My boyfriend is non-committal

-- Question for John --

I am a female in a situation and need some objective clarity. I have been in a predominantly physical relationship with someone for a year. Lately, we have been seeing each other more frequently and he has been introducing me to friends. But my boyfriend is non-committal. I would like to see things progress deeper with him, but I am very cautious because I don’t think he’s wired that way.

He and I are both in our early 30’s. There is little communication between us aside from when we are together, which is a few times a month. The situation has been convenient for me in that it has been very uncomplicated. I have a semi-stressful job and haven’t felt that I had the time or energy to invest in a “relationship”. He travels with his job and is home infrequently.

Here’s the problem: From the time we first met, things felt electric. We have an intense chemistry between us that is 10-fold what I have felt for anyone else. We both have a playful nature about us and seem to have the same sort of way of thinking. Our experience feels very emotionally intimate, but is also very limited.

He seems to be stuck in a mentality of being non-committal and unwilling to settle down. (I commented once that it must be due to someone hurting him tremendously; to which he replied that I was perceptive.) I have not been in a hurry to settle down either, so that hasn’t been a problem. He has had most of the power in deciding when we get together; which is not something I am entirely comfortable with, but it is due his work schedule.

I’m really confused if my feelings for him are genuine or if it’s all about the “rush” of seeing him. If I choose to pursue this into developing into something more — how do I do it? I have been dating other people and have a full life outside of this situation, but my feelings for him seem to overshadow other encounters.

I will add that when I was young, my father was emotionally distant and unavailable. I have noticed a pattern of being unconsciously drawn to men that are also that way. Does that play a part in this situation?

-- Answer from John --

Your questions are timely. At about a year into a relationship, one partner often gets interested in moving to the next step (towards a deeper commitment) — and they start asking these very kinds of questions. So I will take it that these questions definitely reveal where you are at, or getting to in the near future, around wanting commitment in your lovelife.

About his aversion to committing. Well, probably it’s either the result of a very painful loss of someone and a resulting protective defense that disables him from committing; or, possibly that, combined with the inability to make decisions congruently, which could be a general personality thing; or something else. But he cops to the pain and that may well be factor one. Whatever the cause, it is what is true for him right now. And it fits the ground rules that your relationship has setup to date. Continue doing the same thing and perhaps with time, he relaxes his guard and moves closer. Or not. Most likely, he keeps doing the same thing. Especially if seeing other people is a part of the self-protective strategy.

You do something different, and you can get a different response. But in doing something different, you risk getting the response that he will drop out of the relationship. For example, an ultimatum to commit might produce that result. But it’s your choice what you want to do here. There is no magic formula, other than making sure you are taking care of yourself in all of it, and it does sound like you are clear on that… right? And then, above that, sensing whether you are being driven by fear (i.e. holding back from being honest with him and/or yourself) or clarity (knowing what you truly want and going for it, regardless of risk, because you’re committed to yourself).

Your self-perception about the intensity vis a vis the unavailability, and your past history with dad, makes sense to me. At some point many of us discover that the magic and electricity has more to it than just being a really good signpost for true love. Go into a crowded party, look across the room, and see that special someone who sends chills up your spine, and know that in all probability, they are the unhealthiest person in the room with which to get into a relationship. That’s an old piece of wisdom from the sex-love addiction group therapy sessions. I must say it has stood up to my experience, and several others’. Take it for what it is worth.

At any rate, a woman at your age often begins to feel her readiness for an emotionally-committed, longterm relationship. I would highly recommend you turn your attention inside to what you truly want in life at this time. And perhaps make some adjustments to your patterns in love and how you see things. I cannot tell you for certain how things have to turn out with this particular guy, or even if he potentially offers a healthy commitment down the road. The inherent risk of love is that you don’t know until you do know.