What if you knew what men secretly wanted but they could never tell you

It’s simpler than you think and I’m here to tell you how.

He Treats Me Like His Girlfriend But Doesn’t Want a Relationship – 10 Experts Share Their Best Tips + Insights

by Melissa King – MA, LPC, NCC, Samantha Ricard – MS, MFTC, Ellen Hartson – LISW, Life Coach, Anita Gadhia-Smith – PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW, Sarah Vendegna – MS, LPC, Ashley Baldwin – LPC, CACII, Laura Frederick – LMFT, Michelle Henderson – MA, LMHC, Lisa Angelini – MAPC, LPC, ACCHT, Normajean Cefarelli – PhD, LMFT

He Treats Me Like His Girlfriend But Doesn’t Want a Relationship

“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”

~ Mandy Hale

Mandy Hale Standards Quote
Normajean Cefarelli

When we first begin to date someone, it can be very exciting and filled with desires and willingness to spend time opening up and learning about one another. It can be a period of deep exploration as you navigate your unbridled passion and discover the subtle nuances that capture your attention. 

You of course want to continue down this path which leads to a meaningful relationship. But something happens…the breaks go on and the fantasies come to a screeching halt. 

Although your man treats you like his girlfriend…he shares that he doesn’t want a relationship. 

Well, that can be very confusing and what does that even mean? Your heart skips a beat as disappointment washes through your body and eventually the sadness begins to seep in as feelings begin to percolate.

What do you do next?

1. Settle in…

It is usually a good idea to settle in to what you are feeling and spend some time to think about yourself and what feelings are coming up for you. There may be many reasons why he is saying he does not want to be in a relationship. Once you have taken the time needed for you to process your feelings, have a discussion with him about it and see where he is coming from. 

2. Desires…

Are you able to ask for what you want? 

If your desire is to be in a loving and caring relationship, then you must be willing to articulate that to your partner. Asking for what you want takes practice and this can be the perfect opportunity to go beyond your comfort zone and use the innate courage you have inside to speak up.

3. Know that you are worth it

If he is not ready to make a commitment to a relationship; do not let that dissuade you from finding someone else who can meet you where you are at. You are worth the investment and need to find someone who sees you as a partner to walk side by side with; not placed up on a shelf to take down for their entertainment.

4. Letting go…

Are you willing to let go if he does not meet your needs? 

Think about the discussions you have with him and see if all arrows lead to a beginning or an end. If he is unable to commit to a relationship, then it may be best that you part ways. It does not make either of you bad people, it just means that you are not in sync with what you want.

Normajean Cefarelli, PhD, LMFT – www.balancewithinllc.com

Ellen Hartson

The first important question to ask yourself is: 

What do you want?

Let’s assume that you want to be in a relationship.

The next important thing is to define what that means to you and find out what being in a relationship means to him.

What is his definition?  What are the terms?

If he states that he does not want to be in a relationship, then he is telling you that there is something about being in a relationship that is repellant to him.

What is it he does not want?

  • Is it commitment?
  • Is it fidelity?
  • Is there something he would be responsible for if it was a relationship that he’s not responsible for if it isn’t?

It’s important to get the answer to these questions so you know where the two of you disagree or want different things.  Then you can decide from that place if this is a problem or not.

Perhaps it’s just semantics.  If he treats you like his girlfriend, does it matter what he calls it?

One thing I’d like to caution you about.  Don’t lie to yourself.  

Be very honest about what you want, even if it’s different than what he wants.  If you want a long-term relationship leading to a commitment and he does not, don’t deceive yourself by telling yourself that maybe he will change his mind.  

I’ve worked with many men who struggled while dating a woman that they knew was more attached than they were.  

They told the women they were dating that they did not want a serious relationship.  They stayed because they were having a good time but did not have strong feelings for her.

If that’s okay with you and you are also just having fun, then there isn’t a problem, right?

