While on a recent lunch date with my bff and her sister, I stumbled into an interesting conversation that both surprised and enlightened me. This friend was telling us a funny old story that involved a boy whom was in love with her but wasn’t interested in dating her or in a relationship. It was not the humorous tale involving inebriation and vomiting that shocked me but rather the revelation that there is someone else out there who experienced this type of dater–or non-dater rather–The Amorous Commit-a-phobe. I know that seems like an oxymoron, but yet they do exist and I finally realize that perhaps my crazy dating life in which I feel so scattered and alone is not so uncommon after all.
I have a dear friend whom started out as a hook-up and progressed to a much more complicated, undefinable level. We were friends with benefits I suppose, however he would always say “I love you” to me. There was a time where I would have longed to hear those words when we first started hanging out and there was a long stretch of time where I ignored those words, questioning their depth and sincerity. Then there was one day, or night rather, where I went to visit him at his dorm (yes, he makes me a cougar as he is only 21) and we spent the whole night laying together, talking, and sexing. It wasn’t just some random hookup for us both to have fun, it was so much more. He asked me if I’d ever move away with him, we talked about marriage, we talked about kids and it was after this 24 hour intense period together that I realized I loved him too and I just hadn’t known all this time. For a year I’d unkindly denoted him as just a friend who I hook up with and never even saw him as a potential boyfriend let alone husband but it was after this day that his professions of love sunk in and I started to fall. I’m not exactly sure why or what sold me, maybe it was his random romanticism or the promise of a future with someone I truly enjoy being with but something clicked for me and thought back to all the good times we’d had and kind things he’d done and it was in this moment that I realized I loved him too.
For a few weeks we talked everyday, often joking about our future together. He really had me believing that after he graduated we would get married and he promised me as much. I was willing to wait for him, ready to commit if he would just do the same and date me first…but here in lies the rub. He doesn’t want to date. Understandably on some level he goes to school an hour away and wants to find himself and figure all of his shit out before committing to someone but I was still so confused by all of this as he proclaimed his love me and told me he wants to marry me–how can he not want to date me? How can he know that I am right for him and that we are good together and that a solid future together could exist where we might each have a chance at happily ever after yet he refuses to take the first step?
We had plans to spend the summer together and I was thrilled. In love and thrilled. Yet, my entire summer was ruined when he took on a full time job serving at a restaurant near his parents house and we began to drift. He would always claim that he was too tired to see me at first, that working full time made him exhausted. I couldn’t fathom this concept, I work two jobs seven days a week and I always still make time for the people who matter to me, how can he not consider me a person worthy of his time?
One night at a bar he said something to a friend of mine and perhaps I should have heard this revelation and ran but I chose to leap in further instead. My best friend and he went out for a smoke and she asked him what the deal with us was, being protective and inquisitive she was eager to ascertain his perception of situation. To paraphrase, he basically said that I’m amazing and he’d be crazy to let me go but he’s so afraid he will fuck things up with me. I chose to ignore the later and accommodating example of him hooking up with some random exchange student in a bathroom in a drunken stupor and focused on the part where he called me amazing. No one has ever viewed me like he does. No one has ever seen me as more than a girl they want to have sex with or someone they want to be friends with–I’ve never had anyone truly love me, think I was amazing, or care for me like he has. He has always been there to cheer me up since I’ve met him and never judged me for my dark, just loved me for my light.
When my birthday rolled around I wanted nothing more than to see him and he blew me off, twice. Once to get drunk with his friends just after he told me he couldn’t come out the night before because work makes him too tired to go out and see anyone or do anything. I had been very patient with him, accepting that he didn’t want a relationship because he was still in school and respecting that this could be an open friendship that may progress to something later when he’s ready. But it was my birthday and he bailed without even telling me until it was midnight and he was wasted. I called him out on disrespecting our friendship which resulted in him saying we take a seven day break from talking because I am being ridiculous. I was shocked and merely replied, “fine” in passive aggressive contempt. Then, on the following Monday (just two days later) it was my actual birthday and my friends and I already had plans to go to his restaurant for my birthday and I’d be damned if I couldn’t eat at a place I love because of this dumb argument (which he said was not a fight just a break!). How do you take a break when you aren’t even dating!?
When we get to the restaurant he acts like nothing is wrong. He talks to me, sits with me, and is his usual adorable self. Then he even secretly picks up the tab for me and my friends. I was utterly dumbfounded. This boy is so confusing! So, to make this long story short, it is a few weeks later and we are now barely speaking and when we do he brushes me off. The other night however we actually had a deep conversation in which he confessed that he is afraid he would be bad for me. That he is too fucked up to be with me and that he is no good for me. Again, I’m utterly confused. How can someone so sweet and loving and amazing be bad for me? I finally found someone who actually loved me that I could reciprocate the emotions to and he bails. He spent a year in love with me, being there whenever I needed him and chooses when I reciprocate my feelings for him to change his mind or end things? Perhaps it is the fear that now this is real, this is mutual, this actually could happen and work that scares him. Maybe he cares about me too much to ruin me which he seems to think he will do but shouldn’t that decision to risk it all be mine if I’m the one who could end up hurt in the end?
So, I think back to the conversation that my friend and I had about the boy who loved her but wouldn’t date her and I feel her pain and confusion. We are socially constructed to believe that dating leads to a relationship which leads to love and that the latter cannot exist without the former unless it is friend or familial love. Yet, that is not always true. Sometimes you fall in love with someone but just can’t bring yourself to be in a relationship with them. Perhaps you know your own flaws and limitations and fear hurting the other person. Perhaps the love is superficial and only seems real. Perhaps there is a deep fear of your dreams becoming reality. Who knows? But, for whatever reason, there are men out there (and I’m sure women too) who fall in love with others but cannot and do not ever commit to them, settle down, and date them. Yet another enigma of the dating world I suppose.
So, you may be wondering after all my rambling if I have some answers–some sort of conclusion or resolution to the problems associated with the Amorous Commit-a-Phobe on the off chance you should encounter one. The truth is, I grow more confused by the day. My conscience tells me to dead it, to run and never look back. If he really loved me he would commit to me, he would date me. If he doesn’t want me I should make the space for someone who does. But my heart tells me that I have feelings for him and I can’t just walk away from someone who on some level shares those feelings. There is a connection there and whether or not it is true love I don’t know but don’t we owe it to ourselves to try, to find out if this could be something real? If two people with so much misery in their lives could actually find their happily ever after? So, I guess I don’t really have any answers for you, just the knowledge and understanding that love is so complicated and when encountering men with commitment issues you have to ask yourself, can you live with the consequences–either way, whether you choose to stay and fight or you back down and give up, can you live with your choice no matter the outcome? If you can say yes and honestly mean it, then follow your heart or perhaps your conscience and see where that road leads you but just be prepared to handle the outcome, especially if it doesn’t go the way you had hoped.