“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
The first truth I will address is that relationships are hard.
They are often accompanied by insecurities, doubts, and even fears. If your boyfriend is questioning the future of your relationship, it is a real possibility he could be struggling with some fears of his own, likely sparking some insecurities and uncertainty for you as well. It can be a nasty cycle, one you don’t want to be stuck in long!
The most efficient and healthy way to deal with any uncertainty is through communication.
Communication is one of the core components to a strong, healthy relationship. When attempting to have this hard, but important conversation there are a few things to remember.
Be sure to address the behaviors you are observing so he can clearly understand what you are attempting to discuss, however, be sure to not criticize! You can observe and be curious without belittling.
Try utilizing “I statements” such as “I have noticed”, “I have been feeling”, or “I am concerned”.
This approach can minimize the presence of criticism from your end and eliminate any defensiveness from your partner.
Make sure to also engage with him about what he sees for his future and your future together as a couple.
You have every right to ask these questions as they directly affect your life, relationship, and future. It is important to make sure you are clear on what you want and what you see for your relationship future as well and communicate this, it is essential to see if what YOU want and what your partner wants are compatible.
This brings me to my second truth. Know what you want and stay true to it.
It is never easy when two people are in different places in their relationship, however, what you want out of your relationship and life is the most important component to your happiness and well-being.
If what you find through your efforts to communicate and gain clarity with your boyfriend that his hesitation about your future stems from things you can work on and grow through as a couple, then this is great news!
I encourage you to both work together towards building a relationship future that fulfills both of your wants and needs.
However, if your boyfriend is hesitant to commit to the relationship/you because it is simply something he is not sure he wants, then I encourage you to look deeply at your own wants and needs..you deserve to be with someone who chooses you!
Jamie Ratowski, LMFT – www.BrightsideTherapyFL.com
Have you ever noticed that men and women often come to the conversation about the future of a relationship at different speeds?
I find that many women in my practice come in wishing their boyfriends would be more open and receptive to conversations about the future of their relationship. These women are looking for a clear answer about where the relationship is going.
Often, they are thinking about long-term plays like moving in together, marriage, and children, while their boyfriends are feeling very content to leave things more open-ended and casual.
Similarly, I have men coming in to ask how to handle the pressure their girlfriends are putting on them to label their relationship, move forward and make big plans before they are ready to commit. While this certainly doesn’t apply to all relationships, it happens enough that, clearly, something is going on here!
Men and women often approach relationships from differing imperatives.
If we think back to our 10th grade science class on evolutionary biology, our purpose as a species is to reproduce and make more humans. To do so, men had some level of instinctual pursuit of multiple mating options, while women needed security and safety to raise vulnerable offspring with a partner.
At some level, these old instincts seem to color our current approach to dating.
Women are wanting a timeline, commitment and security, and a long-term play. Men, on the other hand, are often seen as wanting freedom, variety, and a short-term interest with less pressure on the long term.
When I’m working with individuals in my practice, I encourage folks to look at their underlying concerns and to learn how to talk to their love interest about what they are wanting.
- Ladies, are you looking for security?
- Do you want to know if this is a good relationship for the long-term?
- Are you wanting kids and realizing your window is closing (again with the biology…10th grade science was important!)?
- Is your man resisting these conversations and shutting down?
- Is he reporting feeling pressure from you?
If so, I encourage you to get clear about what you are asking for.
Look around your relationship and read the signs. I will often see women push harder, at their peril, when their boyfriend is trying to say they aren’t interested in long-term commitment.
Instead of pushing, invite the conversation. Explore mutually shared values, ask questions instead of making demands, have some fun together.
Ask what he wants for himself, let him know what you hope for yourself.
Make this a mutual conversation instead of an ultimatum. And, this is the really hard part, listen not just to his words but to his behavior. Look for his nonverbal communication in addition to his comfort level in a verbal dialogue. Good luck ladies!
Dr. Carrie McCrudden, PsyD – www.coloradotherapycare.com
Few things are more frustrating than feeling certain of what you want, but having someone by your side who isn’t so sure if they’re on board. This can be even more challenging if you’re a “go-getter” who likes to get things done and be in control.
When you’re in a relationship, it’s not just you calling the shots anymore and relationships can teach us a tough lesson about patience and slowing down.
The good news in all of this is that this is not uncommon for one person in the relationship to be more uncertain than the other. Let me clarify when this is actually a cause for concern.
