Hi Neely,

I read your dating advice blog religiously. I’ve been dealing with a situation that I’m not quite sure how to handle, and recently thought of reaching out to you because I so value your realistic and balanced mindset/advice around dating and relationships.

Several months ago, I crossed paths with a guy who I share a lot of mutual friends with. We had actually met about 3 years ago, and I remember having a crush on him right away—but we were both in relationships at the time. Anyway, when we ran into each other recently, I had just found out that he was now single. We ended up staying way past everyone else at the restaurant, closing down the bar, and he walked me home. Weeks later we reconnected at a party, and he kissed me, then ended up staying at my place. Since then, we’ve been on a handful of dates, and they’ve all been nothing short of magical, at the risk of sounding totally cheesy. Great conversation, tons of laughter, insane chemistry, lots of shared interests. As of now, we still haven’t slept together, because I made it clear early on that’s not something I do until I know where I stand with someone—the casual sex thing just doesn’t work for me. He was more than understanding.

Should I fall for his potential?

Should I fall for his potential?

Here’s the thing, though: The last relationship he was in lasted almost four years, and they recently broke up. He told me that he really enjoys my company, that he really likes me and would like to continue seeing me if I’m up for it. He stressed that I definitely shouldn’t do anything I don’t want to do sex-wise until I’m ready, and that he hasn’t been with anyone at all since his ex (I’m the only person he’s even been on dates with). But he also admitted that right now, he’s not feeling emotionally ready for a commitment. Of course everyone needs time after a breakup from such a serious relationship to sort things out, and in my mind it’s worth seeing it through. The only problem is I can feel myself falling for this person, and it’s scary to hang your hopes on someone eventually being ready to take the next step. So the question is, do I just be patient, continue getting to know this person and see how it all plays out? Or is it better to step away since we’re obviously in different places in terms of what we’re ready for? I haven’t felt this way about someone in a really, really long time, and it scares me…half the women in my life seem to think it’s worth the risk and the other half are telling me to walk away.

Sincerely,
Confused

Hi Confused,

This is a common dating dilemma, which is why I chose to write about your conundrum on my blog.

I appreciate this guy’s honesty. You told him what you are looking for, you set an important boundary for yourself regarding sex (let’s hope you hold tight to that boundary), and he gave you an honest answer, while also being respectful of your boundary. When you tell men what you’re feeling and ask questions in a mature way, most will be honest with you. Of course, you have to be prepared to deal with their answers, which is why often times women avoid even asking. It’s easier to pretend in your mind that their answer is the one you want to hear.

Ok, so he’s being honest with you about what he can give emotionally to you. The question I have for you is this: Are you willing to keep going with a guy who has outright told you he’s not ready for anything serious despite your own readiness? Don’t fool yourself by thinking: “If I just hang in there, he’ll come around.” Sure, it could happen, but why compromise what you’re looking for and what you want to feel for a person’s potential? Why put your life on hold for a possibility?

Paul Brunson, matchmaker, entrepreneur, and TV show host, and I talked about this very topic in our interview for my recent Spring Forward Into Love summit, in which 20 dating and relationship experts offered their advice on how to create a happy, healthy love life: “Don’t fall for someone’s potential; fall for what and who they are and what they have to offer you right now.”

A lot of us do this, though. Heck, that was my go-to pattern during my own single days. It’s really difficult to say goodbye to someone who you feel has all the other pieces (common interests, chemistry, etc.), because you think to yourself, “Well, it’s just this one thing, and he’ll get there eventually, especially if I stand by him.”

In my opinion, you’re sort of settling for crumbs in this scenario, settling for whatever this man can give you at this moment. You can’t change his emotional and mental mindset by continuing to see him; he has to get there on his own. And when he does, maybe he’ll come back to you. In the meantime, are you willing to put your life on hold for potential, for possibility?

Emotional availability is a HUGE part of a healthy, functioning relationship. Without it, you’ll become resentful and jaded. You need it and don’t kid yourself to think you can go without it for however long it takes him to heal from his last relationship.

I know you have strong feelings, but just because you feel strongly for him doesn’t mean it’s meant to be. In my past, I’ve had strong feelings for countless men, and yet I didn’t end up with them. Chemistry and shared interests are good to have in a relationship, but they are only half the equation. If the emotional availability and ability to commit parts are not there, then it’s not the best foundation on which to begin things.

I get that your feelings scare you, because it’s been a while since you’ve felt this way about a guy, but look at it another way: It should also make you feel alive and excited that you can feel this way again. And trust me, you will feel this way again about somebody else should this relationship not work out. Oh, how many times I thought the world would end (!) if it didn’t work out with a guy I was seeing. Lo and behold, we ended things, and I found someone knew to care about. I know that’s cold comfort right now, but it has certainly been my experience and the experience of many women I know. You could continue to go on dates with him (while you wait for him to get into a better place emotionally) and also continue seeing other people (be open with him about that), but, again, in my experience, dating others can be difficult to do when your heart is deeply tied to another.

I never like to tell people what to do when it comes to these types of decisions. My purpose as a coach is to help guide them to their own answers, because that’s a much more empowering way to live. I encourage you to dig deep and spend some time really thinking about what it is you want right now for your love life and if you are willing to compromise that for someone who’s not there yet.

Let me know what your inner voice tells you. She’s usually spot-on, if you have the courage to listen to her.

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