what does he want from me?

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    My heart is really heavy right now and I feel a bit lost.  I’d be so grateful if someone could offer me some wisdom and insight.

    There’s a man I dated just over a year ago for a short time.  He was nice, but he was also Mr Commitment Phobe and he put up every possible obstacle to any relationship growing with me; from being evasive to dating multiple women to generally being closed off emotionally.  I explained this to him (he was in total denial) and broke off the relationship after a couple of months calmly but firmly.  At the time he was completely unaware he had commitment issues and kept telling himself it would all be fine when he met the right girl.

    A few weeks later he called me up and said he felt we’d been too hasty breaking up and he thought he wanted to spend more time together and that he was open to listening and being flexible with things if I could be patient because he felt a bit “freaked out”. We dated again briefly, but he disappeared shortly after coming closer.

    Six months passed and I thought I would never hear from him again, but he came back and apologised to me and told me I had been right and that he’d taken what I had said on board.  He admitted he was afraid of commitment and closeness with any one person and that he used women as an ego boost and a way of avoiding vulnerability he ran away from real opportunities or created obstacles to avoid trying.

    I listened to him, and we became friends and confidantes, exchanging lots of messaged and calls and becoming slowly closer until the point where we were very close friends.  He said it had become the closest relationship he had ever had with anybody and I saw that behind the bravado was a really insecure and quite lovely guy and I started to really like him.

    We soon started to “hang out” as “friends” but to be honest the entire time we were together we were exactly like a couple who were in love.  We’d go to art galleries or candlelit dinners or picnics on the beach and we’d be holding hands the entire time, always cuddling, always very close and affectionate.   We didn’t have sex – actually the last time I has sex with him was a year ago when we were officially dating, but we generally act like teenagers in love every time we see each other.

    This went on for a few weeks and I told him that I liked him as more than a friend and that we should try dating more officially.  He freaked out a lot when I said this, and started to go back to his old behaviours of pushing me away and being confusing and he also started dating other people – which was hurtful for me.

    I again walked away and just left him to it, and then he called me at midnight on New Years and told me that because of me, he’d stayed home alone for the first time in years without a date and that he was done with chasing women and he wanted to change and wanted to find real love and that he was miserable with me gone from his life and please could I come back.  He sent me a list that night of all the stuff he loved about me (was really nice).

    After that, there was a big turnaround for a week, with him suddenly talking about the future and wanting to really get closer to me.  He finally met my son and it felt to me for sure like this was the start of us actually being together.  For the first time since I met him he was staying home alone instead of being out every night.  We went out to dinner and a movie last night and it was pretty sweet between us.  He was holding my hand all through the movie and kept leaning over in the dark to kiss me.  We went home together and cuddled and kissed and when I went home he called to make sure I’d got home safe.

    Then this morning he messaged me to let me know he thought we were great as friends, and although there was obviously also romantic chemistry he just wanted to be friends.  Sigh.  I feel very, very confused and hurt.  It doesn’t feel anything like “just friends” to me and I am really bafffled over why he has said this to me.

    I felt tired of it, so I sent him a message to say that “friends” don’t date and hold hands and kiss and say goodnight every night and do any of the things that we do; and that I was sorry but I was done with it and we could not be “friends” anymore.  He replied that it felt like I’d stabbed his heart.

    I am honestly just such a mess.  I am so upset with all this…can anyone offer me any guidance?


    Dear Helen:

    Your question is: “what does he want from me?”- I will attempt to answer that question, that is what he wanted from you all this time.

    The relationship, more or less: two months of dating followed by a few weeks of no contact, followed by brief dating, followed by six months of no contact, followed by a few weeks of closer friendship and dating without sex, followed by a certain amount of time of no contact, followed by a week of dating, followed by yesterday, his request that the two of you will be friends only and your refusal to be only friends.

    What you want is a committed, monogamous, romantic/ loving relationship. What does he want?

