Q: I was casually dating this guy two years younger than me. I just graduated and he still has two more years left of school. I want a commitment but I’m afraid he’s going to chalk it up more to me graduating, and less to me really liking him! How should I go about asking him about some sort of commitment while making the reasoning behind it clear?
Dr. Fayr responds:
You didn’t state your ages, so I am going to presume since you are graduating college you are probably around age 21 or a bit older and he is 19 or a bit older. You have also stated that your dating relationship has been “casual” and since you are projecting what he may think your intentions are, I am going to presume that the maturity level of your communication with each other is limited; otherwise, he’d know you better as a woman than you think he does.
With those presumptions in place, let me ask you a question: At your young age, knowing that in a few short years you will mature to be a different woman than who you are today, and since you are about to go out into the world and (hopefully) start a career, maybe move to a new town, make new friends, explore new horizons–why would you want to be tied down in a commitment at this time? I ask this because in your question, you state you “really like” this guy, but he still has two years left in school and my thought is that as you get out into the real world, you will outgrow him quickly. Since you are not “in love” with him and didn’t say that you can see a lifetime with him, a fire in the hearth and children at your feet, why would you want to tie yourself down?
The two of you are going to be living in two different and separate worlds. You are about to go out and navigate the waters of real life and he is going to remain ensconced in the protective womb of the school campus. Unless you and he have already established a strong relationship beyond casual, I am not so sure this will pan out over the long term.
Now, having given you the disclaimer and another perspective, if you want to go ahead and ask for a commitment, then I’d just keep your communication with him simple, direct and honest. The truth is always a good thing, especially when said kindly. So you may want to consider a quiet evening with just the two of you when you can say something like,”You know, I am getting ready to graduate soon and I realize I’ll be out in the world and you will still be here at school, but I really want to let you know I really like you and would like to continue seeing each other on a committed basis and see where it goes. What are your thoughts on that?” This opens up a dialog without pressuring him with an ultimatum and puts the ball in his court. This way, you can gauge what he says and see if you and he are on the same page and take your next cue of what to say from there. If he is less than enthusiastic, he may come back with,”Yeah, yeah. Sure. I like you too. Yeah. Let’s keep seeing each other.” This is not the romantic, definitive response you want from a man that you want to have a commitment with.
So, you may want to follow up with,”How would you feel about making this between us an exclusive thing where we don’t see other people?” Well, there you have it. You have to take the risk and put it out there, otherwise a guy will not get it. Men are not that great with subtlety, so I find the more direct and specific we are, the better they understand us. Here you have asked him how he feels about making a commitment to you. Again, gauge his words and his level of enthusiasm when he responds. Be aware that he may not want to hurt your feelings and may come back with a “Sure. Whatever,” type response. Don’t interpret this as a commitment. Again, this is not what you want. It tells you that you have thought far more about having a commitment with him than he has with you. What you are looking for is something along the lines of,”You know, I have been thinking about how much I’ll really miss you when you graduate. I didn’t feel right about tying you down to a relationship, but now that you have brought it up and are open to it, I say let’s go for it!” Let’s be honest…isn’t that what you’d rather hear?
If his response is less than enthusiastic, don’t push for a commitment. He is very young and still in the throes of the excitement of being away from parental control and enjoying the college experience. This is a time for natural exploration, experimentation and finding out who he is. He may not want to be committed at this time and that is okay. Also, keep in mind that as a young man, he is spreading his wings, sowing his oats and developing his separate self as a man. Heck, his brain isn’t even fully developed yet and won’t be until he is in his mid 20s. If you want to continue seeing each other, then do so without an exclusive commitment; but I encourage you to explore your options out in the “real world” with other men who may be a better fit for you on many levels.
It is natural for us when we are going from one world situation into another to want to hold on to something as an anchor so we feel more secure. Wanting a relationship commitment with a guy with whom you “really like” but don’t “really love” and with whom you have had a “casual relationship” as opposed to a “deep and meaningful” one may say more about your fear about moving forward into the future than it does about really wanting to be in a committed relationship. What you may be seeking, either through him or elsewhere, is really a guarantee…an anchor…a security blanket against an unknown future. It is certainly something worth thinking about.