But if you want a relationship and he does not, and you’ve been seeing him long enough (more than a couple of months), then it’s time to get honest with yourself. Just because he enjoys the perks of “acting like” you are his girlfriend, but doesn’t want to have any of the responsibilities, doesn’t mean he wants more.  

Move on and find someone who wants what you want.

Ellen Hartson, LISW, Life Coach – www.ellenhartson.com

Lisa Angelini

You may be feeling like you aren’t good enough and wondering what is wrong with you. You may question your reality. After all, he treats you like his girlfriend.  It’s just semantics, right? Is there a difference?  Yes, there is absolutely a difference. 

Relationships shouldn’t be confusing. There is nothing wrong with you. However, you must examine your thinking and why you allow yourself to be confused by his behavior. 

It is important to determine what you want in your life and what you will tolerate in a relationship. 

Relationships take many forms. Friendships are also relationships. If you want to be in a committed relationship, you must set a firm boundary with yourself and not allow anything to the contrary. 

Of course, relationships take time to build, but if he is saying he does not want a relationship, that is all the information you need.  Time will not likely change his mind. Your absence may or may not change his behavior either. 

What your “would be” boyfriend is saying is that he is not willing to commit to the time and effort it takes to build a potentially long-lasting relationship, or that he is not interested in a committed relationship with you. 

This also allows him to be available to date others. If you do want a casual relationship, this may work for you. 

However, if you have or are developing feelings for him, there is potential for hurt in the long run. 

If your goal is to have a boyfriend, your time is best served finding a person who wants what you want.

Lisa Angelini, MAPC, LPC, ACCHT – www.lisaangelini.com

Sarah Vendegna

Girlfriend to you may not be girlfriend to him

  • Take into consideration your perspective of a relationship compared to his. It’s quite possible that what he’s doing and saying that leads you to believe the two of you are possibly in a relationship may not be how he defines a relationship.
  • It makes so much sense why you would assume it’s a relationship, but it’s best to make sure you acknowledge there are two perspectives involved and not just your own. Take this in consideration when getting overwhelmed or frustrated by the situation. Considering his perspective could give you some distance from the situation in order to not take things personally.

Expect confusion

  • His actions say one thing, but he’s saying another. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What am I supposed to do with that?” This type of confusion has the possibility to take over and potentially put a damper on the time you enjoy with him. Relationships are hard work. Adding this additional factor simply makes it more challenging to gain the type of connection and growth that is possible in a relationship.

If you are experiencing confusion as a result of this situation, ask yourself the following: 

  • Is this truly worth my time and energy?
  • Will I regret the amount of time I’ve put into waiting?
  • Would I support a close friend or family member doing the same thing?
  • Are my values and character being reflected through this decision to wait for him?

Know your limits

  • If you truly feel that a relationship is what you want right now and he is not on the same page as you, it may be time to consider your next step. That could be having a direct conversation with him about whether or not he’d be willing to change his mind about a relationship or making the decision to end things.
  • Yes, it’s nice to spend time with him, have someone to talk to on a meaningful level, and have a person to call when you want to cook dinner or watch a movie, but honoring what you want for your life now and for your future is what will allow you to live more meaningfully.

Sarah Vendegna, MS, LPC – www.vendegnacounseling.com

Michelle Henderson

There are lots of things we want in life that often come with things we simultaneously do not want. 

Maybe we want to buy a house, but we don’t want to be the one responsible for all the maintenance that comes with it. 

Perhaps we want a high-paying job, but we don’t want to work the long hours it would require of us. We may want a college degree, but don’t want all the debt that comes with it. 

If we take this idea and apply it to relationships, many people want the fun and companionship that can come from a relationship, without the commitment and possibility of getting hurt in the end if it doesn’t work out.

We are constantly doing pros and cons analyses in our head all day long. We do this about what we should eat (the healthy meal that takes time to prepare vs. getting fast food) and about how to spend our time (exercising vs. sitting and watching a movie), just to name a few. 

When it comes to romantic relationships, most of us have some things on our “cons” list that may hold us back but there are likely far more “pros” that lead to us taking the chance and committing to someone we really care about. 

