There’s a difference between commitment issues, and the timing not being right.
“So, where do we stand?” is a landmark question in a relationship. The early days (or months) of romance are exciting. Getting to know someone intimately and enjoying strong attraction, great sex, and the joys of the honeymoon period is all part of the fun!
At some point, though, insecurity or anxiety may set in. You may crave more clarity, or the elusive “label,” as a sign of commitment. After all, why invest so much time and energy into something that isn’t going anywhere?
Asking someone you’ve been seeing regularly where you both stand takes courage. If you’re really into the relationship, the hope is that the answer will be positive, leading to a level-up or deeper levels of intimacy. But what if the answer isn’t what you’d like? What if you receive the dreaded “I’m not ready for a relationship?” response? On the other hand, what if he still wants to spend more time with you, but still doesn’t want to commit?
Trying to work this out can drive you crazy. Fortunately, there are common reasons why he keeps you around if he doesn’t want a relationship. Understanding them may help you in choosing what to do next.
1. You’re Friends and He Doesn’t Want to Lose You
It’s confusing if someone says they don’t want a relationship, despite enjoying your time together. One of the big reasons this might happen is that the person you’re seeing does enjoy your time together, and values you, but isn’t sure if you’re the person they want to fully commit to as a romantic partner. Sure, you might have fun, have shared hobbies, and be compatible in many ways, but could it be the relationship lacks chemistry or a spark?
This reason has positive intentions. Even the most mature couples can find it challenging to keep in touch after going through a breakup, and it’s normal to fear losing someone completely if the nature of the relationship changes. But if someone knows you’re just a friend or a friend with benefits, they have to be willing to have a difficult conversation to allow both of you to find someone better suited.
Ironically, the short-term discomfort of this conversation is exactly what’s needed for the relationship to turn into a friendship. The longer dishonesty goes on, the harder it is to build trust or end things on good terms. A true friend would know that and have the willingness to set things straight.
2. He’s Scared to Commit
Even when the spark is there, not everyone finds it easy to commit to the work required to turn the spark into a roaring or lasting fire. Sadly, we live in a culture where many people fear commitment for a whole host of reasons.
Maybe he has unhealed wounds that prevent him from opening his heart fully. Maybe he’s getting over a difficult past relationship. Maybe he has other priorities and is afraid that if he commits, he won’t have the same time and energy he had while he was single, or in a casual dating situation.
If this is the case, your role is to discern how much tolerance you have for delayed commitment. As time goes on, the need to commit increases. This doesn’t have to be rushed or from a place of pressure, but it’s part of the natural progression of a loving, trusting relationship.
Honor yourself as you consider whether the fear of commitment can be worked through, or whether it’s too much of a barrier.
3. He Sees Potential but Isn’t Ready
It’s tempting to put commitment issues and readiness together, but in reality, they’re independent of each other. Commitment issues tend to be deep-rooted, a regular pattern of behavior that surfaces across multiple relationships. The root cause takes inner work to overcome, in addition to clear communication and the desire to work through these issues within the container of a relationship. Readiness, however, is a matter of timing.
If someone communicates that they’re not ready for a relationship, they may have a valid reason. It pays to understand more. Are they not ready because they prefer to commit to relationships when all-in, and know they don’t have that capacity, but will in the future? Is there something significant in their life, such as nearing the end of their studies, a spell of professional uncertainty, or an illness in the family, that might make the timing difficult? If someone keeps seeing you and has a valid reason, they may see potential, but need more time.
4. He Doesn’t Want to Be Alone
While the previous reasons could have real romantic intentions, this enters into a territory that isn’t as pure. Many people lack the self-honesty and courage to state they don’t want a relationship, and to end things cleanly.
For some, the fear of being single, or alone, outweighs any intuition that the relationship isn’t right. In other words, he keeps you around because he enjoys the comfort the relationship provides, and the benefits of having someone to spend time with, without the added commitment of a full relationship.
Many people develop codependent traits, and some “relationship addicts” would rather be in an unfulfilling couple than be alone, because being alone would make them confront feelings of unworthiness, or even emptiness, that surfaces in solitude.
It goes without saying, if the person you’re seeing is in this situation, you will do much better to find someone who sees your value. And they’d do better to find themselves, without looking for someone else to fill the void.
5. He’s Waiting for a Better Option
Fear of being alone is forgivable — for many folks, it’s an unconscious process. People don’t always know why they act the way they do, and without investigation, avoid difficult truths. But what if he keeps you around, knowing that he’ll never want a relationship, in order to pass the time before finding someone new? This is disrespectful, to say the least. A person with this mindset is likely to use relationships to avoid looking within and treat romantic interests as commodities. Avoiding this type of dynamic can be a blessing in disguise.
Not only that, but there’s a risk of, let’s say, a “crossover” with him meeting other women, either by starting a new relationship without saying anything, or abruptly ending the relationship you have. If you suspect this is the case, always remind yourself that there are many, many people who will see your value and choose you not as the better option, but as the only option.
What Does It Mean if He Does Not Want a Relationship?
With the above reasons in mind, the next step is to create an environment where you can have an open and honest conversation. Are you owning your desire for a serious relationship, and talking about it directly? If so, do they take responsibility, and share their true intentions? Or are they avoiding the subject with ambiguous statements, saying they’re not ready without a reasonable explanation?
If someone isn’t ready for a serious relationship, it doesn’t mean the relationship has to end. People move at different paces. Taking the decision into your own hands means finding the balance between allowing yourself to be strung along, and ending a relationship that would blossom with patience. Give him the benefit of the doubt, without overextending or betraying yourself.
It’s normal to feel vulnerable in the early stages of romance. When someone you like tells you they don’t want a relationship, your first response might be to think you’ve done something wrong. That if you change, they’ll be ready. But the reason why someone isn’t ready for a serious relationship is not always personal. This is especially true if the person decides to keep seeing you. Much is outside of your control in these situations, including their feelings, behavior, and beliefs.
The power you have, the control you can take, is how you choose to respond.