Recently, one of my really good friends texted me, feeling super confused. She said ‘We had a conversation, like you suggested – he doesn’t want to put a label on it and I do. What happens now?’
She has done all the right things here: she identified there was a problem. He hadn’t brought up anything about a relationship, even though he was happy to act as though they were in one. And then she clearly communicated her needs with him (that she wanted a relationship). I’m absolutely sure she communicated them clearly too, because she is super smart and a teacher. After all, communicating with a slightly toxic man and a 6 year old is probably pretty similar.
So what happens next? How do you decide whether to give in to what he wants, or to cut him loose.
Relationships Like This Are A Power Struggle
As soon as you decide to give into him, he has all the power. You’ll find yourself hanging on, waiting for him to change his mind. You’ll want to be ‘the one’ who changes him and turns him into a trustworthy, loving relationship man. And it’s a great ‘how we met’ story.
But in reality, it rarely works out that way.
One of the first things to understand is that, if you carry on with the relationship, it will forever feel like a power struggle. You’ll constantly be on the back foot, waiting for him to make a decision about YOUR life.
Who you’re spending your time with is important. And if you constantly feel like you’re ‘lower’ than them, in any way shape or form, then it will affect your self-worth. It also has the potential to filter down into your everyday life, at work, with friends and family.
A loss of power isn’t healthy for you. Relationships should be equal: neither party should feel like the other is the key decision maker in the relationship.
Know Your Worth
This is absolutely key: know your worth. You need to start putting yourself first, knowing to your core that you’re a smart, independent woman who deserves exactly what she wants.
It’s healthy to set boundaries and clearly communicate them. It’s also totally fine to cut people off if they violate those boundaries, whether that’s friends, family or romantic partners.
Really, it all comes down to confidence. And if you don’t feel confident, it still doesn’t mean you deserve a shitty relationship!
It’s OK To Be A ‘Relationship Person’
If you’re the sort of person who prefers to be in a relationship, that’s fine too. Just because that’s not what he wants, it doesn’t mean what you want is wrong.
Despite what movies tell you, it’s also ok to be ‘that girl’ – the girl who wants commitment. Movies teach us that it’s better to be ‘not like other girls’. And that’s just the patriarchy turning women against other women.
If you’re the sort of person who enjoys being in a relationship, own it. It’s not wrong, it’s not boring and it’s not weird. Accept yourself for who you are and love all parts of it!
What You Want Matters!
As someone who has invested far too much emotional labour in men, I myself know that it’s really easy to put other people’s needs before your own. But what you want matters too.
This is especially the case if the guy is emotionally needy. You might find yourself wondering how he’ll cope without having you as his therapist, well into the early hours. Truth is, he’ll be absolutely fine.
If he doesn’t want to commit to you, he doesn’t understand the value of your time and energy anyway.
Have the confidence and the self-belief that what you want matters too. You have to start putting yourself first, you have to start being the main character in your story.
So What If He’s Acting Like You’re In A Relationship?
This is toxic. He doesn’t have the right to give you hope and string you along, leaving you half expecting that you’ll end up in a relationship (but knowing in your heart that it won’t ever happen).
A man who does all the right things, is totally relationship material but won’t commit probably isn’t the man for you.
This behaviour is even worse if you’ve already set boundaries, explaining that you want to be in a relationship, and he continues to dismiss these and act as though you are. You deserve more respect. For him to continue this behaviour is controlling: he wants to keep you, but in his way, not yours.
Finding yourself in this situation? Not putting a label on a relationship is fine if both parties are on the same page.
But if you want commitment, and he isn’t willing to give it, don’t ask yourself why. You are good enough. You are brilliant. Leave him with a quick whip of a hand and a ‘thanks for letting me know, that’s cool’. Don’t be strung along by a man who won’t give you the respect you deserve.