Ladies: If there's ever been anything about men you've wanted to know but were afraid to ask, or wanted a male viewpoint on a certain relationship niggle you're going through, drop an email to us at todger dot talk at googlemail dot com. Every week, we shall pick one out and answer it to the best of our capabilities.
This week's question...
Potential Barren Old Spinster of The Parish writes: Following on from an earlier post on Todger Talk, which touched on the subject of the 'Commitment Conversation', I would like to understand a man's view on the subject. I am currently in a relationship of 3 years and everything has been going swimmingly, subject to the usual ups & downs, and we have been living together for over a year. I have spoken vaguely with him about getting married & having kids but have recently brought up the subject again, with a more serious tone and am not very encouraged by the response, or lack thereof.
I want kids very much; it is non-negotiable for me but I do not want to have kids outside of wedlock (old-fashioned I know). Therefore, without these 2 things I cannot see a future in the relationship, no matter how good it is. He says that these things will just evolve naturally as the relationship progresses, but it's been 3 years already – how much longer are you supposed to wait? Also, how does it evolve if it is not spoken about? I also have to consider the fact that I am pushing 30 and don't have the luxury of time on my side with the baby issue. I know this is so not attractive, but what can you do?
He is 16 years older than me, already has 1 much-loved child and has had 2 broken engagements in his past, 1 of them due to the fact that his fiancée cheated on him. He rarely mentions it, but I think he was probably badly burned from his past relationship(s), which is what I feel to be the real issue, and while I can understand this it's hardly fair to tar me with the same brush. He's not going to say he will but he also isn't prepared to say he won't. I'm not going to be issuing any ultimatums, neither will I be 'forgetting' my pill as it's just not my style, but where do I go from here?
I would love to know why men react in this way when commitment is brought up and how / when they would like to approach the subject. Please don't all yell "NEVER NEVER NEVER" at once.
Sam says: OK, there are a couple of issues here, one about men generally and another about your guy specifically.
Let's talk about men in general first. Generally men will cruise along with whatever is going along, and if it is good, we are happy with the status quo. One client of mine was rather mystified when is partner of 7 years was getting miffed that he hadn't proposed yet. We figure if we can be in a relationship without all that marriage malarkey, why do anything to change it?
Secondly, let's talk about him. Humans are fundamentally simple creatures; we move towards pleasure and away from pain. When there are large amounts of pain involved, our brain massively imprints on the events and things happening and goes to pretty much any lengths to avoid them in the future. This can have some unfortunate consequences - e.g., your man’s brain has ‘Engagement = Massive Pain and Suffering” branded into his memory. Any time engagement comes up - even it is to a lovely girl like you - his brain goes "PAIN, PAIN, STAY AWAY, STAY AWAY'. A completely irrational (yet quite powerful) knee-jerk reaction.
So from his brain’s point of view, he's getting everything that he wants; he's got kids, a nice relationship and is managing to avoid something bad. Why risk all this niceness for potential pain?
The solution? Make it clear that if he doesn't propose, there lies the way of MASSIVE PAIN - i.e. you will leave him. But beware - people don't like moving towards pain, so expect some serious resistance from him; you are trapping him between a rock and a hard place. I know you don't like ultimatums, but it won't happen unless you take a stand. I would also advise that you start seriously thinking about your Plan B.
‘Mr Sex’ says: Well first off, you shouldn’t feel at all shitty about knowing what you want out of a relationship; you should be congratulated.
Let’s address his previous relationship, because I’ve been through something similar myself. Yes, him being shat on by an ex is going to impact upon every relationship, and it takes a long time to completely trust someone again, if ever. Not because he’s that ‘all women are deceitful slappers’ one – it’s actually because, in the deepest recesses of his brain, there’s a little nodule that keeps saying ‘She shat on you because you weren’t good enough – and if you weren’t good enough for her, after all the effort you put in, how the fuck do you expect to hang on to anyone else?’
So yeah, all the relationships he has after that is going to have to measure up to the colossal highs and gargantuan lows of his first proper one. And this isn’t a male-specific problem, either; when anyone gets shat on, it takes a lot of wiping from the next person (and possibly the next, the fifth, or up to and maybe even beyond the twentieth one) to get rid of it.
But having said that, that’s no excuse for him to expect you to hang around like a big sucky mare and deal with it. Truth is, your modern male can be an extraordinary ditherer when it comes to big decisions like marriage, mainly because they want avoid the risk of their partners saying no, and basically putting the tin lid on any chance of a proper, lifelong relationship. Certain partners don’t help, either, as they can send their chaps conflicting messages. I had an ex who would bang on for ages that she didn’t want to get married and be treated like chattel, and then when we were in bed later would take my signet ring off my finger and go to sleep with it on her wedding finger.
The best thing you can do is flat-out tell him that you want to spend the rest of your life with him, and you want to get married and have kids. Actually, fuck it – why don’t you propose to him? He has the right to say no, but you have the right to piss off and get what you want elsewhere.
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