I wouldn’t worry yet if…
- He’s uncertain in general. Especially depending on what stage of life you both are in, there can be lots of uncertainty that is actually healthy.
- If he’s in the middle of figuring out/changing careers, if he’s recently moved/plans to move soon, or if there is another big life transition going on, it is understandable why he may not be able to give you straight answers about what the future for the two of you looks like.
- The other thing to look at is if he is moving in the “right” direction (aka moving in the direction that you want for your future together!). Maybe he’s uncertain about when to pop the question, but he’s spending more time with your family than he used to. Maybe he’s not ready to buy a house together, but he’s ready to rent an apartment with you.
If you see that the relationship between the two of you is moving forward, even if it’s not at your exact pace, there is reason to keep hope alive that someday, the two of you will get where you want to be.
You might have cause for concern if…
- He’s stagnant and still uncertain. Some people struggle to commit to any kind of change/progress. They stay in situations that aren’t serving them and when the thought of a big life change comes along (like moving in with a partner, getting married, having kids, etc.), they freeze and/or they run.
- If you don’t see him putting forth the initiative or effort to your relationship at all (and there’s no real barrier to him doing so), this is cause for concern and shows that he may be unwilling to commit to you (or anything else for that matter).
If you haven’t already talked to him about your concerns, now’s the time to see what he imagines for himself going forward in his life and if you’re a part of that vision.
If he can’t give you a re-assuring answer, it might be time to move on to someone who can.
Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com
Relationships can be wonderful and fulfilling, but they can also lead to confusing and intense feelings that can be challenging.
In some relationships, it can appear that one person may be progressing faster than the other in terms of where the relationship is heading.
If there is doubt or confusion about where the relationship is headed, there can be steps to find clarity.
If your partner appears unsure about the future, the first step is to focus on yourself.
- What does a future look like with this person?
- Do you have a timeline for potential marriage, children, career, etc.?
- What will you need for yourself in a relationship long term, emotionally and physically?
- What role(s) will you want to fill moving forward?
You cannot expect your partner to have answers or clarity regarding the future if you have not spent time on your own vision for the relationship.
Once you have addressed your own needs for the future of your relationship, it is time to assess if your partner is capable of fulfilling these needs for you.
That is not to say they must “check every box off your list”. If there are deal breakers for you, it is a good idea to take those into account. For example, a main deal breaker could be whether or not to have children.
Relationships should not be focused on how the other person can or needs to change for the one they love, but instead accepting who the person is for their strengths and weaknesses.
Ask yourself if this partner is capable of doing those things for you.
Finally, once you have addressed your own needs from the relationship, the next step is to communicate your needs.
These conversations can be awkward and uncomfortable but are necessary to find a deeper connection with your partner. It is time to be vulnerable. Here are helpful tips and reminders for these conversations. Limit distractions when conversing. Set a time/ place where you can speak without phones, TV, video games, other people, etc.
Try to use “I” language.
“I have been thinking about what the next steps for our relationship are.” “I have these goals for myself in mind.” “I feel worried or concerned about your thoughts regarding our relationship.” Also, remember that your partner may not follow the same “script” as you. They may have different ideas or thoughts, and that is okay.
If their timeline is not the same as yours, it doesn’t mean you need to end the relationship. It means you need to re-assess if you can accept what they need as well. And finally, don’t let the first conversation you have be the only conversation about the future.
Communication is key and can resolve many issues and confusion while gaining a deeper understanding for each other.
You may think your partner is unsure about the future and then come to find they have been wanting to have a conversation as well. Or you may find that they are unsure about it, and you are now allowing them space to find some clarity about the future.
Either way, it gives both of you some understanding of where each person is feeling. Relationships take work, intention and kindness and they are an enriching and important part of life.
Jennie Heinze, MA, LPC – jennieheinzetherapy.com
If your boyfriend has let you know that he is unsure about your future, believe him.
He’s letting you know that there are no guarantees, and that he has not committed to you. He might be saying this because he feels pressure to commit to a relationship.
If he is ambivalent about you, you could be setting yourself up for an unsatisfying or painful relationship.
Sometimes the truth hurts, but it is always better to know where people stand. At least he has been honest with you.
- How do you feel?
- Are you sure about him?
If you are sure about him and he is not sure about you, you have some choices to make.
You can wait it out and see if his feelings solidify and he becomes more sure of you. Or perhaps you might see that this is not going where you wanted to go, and decide to explore other options.