This guy has “cons” that outweigh the “pros” for him – if this weren’t the case, the two of you would be together. 

When you can understand his “cons” this can help you get an explanation for what’s going on.

One huge “con” that many people have is relationship trauma. 

Relationship trauma does not have to involve us personally. Someone has experienced relationship trauma if their parents – or other people close to them – got divorced. 

People have relationship trauma if they’ve been cheated on or experienced unrequited love. Now, you might be thinking at this point to yourself, “Well, I have relationship trauma and I want a relationship still. Why wouldn’t he?” 

First, men and women can experience relationship trauma differently. 

Men are often socialized to be the “pursuer” of the relationship and it is much harder to be the one shot down than the one doing the shooting down. 

Second, generally speaking, two people can experience the exact same traumatic event and process is TOTALLY differently. 

Just because a trauma you experienced didn’t leave a scar on you doesn’t mean that his experiences not have left a scar on him.

Once you’ve thought about this and gained some insight about what his history with relationship trauma is and/or why he is holding back from committing to you, this does not mean that things will change, unfortunately. 

If you are wanting a relationship, it is in your best interest to find someone who is also ready for the same thing than to wait for someone who may have quite a bit of personal work to do before they would be ready themselves. 

Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com

Laura Frederick- New

Relationship ambiguity can certainly be frustrating. Especially at a time when the entire world feels ambiguous.

Have you found an opportunity to discuss your relationship? 

If so, what are his hesitations? Sometimes a stated hesitation can prompt us towards relational growth. Is that happening? 

If so, identify one or two things you can do to encourage further growth. 

If not, then try to identify potential barriers. Ambiguity compounded by an experience of ‘stuckness’ is an exhausting combination. Work towards clarity and movement.

If you haven’t yet discussed your relationship, then assumptions are running the show. Think through the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of a conversation.

In the meantime, it can help to determine boundaries. You are a woman of value! You have the right to choose how much of yourself to offer a man who says he’s not ready for a relationship. 

“Calm” is key. 

Brainstorming boundaries when you’re mad or sad can skew your judgement. However, a calm assessment will guide you towards effective change.

Another benefit to boundaries is the space they can create for identity affirmation. 

Anchor into the truth of your value. Spend time with affirming girlfriends. Remember who you were before your man and learn to walk in the fullness of that with or without him.

I hope he can develop the capacity for a thriving relationship. But, even if he never does, I am confident that you will find a way to fly.

Laura Frederick, LMFT – www.laurafrederickmft.com

Ashley Baldwin

If you are dating someone who wants to have the dynamic of a relationship without the work or commitment, then this may be a red flag.

When I think back to my younger years in life and even recent conversations I have with people, this problem is not uncommon. I think that this can be difficult because oftentimes, one of the people in this dynamic wants more than the other person does, which can bring a lot of hurt and pain. 

If you want to be in a relationship with this person but they do not want to be in one with you, my biggest concern is how it is impacting you. 

I think asking yourself some of these questions can help guide what you are feeling and help you decide what you would like to do.

How Does this Situation Feel For You?

I find that women in this situation often feel badly about themselves and find themselves thinking that if they do a certain thing or change something about themselves, THEN this man may be interested. If that is the case, you deserve so much better than that. You deserve to be with someone who clearly wants to be with you and who doesn’t cause you to second guess who you are or your value.

What do you get out of this dynamic?

My guess is that there is something fulfilling for you in this or you would end this relationship. Is it hope that things will change? (If so, I would read the answer to the last question and realize that you can stick around forever waiting, but you deserve more.) 

Do you enjoy that person? Are you ok with not having a relationship? 

I think the answers to these questions are important to help you decide how emotionally invested you are and therefore how potentially hurt you could get.

Are you happy with this dynamic?

I think this is the most important answer. If you are completely content in just being friends but acting like more, then it sounds like there isn’t an issue, But my guess is, if you are reading this you are looking for answers because you are not happy with the dynamic; AND THAT IS OK!

