You've been seeing a man who loves you, whether he uses the word or not. He loves sex with you, but more than that, he loves being with you. Even so, he hasn't committed himself to you fully. Perhaps he's still vague about weekend plans, or he hasn't introduced you to his friends. Maybe he hasn't asked you to marry him, though you've been seeing each other steadily or living together for a long time. If so, he is like millions of men who cheat themselves and the woman they care about out of a life that would make you both very happy. He is obviously afraid - possibly even phobic -- about commitment. Is there anything you can do to help him take the step that will bring ultimate happiness to both of you? The answer is "yes," and the solutions are simple, easy adjustments that will cost you nothing and will end up bringing the fulfillment and commitment you've dreamed of.
Here are 10 tips for getting your man to commit:
1. Make it easy for him to confide in you by listening without giving him advice or criticizing him.
He needs to know that it's safe to tell you more. And the more he tells you, the more committed he will become. For instance, suppose he tells you that he feels bad about not being a college graduate. Just listen and make clear that you love him as much as if he had a Ph.D from Harvard. If he tells you that he's worried about losing his job, just listen and make clear that you will love him just as much if he does. The time for advice may come later, when he asks for it -- if he ever does. But right now, advice is not what he needs. He needs you.
2. Make your man feel special by showing him that you love him for himself alone.
Early in the relationship, avoid asking him resume questions. Look out for questions like, "How much do you make?" "Did you go to college?" "Where?" "Were you ever married" "For how long?" "What do your parents do for a living?" These questions suggest that you are sizing him up and deciding if he is a good risk as a potential husband. Remember, even if he turns out to be a billionaire, he needs to know that you liked him before you knew that fact.
Ask instead what he feels about things, what he likes and dislikes. If he says he just got a big bonus, don't ask him how much it was. Talk about how exciting it must be. "Did you know it was coming?" "Did all your friends congratulate you?" Enjoy his experience with him. He'll tell you everything after a while unless he is very secretive, which would be a bad sign. You know that you don't like to be quizzed. He likes it even less. Let him know that you care about him, not about what he represents or the category he is in, and he will feel special. Keep it personal, as opposed to factual.
3. Try to be natural. Be yourself and don't conceal your tastes or the things you like.
If your new man says that likes rap music and rattles off some names of people you've never heard of, don't pretend that you know them and like them. You're allowed to say that you don't know anything about that kind of music.
If you have always loved opera, say so. If you feel like crying at a movie, cry. If you feel like laughing, laugh. Being natural will encourage him to be the same. He is special and you are special, but in different ways. Never put yourself under pressure by starting out with a lie. The message is that you are a special individual and he is one, too.
4. Give your man the sense that he can keep his freedom - at least to a reasonable degree.
While you, as a woman, think of a new relationship as changing your life, your man thinks only of preservation. You may look forward to buying a new house, having kids, changing jobs, taking joint vacations. Meanwhile, he is determined to keep his old routines and change as little as he can. To him, sameness means security. If you try to change his life too fast, he will feel that his masculinity will be the next thing to go. He will already feel threatened. Make small gestures to show him that you aren't taking over his life and taking everything away from him. For instance, be sure that he still has time to see his men friends alone. When guys get together without women present, it's common for one to ask, "How did you get out tonight?" The guys feel sorry for the buddy who can never join them. If your man shows up, at least some of the time, it looks like his woman - you - are an effortless partner. Good commitment material. Men reassure themselves of their masculinity not just by being with a woman who loves them, but by being with the guys. It's symbolic. Give him the reassurance that he's still a guy and can still travel light, up to a point, by being easy about time he spends away from you.
5. Don't let him do too much for you or spend too much, (even if he volunteers).
If the balance goes too far this way, he will wake up some morning and ask himself, "What am I getting into?" He will want to swing the pendulum the other way, which will be bad news for you. Early in the relationship, he may reaffirm his sense of maleness by fixing everything in your house, and you may feel taken care of. But don't let him go too far. If you can easily pay for something to get done, or if someone else can do part of the job, don't overburden your man. Don't give him the sense that he has to do too much, that you are too costly. The same with money. I've often seen men overspend on women they care for and then feel, "I can't afford this!" and run away. His Masculine Pretense makes it hard for him to admit that he's overextended. Maybe he can't afford the restaurants that he thinks you deserve -- at least not as often as he wants to take you out. It's easier for him to leave you and find a new woman than to disappoint you. Make it simple for him to commit to you by letting him know that his spending big bucks is purely optional. Pick up the check yourself, sometimes, if you can. Or, every so often, suggest making dinner for him at home, or going out for pizza and a movie instead of something fancy.
Even rich guys feel this way. Offering to go halfway is sometimes a symbolic act on your part that will mean more than you can imagine to him. A well-to-do guy told me recently that he was very troubled because the woman he was seeing regularly never once picked up a lunch check even though he'd taken her on vacations and to many elegant restaurants. He took her default as indicating that she didn't appreciate what he was giving. I told him to discuss it with her. It turned out to be one of those all-night talks that saved a relationship.