If you are not sure about him either, you are both in the same place, which is good. Give yourself some time, see how things evolve and get to know him. It takes about a year to get to know a person, even to make a friend.
Take the time to get to know who he really is, and to see if the relationship evolves in a healthy way.
- How does he handle conflict ?
- How do you both navigate challenges together?
- Is your relationship growing and evolving over time ?
- Is he someone who is capable of intimacy?
Not everyone who dates actually wants a serious relationship or is even capable of healthy intimacy.
These are questions that take some time to answer, and a person’s true nature always comes out eventually.
Some people are meant to be with us for a short time, and others for the long-haul. Either way, time will tell, and things will work out the way that they are meant to.
Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com
A lot depends on:
- How certain you are about the rightness of the relationship,
- How long you’ve been waiting for an answer, and
- Whether your boyfriend’s uncertainty is a symptom of a deeper ambivalence that could cause trouble in the future.
Whatever his reasons, the most important person to consider is you.
- Does this man bring out the brightest in you?
- Do you feel treasured and safe in his presence?
- Is he someone you can count on when times get tough?
Look at the evidence. Don’t ignore red flags like anger issues, substance abuse, or chronic unemployment. These tend to get worse over time, not better.
What ultimately tears couples apart doesn’t ‘show up’ after many years. The signs were there from the start.
The women weren’t blind or stupid. They saw the signs, but believed that the drinking, rage, lies, negativity, self-absorption, under-employment, Silent Treatment, infidelity would end if their partners finally received the love and support they deserved.
The best of what I can offer is this warning: Don’t ignore or excuse troubling behavior or traits.
Look for the potential. Look for the good in your partner, but make sure you aren’t excusing, explaining away, or assuming that the good qualities represent “the REAL person,” and that the bad qualities can be erased with enough love.
Betsy Sansby, MS, LMFT – www.betsysansby.com
The first, most important question to ask is are you sure about what you want in terms of this relationship, any relationship.
Unless you know what you want your boyfriend will be getting mixed or confusing signals from you.
So, first and foremost spend some quality time assessing what is truly important to you in a relationship and what you are willing to do to have this?
Know your own boundaries and limits as well as how much you can compromise on.
What is your timeline for deciding a future? Have you clearly communicated this with your boyfriend? Clear communication about such an important topic is essential.
Instead of “We need to talk” approach when starting an important discussion about the future there are better ways to insure a more optimum outcome that include:
- Begin with a willingness to be curious, truly curious about his ideas, thoughts, goals about his future and relationship with you.
- Start any important discussion in a “soft” way, soft voice, gentle topic to begin that lead into the deeper stuff.
- Ask him when would be a good time for him to have a discussion vs suddenly springing it on him without a warning.
- After you’ve talked, summarize what you’ve heard from him and ask that he do the same so you both have assurance you have understood what the other said and meant.
- Finally, know that some relationships are not meant to be so finding out early is far better in the long run even if it may hurt at the moment.
Linda M. Rio, M.A., MFT – www.lindamrio.com
I think that handling a situation in which you have a partner who isn’t sure about the future of your relationship depends a lot on the length of the relationship.
If you’ve been seeing each other for less than six months you’re still in the getting to know you stage.
That’s what dating is for. Some people take longer than others to evaluate the viability of a relationship. Additionally, in the first six months and sometimes longer there is a lot of exciting hormonal activity that makes it harder to really know if the relationship will work long term.
After this initial getting to know you phase, you should be able to talk about how each of you feel about your future together.
One of you may be more confident than the other, but there should be some agreement on your direction as a couple. This would be a good time to express any concerns you or he might be having. Not only will you be able to communicate those concerns, you’ll also have a chance to see how as a couple you will approach difficulties or differences.
How long to wait while he is making up his mind is really up to you.
You are in charge of your future and that includes deciding when you are ready to settle down. If you are 35 and want kids, you obviously can’t wait as long as a woman who is 25. It’s also important that you are sure that this is the man and the relationship you want. Hurrying the decision for either of you is likely to cause problems in the future.
Evaluate whether he is expressing valid feelings or if he is just avoiding a commitment.
Concerns are meant to be sorted out between you; avoidance is always a bad sign. It’s one thing if he is genuinely addressing his feelings and needs. It’s another to be dealing with someone who is just ambivalent about commitment.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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