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Dating Advice #190 - Eternal Limbo?
Dating Advice 190

Dating Advice #190 - Eternal Limbo?

Everything was going great, until it came time for him to pop the question.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I have been getting to know Mr. Right for two years. Since we live on opposite coasts, we don't get to see each other in person that often. In between, we "date" by talking on the telephone and on web cams, and e-mailing each other.

Whatever time we've spent together has been absolutely wonderful. We get along very well, have similar religious standards, values, and are usually able to smooth out any bumps we cross; very infrequently have we agreed to disagree. While this type of courtship based on electronics and infrequent in person time together has not been ideal, we know each other well; we both accept the good and the bad we see in each other.

Mr. Right is a respected professional in his mid-40s, has never been married, and has a number of friends in their 40s and 50s who are also professionally successful, but have never been married. He claims that he wants a wife and family of his own, that he sometimes cries when he comes home to his empty house. He says that he cares for me deeply and that he wants us to get married -- but he is afraid to take that final leap of faith.

I know that we are right together and could make a great married couple. I respect him, want to care for him, and want to build a family with him. He is the man I prayed for and have been waiting for forever. (I was married for five years when I was in my 20s, and have been cautiously dating since then because I do not want to make another mistake.) And that's the problem: He's been waiting forever to propose!

The getting-to-know-you stage has been over for a long time!

How much talk can a girl take? I'm only a few years younger than him, and my biological clock is running out. I also want to come home to a loving companion, to make a nice home and family. I know he's scared, but I feel (and have told him) that the getting-to-know-you stage has been over for a long time; the only way we will get to know each other better is to make the commitment, marry, and experience life together.

When I spent time in Mr. Right's city several months ago, we visited with his rabbi, who told us both that "whatever he is afraid of has been there for a long time and isn't going to go away by itself, no matter how long you date each other." At the time, I didn't want to believe this, but now I see he was right! My resentment of his fear of commitment is growing, and is now causing a great deal of friction between us. I do not want any man to propose if it is not in his heart, but I do not want him to keep schlepping me along either!

I believe that once Mr. Right proposes, he will feel relief from the fear that has been holding him back. He told me that he hopes I am right, but he wants to have a short engagement precisely because he'll probably be too nervous if the engagement is more than a few weeks long. Yet, he's still not able to pop the question. How do we get over his inertia before the friction and pressure do irreparable damage and break up our courtship?


Dear Wendy,

We wish we could say a magic formula that could persuade "Mr. Right" to take the leap of faith he needs to become engaged and married. However, the only "formula" comes from within him. Something is blocking him from making the leap, and until he learns what it is and addresses it, the two of you are going to remain in eternal limbo.

The good thing is that this man cares for you and has told you that he wants to marry you. Many men who get to this point can be helped over the hurdle by an experienced therapist who can help them identify the barrier and work through it. We've seen it happen many times. But, the man has to decide that he wants to deal with the issue once and for all and go for therapy. You can't drag him to therapy and ask the therapist to "fix" him. He has to be the one who wants to work on himself. And of course, he doesn't have to be "fixed" -- he just has to discover the barrier, and either dissolve it or work around it.

We recommend that he seek a therapist who specializes in short-term, goal-oriented therapy, rather than in long-term, psychodynamic therapy. Long-term therapy can also be helpful, but your courtship will be greatly challenged by a long course of therapy.

Is therapy the only way to address his fear? Of course, sometimes people have an epiphany and are able to make a change on their own. But the epiphany is something that happens by chance, and a person can't sit around waiting to experience it, which seems to be what he is doing.

Our suggestion is that you speak with "Mr. Right" about the idea of therapy, and even encourage him to begin. But ultimately let him make the decision.

If he needs encouragement, you can mention our opinion that this is the only way the two of you are going to make it together.

The status quo cannot continue, because even the strain is going to ruin whatever you've built till now.

He should also understand that this state of limbo cannot last very long. The fact that he is frozen has put a strain on things, and if he doesn't take steps to address what is holding him back it will become even more strained. We often see courtships dissolve under the pressure of one partner wanting to move forward and the other frozen from doing so. He has to understand that the status quo cannot continue, because even if you would be patient, the strain is going to eat away at whatever you've built till now.

If "Mr. Right" chooses to go for therapy, we also recommend that he find a married friend to give him moral support -- encouraging him that he can do it, and that marriage will be worth it. He needs someone who can be his "coach" and "hand-holder." The problem is that right now he doesn't seem to be that friendly with any married men. His closest friends are all bachelors, and without knowing these men it is likely that they all negatively reinforce each other's lifestyles and "issues."

This man is 100 percent correct about having a short engagement. Many people who get married for the first time in their 40s and 50s experience a great deal of anxiety during their engagement, and can come close to calling it off a few times. Anxiety among engaged people is a normal phenomenon, and it often increases the longer a person has been single. Now, it could be possible that "Mr. Right" will feel a great deal of relief after he "pops the question," but the anxiety could return again before the wedding. So make that engagement short, and be comforted by the fact that the anxiety almost always disappears right after the wedding ceremony or very soon thereafter.

Even after all we've said, it is possible that this man will be unwilling to go for therapy. Some people worry that therapy will be too painful or revealing. Since we have been personally involved with hundreds of people who have benefited from therapy, we can encourage him that ultimately therapy will be worth it. Ultimately, however, he will have to make the choice. If he does not do so, we believe that he will never get up the courage to marry you on his own, and that the two of you will only experience heartache. Time isn't going to help him change. Therapy will.