    My guess is that he wants what he told you, friendship. I think the friendship he enjoyed with you included what it was last: holding hands and cuddling and romantic- friendship with a touch of romance, a heavy touch.

    He probably liked all along your interest in him, your liking and wanting him in your life, that you valued him as much as you did.

    Why does he not want a committed relationship with you, I ask myself. You probably have a better idea, having talked with him and heard his background, his history… Only he didn’t tell you everything, during the conversations you had with him, and that is why you are confused, I believe. He was not forthcoming with all the information he was aware of. He kept some things to himself, things you should know.

    If you agree with my last assumption, what do you think those things may be, things he knew but didn’t tell you; things he told you that may not have been true?



    Thanks Anita, that was a very good answer.  I can see that my interest and affection were probably nice things for him to have even if he didn’t want to commit to me for an actual relationship.  Your answer gave me a lot of clarity, as, for me, I can’t think of anything worse than going on dates with or having affection with someone I did not want to actually be in a relationship with; but from his perspective it’s actually very likely he quite enjoyed that experience and got something he needed from it.

    I think he’s very honest with me, I don’t think he ever lies (one saving grace) so his history is pretty much:   He is 47 years old.  He has had one committed relationship in his life.  This was from age 19 to age 41 and by his own admission he was never really in love with her but sort of fell into it out of habit and was too loyal (or lazy) to think about leaving so he was very committed to her and his family although also unhappy, unloved and felt quite controlled.  She had an affair with their contractor and threw him out at the age of 41 and at that time, although not in love with her, he was very deeply wounded and went into a dark depression.

    He told me at that point he felt no woman would ever want him, and he felt like his self esteem was really low.  So he started dating tentatively and found out women did actually want him (he’s wealthy!!) and since then he has been dating for five years but nothing serious.  His modus operani in dating (apart from with me) has always been to see several women casually on a fairly short-term or on and off basis where he says they “overlap” (meaning he is never really exclusive).  They always want commitment, he always refuses it.  He says he’s never really formed and emotional bond with a woman in his life other than me.

    So when we were dating the first time, I refused his terms of non-exclusivity and I called him out and told him he had intimacy problems.  He hated that at the time, but a year later he came to me and told me that no woman had ever held her boundaries with him the way that I did, and that my words had changed him and he wanted to be different.

    This is, I guess, where the friendship grew from.  I became his confidante and his friend in a way he wasn’t used to (he usually focuses only on sex with a woman) and with us we do everything but sex.  I have refused sex for over a year now because I feel it’s not appropriate for us to be involved in something casual and sexual and it’s not healthy for me.  He says he respects the way I am true to myself.

    Over the past year there’s been huge changes in him; he’s taken on board all the things I have said, he’s cut out the casual dating, he’s stopped chasing all the women and he really wants to be different.  I guess the frustration for me is that he doesn’t actually want a relationship with me.

    As to why, I guess it’s one of two reasons.

    I know for certain that he feels very strong emotional and sexual connection with me and those are usually the two ingredients for a relationship; but something holds him back.

    Reason 1 could be that he is not ready yet for that level of commitment and he knows a relationship with me would be quite serious because we are already close.  We have come a long way in the past year and I am the first woman (maybe ever) that he is truly emotionally intimate with and maybe making it a relationship isn’t something he’s ready for.  Maybe he needs time to be friends before moving into something else and being friends with him is a new thing.  He has said to me a few times that he wanted to develop the friendship and connection with me in 2018 and then who knows.

    Reason 2 could be that there is just something about me he doesn’t see as long-term partner potential.  I can’t say what this would or could be because we are similarly matched in education, finances, family values, intellect etc. and we honestly do just have so much fun and get on so well and there’s fireworks in terms of chemistry on both sides,  but it could be something else that I am not aware of.  Who knows if maybe he has a mental list and I don’t tick some arbitrary box.

    Asking him is fruitless because he doesn’t really know himself.

