“You should never have to look for evidence that someone loves you. True love is crystal clear.”
~ Mandy Hale
Are you waiting for a guy who doesn’t know what he wants?
It is perfectly normal for people to not know want they want when they initially meet someone. Although they might have goals for their life or general plans about what they want for the future, it takes time to get to know a person and to find out whether they have similar goals and whether they can actually give you what you want, and vice versa.
Even with a friendship, it takes about a year to really get to know someone. In a romantic relationship, it can take much longer.
The deeper unresolved issues of childhood tend to surface gradually in romantic relationships, and that can take a couple of years, depending on the frequency of contact and amount and quality of time spent together.
Once these issues surface, you both need to find out if you can work through them together and successfully manage the conflicts that come up.
At a certain point, both of you will know what you want and whether or not you are compatible.
This is a good time to talk about the future in an honest, straightforward, and gentle way.If the man that you’re dating still doesn’t know what he wants , that’s a sign that he’s not ready for a relationship, does not want one, or just doesn’t want one with you.
If he’s getting most of his needs met by being with you but knows he doesn’t want a serious relationship with you, you are wasting your time if you want something serious and there is not reciprocity.
Some people can go on like this for years. Sometimes, people can be complacent and lazy about making changes in their quasi-comfortable lives.
Not everyone understands how short our time really is and how important it is to do everything you can to create the life that you want based on your own values and goals.
It is up to each of us to be the author of our own story and the architect of our own life.
We do not need to wait passively for other people to decide what is going to happen in our life.
If you are being strung along by a man who keeps saying he doesn’t know, it might be a good idea to decide how long you have to give to the relationship in order for him to decide.
Set a time limit for yourself, and stick to it.
If he still doesn’t know, then walk away. There really are plenty of fish in the sea, and there is someone out there who is looking for someone exactly like you.
Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com
There are generally two reasons why a man tells a woman he’s dating that he doesn’t know what he wants.
First, it’s code for “I don’t see a future with you but you’re fine to hang out with for now”.
And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s okay to date someone because you enjoy dating them but don’t see them as a lifetime partner. You never know what might develop.
It depends on what you want (more on that in a minute).
The second reason is that he genuinely doesn’t know.
There can be many reasons for this, but they are probably about HIM, not you.
- Maybe he’s still not ‘recovered’ from a previous relationship.
- Maybe he’s dealing with other big issues in his life and a serious relationship is not a priority right now.
- Maybe he’s not ready. Maybe he never will be.
So that’s where we come back to:
What do you want?
If you know that you are ready to move forward and he’s not, then why would you continue to stay in a relationship with him? Most likely, you’re not dating other men.
For many women, when they’re invested in a relationship with one man and they tell themselves they are open to dating other men, they’re really fooling themselves because their heart is not open.
So back to the question:
Why would you continue to stay in a relationship with him?
Here are the most common answers I hear:
- It’s better than being alone all the time; at least I have someone in my life.
- I’m afraid that I won’t find someone else.
- I really care about him/love him.
These answers are really destructive for you.
Holding on to someone who does not want what you want will just make you feel bad. You will start to feel like the pursuer. That can feel rejecting. That can fuel thoughts of not good enough.
And if you love him, you can continue to feel love towards a person and stop dating them because you deserve to be with someone who loves you back.
I’m not suggesting that you break up with someone the minute you decide that you want more if they’re not ready.
I’m suggesting that if you are READY and you have given him some time to get clarity on what he wants and he’s still “not sure”, then it’s time to say something like this:
“I love being in a relationship with you and I’ve been ready to move forward for some time. Since you’re not sure what you want, I guess we’re not on the same page. Since I do know what I want, I’m going to move on so I can be open to create that with someone.”
You will feel the loss for a while, but that is temporary.
The important part is that you will get over the loss and move forward to find what you want and what you deserve.
Ellen Hartson, LISW – www.ellenhartson.com
When one person in the relationship does not know where they want to go, the relationship will inevitably grow stagnant.
The most common way this manifests in a heterosexual relationship is when a woman wants to get married and have children and her male partner does not want the same things (or doesn’t want them as soon as she does).
