Why Do Men Say They Want a Relationship If They Don’t?

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Name: Gracie

Question: Dear Moxie,
I was wondering what you think about men who include the line “I’m looking for a serious relationship” in their profile. I met a guy on match.com last February and that is what he put in his profile. We’ve been dating for a year now, and the relationship doesn’t feel all that serious to me. He hasn’t told me he loves me, he hasn’t asked me if I want us to date exclusively, and doesn’t talk much about the future. My friends have joined us a few times for drinks, but I have yet to meet his friends. I met his parents once, but it was not intentional. They own his apartment building and were changing the locks on the door. I’m feeling ready to move on, and am contemplating how I can learn from my past mistakes. In the future, should I trust men who, right out of the gate, state that they are looking for a serious relationship? Thank you.
Age: 27

In general, I am leery of anyone who includes any kind of disclaimer in their profile.  That kind of explicit instruction or detail conveys frustration, mistrust, and – often times – manipulation. However, as we’ve heard over and over again here, most dating sites and apps are widely considered to be about hooking-up and little else. Hence why many men feel the need to express their intentions so clearly. They don’t want to be lumped into the group of people (and there are many) that use those platforms just for quick sex or a free meal.

The problem, which I have stated many times now, is that most disclaimers are disregarded. They do not serve as the filter people think they do. I mean, at this point, users are lucky if potential matches make it through their whole profile. If someone has selfish intentions, they’re not going to care that you’re looking for something serious. They’ll play along until they get what they want. The main reason these disclaimers are pointless is because – wait for it – the people using them are likely still going to go out with people that give off all the signs that they’re not looking for anything serious. You know, out of curiosity.

As for your situation, I’m sorry to say this but this guy hasn’t technically done anything wrong. He very well might be looking for a serious relationship, just not with you.  He’s passing the time, and frankly so are you. The signs are all there and appear to have existed for awhile, so why are you still with him? I assume you’re looking for a serious relationship, yet you’re settling for one that isn’t.

In the future, should I trust men who, right out of the gate, state that they are looking for a serious relationship?

I think, like everything else, this should be decided on a case by case basis. You have to understand that the good guys and the bad guys are going to say they’re looking for a serious relationship because they know that’s what women want to hear. That’s why it’s useless to ask a man this upfront or right away. Usually when men speak of commitment in this context they are speaking in the abstract. “I want a serious relationship…eventually.”

The only thing you can do when you see this sort of declaration in a profile is pay attention to the rest of the profile. Does he seem sincere? Do his other remarks or photos tell a different story? The only way to know if someone is on the up and up is to meet them. Trust me, you’ll know pretty quickly/within the first few dates what this guy can offer.

Thoughts?

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29 Responses to “Why Do Men Say They Want a Relationship If They Don’t?”

  1. Laura Says:

    A lot of times “looking for a serious relatonship” actually means “looking for a serious relationship… eventually!”, or the guy really thinks he’s looking for something serious and then he realizes he’s having too much fun keeping it casual and juggling several options that he doesn’t actually want to get off the ride. Or he’s well aware that he doesn’t want a serious commitment, but he knows that’s what women want to hear, so he plays along. You can never know.

    I agree that just saying it doesn’t mean much. And you shouldn’t automatically dismiss all the guys with such disclaimers, you just need to be aware that it might not actually be true. The only way is to pay attention to his actions and whether they indicate that he’s serious. It’s really not worth it to spend an entire year in a relationship that’s clearly not going anywhere just because of a sentence in his dating profile!

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  2. DrivingMeNutes Says:

    “Trust me, you’ll know pretty quickly/within the first few dates what this guy can offer.”

    I think, as this woman’s story shows, it takes much longer to know how serious someone is about you. There’s no lesson here because the OP sounds like she figured things out after about a year – which is not an unduly long amount of time to get to know someone. I don’t think there’s any shortcut. People who become “serious” in short periods of time (including before they meet) are rationalizing impulse control issues. Unless you’re nutes, “looking for a relationship” always means “eventually” and “with the right person.”

