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“How Do I Get a Commitment-Phobe to Commit?”

After two bad break-ups and a year off from relationships, I finally decided to give it a try with this new guy, David. He’d never had a girlfriend before, and said he said he didn’t want to just hook up, but wanted a relationship, which was great news for me, as I felt like I’d finally met someone I was willing to put my heart on the line for. Because he holds an executive position in our student government and is taking four classes, we didn’t get to see much of each other, but I was fine with that. Then, after not quite a month, he blindsided me with a break up. He said he really liked me but didn’t have enough time to give me proper attention. What killed me is that he was completely unwilling to compromise or try to work things out. His reasons sounded a bit fishy to me, so I started asking around, and discovered he’d told two other girls last semester the exact same thing.

Since the problem appears to be his trust/commitment issues in general and not us not liking each other, or so much the bullshit “time” excuse he initially gave, I think we could work it out. So my question is: how on earth do I approach getting back together with a guy who has trust issues? I kind of want him to know that I have experience with people who have trust/commitment issues and I’m willing to take things slow and be patient, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to directly say that to him. So, how do I convince him to take a chance on me? — Committed to a Commitment-phobe

So, because a guy decides after a month that he doesn’t want to date you anymore — and has alleged history of making the same decision about two other women in his past — he’s a “commitment-phobe”? That’s an awfully big leap to make, though I can certainly understand the temptation to make it. Looking back at my own romantic past and the guys who unceremoniously dumped me after a few weeks of dating, I can imagine now how I might have avoided some relatively painful ego bruising if I’d only accepted that the real reason I was suddenly single was because the poor fools were commitment-phobes! Instead, I was silly enough to assume that the guys had gotten to know me well enough to decide, for whatever reason, that I wasn’t a good match for them. It never even dawned on me that if the poor saps had arrived at similar conclusions about other young women that the problem might actually be theirs — that there might be something wrong with them.

I’m being facetious, of course. Not because I’m mocking you, because, truly, we’ve all been where you are. We all know how easy it can be to manufacture reasons for being dumped that have nothing — nothing at all — to do with the idea that maybe he or she simply isn’t into us. What’s worse is when we convince ourselves that not only is he still very much into us, but he didn’t really mean to break up with us at all! Why, he’s just scared, see. This was just some silly tactic to see how committed we are to him, see. Once we convince him that we’re in it — we’re really in it and nothing he can say or do will drive us away — our relationship will once again be fantastic. … Or, you know, as fantastic as it can be when he hardly makes time for us. But, that’s just a technicality! He can’t help that he’s busy. It surely has nothing to do with his feelings for us.

Ah, but dear LW, it does. If a guy really wants to spend time with you, he’ll find the time. If he really wants a relationship with you, nothing — not four classes, not an executive position on the student government — will stand in his way. The truth is, he just wasn’t into it all that much. He realized after a few weeks with you that, for whatever reason, you weren’t a good match for him. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow — especially if you felt he was a good match for you. But I promise, the faster you get it down, the easier it will be to move on.

If you’re worried about bruising your ego, then trust me on this: the last thing you want to do is try to convince this guy to give you another chance. The last thing you want to do is to tell him you “have experience with people who have commitment issues.” It wasn’t commitment issues that led to your breakup. He just didn’t want to date you anymore. The “bullshit time excuse” he gave was his way of letting you down easy. Just because he’s let other girls down the same way doesn’t make it any less so. MOA, darlin’. MOA with your head held high and the knowledge that if this guy felt in his heart that you weren’t the right match for him, then he wasn’t the right match for you. The good news is, the next guy (or the guy after that, or the guy after that) just very well might be.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar ReginaRey March 31, 2011, 9:15 am

Wendy, I love you! Your response is perfection.

I second all of this. Guys don’t like making women feel bad outright. They don’t want us to cry and scream when they try to break up with us after a few weeks (because *wouldn’t* you cry if he outright said ‘”I just don’t like you”?), so they generate a bullshit reason that you can’t (or aren’t supposed to) argue with – “I’m a committment phobe” or “We just aren’t in the same place in our lives right now.” It’s supposed to let you down easy, and let them walk away without feeling like they broke your heart, even though of course, they probably did. Not saying it’s right, but it’s what happens.

