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Dating Advice #18 - Will He Commit?

May 8, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

He has a bad track record. She wants a commitment. Should she hang in there, or is she wasting her time?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am presently dating a man who has a history of going out seriously with girls but never committing. I am very scared of being hurt. I know he is serious and likes me. How do I know he is going to be able to commit this time? At what point do I stop and say this is not going anywhere? Whatever advice you can give me would be so appreciated!

Michelle in New Jersey

P.S. I loved your book!

Dear Michelle,

You're right to be wary of a man who has a reputation for not making a commitment. A number of individuals (even some who "say" they're dating for marriage) cannot get themselves to take the leap that engagement entails, because they are: 1) not emotionally ready for marriage, and 2) often blocked by factors they may not even understand.

On the other hand, there also are many people who resisted the thought of marriage when they were younger, yet eventually reach a point at which they are ready to commit to marriage.

Since you don't want to risk being hurt or waste precious time if your friend may not be ready to get married, you have to discuss the subject with him. Since you have been dating each other long enough to describe it as "serious," raise the issue as soon as possible.

Be frank without sounding like you want an immediate proposal. "David, I don't know yet where this is going to lead, but I want you to know the reason why I'm dating in the first place. I'm dating for marriage, and I expect that the men I see, including you, are also dating for marriage. What do you expect out of dating? Can you see yourself getting married -- not to me in particular, but to anyone you care about -- within the next year?" Encourage "David" to be truthful, and not to simply give the answer you want to hear.

While the two of you talk about this topic, listen beyond the mere words he uses. Does he make eye contact? What body language does he use? Is he evasive? Does he use phrases like, "Sure, I'd like to get married someday..."

If he assures you that he has reached a point of dating for marriage, see how things progresses over the next few months. Depending on the age and the religious circles, a marriage-oriented couple should be emotionally ready to get engaged after 2-12 months of dating.

Most couples who become engaged talk about it before anyone "pops the question." If you reach a point where you think it's time for commitment, and he avoids or evades the subject of marriage, give him an ultimatum. If he's not willing to commit, quickly say your goodbyes and move on. It will be painful in the short term, but you will free yourself to find someone who really wants to spend his life with you.

Sometimes, a person who fears marriage will get engaged but still needs a lot of hand-holding in the time leading up to the wedding. This has nothing to do with the amount of love he feels for the woman he's dating. This is an irrational fear similar to claustrophobia or fear of flying. Once the marriage actually takes place, the irrational fear goes away and he's able to relax and enjoy married life.

We hope it all turns out well for you.

Rosie & Sherry

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am dating someone whose religious commitment and observance is very different than mine. He says he'd like to be observant later in life, that is not his lifestyle now. I love him, but I consider myself a religious Jew and I am afraid to continue dating. We're both 19. What should I do?

Marilyn from Ohio

Dear Marilyn:

People who date for marriage should focus on partners whose goals, spiritual focus and values are compatible with their own. Otherwise, if you fall in love with someone whose lifetime expectations conflict with your own, you both face a big dilemma. Does either of you change to accommodate the other? Who changes? Will one of you have to compromise your basic beliefs or religious practices -- and is that something that will cause you resentment later on? Many can resolve these issues, but we think the wiser path is to avoid having to face such an impasse in the first place. Life and romance are complicated enough.

Although you're young, your letter sounds like you're already dating with an eye to finding your future spouse. You should date people who have resolved their inner conflict about basic issues such as religious observance. It's common for a 19-year-old woman to be slightly more mature than a 19-year-old man. Your friend is entitled to take the time he needs to mature and sort out his priorities in life. Since this may take anywhere from a few months to a few years, you'd be wise to part with him and look for someone to date whose values are more in line with your own.

Rosie & Sherry

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