I am a man.
I have had periods in my life
where I was commitment-phobic.
I am not afraid anymore.
I understand from reading books and social media that men often fear commitment. Let’s look at a few of the stereotypes about men, and see if we can separate the truth from the cop-out.
- Men fear commitment
- Men always hunt for new sexual relationships, even when they are already in a relationship
- “Relationship” means something different to men
- Men aren’t as emotional or expressive of their feelings
- Sex is what drives a man’s desire for a relationship
- Men get bored with the same women, that’s why monogamy is harder for men
Let’s parse these one at a time, shall we?
Do Men Fear Commitment?
I’m guessing if you are reading this, that your immediate answer is “Of course they do.” And I’m going to challenge that knee-jerk reaction to the idea that men are afraid of commitment. Let me give you a bit of my story around commitment.
I was married for ten years to a woman I still adored when she asked for a divorce. I was not afraid of commitment, in fact, I was leaning into commitment. It was my then-wife who pulled the non-commital rip chord and asked to be given a release from the binding agreement between us. This original agreement of marriage included kids. We decided early on to have kids, and we also decided to raise them 50/50. I was going to be a 50% partner in every aspect of raising our children. I might have 90% of the breadwinning responsibilities for a while, but that too was part of our plan.
The plan went off the rails somewhere around 8 years. My big job at Dell was abruptly brought to an end by the 2009 economic meltdown. And while I was horrified to lose such a well-paid tech marketing job, I was also given a six-month severance package, with benefits for my entire family. While I took this to be an opportunity to discuss the future of our family’s financial path, my then-wife decided I should merely get another big job and allow to her continue meeting the bus after school every day of the week. That would’ve been nice for her. That would’ve been death for me.
She just wanted the money. Sure, she liked the nice house, the good schools, the stay-at-home-mom lifestyle. She liked all those things. But when Dell reduced 50% of my Global Online Team’s size, I was 35 pounds overweight, pushing some blood pressure issues, and depressed as hell about the work-stress and Dell Hell environment that I had survived and suffered under for two years. I loved my Dell job when I had a great manager. I hated my Dell job after one year when I was re-orged under a dickish manager who didn’t want to be a manager.
So, when my wife faced the prospect of going back to work full-time, like me, to ease up some of the stress on me, she balked. For the entire year, after I was laid off, my then-wife “looked for a job.” She was also looking for herself. She was disillusioned with her career path thus far and I gave her the green light to “take some time” to figure out what she wanted to do. I didn’t think she’d take the entire year and then ask for a divorce because I was no longer able to provide her stay-at-home-mom lifestyle. In the end, she altered our commitment. She asked for the divorce. She left the relationship. I was still firmly committed and securely attached. But that was my blind side. I thought our marriage was solid but our relationship needed work. She thought our marriage was awful and our relationship was also awful. So she asked to break our earlier commitment of marriage.
Do men always hunt for new sexual relationships?
I can tell you, when I’m “attached,” I do not look at pretty women as sexual partners. It’s not that I don’t see sexy women and say, “Damn!” in my mind. But I do not want to have sex with them just because they are young or beautiful or both. Why? Because when I attach, when I confirm my commitment with a woman, I am saying, “I’m done. You’re the one. And until you prove me wrong, I’m going to act as if we are going to be in this relationship forever.” That’s how I roll. When I commit, I commit all the way. I learned this concept after my divorce. Love with everything you’ve got. Love at 110% if you can. Love fearlessly. Let your love ignite and catch fire. Burn brightly in love. And if the love fails, if the relationship fails, if the marriage fails, move on. Learn to love again. And then love harder the next time.
As a man, I am aware of my animal nature. I am sensitive and conscious of my sexual urges. I listen to my body when I am signaling some new sexual target is within the scope of my tiger senses. As an animal driven by testosterone, I am also somewhat conscious of how the hormones and chemistry in my body have a huge effect on my emotional and mental health. BUT… I am not a predatory male human. I have predatory instincts and urges, but I have evolved a bit beyond my sexual impulses. I can listen to my body when it wakes up as a result of seeing a beautiful woman in a flimsy summer dress on a windy afternoon in June. I can feel the energy racing through me. And as an attached male (meaning, I’m in a committed and solid relationship) I can also appreciate a pretty woman just for being pretty. I can celebrate the handiwork of god in his crafting of this infinite beauty. And then I walk along to the next agenda item on my list. I don’t spend much time fantasizing about other women. I’ve got a wonderful woman. I am delighted by her every move. And my commitment to her goes beyond any sexual need and certainly beyond any animal instinct that is propelling me to procreate and extend the reach of my genetic material.
