Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I've been dating a great guy who's sending me very mixed messages. He's in his mid-40s and I'm in my late 30s; neither of us have been married before. We both wish to marry and have children. The problem is this: he wants to date only me and he can foresee marriage, but he's presently unwilling to make a commitment because he says a commitment creates pressure. We've dated steadily for nine months.
While he easily expresses caring, tender feelings without any solicitation, it's difficult for him to express love. In fact, he's disclosed that he's never been in love. So, I'm now starting to date other men.
My problem is that it's hard to remain open to developing feelings toward another man while I'm still sweet on this otherwise great guy. Should I end my courtship with him so I can meet someone who can make a commitment, or do I not burn bridges? Do I give this fella more time?
Also, how much time does someone need to recognize he's in love? If he's never been in love before, is this someone who's unable to love? Am I just wasting my time?
Some people will be plagued by a fear of commitment for their entire lives, never being able to move a courtship to the stages of engagement and marriage. Others will decide to try to overcome their fear, finding success through therapy, or from the one-on-one support of a friend or relative who acts as a de-facto dating coach/advisor/mentor.
Still others will determinedly turn to self-help books, such as Shaya Ostrov's "The Inner Circle - Seven Gates to Marriage" (www.feldheim.com), follow the exercises, and find that this effort, either by itself or in conjunction with therapy or a coach, will help them get married.
If the man you pine for wants to marry you and decides to address his fear of commitment through one of these methods, you may want to consider waiting a while longer. However, understand that therapy, date-coaching and self-help all take time, and while they are often successful there is no guarantee they will be in this case. You'll have to decide how much time you want to invest in being patient, and part of this will depend upon how determined this man is to work out his difficulties.
If this man does not want to take any steps to resolve his fear, staying with him is a waste of your time. Any your time is too precious to waste. His entrenched fear of commitment will not resolve itself automatically, even if he loves you and says he wants to marry you someday. In the same vein, if he reluctantly agrees to counseling or a dating coach to appease you -- but not because he himself wants to resolve his fear -- his chances of success are virtually non-existent. Appeasement is not a good foundation for any relationship.
What about the subject of love? That's a little more complicated. It could be that this man has a perception of "love" that is based on what he's seen in movies and read in novels -- the belief that love means passion, fireworks and intense emotions. But that is "infatuation."
Real love starts with caring, tender feelings and builds on them. For the majority of married couples -- especially those who meet in their 30s and 40s -- "love" is a process that starts when the man and woman become emotionally intimate, and grows stronger when they share their lives together.
Unfortunately, thousands of single men and women have bought into the fictionalized fantasy -- and feel disappointed when they don't experience it. This could be why your guy says he has "never been in love."
On the other hand, he may have unresolved issues from the past that have blocked him from being "in love" in the genuine sense of the word. Perhaps he has never been comfortable enough in dating -- you included -- to develop emotional intimacy, or to feel affection, or to experience physical attraction. Then he probably needs a trained professional to break through the barriers that have restrained him.
We hope this helps you make a decision about the next step, and we wish you the best of luck.
Rosie & Sherry
Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I am absolutely delighted that you took the time to respond to my dating problem on-line.
Your advice, which is really wonderful, will help many men and women as they navigate the dating scene in finding their partners. When a couple moves towards a fork in the road, hopefully they can skip down a similar path, and not part in different directions. It was painful for me to sit in front of that fork with an unwilling partner. Your response gives insight as to why someone can't move forward and how to resolve that (either for oneself or as a couple).
I have subsequently left that "Stuck" Gentleman and am again hopeful about meeting a serious, loving, available man. Thanks again for your beautiful and caring response!!! ;^)