Here’s what I humbly suggest you could do, having been “that guy”
You are reading this because you value honesty and truth. And you can sense that your male partner is not fully there, with you. You know deep down that he is sitting on the fence — whether he has told you so or not.
Please know, that I wrote this article to empower you. I don’t in any way want to put the onus and blame on you.
You are in a painful and difficult spot. It is not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not only good enough, but you also deserve to be loved fully!
Below you will find some humble suggestions about what I believe you can do right away to step into your power and feeling worthy to be loved more fully.
And, I also believe sincerely that my suggestion may help your man to get off his ass and make a decision — to either stay with you and commit more fully or to step out in a way that is honest, respectful and honouring to you and your bond.
But, if you follow this advice, it does not mean it is your job to make him stay nor to help him move on. That’s on him.
Did you get that?
Just to be sure, let me say it another way…
It is NOT your responsibility to save him,
to wait for him,
or to take care of him.
Relationships are a two way street. One-way-love is you doing your best to be a good loving person, but it can never be enough to make it be what it is not: a mutually healthy and satisfying relationship.
Wait! Who am I to be telling you all this…
I’ve spent my life helping people. But, my professional qualifications are less important at this moment.
I’ve been that guy, who — over and over again, in so many relationships — was not fully committed and so I ended up needlessly the breaking the hearts of many a good lover.
As a man who was stuck sitting on the fence and questioning in most of my relationships, I wish I had the guts to do my part sooner. To have either faced my own shit and committed fully to loving my partner or to have stepped back with honesty, love and respect, owning my part more fully and leaving in a way that honoured all the love my past partners had poured into our bond.
Since then, I’ve seen countless men in my life — good guys who want to be more powerful and loving — struggling as I did, with relationship indecision.
It’s become my mission to help the men who are ready to look at themselves honestly, to be able heal and grow up emotionally. So that they can become leaders in LOVE, co-creating the relationship they have been longing for with their partners.
So, here’s it is, what I suggest you can do about his being on the fence with you?
1. own your own ambivalence.
Ambivalence is a fancy word for having contradictory feelings/desires. It may seem a stretch, but when you aren’t holding down the fort, trying to be a good and faithful partner — on some level — you are also very likely questioning being with him.
Why wouldn’t you!? That part of you which knows he’s not fully with you, that same part which has been longing for more, is either stuck on hoping he will change or wishing for something better.
But what does it mean to “own” your ambivalence? Here are three ways to make this concrete:
One. Put more onus on him to convince you to stay.
If you are always saying YES, this makes him want to say NO. Just how reverse psychology works. It pushes you to stand at polar ends. One chases the other who then feels like pulling away. Try reversing this dynamic — even a tiny bit . Take more time for yourself. Express more of that part of you that wants space and time away from him. Show him if you have any reservations, doubts, or pulls elsewhere. This makes it easier and more compelling for him to come towards you. It may also ease him into considering his choice to stay or go with more spaciousness. If this feels at all inauthentic or manipulative, please ignore this point. I don’t mean that you do this in a way that is dishonest or as a way to try and control him.
“You can’t love someone and control them at the same time.” — Terry Crews
Instead, I want you to honour any buried desires you already have inside to flee or wander to look elsewhere and bring them out into the open.
Two. Let go (even a little) of judging him.
Chances are, if he is conscientious enough (I would suggest you don’t stay with someone who is NOT) he already feels shame and guilt about being not fully in with you. Shame and guilt tend to keep men stuck and or reactive by making really bad decisions, which neither of you want.
Three. Normalize the feeling of uncertainty and being torn.
Talk about how you at times feel that way — or have in previous relationships. It does not mean that one should leave. What it does mean is that we are torn and that there is something missing: a longing itching to be met.
Show him it’s okay to also feel that way too by validating him when he does. Real love is not a feeling. It is a choice and an act to fully accept and embrace another. Loving relationships only exist when there is the honesty and space for both partners to feel all of their emotions. How else can you have true intimacy, if you hide parts of yourself or judge and deny him to be himself? Honesty liberates you both and lays a foundation for true love to grow.
And yet, honesty alone is not quite enough to make some relationships last (in my humble experience). So, here is the next suggestion.
2. Make a mutual time bound commitment
Despite the ambivalence your partner (and likely you also feel), you state your commitment to love him fully for an agreed upon time. And you ask him to do the same, to put aside questioning the relationship over the long term and just be here fully with you, now.
Why make this so formal and explicit? You are giving him a test to see if he is willing and capable of doing this with you. Don’t expect him to read your mind. Make this very concrete for him. Look at it this way, as well…
Won’t it feel much better — if he doesn’t step up over time and you decide to end things — that you were clear way ahead of time about what you wanted and what the relationship needed for you to have stayed?