    When I asked him a year ago why he wasn’t able to just “try” an exclusive relationship with me (on the basis that this is how you find out if someone is right for you) he said it was because it was too “intense” and because he felt our connection was very strongly sexual and lacked the friendship element.  Now a year later we have the friendship and the sexual element but he still feels it’s not “quite right”.

    It feels to me a bit like he makes excuses and none of them really make sense.


    Dear Helen:

    You are welcome.

    You wrote: “I think he’s very honest with me, I don’t think he ever lies.” At the end of your last post you wrote: “It feels to me a bit like he makes excuses and none of them really make sense.”

    Here is a definition of an excuse: “a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense”. And so, he hasn’t been honest with you about his faults or… offenses.

    I read attentively your share about what he told you. To paraphrase, he told you something like:

    I was loyal for 22 years to a woman who didn’t love me, controlled me and then cheated on me, and then to top all that she ended the relationship. I was so wounded and so depressed that I changed my ways, and now, understandably, my MO is that I date several women at any one time, each on and off, or short term, women overlapping, never exclusively, focusing only on sex.

    Yes, it does sound like an excuse, a good-man-turned-bad-because-of-an-evil-woman. Reminds me of the story of Adam pointing to Eve, sayin: she made me do it! She made me eat the apple!

    His MO of dating fits the way he dated you, on and off, probably overlapping with other women. The “They” in “They always want commitment, he always refuse it”- includes you.

    What doesn’t fit his MO is the part of dating where the two of you did not have sex and his suggestion that the two of you continue to be friends.

    You wrote: “He says he’s never really formed an emotional bond with a woman in his life other than me” and “he… told me that no woman had ever held her boundaries with him the way that I did, and that my words had changed him…I became his confidante and his friend in a way he wasn’t used to (he usually focuses only on sex with a woman) and with us we do  everything but sex… he says he’s cut out the casual dating.”

    Understandably, these words made you feel special, in his life.

    I suppose he found a friend with you, and that was different, for him. It doesn’t mean that he is different than he was before, that he changed. It means he tried something new.

    His MO is to use women for sex knowing that “They always want commitment”. This is not something an honest man does. It may feel like he is honest for admitting this dishonest MO, but it doesn’t change the fact that his behavior, on a long term and consistent basis, is dishonest.

    Maybe he told you the truth when he said that he cut out the casual dating for the week or so before he told you this truth. But what about the week after? Maybe it was a break from casual dating, resumed after. He just didn’t update you.

    Back to the beginning of my post here: the fault or offense that he has been excusing, is his dishonest dealings with women, using them for sex while they want a commitment as well as selective honesty in his sharing with you.





    Yes, I don’t think he lies about the excuses.  I think he honestly doesn’t know – like some kind of very deep denial that there’s a problem.

    I agree the MO with me is only different because we’re friends and we don’t have sex.

    My understanding of his relationships is this:  he is honest from day one that he doesn’t do exclusivity (he did with me be honest) so the women who agree to date him and have sex with him on these terms are doing so of their own will and he feels this therefore makes it okay.  I agree with you that’s it’s still now okay because they’re really doing it in the hope he falls in love.


    Dear Helen:

    He told you: “They always want commitment”- so he knows that every woman he tells that he is not exclusive is hoping that she will make him change his ways.

    It is like someone selling a product that is harmful to anyone buying it. The seller tells the potential buyer: you can buy it but I want you to know this will harm you. The person buys the product, the seller pockets the money, the buyer gets harmed.

    Did the seller do anything wrong…?



    Yes, I agree.


    Move on.  Find someone else who does not take up your emotional energy and time.

    This is not a friend.  This is someone who wants to fulfill his needs, emotional and otherwise without the necessity of a commitment.

    No matter what he says, I am skeptical that he has changed.  It is not something a person can wake up and decide to be different.  I believe such issues as his takes prolonged and committed effort with a therapist to address such deep seated issues.

    My two cents.



    Helen, I came across this thread while searching for my own answers to a similar situation. It’s been some time, but I do wonder how this turned out for you.

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