Don't push commitment on a reluctant man


January 02, 1994|By SUSAN DEITZ | SUSAN DEITZ,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: How long should one wait for commitment?

I'm 31, divorced about six years. He's 35, divorced about seven years (far less amicably than I), with a son he sees every other weekend. We met at work, were just friends for a year, and then began dating; we've been together two years now.

By and large, it's a wonderful relationship and we have a very good time together. I'm interested in being married again and having children, and thought I could definitely have a future with this man.

Unfortunately, he's not sure he wants one with me.

He takes the blame, says I deserve someone who loves me all the way to making a commitment, but says he has these "demons" from the past that need working out (he rarely talks about them) that stand in the way of commitment.

"I'm not marriage-minded," he says.

I'm afraid I already know the answer to my problem: that I should question why I'd even want a committed relationship from a man too immature to commit. But my feelings for him are so strong that each time we break up over the subject of commitment, I always go back or he comes to me, contrite, confused and upset, and promising he'll try to give me the thing I want most from him.

This is my plan: To tell him that I want a decision about our future for my 32nd birthday gift (March).

He need not wait until then to answer, but if he's at all uncertain he will know that I'm serious about ending the relationship if no commitment is forthcoming. The second part of the plan is, between now and then, to prepare myself mentally to make good on my ultimatum. I'm even planning to job hunt, in the hope that not seeing him every day will make it easier to be true to my word and end things.

I'm afraid of losing someone who most of the time makes me very happy, yet I'm also afraid of jeopardizing my future for the present. I'm not getting any younger, and it's hard to meet nice men.

A: Usually I'm a big fan of plans, but this one may be no more than a feel-good route to a peaceful few weeks.

But taking the (seemingly) easy road is kidding yourself that March winds will arrive and blow a commitment your way.

This man is not going to commit. He may have a weak moment or two, but a "Yes" like that is coercion, not commitment. You should start job-hunting immediately, and tell him why. Suggest that your exclusivity should be diluted with other people and other activities, then follow through. In your heart you know that is the right thing -- and so does he. Do it.

Q: Your column on casual sex appeared at exactly the time I needed to read something expressing my own feelings on the subject.

I entered into a relationship with a man over the past six months; I figured I'm 44, divorced mother of three grown children, now it's time for me. I was upfront with him, said I don't expect a commitment and was ready (so I thought) to have a purely sexual relationship with no strings attached.

The first few months were great. Wow! I thought, I can really do this without being in love!

To make a long story short, I finally realized that I'm not as liberated as I thought.

I cannot go to bed with someone I don't love without feeling guilty as all get-out, because this guy fell for me even though he was forewarned. I ended the relationship as openly and honestly as I had started it.

Your column made me realize the only true way to develop a lasting relationship is to be friends first, get to know one another and then the body stuff will come naturally. (I always knew this in my heart.)

Next time I get involved, I'll make sure that all the other things come first. I'm going back to my old-fashioned way of thinking; at least it's real.

A: Loveless sex is not a byproduct of liberation or modern thinking; it is a choice born of desperation and low self-esteem.

And, far from easing loneliness, it raises hopes only to -- them in cold reality and intensify the feeling of separateness. You've learned a life lesson and are left with relatively few scars; you're fortunate, but think of your partner. Next time, be true to yourself, and there is no way you will repeat the incident. Authentic liberation is the freedom to live according to your own instincts. There is no such thing as mindless sexual freedom.

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