I do not hunt for something better. I do not entertain myself with online dating apps or overt flirting in the real world. I am saving those ideas and flirts for ONE PERSON. I’m not interested in any other person. No matter how beautiful, how young, how powerful… I’m not interested. I’m taken. I am not hunting. I’m not even sniffing around.
Does “Relationship” mean something different to men?
To me, “relationship” denotes a long-term commitment. I remember telling an early post-divorce girlfriend, “I’m not interested in dating. I want to be in a relationship.” And what I was also saying was this, Relationship with a capital “r” is my destination. And I will continue to hunt, test, and retry until I find my ultimate long-term, forever, relationship. Yes, I know I’m a romantic. But I do believe I have been working to build and understand a relationship blueprint that works for me. I’ve not gotten it right so far, but I’m getting closer all the time.
Do you know your relationship blueprint? What are the deal-breakers and red flags when you are starting out in a love relationship? If you’re not too clear on these ideas, you might want to spend some time writing down a few ideas, roadmaps, for what your ultimate relationship is going to look and feel like.
Can men be emotional and expressive of their feelings?
If you think the answer to this question is no, you’ve got a bit more soul searching to do. And probably, you’ve got a bit more relationship mapping to do. I can tell you, men can be as emotionally available as well. And women can be just as shut down, emotionally, as any man. Emotional maturity comes from doing some of the internal work on our issues. If we’re still suffering from childhood traumas or a bad breakup, we’re probably not in the best condition to start up a relationship anyway. If you’re emotionally unavailable, take that information and use your alone time to “work on yourself” and what you want. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, that’s probably what you will find. You will find something. But without a good plan or a good map you may not even recognize a good partner when they are standing or lying right next to you.
Can men be as emotionally available and expressive as women? Of course we can. Is it common that a man is emotionally evolved? No, that is a rare and precious thing. If you find an evolved man, a man who is comfortable in his skin, his mind, and his hangups, you have found a man who might be worth partnering with.
Is sex is what drives a man’s desire for a relationship?
Sex is important. Sex is even part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But sex is not everything. And sex is not the reason I seek to be in a relationship when I am not. Is sex with a partner better than sex with myself? Yes. But is sex with a bad partner worth suffering a bad relationship for? No. Absolutely not. Do not settle for a relationship that is below your PERFECT MATE standard. In the long-run, those failings will be your undoing. If a relationship is not working, sex will not hold it together. And, if a relationship is not working, you don’t want sex to keep you together.
Does sex drive me in my relationship to women? No. Do I enjoy sex with a woman (as a hetero male) more than sex without a woman? Yes. But is sex worth suffering in a poor relationship? Never. Does sex drive my need to be in a relationship? No. But sex is part of the chemistry of a relationship that in my long-run plans is essential. I must have sex. Even if I am having sex with myself, I’m having some form of sex. I guess that’s my animal nature. But does my sexual desire run my life, or keep me in an unfulfilling romantic relationship? Absolutely not.
I can tell you, in my experience of being in a ten-year marriage, that I was never bored having sex with my wife. Was I always emotionally and sexually satisfied in my marriage? Um, is that a trick question? The answer is no, I was not 100% fulfilled in my marriage and our sex life. But did I get bored of my wife or her aging body? Not a chance. She was as sexy to me the day she asked for a divorce as she was the day I ran into her at a local coffee shop, eighteen years ago. Was I ever bored with my wife? No. Was I fantasizing about other women while I was married and unhappy with my sex life? No. (See #5, above.)
Summing your partner’s sexual and emotional intelligence
Relationships require a lot of work. Individuals need to do their own work in order to show in their relationships as whole and healthy partners. If you meet a partner who is lacking in their ability to communicate, commit, and renew their intentions, you might want to continue along your path in search of a different partner. If, on the other hand, you find the love of your life, you might want to keep working on your own issues, keep loving them better/harder/more intelligently, and hold on with everything you’ve got. Love is an amazing bit of magic that is part of our human DNA. But love does not equal sex. And good sex does not equal love. You’ve got to have both good love and good sex for a relationship to survive. When one of those elements is missing you will know it’s time to move along.
As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find lives after divorce. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.
- The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
- Braving the Wilderness – Brené Brown
- Single Dad Seeks: Dating Again After Divorce – John McElhenney
More dating posts:
- Here and Now: Touching Objects of Desire
- Unlocking Touch – The Love Language I Speak
- The Waiting is the Hardest Part
- There’s Something Missing
- (Singing) Find Me Somebody to Love