Because he knows that telling her this would likely end the relationship for good, he tends to keep it to himself, and this leaves her wondering why he isn’t taking steps towards their future together.
She eventually becomes frustrated and ends things.
If you find yourself caught in this dynamic with a man, it does not necessarily mean the relationship is doomed, but something needs to change in order to have any chance of moving forward.
I first recommend trying to talk about fears – yours and his.
Taking steps forward whether it’s making the decision to get married, move in together, have children, etc. are not only joyful and exciting things – they are also big, scary things.
Talk about your own fears and see if it leads him to opening up about his.
Ask him if he feels the same way as you do. This will help you both to better understand each other and how to combat the fears you each have.
The next thing I recommend is to learn what his dreams are in general.
While this does not always happen, women can place a lot of emphasis on goals that are “relationship goals” (such as marriage and children).
- What are your goals outside of that and what are his?
- What are goals both of you have that have absolutely nothing to do with the other person?
If you can get him talking about those, you’ll be able to determine if you each can fit with the other’s dreams, and if you can take some steps towards those things now (such as places each of you want to travel to or how to support each other with career aspirations).
Unfortunately, if he is unwilling to be vulnerable and engage in either of these conversations, then it may be time to call it quits.
However, if he does open to you, the two of you have the potential to deepen your connection which can help you determine if you have a fighting chance at a future together.
Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com
- When will he tell me where this is going?
- What changed from a week ago that now he doesn’t want this relationship?
- Why can’t he seem to commit to me?
Many relationships struggle because one partner is more committed to the relationship than the other.
Unfortunately, relationships can only work and be healthy when both partners are invested, consistently. So, what does that mean for you if your partner can’t seem to make up their mind on what they want?
Many women struggle with this exact dilemma and may hold onto a relationship that is not good for them while they try to figure out what to do.
Relationships have to be two sided to work.
If you are the only one committed and putting in the work, then your needs are not going to be met in that relationship. We can cope with this for a while, but eventually it takes a toll.
So what can you do?
1. Identify what you can accept and what you can’t.
Look within yourself and figure out what you can accept from your partner and what you can’t.
If you feel you can wait for a while for them to figure out if this is what they want, then be honest with yourself about what the minimum effort is from them that you can accept.
If you feel you need to see at least half of your needs met, then be okay with not allowing yourself to settle for less. Know your own limits and protect them, and yourself.
2. Communicate what you need.
If you feel you have asked for something from your partner and they just never seem to have the time for you, you need to clearly communicate what you need from them and why.
If you still can’t seem to get those needs met, you may need to look at whether or not your needs matter in this relationship or if it is only theirs. If it’s not two sided, it’s not healthy.
3. Make boundaries and stick to them.
If your partner can’t seem to decide if they are staying or leaving, or if you have been cheated on and then they come back, then you have decide what you are willing to live with in this relationship. You have an obligation to yourself to look out for your own needs and to ask for them to be met.
If your needs can’t be met in this relationship or if you partner is unwilling to try to meet them, you need to look at whether or not you should continue to be in this relationship, for yourself.
This can feel like a terrible decision to have to make, but you deserve to be happy too.
Always remember, that relationships will always have moments that hurt and our partners will never be perfect, but we should never have to feel less than worthy because of our partner.
Shelly Stewart-Sandusky, MS, LMFT – www.sstherapyandconsulting.com
So a lot of this depends on what he doesn’t know whether he wants or not.
- Doesn’t know what he wants to do for a career?
- Doesn’t know if he wants to settle down? Have kids?
- Be in an open relationship?
- Start a cult?
- Tell his family how he feels?
What matters is what YOU want.
I don’t mean this in a selfish or narcissistic way, but for him to be able to tell you what he wants he needs to know what you want and what it is you are asking for.
This isn’t about ultimatums or manipulation or games, it’s about direct, authentic communication.
It’s about defining your values, your bottom lines, and communicating them in an effective manner which puts healthy pressure on your partner to respond in kind.