We hope this helps you navigate the dating maze,

Rosie & Sherry

October 8, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Kitty, November 13, 2005 12:00 AM

Blah! Blah! Blah!

I am so sick of hearing about the book "He's Just Not That Into You".... Blah... Blah...Blah... my G-d, it's not the damn bible! How many people have been dumped because they followed what these three wannabe therapists decided to write? How many people have been hurt? Don't you all know that they wrote this book to MAKE A BUCK!!! They don't care that so-and-so really love each other, were meant to be with each other and only need REAL therapy to get through their issues? No wonder there are so many divorces in our society... "Throw-Away" people as if they were old, outdated, broken cell phones... Don't you know that throughout the centuries that people actually struggled to make their marriages, relationships, businesses, etc. work? Try therapy, it works.

(4) Daniela, October 16, 2005 12:00 AM

You are SO worth more than this !

Wendy ! Go out RIGHT NOW to your nearest book store and get this book : "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys"
by Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, & Lauren Monchik. There you'll see the cold hard truth of this matter - **there is no such thing as commitment phobia !** Either a guy is into you enough to marry you or he isn't. If he isn't and he strings you along, it's because he doesn't feel like being totally alone, or he gets used to a rut - sometimes a guy can settle into a sort of "routine" that becomes comfortable. He probably does love you - as a person. But not enough as a wife. Fact of the matter is, when men really want to be married, they go out and find a wife. When they drag a girl along, it's because they know she's not enough but they just can't get the guts together to do anything about it. You need to move on and stop wasting your time. I respectfully disagree with Rosie and Sherry. He doesn't need therapy, he needs to be single and then figure out if he wants to stay that way or not. If he wants to be married, he needs to find someone he would be that into. But for now, sorry to say, HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. You're way too worth it to be wasting your time on this guy. Break up with him NOW and find someone who will deserve and cherish you ! You're not too old, throw that notion away ! You'll be fine. Just learn to cherish yourself, and someone else will pick up on it and want to be a part of it. Be well and best of luck.

(3) Anonymous, October 14, 2005 12:00 AM

what about you?

You have been seeing this man for two years. You accept the fact that you see each other rarely. You are now "trying" to help him with his commitment problem. WHAT ABOUT YOUR PROBLEM? No offense but if a guy can't commit to coming in to see you regularly, he's certainly unable to commit to marry you. Any guy who is serious about such a relationship would come in regularly. I also have to wonder about your feelings since you have essentially tolerated a non-relationship for two years. An email and telephone relationship is not a relationship it's "just a's not the real thing". (I'm quoting a more recent song than Mr. Haykin's (-:). I don't mean to be harsh but I do wonder why you have accepted so little. I think he's not the problem. I think you are the one with the commitment issue and even if he comes around your issue will jump up to bite. You need to let go of this man and find out why you have accepted this type of treatment. The man who wants to marry you will come to see you regularly. NOT the reverse, since if he is a mensch I think he will understand that he should be sparing you that. I do believe men should be the pursuers. If by six months, you do not know where you stand chances are you stand nowhere. I think in your heart you know that. Find out please why you are letting yourself be roped into go nowhere relationships. May this year be the year you have all you desire

(2) Robin, October 12, 2005 12:00 AM

Commitment Phobia is engendered by the society that does not support marriage and encourages "no-fault" divorce at will

I find it interesting that the majority of times that "fear of commitment" is discussed it is the man fearing or not wanting to commit. Having just been through a brutal divorce, and having seen how our secular world views marriage as an easily disposable contract, I now have an incredible fear of marriage. I am concerned that the woman is completely vulnerabe economically, especially if she gives up her career for child-rearing, as the legal system does not give alimony or child support as they did 20 years ago. Our legal system protects the man's right to discard his wife for any trivial reason. Jewishly, divorce was supposed to occur only for serious reasons of abuse, or extreme conflict. Also, the Ketubah provide protection for women financially if divorce occurred.
Marriage in our society is a huge emotional and financial risk for women.
What is a reasonable way to ally these real concerns for women? Is marriage still the correct moral choice for women in our society?

(1) Art Haykin, October 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Mad about the boy

Noel Coward wrote a song titled "Mad About the Boy" in which appears the line

"Unrequited love is such a bore." Yes it is, and it is almost always hopeless. Marriage between equally eager couples is already doomed to 60% failure, so why handicapp yourself by entering into an already negatively skewed committment?

Two words speak VOLUMES: the spoken words and the unspoken words. Personally, I tend to listen to the unspoken words in cases like yours...they fairly shout. The guy might not even know why he is as he is, and if he's not motivated to find out, you are on a fool's errand. There are scores of reasons why men avoid marriage: he could be a latent homosexual and not even know it. Don't scoff: IT HAPPENS. One thing for sure, as a successful professional, he's quite set in his ways at 40, and seems unwilling to lose control. Many scholars believe that marriage is an unnatural proposition for humans, and few mammals mate for life, especially primates. Further, all your anxieties are being brought to bear, and you seem to wearing your heart on your sleeve. This kind of pressure can be very off-putting to man to man already living close to the edge of his doubts. I say, back off for a good while and allow the horse to come out of the barn to find the bale of hay.

If he stays in the barn, you have your answer, loud and clear.

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