Why Men Won't Commit

Why won’t men commit? Sigh. This dilemma has plagued me for as long as I’ve been dating. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands, surrender and say “forget it!” Men have flocked and buzzed their little heads off vying for my attention, waving gifts of flowers, music, and dinner, in addition to romancing me with midnight phone calls just because they “wanted to hear my voice.”

Where do these men come from? They may be drawn by my individuality and the nonchalant way that I carry myself. They may be intrigued by my independence and my non-conforming style. They may even be curious at the fact that I wasn’t initially interested in them. It never mattered much to me. Attention that is. They come and go. There haven’t been many men who were on their toes long enough to keep me piqued or more than lukewarm in interest.

But I was dating a guy (if you want to call it dating) that I had known for over 5 years. We’ll call him John. He was drawn to me. He had been for years. It was obvious. He was in denial. We tried to hang out, kickin’ it, with no commitment, at his insistence (as if he assumed I was looking for more). It was fun for a while because my interest lied elsewhere in someone else who was equally unavailable (go figure).

Nevertheless we enjoyed strolling down Central Park West and dining in the little cafes where he’d tell me over penne vodka, how intelligent and sexy he thought I was. It gave me a flutter to know that this man was cultured, articulate, ambitious and desired me. It was like the proverbial Mr. Right sitting right under my nose the whole time.

Pretty soon it was more than obvious that I was digging him too. We were doing that open and honest thing, so I felt obliged to divulged a few of my securely hidden feelings. He said he “cared” too, and I figured that I finally had someone who was loving me and with whom I could enjoy gallery openings, theatre and cozy jazz clubs where they play that fusion stuff.

It was four months down the line that things changed. It was barely noticeable at first. But then the nightly phone calls where his voice was deep, sensual and calling me, dwindled to maybe a “shout out” once a week. He no longer said that he needed to see me. I had poured my heart out to him, he said that he enjoyed “us,” but I felt stuck. It didn’t feel like there was an “us.”

Our relationship was not moving forward. I felt that we would never take the next step. I was pushing, he was pulling back. Were we a “couple” or still just “kickin’ it?” We (but mostly I) talked and tried to be honest instead of avoiding. Bottom line was that he wasn’t ready to settle down into a serious relationship. He wasn’t sure what he wanted. I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t need to hear that. That was a negative, not to mention he totally wasted four months of my life on indecisiveness.

Other than counseling, I believed that he needed a reality check. Especially when his green guise of jealousy was exposed whenever I mentioned a “friend,” doing me a favor or talked about any other activity that put me and a member of the opposite sex in any room together. Yet he wouldn’t give in. Intellectually he seemed bright enough to know that I wouldn’t sit around waiting forever. I

¬†didn’t understand what his “cold feet” were all about. I wasn’t throwing hints of marriage and a horse-drawn carriage. I didn’t even know if I wanted to share the responsibility of housebreaking a pet with him, and I hadn’t envisioned children yet either (okay, well maybe once). But I just needed to know that it would be me and him and that we would keep working this relationship until we both decided that “yes” we were ready to say “I do.”

I couldn’t deny that he had the qualities that I had written about in my journal. I had a wish list, just like at Christmas. What I desired most in a man, he fit the bill and then some. He was educated, athletic (sort of) had beautiful lips, he was affectionate, well dressed, versatile, he liked all kinds of music and he read books.

My girlfriend said, “dump him.” Easy for her to say, especially since it wasn’t her heart. I was already in love. But he wasn’t budging or giving in. Going on 5 months into this non-committing-waste-of-my-time-relationship, the closest thing I could get to an “I love you,” from him was “I care.” To me it didn’t mean the same thing, and he knew it. The “L” word terrified him.

But I wasn’t about to let my whole life pass me by while this man took his time deciding to love me. There were other brothers out there who could appreciate a woman who was straight up, no chaser. So in one of our “just checking in” conversations I told him that I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted out, I needed closure. Prior to this, weeks had gone by, not to mention my birthday, Christmas and New Years Eve.

After our conversation he was still holding on for dear life to something he wasn’t even sure he wanted to keep. He’d call occasionally trying to make sure his mark hadn’t rubbed off of me and that I’d forever be carrying a torch or some other symbolic gesture of affection. Deep down I really thought he’d come around, maybe even surprise me with something special on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day came and went. But it was then that I had to confess that although I cared, I had to leave well enough alone. Enough lip service. A sister had to move on!

I’m in the process now of relocating, and he’s still holding onto the notion that one day we will be together. One day when his life is in order and the thought of loving me forever doesn’t send fear and panic surging through him, that is. He confessed that he didn’t want me to get over him and that he didn’t want me out of his life. But for a man who couldn’t commit, he was sure staking a lot of claims.

It took me months to realize that his apprehension about us was based on issues within himself that he had to sort out. It had nothing to do with me or my inability to be desirous. It was no reflection on what I’d done or didn’t do.

Nevertheless I’m meeting new people everyday now, and I will take my time deciding who I will allow to love me. I won’t rush into anything but I will allow a date to be a date, and interested suitors will be screened carefully for commitment-phobia. The wonderful thing is that despite all the pain he’s caused me, my New Year’s resolution is to love like I’ve never been hurt before. The sad thing is that he is still under the impression that I love him, that I’ll never get over him, and that a moments notice I’ll come running back again.

What do you do when men won’t commit? You can jump ship at the first sign of panic and save yourself the heartache of attachment and endless tears, or you can sit there on the turbulent seas of his indecisiveness hanging on for dear life and praying that you don’t get tossed overboard before you find his emotional life preserver… but hey… realistically speaking, why bother?

©1999 Linda Dominique Grosvenor

Linda Dominique Grosvenor is the author of Sometimes I Cry a novel of love and infidelity from the perspective of the “other” woman. She has written various articles on love and relationships.