Here is a strategy, derived from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) designed to help people set boundaries, ask for what they want or need, or say no. It’s ironically called DEAR MAN.
D stands for Describe: This is where you level the playing field, so to speak, by isolating the objective truths and facts about a situation. For example: We have been together 5 years and have had a committed relationship. I have expressed that I want to get married to you, and you have not given me an answer.
E stands for Express your Emotions and Opinions: Too often we conflate or intersperse our feelings with facts and blur the two, and this can lead to defensiveness from our partner.
If we separate and own our feelings and opinions they are much more persuasive and compelling.
To continue the example:
“I feel frustrated and desperate. I want a life with you and I think we have had a great relationship these past years. I feel hurt that you are still undecided.
I want a family and this commitment seems to mean something to us both. I feel undervalued and question your commitment to me when you are reticent on a subject you know is meaningful to me.”
* Remember, to use “I” statements and that no-one Makes you feel something. Own your emotions and be vulnerable.
A stands for Ask for what you want or Assert yourself: Sometimes we feel some kind of way about an issue but we don’t really know what we WANT. So define it here and be direct.
Remember our partners are not mind readers, and need to know exactly what it is you are asking.
In this case it would be something along the lines of: I am asking you to make a decision, or give me a timeframe for making a decision, about whether you want to get married to me. * be to the point and concise
R stands for Reinforce: you get more bees with honey. If you want someone to change a behavior or feel good about doing what we ask, you have to positively reinforce them to do so.
Punishment or threat only makes a person more avoidant or defensive.
So if you could let me know what you are thinking and how you are feeling about getting married I think it could really ease my mind and help me make important decisions for myself.
I love and care deeply for you and want you to be happy and fulfilled as well, and if you are able to communicate with me about what your needs and thoughts are, I can be a better partner to you as well.
MAN represents how you say when you work through the DEAR steps.
M stands for Mindful: keep on topic, be mindful of your words.
A stands for Act Assertive: even if you don’t feel cool, calm, and collected– try to act that way. use a kind and steady voice, make eye contact, stand up straight!
N stands for being willing to negotiate: if your partner protests or shuts down once you have worked these steps, turn the tables: Ask: what would you do if you felt how I did and were in my situation?
I’m trying to understand your perspective but having a hard time. Maybe if you tell me what you would do in my situation, it would help me see things from your perspective.
Remember, you are gathering data through this process.
If you effectively engage and your partner cannot come to the table, you might have the info you need to make a decision.
Again, it’s not just what your partner wants, it is also about what YOU want.
You want to engage and interact with your partner but if you cannot effectively get a willing participant, you probably have your answer.
After all, you do not want to “get your way” through more questionable tactics (i.e,. threats, ultimatums, emotional blackmail, etc.), which will only leave you second guessing the relationship indefinitely.
Be assertive, be strong— communicate in a healthy way with your partner and get the answer you need whether it is communicated effectively or not.
Rachel Kitson, PhD — www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/rachel-kitson-charlotte-nc
When consider the idea of waiting for someone who does not know what they want, I suggest considering a few different questions.
- What do you want out of life at this moment?
- How sure are you about the person and them being the right match?
- If you feel they are the right match, but they are unsure, can you be okay with the uncertainty and the possibility that they will move on?
- How long have you known each other?
- What do you both know about one another?
- What are your future goals and plans and how would waiting for him impact those?
- Does he even want you to wait?
These questions are important in that the first step in all of this is to determining what you want and need from a relationship and the extent to which the relationship impacts what you want out of your life.
- If you are in a place of being unsure about what you want, and are trying to shape your path and future, then the two of you may be in a similar place.
- If you know what you want, but the other person does not, will they hinder your growth and how you want to shape your life?
Also, we are each different from one another and our emotions and attachments to one another develop at individual speeds.
In every relationship there are times when one person feels more strongly or feels more sure about the relationship or their life than the other.
Often times people switch roles over the course of a relationship. Knowing what you want and need and having clarity is the first step in determining if you “should” wait for someone.
Melanie Ricaurte, PsyD, MEd – www.weareharmonyholistic.com
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