If you are unhappy, then I think you can have a conversation about it. 

If things continue the way they are and you are truly unhappy, then it may be time to reevaluate this relationship in your life. If it is not bringing you joy and instead creating heartache, disappointment or sorrow for you, then it may be time to take care of yourself and walk away. 

Ashley Baldwin, LPC, CACII – www.facebook.com/BaldwinCounseling

Anita Gadhia-Smith

If your boyfriend treats you like his girlfriend, but says he doesn’t want a relationship, you may be struggling to make sense of him. 

The disconnect between his behavior and words could create a state of cognitive dissonance, which is uncomfortable and confusing. When behavior and words do not match, we are left with a vague sense of discomfort and the feeling that something is just not right.

What he might actually be telling you is that he does want a relationship, but he only wants it to go so far and wants it only on his terms. 

If he assumes that “being in a relationship” means that there is a future ahead involving marriage and family, he may be letting you know that he only wants a certain level of engagement and responsibility towards you. This could be a way of trying to manage your expectations, and keep you from asking for more.

There are many people who want to have a relationship, but do not want it to continue to progress and grow. 

If you enjoy the relationship and are satisfied with what you have, this could work for you, regardless of what he says. However, if you want more, and want a more committed or serious future together, you may need to accept that he is limited in what he can offer you.

Sometimes we would rather have some of a person than none at all. 

Other times, if the relationship is unsatisfying as it is, and you have different goals, you may need to look elsewhere for what you really want. Some relationships are meant to evolve to a certain point and then stop there. Others are meant to continue to grow and develop, and to last for a longer season of life.

Accept him for who he is, and then assess whether the situation meets your needs and desires. 

Sometimes relationships need to either grow or die. If you need to keep growing and he does not, then you may need to find someone who is a better fit. It is an abundant world, and there are many potential partners for you.

Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com

Melissa King

He treats you like his girlfriend BUT also says he doesn’t want a relationship. This is the classic  scenario of someone giving mixed messages. The actions and the verbal messages don’t match.  It can lead to you feeling confused and devalued. 

My question for you is, “What is it about YOU  that is allowing this kind of scenario to continue?” 

While the temptation may be to blame him  for sending mixed messages, the reality is that it takes two people to go along with something  for it to actually continue. Relationship dynamics become reinforced over time with both  partners agreeing to them whether they realize it or not.  

So, take a moment and ask yourself: 

  1. What am I doing to allow this dynamic to keep happening in this relationship? 
  2. What beliefs about myself are contributing to this confusing scenario? 
  3. Why am I not speaking up in order to get more clarity?  
  4. What do I want this relationship to look like?  
  5. Am I willing to let go of this person if things don’t change?  

When it comes down to it, your opinion is important, and YOU ARE WORTH IT! 

You are worth  being with a boyfriend who doesn’t play games with you. So, the real question is DO you  believe this too?

Melissa King, MA, LPC, NCC – www.firelightcounseling.com

Samantha Ricard

First things first!

Set this man and the relationship aside in your mind for a moment and ask yourself- What is it that YOU want?

If you’re genuinely content (meaning you have absolutely no concerns) with the way you’re being treated without the official label, then continue on! However, if something about it isn’t sitting right with you, it’s worth exploring more.

Even if you’re not making the relationship official, it’s a good idea to lay out a few boundaries. 

Discussing things like whether or not you’re both seeing other people and/or having sex with other people is a good place to start. Whether or not you’re emotionally involved, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking precautions to protect your sexual health.

If you haven’t already, make sure that you’re expressing your intentions clearly. 

He has been honest with you about not wanting a relationship and he deserves your honesty in return. If him treating you like his girlfriend leaves you believing he will change his mind about the relationship, you’re allowed to tell him how you would like to be treated differently. 

At the end of the day, he is allowed to have his own reservations about starting an official relationship. 

If any part of that doesn’t work for you, you owe it to yourself to move on and find someone that treats you the way you want to be treated.

Samantha Ricard, MS, MFTC – www.ricardcounseling.com

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