Gun Shy: When He's Afraid to Commit

Dear Sherry:

I've been dating a man for 16 months, seeing him every day and spending most nights together. We never fight, get along great, but he has only said "I love you" once, on Valentine's Day. He is almost divorced, been separated for two years. He says divorce has ruined him, and that he is unable to talk about love and he will never get married again because he is scared. On the other hand, he says I am the best thing that has ever happened to him.

I love him. I am 39 and he is 34. He has a 6-year-old daughter. I have two sons, 14 and 17. We all get along great. Do you think time will heal his heart?

Tina

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Sherry Amatenstein

Sherry is the author of The Q&A Dating Book and Love Lessons from Bad Breakups. She has taught dating seminars, appeared as an expert... Read more

Dear Tina:

It's a common female complaint that men don't open up about what's on their minds and/or in their hearts. Not as well documented is the equally common female tendency to hear what a man is saying, but not really hear him. Your guy is being honest enough to tell you things that he knows you wish he wouldn't utter. Do him the favor of believing him. At least for now, he can't give you what you need.

Will he always be commitment-disabled? It's a good sign that he was able to say, "I love you." It's a fabulous sign that he says you're the best thing that's ever happened to him. And, after all, it sounds like he is practically living with you.

Tell him candidly that, while you understand where he's at, he has to understand where you're at as well. Ask him if he thinks he'll ever feel ready to marry ... and, if so, how much time he feels he might need to heal.

Judging by his answer, you might want to give him a deadline (okay, ultimatum), perhaps six months hence, to give you a commitment. Assure your friend that your motive isn't to pressure him, but to move your life out of a holding pattern. Suggest the idea of couples counseling to help him heal his fears.

If he's open to at least exploring the possibility of one day remarrying, hang in. If he still insists he'll never marry, seriously consider whether hearing "I love you" once a year is enough of a future to metaphorically hang your hat on.

Best of luck whatever you choose to do.

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