For a lot of women, the dating process is a time to weed out the useless schmucks, the assholes, the cheaters, and the jerks. Once those are all eliminated from the competition, it’s time to marry the one who remains, right? Unfortunately, some men just won’t commit to marriage.
Not every woman is looking for marriage, but a lot of women do want a sign of commitment. There should be some deepening of the relationship – some indicator that the man is looking for a long-term, stable, monogamous relationship.
And there are a lot of different reasons why a man won’t commit. Understanding why he won’t commit is the first step to figuring out how to help him find happiness and satisfaction in a lifelong relationship. Some of the most common reasons a man avoids commitment include:
- He may be selfish.
- He may be indecisive.
- He may not view you as “marriage material”.
- He may have a fear of pain.
- He may have a fear of failure.
- He may have prior commitments.
Since you found your way here, you’re probably suspecting that your Mr. Right falls into the Selfish subtype. Let’s find out if you’re right.
Identifying the Selfish Man
Knowing is half the battle, so the first thing we must do is accurately identify the Selfish Man. The Selfish Man may display the following traits:
- An only child (or only son), or a youngest child
- May have any level of education and any occupation, but frequently fails to perform up to his full potential unless pushed or forced to someone else (usually a parent, teacher/professor, or mentor)
- When praised, tends to “puff up” with pride
- When criticized (even mildly), tends to argue aggressively, escalating the argument and using his emotional manipulation techniques. In healthier cases, he may crumple and resort to hermiting as a response to criticism. Does NOT take criticism well.
- Often has hobbies that are solitary in nature but not very physical (e.g., video games, reading, writing, playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing)
- May have an unusual and unpredictable sleeping schedule, napping during the day or staying awake at night
- May tend towards hypochondria, frequently complaining of non-specific health problems like, “My stomach hurts,” or, “I’m just really sore today”. This is frequently used to excuse him from things like work or tasks he doesn’t want to do.
- May have a chronic mental or physical health problem that the doctors haven’t been able to find or fix, or that he hasn’t been able to seek treatment for. Rather than being adequately treated, he may use this health issue as justification for accomodations from other people. For example, “I have anxiety, so I can’t do the grocery shopping. You’ll have to do it.” Or, “You know I have that hearing problem. I didn’t hear you when you asked me to do that.”
- Demonstrates incompetence when asked to complete basic tasks or when instructed to complete basic tasks. This is usually a form of deliberate incompetence. For example, after being instructed on how to load the dishwasher, he will load it wrong, then feign ignorance of the correct loading procedure. You’ll teach him again, and he’ll do it wrong again. This continues until you stop asking him to load the dishwasher.
- Often unwilling to attempt new things unless he’s reasonably certain that he’ll be able to master it quickly
- Has very few male friends that he’s not related to. May have some online friends. Any close friends outside the family are likely to be female.
- Likely to fit into the “artsy” archetype. May be a musician, artist, writer, or some other type of creative person.
The Selfish Man isn’t going to fit every single one of these criteria, but you should see some similarities.
Your Relationship with the Selfish Man
In the early days, your relationship was probably amazing! The sex was phenomenal, and the Selfish Man was intense. You fell in love with that intensity, because you were his Muse.
In those early days, when that New Relationship Energy (NRE) was high, he was obsessed with you. He told you the sweetest things. Whenever he was with you, whether for a conversation or sex, he focused every single bit of his attention on you. He made you feel like you were the most important thing in the world.
He does that. He has this ability to focus his attention on you and pull you into his world, and it feels like nothing else in the world exists. It’s like… like everything except you and him just fades away.
Even now, after months and years together, when you’re having sex, he can still pull you into that magical world. It’s all the other stuff that’s the problem – all those moments when you’re NOT having sex.
In the early days, he helped out around the house more. Or… did he? You find that you can’t even really remember. You think he did? Surely he did. I mean, you can clearly think of times that he helped clear the table or did his own laundry, so he must’ve helped out more. The memories of all the magic – all those magical late-night conversations and those early-morning snuggles and mid-day romps – all that kind of drowns out the boring bits.
You can’t spend all your days having sex. You need him to pitch in around here, to pay some bills and help with the chores. You need him to make a commitment, whether that means renewing the lease with you or getting married.
Sometimes he does those little domestic duties without being asked. You’ve learned by now to always praise him, and he puffs up like a little lion floofing his mane out. You can literally see him stand up taller like his neck grows whenever you give him praise.