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    • UWSGal Says:

      It takes a long time to get to know someone, but it doesn’t take a year to see the absence of any positive dynamic, and react accordingly.

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    • Laura Says:

      There is a lesson here because she’s still focused on whether she should believe guys when they say that they’re serious instead of paying attention to how they act and whether they ARE serious, and reacting accordingly.
      Also, there’s a big difference between deciding someone is The One after the first date (which is obviously ridiculous) and spending a whole year before you start wondering if they’re really serious after all. Although, I doubt that’s what happened here. There must have been signs for a while that she chose to disregard because she was too hung up on the fact that he said he wanted something serious, so it must be true.

      That said, it doesn’t seem like he was stringing her along and making promises he knew he wouldn’t keep. It’s entirely possible that was the level of commitment he was able to provide at the time. But it’s also clear that it’s not what she wants and needs, so there’s no point in staying in that relationship any further.

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      • DrivingMeNutes Says:

        I chose my words carefully. A year is not some crazy amount of time for both parties to see how they feel (she’s not the only decisionmaker here). It’s about right – “four season” rule. Because she has concluded – based on his actions, not his words – that he is not committed, and she is ending things, I’d say she’s acting more sensibly than what some commenters here (not you) would advise.

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    • Parenting Says:

      It sounds like her expectation was that should he determine that he did not see her as “serious relatiinship” material that he would break things off because he (like her) is looking for one and that is what she would do.

      What she missed was the fact that while he was looking for a serious relationship he was completely fine with casual ones. A year is much too long for that realization, IMO. I dont think you would feel it ok to take a year to assess whether you are dating a dinner whore.2

      If you are dating a guy for 4-6 months and still arent sure where things stand, ask. Cut your loses sooner rather than later and move on.

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      • K Says:

        Exactly. I think someone mentioned seasons. I like to think of things quarterly. Rather than worrying where my relationship is going daily or weekly I see if it progresses every few months. At 3 months, does this still feel good, does it feel like it’s moving forward. At 6 months are things the same as 3 months. In any good relationship I have been in, it progresses not all the time, but every few months you see it. I don’t know why you would evaluate at a year, why you haven’t met someone’s friends. At 3 months, and certainly at 6 months this would be a red flag, unless they have no friends and I guess that would be it’s own issue. The lesson learned would be to figure things out along the way and talk to your guy/gal to make sure you are on the same page. Why not just suggest hey let’s invite your friends to my next party and see how that goes? If she never asked, there is probably a reason.

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      • DrivingMeNutes Says:

        “I dont think you would feel it ok to take a year to assess whether you are dating a dinner whore”

        This only highlights the issue. It takes no time at all to evaluate someone on superficial qualities. By date one or two you can tell if he is “jerk” or is unattractive, or she is dating for a free meal.

        But, when you are evaluating someone for less superficial qualities (eg long-term comparability), sorry, it takes longer. A genuinely serious person with substance takes a longer time to make serious decisions than a frivolous impulsive person. And, both sides need to know someone well enough to be able to rely on their commitment. This whole idea of extracting promises from people early on or before sex is just not realistic and won’t protect you. In general, the quicker a commitment is made, the less you can rely on it.

        I get it. Men take advantage of this quandry and will go along with things rather than rock the boat. I didn’t say you had to wait a year quietly with red flags waving in your face. I just said that four seasons is not an unreasonable amount of time if red flags are not waving. It used to be a rule of thumb at least where I come from.

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        • K Says:

          I actually agree with 4 seasons for a serious commitment. I had a friend get engaged after 6 months and her relationship was a hell because things came out she likely could have seen in a year. I just meant that you don’t need to wait to evaluate certain milestones until the end of year. Along the way, whether someone introduces you to their friends, parents, or makes things exclusive should be evaluated. I think in a lot less than a year she can figure things aren’t heading in a serious direction in her next relationship.