Someone who wants to be your boyfriend will BE. YOUR. BOYFRIEND. It doesn’t take convincing nor cajoling on the part of the woman. Women don’t end up with men they had to convince to date them. They end up with men who were convinced all by themselves that they NEEDED to be with this woman. Big, big difference.

avatar cdobbs March 31, 2011, 9:15 am

I would give you the exact same advice as Wendy! MOA!

avatar _jsw_ March 31, 2011, 9:22 am

Based on nothing other than what was written here, and so therefore very tenuously, I posit that he feels that, to sleep with someone, he needs to be in a relationship with them, either because of his own beliefs or because, as someone with possible political interests, he doesn’t want any stories to surface of him sleeping around – or even because he feels that calling it a relationship makes it easier to become sexual with someone because they let their guard down.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he has quite a number of one-month relationships. I am pretty sure he goes into each of them under the assumption that they’ll end in a few weeks.

LW, I’m sorry for your situation, but it wasn’t even a month of dating, and the guy isn’t going to change in the near term, if ever. Trying to win him back isn’t going to work, and, if anything, will cause his future relationships to be even more brief so as to avoid such – as he’d phrase it – drama.

avatar spaceboy761 March 31, 2011, 9:57 am

Eh. I think you’re giving this douche too much credit. It’s probably just a part of his pick-up game that seems to work well enough to keep using.

avatar _jsw_ March 31, 2011, 10:09 am

Hence the “he feels that calling it a relationship makes it easier to become sexual with someone because they let their guard down” bit. ;-)

fast eddie fast eddie March 31, 2011, 1:34 pm

Spot on spaceboy, she’s been conned. Time to move on, this guys going to keep it up for as long as it works for HIM.

avatar TheGirl March 31, 2011, 10:31 am

I knew a guy in college who was Mormon and wasn’t supposed to have sex before marriage, so he got the idea to propose to every girl he wanted to have sex with. He got engaged 3 or 4 times before he graduated. Never actually married any of them…

avatar EC was here March 31, 2011, 10:45 am

I knew someone like this too. Except he was in high school. He even went so far as to have a “pretend” wedding with this one girl. He must’ve really wanted to sleep with her, because he was only 17, but he had the fake wedding so they were married in the eyes of God. They exchanged vows with each other and after about a month of it, he was on to another girl.

avatar spaceboy761 March 31, 2011, 10:48 am

That sounds like something Charles Manson would do.

avatar TheGirl March 31, 2011, 10:52 am

WOW. Just WOW… You have to feel sorry for the girls that fall for that stuff. Although, in the case of the guy I knew, I kinda stopped feeling sorry for them by the 3rd girl. It was a really small college, so they HAD to have known about it…

avatar MissDre March 31, 2011, 11:02 am

Are you sure you’re not thinking of Will Smith when he had DJ Jazzy Jeff pretend to be the minister so he could “marry” that girl? LoL

avatar EC was here March 31, 2011, 11:22 am

Unfort, No. This was a guy that I grew up with from kindergarten all the way through high school. He was “Christian” and he had a string of girlfriends. He was a classic player. The thing was he wasn’t even that good looking. He just knew what girls wanted to hear, and after he figured out the way to get into a girls pants…it was all over. Of course, he didn’t get very many girls after this happened at the end of our Junior year. Even the guys he was friends with thought it was low!

avatar maynard March 31, 2011, 11:07 am

that is REALLY fucked up!

avatar JustMe March 31, 2011, 12:50 pm

This was what came to my mind as well, guy is a total player.

Please LW, don’t try to convince him of anything. Be glad you don’t have to deal with him anymore, he was a jerk, and you can do better.

avatar kerrycontrary March 31, 2011, 9:23 am

Well said, Wendy!! I love the honesty of your response because that is what this girl needs to hear. Her friends are probably agreeing with her delusional notions about the relationship (of an entire MONTH!!) just to make her feel better. This question just made me feel bad for the poor girl because she think she can still “work things out.” It takes two to tango and you can’t make someone be your boyfriend if he doesn’t want to be!

