Some of the most dreaded words in a relationship are “We need to talk.” It always means you’re about to get the breakup talk. I know this statement well. After all, I’ve said and heard it many times! But there’s another all-too-familiar statement that has left me confused, angry, and heartbroken:
“I’m not sure what I want right now.”
What you mean you ain’t sure what you want right now?! That’s what I scream inside my head when I hear those words. In the past, hearing this sentence made me want to hurl something large, expensive, and fragile across the room (or at the man who said it). But I’ve learned a lot since my dating dummy days in my teens and early twenties. I now realize that rather than spinning into a blind rage, women must have a clear plan of action when a man says he doesn’t know what he wants.
I once considered this statement a cop-out, a line guys used so they could continue sleeping with you without having to commit to you. For some guys, that’s exactly what it is. However, after copious reading, reflection, trial and error, and hundreds of testimonials from my blog readers, I now know what the dreaded phrase means. “I don’t know what I want right now” is often how a man expresses his genuine ambivalence about the relationship. One possible reason you might hear this phrase is that your man realizes that you know exactly what you want, and he cannot—or is not willing to—give you what you want. Rather than saying, “I’m never going to call you my girlfriend,” or “Look, I’m just not going to marry you —ever,” he says he doesn’t know what he wants. It’s easier for him. He hopes that you will get the hint and understand that this relationship is not going any further.
Most often, when a guy says he doesn’t know what he wants, he is gently communicating, “I’m not sure that I want to be in an exclusive relationship with you.” Or worse, he is giving a sheepish euphemism for the more painfully direct statement, “I do not want to be in a relationship with you.” Go ahead, ask any guy and he’ll tell you what’s up.
Your job is not to be his mother, his therapist, or the midwife to his unbirthed emotions. Your job in a relationship is to present your most authentic, happy, and healthy self to another person, and to be willing to accept and love the other person. If he doesn’t want that level of commitment, isn’t ready for it, or just can’t see how great you two could be together, it is not your job to convince him, help him prepare, or show him the way to loving you.
Brainy girls tend to fall in the trap of being the Perfectly Reasonable Dater. And while you can convince a man to stick around for a few more months and play the part of the happy boyfriend, you can’t convince that man to love and cherish you and be there for the long term. This is a decision that a man must come to on his own in his own time. In order to have a fully committed partner, you must give a man enough space to figure out what he wants on his own. Otherwise, you will likely find yourself in the same “confused boyfriend” situation soon after—or worse, having to deliver the same “We can do this, I promise” speech to him a few days before the wedding!
Never rationalize a man’s reasons for telling you he doesn’t know what he wants. Get to know yourself, what you want for your life, and what you want out of a relationship. You’ll be able to spot genuine lifelong compatibility when you have it and be willing to gracefully bow out when you don’t.
SELF-LOVE PRINCIPLE #12
When a guy expresses doubt or hesitation about being in an exclusive relationship with you, this is not the time to step up and ﬁll in the blanks for him.
You are responsible for writing your own life story— not someone else’s.
You might be a Dating Diva, a woman who knows how to date with dignity and without fear. This is who I want all women—including myself—to be. The Dating Diva knows that men do not do anything they do not want to do. I don’t use the word “diva” to mean that you make dating you a diﬃcult, frustrating task. It just means that you love yourself enough to know that you don’t have to beg somebody to have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with you.
When a man says that he doesn’t know what he wants, the best thing you can do is give him space and move on with your life. Men are often slower than women at processing experiences and emotions. A man can easily coast in a relationship for years, taking the path of least resistance and never speaking up about his unhappiness, and then poof! one day he wakes up from his lazy haze to realize he is completely miserable and wants out. When a man expresses his uncertainty about being in a relationship with you, give him ample space and time to reflect. Don’t try to help him think it through. Don’t try to “be there” for him. Give him time to miss you. Men fall in love with women when they long for them—not when they are persuaded or guilt-tripped into being with them.
I know taking a big step back isn’t easy to do. It’s painful, frustrating, and especially hard for women who are accustomed to proactively solving problems at home, school, and work. No matter how much of a go-getter you are in other areas of your life, when a man tells you he isn’t sure if he wants to be in a relationship with you, back oﬀ. Let whatever is supposed to happen play out naturally without your planning and plotting. Have the dignity to walk away from an unfulfilling, ambiguous situation. You owe it to yourself!
One important thing to keep in mind, though, is that giving a man space to think doesn’t mean he’ll come to the conclusion that he wants to be in a relationship with you. This is why you must truly move on when a guy tells you he doesn’t know what he wants. By “moving on,” I mean living a happy, single life and eventually dating other men. If he realizes he can’t live without you, he’ll come back. And then if there is still room in your life and in your heart, you can consider letting him back in.
Remember this: men persistently pursue what they want—especially when they know exactly what they are missing.
SELF-LOVE PRINCIPLE #13
Never chase after a man who says he doesn’t know what he wants. Real men go after what they want.
So there you have it. If a guy you are dating or flirting with constantly has you feeling confused, it’s not because he’s mysterious and complex; it’s because he’s just not that into you. I’ve read dozens of books that tell women how to date, detailing all kinds of rules, strategies, and tactics for making sure you catch and keep his attention. However, the one principle that has never steered me wrong is to be willing to let go of relationships that don’t serve me.
Part of that is stepping back from men who aren’t sure they want to be with me. I love reading about men, relationships, love, and communication. However, rather than trying to remember tons of rules and exhaust myself with mental gymnastics in attempts to keep a guy, I focus on chasing my own joy—not any guy or relationship. This is the only thing I can control, and that will make me happier no matter what happens in the relationship.
Sometimes, after having time and space to think, your guy will conclude that he does not want the relationship after all. And while being rejected always hurts, it’s part of the process of finding The One. Have the courage to face the reality of your incompatible desires and expectations—whether for the relationship or for life in general. Doing so frees you to find The One who genuinely wants the same things you want out of life. Letting go frees you to be with someone who wants to pursue his ideal life with you.