Practically, you may or may not need to explain to your partner WHY you want him to do this with you. If you do, my favourite way of explaining it goes something like this…
“True and lasting love is a lot like a garden. If we don’t invest the time to take care of it properly, the soil dries and the plants wither with neglect.
Lately, there are these weeds — like insecurity and wanting to be somewhere else — that have been taking over. I can’t tend this garden alone. I will only keep tending this garden if you join me in doing so.”
Now, if he is not willing to do that, it also exposes the truth, that he is more out than in. So, you can feel good about loving him and leaving the situation yourself to create an actual relationship with someone else. Someone who will dedicate themselves to tending this garden with you. That is the least of what you deserve.
If he is in for the invitation you make, the chance of him committing more and surprising you both increases greatly.
How much time should you ask for? I recommend 3 months. Many women (and some gay men) I know often say that is too long, as some of them have been waiting already for what has felt like forever. I get that. Really. It’s painful to feel like you are waiting and with someone who is not giving you as much! So, ultimately, this time frame is something you need to decide on. My take is that it takes time to do this right and see what is truly possible with your guy.
3. PLAN together to do W.I.T. (whatever-it-takes)
This is where — if he is committed to the previous invitation — you get specific and ask him to clarify what-it-will-take for him to be fully in the relationship with you. You outline what it will take for you as well and you both make commitments to support each other’s plans.
This is where it gets most powerful and also where initially it could so easily get sticky.
What if your plans differ? For example, you want to engage in couples therapy and he wants to do some work with his life coach? Do you insist that he has to come to couples therapy? Do you collapse with disappointment? Or, do you negotiate and haggle and dig into the details? I suggest the later.
Why does he want to do it on his own and will that be successful? Can he include you in his process? Can you do something else besides couple therapy if that is something he is against, but which will meet the goals you wanted to pursue?
This is where the harder work begins. You discover your edges and differences and also your common hopes and longings.
Maybe, you end up staying together and maybe you don’t work it all out (even in this lifetime) but in the time bound frame you’ve agreed to, you both do your best to work on it together and that is the key.
You are loving the other person and tending the Garden of Love together and that is what a real relationship is. It is not the fantasy of our wounded child within that wishes that our partner could read our minds and know exactly how to love us perfectly every minute of the day (and night). It is a maturing and real love instead.
I bet you have MORE QUESTIONS, right?
“What do I do when the time runs out?”
At the end of the agreed upon time frame, you decide to re-evaluate, being courageous and completely honest about this experiment.
And then you both decide whether to continue together or not.
If one of you is out, the relationship is over.
If you are both humbled and sobered by what you discovered and decide to keep going, you’re establishing a much more solid foundation to build on. You know better who you both are and what it takes to love and stay with the other person over time. It will get better and easier over time, but you still likely have a lot of rough edges to work out.
And doing that hard work was never meant to be done alone. It takes a village to raise a child and a strong and healthy tribe to help a relationship thrive! So, investing in your friendships, joining communities that nourish you, and making sure you have at least a few lines of support established (before any inevitable moments of crisis hit) is wise indeed.
To keep growing and not let your man slide back into passivity, the next decision has to be made — another time bound commitment to tending the relationship.
Sure, maybe one day the ambivalence will fully vanish and you can both honestly see just being in it forever. Until then, you commit to being fully in it, with all that you have. One loving chapter of your lives at a time. That or to part ways in the most loving and respectful way.
“Where can I send him for more help?”
I get this response ALL THE TIME. First, I recommend you start by talking to him. What kind of help is he open to? What does support look like for him. The old adage, You can lead a horse to water, but… applies.
If he is open and looking to join a men’s group, my first recommendation (after many years of men’s work in different circles) is to check out The Mankind Project. They empowered me in the most challenging time of my life in ways that therapy and friends could not. And I appreciate how they don’t socially coerce you like too many organized religions and other self-helpy type groups can (ie, Landmark). No path is right for every man. Just my two cents if you were to ask.
If your guy is open to really dig into and explore more specifically his ambivalence around staying or going, I would invite him to check out a free training (no-opt-in and no selling) I made to help men standing where I have stood many times in the past. It’s a choose your own adventure kinda thing with videos to click through to discover for himself the 5 (not 2) choices before him as he stands on the crossroads of making the best decision possible. It also covers the struggles I personally had over whether to “Stay or Go?” and offers both heaping tablespoons of compassion and tough love for him to swallow.
Now, please heed this old Polish proverb: “Do not push the river” (er, your man). Give him the supportive nudge he might need to check out whatever path seems promising to him.
Being more powerful and loving yourself will increase the chances of him growing his balls and taking a potent step in the right direction. That is up to him, however. Not you or I.
And, I hope you do what is ultimately best for you so that you can stand on firm and fertile ground to grow the love you have been longing for and which you most certainly deserve — with him or someone else who steps in fully with you!