Dear Wendy Wendy March 31, 2011, 9:32 am

Yeah, I wonder if she’s even telling her friends that he’s “emotionally crippled,” which seems to be the new buzz phrase for whenever a woman is unceremoniously dumped and given a BS line. “He said he doesn’t have time for a girlfriend, so he must be emotionally crippled.” Or, my favorite: “He says he can’t date me because I devote too much time to my job. He must be emotionally crippled!” No, sweetie, he was just giving you a line to spare your feelings. He’s (probably) not emotionally crippled. He just didn’t want to date you anymore.

avatar ReginaRey March 31, 2011, 9:54 am

Can I throw it out there without sounding totally tired and outdated? – She should really read “He’s Just Not that Into You.” Your response, and your very last sentence here are great summaries of it…and I think the LW could use a book on the subject!

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 31, 2011, 10:07 am

I hate that book, but she definitely should read it!

avatar MissDre March 31, 2011, 10:15 am

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Harvey’s “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man”

avatar Stephanie March 31, 2011, 11:19 am

Nice to know! I’ve been thinking about reading that and now I’m definitely buying it this weekend :)

avatar ReginaRey March 31, 2011, 10:15 am

Yeah, it’s definitely over-referenced and kind of beaten to death…but it gives you a pretty good insight into the male mind in situations just like the LW’s. I learned some good points from it a few years back.

avatar Anne (I Go To 11) March 31, 2011, 9:31 am

Without reading the letter, or even the advice given, my first thought upon reading the headline was: “You don’t.” As Wendy said, LW, just cut your losses and MOA. He showed he wasn’t worth your time, and he did you a favor by ending it before you got too invested. It sucks that he dumped you out of nowhere–and the excuse he gave was pretty cowardly–but really, you’re better off. One day, you’ll meet a guy who’s worth your time, and you’ll look back on this and go, “Whew, I dodged a bullet after all!”

Side note: when I first saw the headline, I misread and thought it said “How do I get a commitment-phobe to be a communist?” LOL

avatar Emsz March 31, 2011, 12:37 pm

I thought the very same thing when I read the headline. I’m guessing we’re not the only ones who thought it. (The you don’t part, not the communist part.)

avatar Wendy March 31, 2011, 9:31 am

This is just the long drawn-out version of the guy who says he can “really see myself with you, I’m ready to settle down” at a party, hooks up with you that night, and then says at breakfast that it was a great night but it would be a mistake to try to turn it into something it wasn’t.

It hurts, but you can do better.

avatar sweetleaf March 31, 2011, 9:33 am

So, y’all only dated for a month and didn’t even see each other that much? Hell naw! Forget a buncha that!

avatar MissDre March 31, 2011, 9:56 am

As far as I know, guys aren’t into women who chase them. When you try so hard it just stinks of desperation. Chasing after a man who turned you down is really not worth your energy anyway. Go about your own business and enjoy life. When the right guy comes along, he’ll be the one pursuing you!

avatar princesspetticoat March 31, 2011, 12:21 pm

Oh exactly. I think pretty much ANY question that involves any form of “he broke up with me, how do I get him back”, is a MOA situation.

He broke up with you. Trying to get him back will only make you look desperate and make you feel worse about the break up.

Just let it go…

avatar spaceboy761 March 31, 2011, 10:08 am

You know what? I changed my mind. You should totally fake a pregnancy. Let’s REALLY see how well-prepared this smarmbag is for a political career.

Go all Rielle Hunter on his ass.

avatar MissDre March 31, 2011, 10:15 am

Bah hahaha!

avatar cdj0815 March 31, 2011, 10:21 am

LMAO. Spaceboy what am I going to do with you?

avatar spaceboy761 March 31, 2011, 10:33 am

Seriously. At the next public event for student government, you should show up with a throw pillow stuffed up your shirt and a water balloon stuffed down your jeans and be like, “Ah! My water just broke! I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!!!”. The more stupidly cartoonish, the better. You’ll be the campus hero for two years.

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 31, 2011, 10:15 am

I’m sorry, but 4 classes is not a lot. My college required 5/semester for your first 3 years and then 4 senior year (most people took an additional class or two and/or had internships/jobs senior year, though) and people still found plenty of time for extracurriculars and relationships. You make time if you want to.

