Monday, January 18, 2010

Falling for a Commitment-Phobe

She’s eager for a commitment, but he refuses to talk about it. What should she do?

Dear Dr. Gilda,
I met my current boyfriend within a month of his ending his marriage. We hit it off right away and have been together ever since. We are both in our 40s, divorced with children. When we first got together, we talked for hours about everything imaginable. We are together every day and most nights, and yet I can’t get him to talk about his feelings for me and/or where he sees this relationship going. When he talks about the near future he talks like I’m in it, but he won’t discuss his thoughts or feelings with me. He says things like “next summer ‘we’ should...” but nothing about a commitment.

I’ve asked him about his feelings for me but he doesn’t answer. He’ll say things like “I’m happy” or “I’m not looking for anyone else” but he refuses to tell me he loves me or whether he thinks we have a future. I’ve told him his silence scares me and makes me wonder about “us,” but I still get nothing. I’m not sure what to do. We get along great and have a good time together, but I need to know if he is serious about me or if I should move on. There are children involved, and I don’t want to play with their emotions, either. What can I do?
– Confused about the Future

Dear Confused,

Your timing was way off! No one of substance can glide out of a marriage and into happily ever after with someone new—unless he has no blood in his veins. What this guy is “telling” you is that he’s comfy with things as they are. You have provided a safe haven during his recuperation from post-divorce malaise. Clearly, he’s not anxious to repeat a train wreck. So he’s taking his time—and there is nothing you can do about it!

Here’s the low-down on “Man-guage”: A guy believes that just being with a woman proves she is special in his heart. But a woman fears that if the loving language doesn’t flow, it means he doesn’t care. In your case, Boyfriend is trying to understand what just happened to his life. Further, some men (and women) take years to convince when it comes to re-commitment. Are you willing to be patient for a few years?

Here’s what I suggest:

1. Observe this Gilda-Gram: “Choose which bridges to cross and which to burn.” If you want this guy in your life, you have to create a plan. What follows is how to begin.

2. The actual words you want to hear are not forthcoming. But his his non-response is his response. You can either accept the facts as they are or be willing to move on—perhaps only until he knows what he wants.

3. Don’t give him an ultimatum—unless you want to permanently push him out the door.

4. If you decide to hang in there for a while, accentuate your good times and stop bringing up the C-word. He has already heard what you want and expect.

5. Silently circle a due date on your calendar, and let that be your goal. On that date, repeat how you feel one last time, and then share your plan for action.

6. Whatever your plan is, stick to it. If you don’t, he will never believe you again.

You could remain with Boyfriend for years and find that he’ll never be interested in re-marriage. Or you could remain quiet while he concludes in his own time that he’s more ready for you than he realized. No matter what happens, he must conclude by himself what he wants. Trying to manipulate him will only leave you single.
Dr. Gilda

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle (Ph.D.) has a private practice Online, on the phone, and in her office. She is an associate professor of business, psychology, and communications at New York’s Mercy College. Her best-selling books include Don't Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity, and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. For additional information, please visit

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