6. Don't make your man jealous as a device to build his interest in you.
The old wisdom said that playing hard to get might clinch the commitment deal. But I'm telling you that the opposite is true. Because of their Masculine Pretense, men are crazy on the subject of loyalty. Most men, no matter what they say, are very insecure about their sexual desirability and about their appeal. Your man will be most likely to commit if he feels that you are completely loyal because you find him the most attractive man in the world. Don't flirt in front of him. Don't discuss past lovers even if he wants you to. Your anecdotes may turn him on for a while, but soon, he'll start doubting you. If you loved another man once and left him, maybe you'll leave him, too. And even worse, maybe you'll talk about him to some new lover. Most of, don't torture your man by playing hard to get and implying that he has to work for your love. He can hardly feel sexually desirable if he has to chase you and make big promises before you'll accept him as a lover. Once you two are really together, no surprises. If an old boyfriend calls, or you have lunch with a male friend, don't hesitate to tell him. You have the right to do what you want. Some guys carry their loyalty fears too far. Things will be a lot less likely to get out of hand, jealousy-wise, if you are upfront about your opposite sex friends right from the start.
7. Insist on sexual fidelity once you feel you need it.
Some women fear that their guy will get nervous if they demand monogamy. Once again, the opposite is true. Your man wants you to want only him. He will be secretly flattered and will start to feel very secure if you demand this arrangement. Your telling him that his sexual faithfulness is essential to you is, in effect, giving him the reassurance that you intend to be faithful to him. Even if your man protests or acts as if the request is silly, he will breathe a big sigh of relief and take one big step towards commitment.
8. Help your man to accept the fact that he needs you and loves you.
Because of his Masculine Pretense, your man is afraid to admit to anyone - even himself, how much he needs you. But this isn't his fault. He hasn't had any practice at expressing his emotions freely. You can make him feel free to do so. And once again, the key is to ask for something. After a time, insist that your man tell you in so many words that he loves you. Even if you are living together, he may try to avoid those three little words. "Isn't it obvious?" he may say. "Why else would I be with you?" Or he may substitute something, like a compliment. "I think you're the most beautiful woman I ever knew." This is not good enough. Tell him, "I need you to say that you love me even if it's obvious. And if it's obvious, why not say it?" Only after saying that he loves you, in those words, and after saying it repeatedly, will your man truly accept that he loves you. Only then will it become a fact of life. We never truly accept things that we refuse to say -- or are afraid to say. If your man repeatedly refuses to say that he loves you, if he never volunteers it, he isn't ready to commit to you and he certainly won't marry you. Once he starts telling you repeatedly that he loves you, however, he will come to accept his love of you as part of life. Soon, he won't be able to imagine life without loving you.
9. After a few months, insist that your man introduce you to his family and friends and to anyone important in his life.
His doing this is a very basic kind of commitment for him, an important step on the road to a lifetime commitment. The man who won't bring you into his life won't marry you. A man must see you interacting with the people important to him to think of you as a wife. His making you part of his social life (just like his saying, "I love you,") is an important rung on the ladder that he must climb toward commitment.
10. Guard against giving your man more than you really want to over a long period of time.
If you like certain sex acts, make sure you communicate what they are and make sure that you get your share. If you feel angry at the fact that he invites his buddies over at the last minute and doesn't pitch in with the preparations, don't make a habit of compliance. If you're not getting enough of what you want and find yourself feeling angry or depressed, it's not fair to you. Also, you will definitely communicate this and your man will move away from commitment. Why should he sign up for life with a woman who's unhappy or unfulfilled? In taking care of yourself, you are taking care of the relationship.
These ten suggestions come from my book, Why Men Won't Commit: Getting What You Both Want Without Playing Games, and in the book, I give many more suggestions and insights. If you are with the right guy, you can get commitment doing far less than you are doing now. A little bit of careful preparation will show you how. No great relationship comes easy, but there's no reason why you shouldn't have one. Good luck.
Copyright © 2003 George Weinberg Ph.D.
George Weinberg, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of nine books, including Self-Creation, The Heart of Psychotherapy, and Society and the Healthy Homosexual (in which he coined the term "homophobia"). He has appeared on many national radio and television shows, including Oprah and Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, and has written frequently for magazines from Cosmopolitan and Glamour to TV Guide and Reader's Digest.
While other therapists tend to be students of women, Dr. Weinberg is a student of men. From childhood, most men have been taught to be strong and silent, never to show weakness. They've been discouraged from talking about their feelings, so they never learned the skill. Now, most are on a quest for the ready-made perfect woman. They feel that, in relationships, things can't be worked out. When the slightest thing goes wrong, it seems easier to bolt than to talk.
It is easy to scare a man, but it is also very easy to capture his love without playing games. Why Men Won't Commit: Getting What You Both Want Without Playing Games by George Weinberg, Ph.D., (Miramax Books; Price: $23.95 Pages: 288; ISBN: 0-7868-6913-5) shows women how to enter places where her man has not allowed any other woman to go and, if it's right, to stay there in a loving, committed relationship.