The guy just doesn’t seem all that interested in dating you or the other two girls he apparently dated last semester. You only dated for a few weeks and rarely saw each other. Do yourself a favor and MOA.

avatar MissDre March 31, 2011, 10:17 am

Ha! Try having 11 courses in one semester! Intensive grad certificate program! I nearly died!

avatar Morgan March 31, 2011, 10:52 am

At certain schools with a quarter system, three is the norm, two is a light load, and four is the most you can take. And its really, really hard. The dude is taking a heavy courseload. I’m actually almost position this is from my school, which makes me really excited.

So yeah, four classes sounds absurd in another system, but up here in the wilderness, its bye bye social life. (Though you can totally have a relationship and take four classes, its just really hard. And LW, he didn’t think it was worth the effort. Sorry he’s a douche, move one.)

avatar Morgan March 31, 2011, 10:54 am

Whoa, holy typos. “Almost positive its my school.” “move on” and any other typos I missed. I got excited. Sorry

avatar anna728 March 31, 2011, 5:20 pm

Wait, how do we know he’s on quarters?

Kristina Kristina March 31, 2011, 7:56 pm

Yes, my school is also on the quarter system where 3 is the normal amount, and 4 would simple be way too much for me to handle, but some people do it successfully.

avatar TheGirl March 31, 2011, 10:26 am

I was going to say the same thing. I went to a school where four classes was the standard and each was worth 4 credits. It was a good amount of work, but I managed to take 5 and a half classes, participate in 3 theater productions as actor or tech each semester and STILL had time for a boyfriend. Its not that he can’t make time for her, its that he’s not INTERESTED in making time for her.

avatar Maracuya March 31, 2011, 10:28 am

Agreed with RE. 4 classes in the minimum if you want to be considered a full-time student. I took closer to 6-7 continuously for four years and I made time for other things.

It was a month. It hurts now, but in the grand scheme of things you’ll forget it. Move on and find someone who can’t get enough of you.

avatar Riley March 31, 2011, 12:39 pm

This is just a technicality, but if they are on quarter, not semester system, then four classes at once is actually a lot. Not that it matters either way, even if he was taking ten classes at once if he really wanted to see her he’d see her.

avatar Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich March 31, 2011, 2:34 pm

I have to agree with everyone mentioning a quarter system. Also, if any of these classes are lectures that also have a lab attached, the amount of work for the same or just slightly more credits can be a LOT more. I have one lab that add 8 hours of in-class lab time per week.

That’s all slightly irrelevant to what’s really going on here, which is that if someone break’s up with you and they are not trying to work it out with you after, there is no way to make it work. It’s a pretty good sign that you should MOA before you’ve broken up with someone if either of you are unwilling to resolve relationship issues.

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 31, 2011, 1:00 pm

Okay. Even on a quarte system, which is less common than a semester system, the point still stands- if you want to make time, you make time.

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 31, 2011, 3:17 pm

If she is on the quarter system, why did she say “last SEMESTER”?

avatar Maracuya March 31, 2011, 4:29 pm

Slam dunk. I can’t believe it took that long for me to realize it was in the letter all along. :)

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 31, 2011, 4:45 pm


Heather Heather March 31, 2011, 10:31 am

I read the letter, and before I even read Wendy’s advice I thought…MOA! Seriously. Like Wendy said, LW, if he wanted to be with you, he would make time. Yeah, it seems like a cop-out to say he doesn’t have enough time, but that doesn’t mean he’s lying. What he probably meant was he’s not into you enough to make the time. Do you really wanna spend time worrying about this guy..? I wouldn’t. Go find someone who actually wants to be with you instead of worrying about someone who pretty obviously doesn’t.

avatar sarita_f March 31, 2011, 10:33 am

Relationships by necessity are two-sided. Break-ups can be one-sided, and the other person doesn’t get a say. You have no leverage to negotiate here. Why would you even want to grovel for him? Save yourself the embarrassment. I’m already embarrassed for you.

avatar spaceboy761 March 31, 2011, 10:43 am

“I’m already embarrassed for you.”

