was able to see in time how suited they were with each other.
Note: I place emphasis on the fact that the friendship never changed while the two were ‘hanging out’. The place between hanging out/casual dating to a committed relationship is difficult territory to navigate because one person often wants more than the other and at different times. I’ve witnessed many women get impatient and risk that the dynamic of the relationship by growing more needy, insecure and manipulative.
3. Understand his commitment story
As I mentioned before, most men aren’t afraid of commitment. Like many of you reading, your guy probably has a relationship story of his own that’s shaped the way he views commitment. I once worked with a guy whose parent split when he was in his teens. His dad left the country leaving him to be the man of the house at a very early stage. Because he had to be the rock for his mom and two sisters, he missed out on all the things a teenager would do. Instead of going out with friends, taking girls out on dates, he had to be the emotional support for his mom who slipped into depression. This experience shaped the way he viewed relationships – as something that only caused heartbreak and emotional burden. His relationships never lasted more than 2 years. It wasn’t until he saw the correlation between his parent’s split and his own relationships that he decided it was time for a change.
Many go in and out of relationships not realizing that our partners have relationship stories of their own. Just because a guy isn’t ready to commit now it doesn’t mean he will never be ready.