Welcome back to another edition of navigating a man’s brain from the outside!
A reader wrote in asking (and I removed a couple of parts to maintain some anonymity):
Hey Holly, I’m engaged to my boyfriend … of 3 years we met in high school. At first everything started off great and then he started to get angry and controlling. Last November, I moved in with his parents and him. Hoping that we eventually find our own apartment soon. … his parents are trying to make us stay there for good. Also, he never talks about our future plans of getting married or getting our own place together to start our own lives. Another thing is he checks out other woman (he thinks I don’t know it but I do) he flirts with them when I’m around but he always lies about little things. How can I know this is truly the one for me or if he’s just pushing me along for a ride.
Based on what you wrote, it sounds like he’s not that committed to the relationship. That might hurt to hear, so let me make my case, because I have only good intentions for you. There could be an opportunity in this less-than-ideal situation.
I’m going to answer this question first in consultant mode (where I’m the expert) and then in coaching mode (where you’re the expert).
First, it makes sense that you’d write to a certified relationship coach about this, given everything you just said. Everything started out great, and then he became angry and controlling. He never talks about your future. He checks out and flirts with other women. He lies about the little things.
Angry and controlling, doesn’t talk about your future, checks out and flirts with other women, lies about the little things…
When you parse your own question, how much do you hear what you’re saying? If your friend came to you describing her relationship like that and asked for your advice, what would be your instinct? I’m guessing you’d likely tell her to dump his ass.
How much would you listen to yourself? How likely would you follow your own advice?
When I was in high school, I went to a winter formal dance with someone with whom I was out of a brief relationship. We agreed to go together, anyway, but rumors circulated that he was pining for another girl in school like a drooling nerd. He was a gentleman (albeit, quieter than usual) in front of my parents, but when we were at the dance, he made every effort to dance with that girl instead of with me. It was upsetting to watch and made me feel undervalued and jealous.
Why did I tell this story? Because men often reveal themselves in their efforts. I wrote about this in a blog post entitled “A Reader Asks: ‘How Do You Know if a Guy Likes Me?’” If your guy is flirting with other women, then it’s possible he thinks there’s something missing in your relationship, which is often a reason for infidelity. It’s also very possible he needs to grow up.
Also, I learned from another dating coach/consultant to believe the negatives and ignore the positives.
Wtf does that even mean? It means that chemistry—that “high” feeling (the “positives”) you might have had at the beginning of your relationship—makes you blind to red flags. (I wrote about this in a story called “Dating? Why Compatibility is Your ‘Claritin Clear’ Against Blinding Chemistry.” It was also highly viewed on Medium.) It’s like you’re at a masquerade ball, and you think you’re dancing with Prince Charming, but it’s really Dracula behind the mask. Look for compatibility (long-term potential) instead.
Conversely (the “negatives”), when something seems off with your man, chances are you should trust your intuition.
Furthermore, if he’s not talking about the future with you, it could mean that:
- he’s comfortable in your current relationship status and doesn’t feel the need to change things
- he’s not that interested in being in a relationship with you and doesn’t have the balls to tell you (I know how much that can hurt, and again, I have only good intentions in telling you)
- some other reason (e.g., work has been stressing him out, etc., and he doesn’t have the mental bandwidth to think about the future)
If he were fully committed to you, though, then he wouldn’t look elsewhere and would make an effort to plan for your goddamn future. As I learned from that dating coach/consultant, you want a nice guy with balls.
(Side note: It sounds like you came out of high school engaged. While some would say, “You two need more life experience and growth before having the mental and emotional capacity to form a lifelong partnership,” I’m going to leave that to your judgment since I don’t know your full story.)
With all of that said, I’m going to transition into coaching mode and ask you several open-ended, empowering questions (some of which ask the same question in multiple ways to get you to think differently):
- What are other ways to interpret your man’s actions?
- What have you done so far to help improve the situation?
- How much do you think your brain is sending you to a horror show right now? (That is, how much might you be overthinking his actions? There’s no right or wrong answer here, only your take.)
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (“1” being “super unhappy” and “10” being “super happy”), how would you rate your overall happiness in your relationship? (We could also substitute “happy” with something like “fulfilled” if that resonates better.)
- How would you like to feel in this relationship?
- What can you do to achieve that feeling (even just a baby step)?
- What are the pros and cons of staying in or leaving your relationship?
- Put another way, what do you fear about staying in or leaving your relationship?
- How can you overcome that fear (even just a baby step)?
- What do you feel like you deserve in a healthy relationship (“healthy” defined in your own terms)?
- Given that you have one life, and therefore one big chance, to find the love you want and deserve (because once you’re dead, there’s no going back, and you could die tomorrow), how much does this relationship give you what you want?
The consultant in me would say, “As the confident CEO of your love life, you have the power to dump his ass for a better man (especially if you think you’re wasting time).” The certified coach in me would empower you to trust yourself to know the answers. Time isn’t promised in this one life we get, and it’s a privilege to be alive.
If the time is right and you need help navigating a relationship that seems to lack commitment, then fill out the easy form at the bottom of this page and I’ll get in touch ASAP.
If you have a dating or relationship question to be considered for the blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Question for your blog.”