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          • Parenting Says:

            This!

            I agree, DMN, taking a year to decide if you are with the right person for a long term commitment (ie engagement, moving in together) is perfectly reasonable. But a long the way, there are smaller milestones that you should be hitting and be feeling a sense of the relationship progressing. If a relationship has no foreward momentum, that is a red flag you are sticking around for a near miraculous turnaround.

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  3. Mandy Says:

    “Serious relationship” can mean different things to different people. To this guy, there could be two options: one night stands/hookups or serious relationships. So clearly you’d fall into the “serious relationship” category. But to you maybe “serious relationship” means actively taking steps toward marriage and children.

    Do you love him? Do you want to meet his friends? Do you want to talk about the future? Do you want to have an exclusivity talk? With HIM? None of this is clear from the letter–do you actually want these things with him, or do you want these things with SOMEONE?

    If you want these things with him (or some guy in the future) why not bring it up? Either you’ll get the answers you want, or you won’t and you can move on without wasting another year if you are looking for marriage, etc. Obviously don’t bring these things up on the first or second date, but after a while of dating someone you shouldn’t be concerned about talking about important things.

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    • fuzzilla Says:

      So many issues in straight relationships are framed as the woman’s fault somehow – something she’s doing or not doing, some lack of hers in some area, etc. So much so that women themselves often believe this without even realizing it.

      I’ve had relationships like that, where we have a pleasant enough time but don’t really click. We never reach that, “He’s the person I most want to turn to” stage. They’re not really doing anything wrong, there’s just something missing. I can usually only stand that for about 2-3 months tops before I have the, “Is this going somewhere/I don’t think this is going anywhere” talk.

      It does sound like she’s fixin’ to dump him, anyway, and is just hoping to figure out the red flags quicker in the future.

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  4. UWSGal Says:

    The OP is 27 which is about the age when she, if she wants a serious relationship leading to marriage, needs to begin to apply a more stringent time table to her relationships. Honey, you’ve been dating for a year and you’re yet to meet his friends? You’re tolerating sleeping with this guy while not exclusive (ie he’s pursuing/having sex with other women)? Why???

    My guess is that this one is a goner, but next time around she needs to pay close attention and speak up if necessary. When a real relationship is developing, exclusivity should be established before sex (its simply gross to sleep with a guy who is also sleeping with other women at the same time.. ), introduction to friends should be accomplished by month 3, and a guy will typically say “i love you” within a year. If he doesn’t he never will – he’s being honest – cut him loose.

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    • Mandy Says:

      Wow, judgmental much? There’s no timeline that’s right for everyone and every relationship, and no time that expressed exclusivity is right for everyone. There’s a good chance he isn’t sleeping with anyone else even though they’ve never had “the talk”, and a good chance someone is sleeping with other people when they’ve been forced into the talk and just agreed to go along. There’s no one right answer, no one right way to get a committed relationship.

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      • UWSGal Says:

        May be not for everybody and not every relationship, but for a 27yo woman who desires a serious relationship leading to marriage in the next 2 years or so (so that she could have her own kids without being labeled a geriatric mother), there absolutely is one and that’s the one that i described. A guy who’s serious will offer exclusivity and will move fast, a guy who’s not will act wishy-washy. The name of the game is to weed the latter out and cut him off asap

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  5. Beta Male Says:

    This is just one man’s interpretation but when I see “looking for a serious relationship” in a profile I usually think this person is more into having a relationship than someone who wants to take the time to get to know me. That’s most likely not true for everyone who says that. The important thing is I want someone who likes me for me not because I fill the “boyfriend” role for the moment.

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    • sandra Says:

      That is one of silliest things I have ever heard. Sorry. So a woman should not really be looking for a serious relationship, only that she finds you so enthralling that she wants one with you.

