Adverse reaction to commitment

Joey reads The Farallon Review literary magazine.

After three fantastic dates, the man I’m seeing expressed pleasure at spending time together, but was vague each time about seeing me again. Why doesn’t he just say, “Can I see you again next weekend?” if he’s enjoying my company as much as I’m enjoying his? His noncommitment makes me uncomfortable, and I wonder if it’s a red flag. I have dated a lot of commitment-phobic men and I’m trying to change.

Congratulations, you have changed. Your old habit was to fall heartfirst into a relationship with a man who withheld his investment in a future with you. That’s what commitment phobia is, the fear of making a mistake that will affect the future. Commitment-phobics are fundamentally insecure about whether they are loveable. They do not trust their own capacity for decision-making and long for, but are terrified by, sustained intimacy. These men and women are often in denial that the problem begins inside their own heads and histories. Instead, they believe that their uncomfortable feelings would disappear if they could maintain better control or if they met the right person. That, of course, explains the extraordinary number of commitment-phobics who are permanent fixtures on online dating sites.

It’s possible that the man you are dating is commitment-adverse. But what if he simply has a different rhythm than you? Perhaps, after each date, he discerns his desire for a continued connection. Or he checks his work calendar before making plans with you. It may be frustrating, especially since there is mutual pleasure in each other’s company. But you have options. End the next date by inviting him to a specific event the following weekend. Or dig deep into your past and puzzle out why you are so bothered. It could be that not receiving an offer for another date leads you to question—again—your ability to separate the men who are ready for a healthy relationship from those who are not. If so, slow down and discover how to trust yourself to make the right decision and to move on when you don’t.

I am divorced with full custody of my son, who is in elementary school. He does not see his mom. Since the divorce, my son has been acting out at school, and it’s been so bad the school has asked me occasionally to sit in the classroom with him. I have started dating and wonder, given the situation with my son, when is a good time for him to meet my dates?

After your son has had therapy. He’s experienced a profound loss and needs your focused love and attention. Provide him with consistency around his comfort rituals. If his mama made pancakes for him every Saturday morning, you need to step over to the stove. Either learn how to make hotcakes or find a restaurant that makes them just like mama did. Talk to your son about missing his mom, but don’t say, “We’re better off without her.” Even children with an abusive parent sometimes miss that parent and must learn how to grieve. Remind your boy that the divorce is not his fault. Children wrongly assume they are responsible for the terrible things that happen in their families. And don’t have women over to spend the night. Your son has enough on his plate without having to face the complexity of feelings that will arise if you have a sleepover. That said, introduce your son to a girlfriend only after you are in a serious relationship. Serious is nine months or more of consistent dating (no break-up-and-get-back-together scenarios) with a spoken intention to build a future together. One last thing, I understand that you want to move on with your life, but your son’s needs must precede your desire.

Meditation of the Week

“If beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, no one is ever unattractive,” writes Veronique Vienne, author and bon vivant. How do you see the world?