Dear Rosie & Sherry,

Two months ago I broke off dating a man who did not want to commit to marriage. His reasoning was that he was not looking for anything serious. Needless to say he broke my heart, but I told him what I needed and bid him farewell.

Since then, we did not talk personally for about two months, although we kept in touch through e-mail. This past weekend we ran into each other and ended up spending time together. I was emotionally prepared to handle his repetitive speech about "not looking for a relationship," so I was going to brush it off.

However, he is now calling me constantly and expressing how concerned he is about my well being, how he is tired of the dating scene and how he has resolved to look for a wife!

I am so confused at this point. I answer his calls, but I am scared to get involved again. I do not want to give in easily. All I want is commitment and marriage down the road!

Naomi

Dear Naomi,

Before we discuss the man you dated, let's talk about you. You have to clarify exactly what you want from a relationship. You letter mentioned "commitment" and "marriage down the road.”

When someone is dating with the ultimate goal of marriage, the couple becomes exclusive as their courtship moves in the direction of marriage. However, a dating partner can give you exclusivity and then, months later when you feel ready to move the courtship toward engagement and marriage, he can opt out and claim, "I never said that just because we were only seeing each other I was interested in long-term commitment."

Perhaps an exclusive, short-term relationship is acceptable for some people. But when someone dates with the expectation that a promising courtship will lead to marriage, exclusivity should be a means to the ultimate goal of marriage. That's why you need to make your intentions clear to your dating partner early on. While you don't want to give the impression that it is just a matter of time before you mail the wedding invitations, and scare someone away prematurely, you also do not want to waste time and energy developing a connection with someone whose ultimate goals are not the same as yours.

We suggest saying something like, "I want you to know that the reason I am dating is because I would like to meet someone who is right is for me, and develop a courtship that will lead to marriage. I don't know if you are that person, but I have a purpose to my dating and I want to be up front about it."

If you date runs from this revelation, or if he says, "I am having a good time with you and would like to keep this casual," then he doesn't have the same goals as you -- and you are better off not making an investment in something that has no future. It is a mistake to think that you will change his mind if he falls in love with you, if you date long enough to really get to know each other, and/or if you try harder, if you lose five pounds, or if you get a beauty makeover.

Now let's talk about this guy. What has changed since the time the two of you were dating? His words may seem encouraging, but they are not really saying much about him. If he really does want to get married, what is he doing about it? Has he gone to therapy to work on any commitment-related issues he cannot overcome himself? Has he changed the way he is dating to focus more on a serious courtship that can lead to marriage?

Has he informed you of his new objective in order to convince you to let him back into your life, even though he has no intention of pursuing your relationship in the direction of marriage? (In other words, has he decided that you are not "the one" but you are good for the time being?) Or, has he decided that the two of you were great together, it's time to grow up, and he would now like to focus his energies on nurturing a courtship so that, if all goes well, the two of you can become engaged?

If you are entertaining the possibility of getting back together with this man, you must ask him to spell out exactly what he means as soon as possible. Unless he's made a dramatic turnaround and is definitely focused on seeing your courtship lead to marriage, we wouldn't recommend becoming involved with him again. You've already determined that the two of you were moving in different directions, and you've dealt with the pain of a break up and poised yourself to move on. If you still don't want the same things, why leave yourself open to another, inevitable round of hurt and disappointment?

We hope this has been helpful, and wish you all the best,

Rosie & Sherry