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      • fuzzilla Says:

        There are some people who want to brag about having a boyfriend/girlfriend more than they care about choosing the right person and building something solid, so his comment makes sense to me. But I guess I don’t agree that saying “looking for a serious relationship” in a profile is a red flag that someone is that type of person.

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        • Beta Male Says:

          I didn’t say that my interpretation of “looking for a serious relationship” was rational. I only said that was how that statement came off to me with my individual particular baggage and preferences.

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    • Nia Says:

      I feel like there’s another category that you’re skimming over: women who don’t want to spell out “no hookups/FWB” because those key words send the wrong signals and get the wrong kind of attention but when they say “serious relationship” that’s what they mean. They will only date with the potential, at least, to get serious. So they won’t go on “curiosity” dates with unsuitable choices. They won’t “juggle” guys.
      I get what you’re saying and sometimes I feel like that too–guys who are like “I want to start my life with someone amazing!” or the like are a little…intense and off putting.
      But women don’t date in the same way that men do, at least after a certain age (in general!). It’s kind of…not fun for women to go on multiple first and second dates that go nowhere with Mr. Hookups, Mr. Looking for New Friends, Mr. Let’s See What Happens, and the like.
      So she’s saying her *intentions* on dating.
      Not that she has a relationship sized hole in her life and OMG I NEED A MAN. ANY MAN.
      Those women have a man. It’s the men their girlfriends are trying to get her to leave. :)

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  6. Rocky Says:

    I have a hard time seeing why people have a hard time telling the difference between “I’m looking for a serious relationship” and “I’m looking for a serious relationship with you.” These are clearly two different things. The first does not imply the second. What it does imply, to me, is that they’re interested in evaluating people as potential serious relationship partners and want a serious relationship when they find the right one. There are TONS of people in dating that DON’T share that sentiment. Why not just express it comfortably and confidently? It shouldn’t be a big deal. (as an aside, to me, exclusive isn’t synonymous with serious either. It’s step in the progression. You can certainly stay at exclusive forever and never become serious.)

    Coming back to the OP, I see three possibilities. One, the guy was fooling himself. He thought he was looking for a relationship but he’s really not. Two, he’s more serious than he lets on but the OP needs to talk to him. Third, because of his age, his definition of serious is much different than some. I can say for me, the idea of dating someone for a year without establishing exclusivity makes my head spin. But I’m 33.

    None of these imply that the OP should discount people in the future who say they are looking for a serious relationship. They do imply that in the future the OP should be a bit more diligent with information gathering.

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    • UWSGal Says:

      “I have a hard time seeing why people have a hard time telling the difference between “I’m looking for a serious relationship” and “I’m looking for a serious relationship with you.” ”

      That’s a common mistake that inexperienced women make.. because we, as women, would never date someone for a year if we weren’t serious about this person.. but men do it all the time, they will gladly date a woman and sleep with her for as long as she lets them even if they already know there’s no future there – just for guaranteed sex and what not. Women don’t tend to do that, as soon as we know there’s no future there, we’re gone.. This is why younger women fail to realize that men behave differently this way.. until they wise up! LOL

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  7. Dave Says:

    Let me just state something that tends to get overlooked. It is much easier for a guy to get consistent sex from a woman by alluding to being interested in a relationship, than to constantly be looking for one night stands. In more than a few cases, it’s hard to tell if this is what he has in mind. He probably hasn’t internalized it himself.

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  8. Timothy Horrigan Says:

    The simplest explanation is: that’s what he has to say to keep you interested in him. Or so he thinks.

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  9. Kyle Lewis Says:

    So am I the only on that wonders why OP believes it to be his responsibility to initiate the exclusivity conversation… Perhaps try and schedule an evening with his friends? Op says he hasn’t initiated these “long term discussions” but hasn’t said that he has refused to reciprocate… Try advocating for yourself and talk to him. You should know in a relative hurry if he’s just wasting time.

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