This is our friend Tom. He’s a married guy with tons of relationship experience, and a skilled advice giver who’s here to answer all your pressing sex, dating and relationship questions. Have a query for Tom? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org! All questions will be posted anonymously, unless otherwise requested.
I’ve been dating this amazing guy for 10 months. Two months into our relationship, he told me he loved me and I realized I loved him back. Lately, things have started to change. He spends less time with me and stopped saying he loved me (the only exception is when he’s drunk).
When I finally asked him about it, he said that he likes me now (like, not love) but isn’t sure what the future holds. At this point, I cannot imagine doing anything but break up with him. However, he still wants to keep seeing me or take a break to sort his feelings out. When I prodded him further, he confessed that the driving factor in all this is his fear of commitment. Some days he says he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, other days he’s not so sure. He wants some time to sort out his feelings. The other item we discussed is that we don’t ever really talk about the deep stuff, that even though we’ve been dating for a while, we don’t actually know each other all that well. He thinks maybe if we continue seeing each other and getting to know each other better, his feelings may change.
I don’t know if I should cut my losses and end this relationship now. What’s the point of getting my hopes up again or wasting my time by continuing to see each other? What is wrong with him — if he doesn’t love me anymore, why can’t he just leave it be? – BC
Let’s talk about steering wheels.
Every relationship has one. In the best couples, you take turns in charge of it. Kids come into the picture? Maybe the lady “steers” for a few years, making the big calls on where the relationship is headed. Health issues, or a big change in financial circumstances to address? Maybe the guy takes the wheel for a while. It’s not set in stone, and doesn’t mean the passenger can’t give directions. But relationships are like road trips: either you share the driving, or you’re kind of a dick.
How does this apply to you? Well, you’re dating a hands-free asshole. This guy doesn’t want to take responsibility, and is bombing down the freeway letting God take the wheel. That’s how people get hurt.
Look, this is a very common dude trait. We’re “confused.” We’re “not sure how we feel.” We have “issues.” And that’s fine: we’re all entitled to those feelings. But do we want to talk about it? No. Do we want to do anything to make our mindset clearer? No. Instead, we steer with our knees, drift in and out of lanes, and generally fuck up traffic for other people.
But at the moment, you’re complicit in his emotional stasis. You’re letting him get away with it. You sit in the passenger seat and fret, but what good does that do? So pull over and take the fucking wheel already. Try out that “take a break” idea he so helpfully brought up. Or even trust your instincts and break up with him altogether. He’s not going anywhere. His feelings will suddenly become very clear when he hears about that date you went on with a guy from your old office, or sees the pictures from that beach vacation you took without him. He may rouse from this emotional lethargy and do anything he can to get you back. Or — and be prepared for this to sting — he may see that his life is actually much better without you, and never speak to you again. Both scenarios are ultimately good for you, regardless of his feelings, because they clear up the picture. So do it: take charge and see where this goes. You have absolutely nothing to lose.
Endnote: there’s a theme developing in this “Ask A Married Guy” column that I want to ask Frisky readers about. I often stress the need to create deadlines, challenges and obstacles to for men to overcome in their relationships with women. In the column above, I basically said: “Dump him, and give him the chance to fight his way back.” To my mind, these challenges give dudes an opportunity to grow, and to take ownership of their intimate lives. It’s a very old idea, as if couples spiritually gain from men emotionally re-enacting a quest, where women are the objective, like in a medieval romance. Here is my pseudo-scientific declaration: this “quest” dynamic is relevant and helpful in roughly 80 percent of relationships. I think men need women to lay down some challenges, to help them grow out of their selfish, self-pitying whore stage. I suspect women need men for the precisely the same reason (although I understand the mechanics of that less well, on account of I have a penis). One thing is sure in my mind: men and women each need the other to become better people.
But … I could be wrong. Tell me if you think I am. Let rip in the comments, please.