Truthful ouch.

avatar sarolabelle March 31, 2011, 10:50 am

All this big long talk about this for a “not quite a month” fling? Looking forward to Wendy’s next article today. His Take!

avatar LTC039 March 31, 2011, 11:34 am

any article Wendy sees fit to publish deserves the same courtesy. I don’t see why this comment is even necessary.

avatar SGMcG March 31, 2011, 10:51 am

Wait…this guy claims he never had a girlfriend, yet you were able to find TWO other girls who also got the line of him lacking time to give a girl proper attention? This guy sounds like a player who operates as a serial monogamist. Why would you want to repeat your experience with people who have trust/commitment issues with someone who obviously demonstrates trust/commitment issues? He had his chance, so consider it wasted. I think you need to start dating outside of your usual type and find someone who will have no issue with you. MOA LW, MOA TODAY!

avatar princesspetticoat March 31, 2011, 12:27 pm

I noticed that too!! Honestly, the whole he’s never had a gf and he wants a real relationship, not a hookup stuff seemed like a line to me. Sounds like he just wants to sleep around and gains trust by making it seem like he’s inexperienced.

avatar Lindsay March 31, 2011, 12:37 pm

Sounds suspicious. But if I were in his place, I don’t know that I’d go around referring to one-month relationships as actual relationships. Even if you use the words “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” during it, it still seems too casual in retrospect. Still, his lines about never having a girlfriend and wanting a relationship don’t make sense.

avatar rainbow March 31, 2011, 1:49 pm

yeah, and even if she went around using those words, it doesn’t mean that he did too. i bet he didn’t when he wasn’t around her.

i don’t mean to be cruel to the LW, it just sounds like that was the case.

avatar cat-i-z March 31, 2011, 10:53 am

MOA MOA MOA!!! I know that’s sometimes easier said than done… but LW you’ll find someone who will make time for you! You’ll find someone who could not imagine being without you. You just have to be patient.

avatar Heather Lee March 31, 2011, 11:24 am

Man, haven’t we all been through this before?! “Surely he has another reason besides just not liking me”….nope, sometimes that’s it. And that’s all it needs to be. Make nothing more of it. Lessons are sometimes learned the hard way, but I always try to take something from my last relationship to build on. I hope she can do the same.

avatar LTC039 March 31, 2011, 11:25 am

Not to be too harsh but, LW, are you delusional??? The guy dumped you…after a month…because he was “too busy”…& had two other girls he told the same thing to. Why would you even consider wasting your time on this d-bag?? Maybe I read your letter incorrectly, or maybe you left some things out, but from what I got, MOA!! Don’t even bother. He’s made no efforts to reconcile with you or explain himself, or anything of the sort so why are you still harping on it? It was a one month relationship…I promise you, you will find someone worth your time. This is NOT the guy. Focus on that; on YOU, not on conforming yourself to HIS needs! PLEASE!!

avatar Jessica March 31, 2011, 11:39 am

MOA, LW! M!!! O!!! A!!!

Jess Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com March 31, 2011, 11:50 am

Yes. I’m sorry for LW and the painful bruising that happens in those early college days of dating. But you will get stronger!

We have some sappy movies and TV shows to blame for perpetuating the idea that when dumped, it’s your job to win the person back!

Let’s go on the record to say this is absolutely NOT how it works. And its for this reason that books like The Rules (fraught with problems though they may be) have been so successful. Our hearts don’t naturally lead us toward self-respecting behavior (they’d rather us camp out on the porch of unrequited love). We don’t learn it in school or from Hollywood stories. It comes from trial, error, and good advice columns. MOA and you will have the last laugh when you find a worth partner. Believe it!

avatar WatersEdge March 31, 2011, 11:55 am

I so agree! Self-respect gets lost in these scenarios, but this is when you really need it!

avatar JJ March 31, 2011, 11:52 am

LW-let’s be honest here. A month doesn’t make for a relationship so just MOA. He has made it pretty clear that he does not want to date you and he did the same thing to the other girls. He is not even worth your time.

Also, in my second to last semeter at Penn State, I also took 4 night classes while working full time. Yes, it is difficult but not impossible. I still managed to continue my relationship with my boyfriend. If he wanted to date you, he would make the time even if it was just to see you once or twice a week.