With Love and Gratitude

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Should Women Date Men Afraid to Commit?

Men who can't commit sap women's time and energy.

When you fall in love with a man who cannot commit, you do so at your peril. Make no mistake about it, a man who cannot commit is a man who is afraid to commit. It does not matter if his fears are rational or irrational, what matters is that he puts his cards on the table, and most always with panache.

Fortunately today's young men are more hopeful about commitment and marriage than the generation of men scarred by divorce. Dr.W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, tells me there are two bright spots when it comes to marriage.

  • "Divorce is down since the early 1980s. This is partly because people are rediscovering the virtues of lifelong commitment.
  •  "Marriage is getting stronger among college-educated Americans . . . their kids are now more likely to grow up with Mom and Dad, compared to two decades ago," he said.

 

Men who can't commit

So what about men in their plus 40s and the women who date them? Actually dating them is not the problem—the problem is falling in love with them. I have written 5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Heartbreak, but perhaps I omitted this one surefire way. Never date a man who cannot commit unless you are certain you will not give him your heart.

These men often sincerely love, but just to a point. As such you might find yourself saying, "I know what he's like, but we have such fun together, it's OK if it is just temporary." But in your heart of hearts, is temporary really what you want?

So the question is this. Should women spend time, energy, and emotions on a man who may never be a part of their future? Keep in mind that he may have a list of ideals—and you may well meet his 50 requirements. But once he realizes this, he will add another challenge, and then another. For you, it's about risks and benefits. 

4 big risks in dating a man who can't commit

Perspective: As the two of you become increasingly intimate, you begin to think to yourself—"I know he really likes me. I give him unlimited space, joyful sex, and we laugh a lot. This can work." Pinch yourself. You're delusional.

Self-Esteem: As you invest more of yourself in Mr. Non-Commitment, and he does not return the affection in little ways, you begin to feel unworthy. (What little ways? A card. Spur of the moment text. Week-end calls. (Even the Beltway Bachelor says no week-end call is a red flag.) A little gift. Flowers for no reason at all. None of this will happen. Snap out of it. It's not you. It's him. 

Time: The time you invest in the man whom you wish could be Mr. Right, but who does not want to be anyone's Mr. Right, is time you take away from finding a loving companion. Have you thought about settling for Mr. Good Enough?  (Video)

Heartbreak: If you are willing to risk the heartbreak of a man who cannot commit just make certain he is worthy of your tears. 

Also, when the day comes for you to admit that he was you wishful-thinking-fantasy, you want to remain grateful for the joy you shared. So get out before you become angry. Bitterness is bad for your skin.

Is there any benefit to dating a man who cannot commit?

That is a question that each woman must answer for herself when she looks in the mirror and says, "I am hopelessly in love, but he is never going to marry me. Now what?"

Why are men afraid to commit?

Matthew Fitzgerald says in AskMen magazine that for men who can't commit it boils down to fear:

  • No more freedom
  • Loss of space
  • One sex partner, forever
  • Being burned again
  • Lack of compromise

Fitzgerald says this to men, "Whether or not you ultimately want to settle down is up to you, just be aware of the reasons you might be afraid to make that commitment." Why guys don't commit - AskMen

The #1 big loss for men who can't commit

Those men who put up walls to protect themselves from commitment also risk shutting out women who truly adore them, who will give them the space and long silences that they need, and who consider them to be even more special than their best girlfriends. Are these women incurable romantics or simply women who love too much?

What is the real sadness for such men?

In some ways the man who can't commit might be the one who suffers the biggest loss, because after meeting "the one," he will shut down.

For him—even after tasting love's exquisite intimacy as body and spirit entwine leaving the two in a breathless trance—he remains afraid.

Copyright 2011 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

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Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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