Sometimes you have to get onto him for not doing what he’s supposed to do. Sometimes, he pouts. He’ll go hide in his office and play video games for the rest of the day and give you the silent treatment.
Sometimes, he gets mad that you’re calling him out. He tries to bring up all the stuff that he HAS done, as though that excuses all the stuff he DIDN’T do. Like, doing the laundry doesn’t suddenly make the dishes clean! But he turns it around, and he makes it sound like YOU’RE the one who’s being unreasonable, like YOU’RE asking too much of him. Either you apologize and beg his forgiveness, or (if it goes on too long), he storms out. He might go stay with his mom or stay at his brother’s house for a few nights. He won’t even return your text messages, either. Then, when he finally DOES come back, he’ll point to all your frantic texts and calls as “proof” that you’re “crazy”.
And, you guess, I mean… Seeing it all laid out like that… It DOES seem crazy, doesn’t it?
You apologize (of course), and you’re extra nice to try to make up for it. You make his favorite foods, take care of ALL of the chores, and bend over backwards to make nice.
But the next time you try to ask him, “Why can’t we get married?”, he pulls out those “crazy” text messages. He tells you that he has a lot of concerns about marrying someone who’s so “crazy”.
Maybe you understand. Maybe you apologize for asking, and seeing those messages again makes you redouble your efforts to please him.
Or maybe you remember the CONTEXT of those messages. Maybe you say, “I only lost my ish because you disappeared for four days and I had no idea if you were even alive or dead. Maybe if you didn’t keep jerking me around all the time, I wouldn’t be crazy!”
Take Option Two, and it’ll start another fight. Keep it up, and he’ll be gone again, and the cycle repeats itself.
And round and round it goes…
Emotional Manipulation Tactics of the Selfish Man
It is at this point that I need to diverge a bit from talking about identification and delve into some of the mechanisms that this character may use to manipulate his girlfriend. First, a couple of provisos:
- He may not always be emotionally manipulative, but if he is, these are the tactics he is most likely to use.
- He may not always be conscious of being emotionally manipulative. Some of these tactics are subconscious for him and he’s not aware of using them. You, however, should be able to identify them for your own safety and well-being.
- Emotional manipulation isn’t always a bad thing. We ALL use emotional manipulation sometimes. I’m using it right now. I’m a writer; that’s what we do. Emotional manipulation CAN BE a bad thing when:
- you’re not aware that you’re being manipulated,
- certain aggressive or abusive techniques are being used against you, and/or
- you’re being forced or coerced into something that goes against your own best interest.
This tactic is when the Selfish Man uses your emotional needs as a form of blackmail against you. There’s an implied threat (“Don’t bring up this topic,” or, “Don’t make me angry.”) and the punishment is that he’ll withhold some form of emotional support if you do what he doesn’t like. For example, he’ll withdraw love, affection, approval, or even contact. Because he knows what type of emotional support you most need, it’s easy for him to hit you where it hurts.
When you get angry with him, that’s when emotional barriers may pop up. These are active barriers, so they don’t just defend him. They actively repel you. These barriers block off whatever issues you may want to discuss, shifting the focus instead to your anger.
You try to talk to him about texting his ex-girlfriend (who’s still in love with him), but instead he becomes angry at you for being angry and suspicious of him. This is an example of an emotional barrier. Instead of dealing with the original issue (texting his ex-girlfriend), he’s forcing you to deal with HIS issue.
The tactic here is to blame the victim for all the harm they’ve endured. This one doesn’t crop up a lot with the Selfish Man, but it tends to arise near the end of these relationships. They may use it as a last-ditch effort to regain control of the situation. They’ll say something like, “Why are you mad? You knew who I was when we first started dating. I never lied to you. You chose this.” They’re trying to place the blame on you for their bad behavior.
This is a common tactic for the Selfish Man. He likes to invalidate your feelings. And because you’re trying to communicate using “I” statements and model healthy communication, he can get away with it. So you say, “I need more stability in our relationship,” and he replies with, “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”
You say, “I need you to take out the trash when it’s full,” and he’ll say, “I’m sorry that you’re frustrated, but have you considered taking out the trash when you notice it?”
Whatever you say, he verbally acknowledges it while also neatly dodging responsibility like he’s dodging bullets in the Matrix.
This one needs no further explanation. We all understand this one, and we’ve all seen it used. Selfish Men will use this one because it’s effective.
Here’s what this looks like:
You and your boyfriend have an argument. A few days later, his version of how the argument went down is totally different from how you remember it. You think that maybe you’re just remembering it differently. He insists that his version is the accurate one (his version also makes him look better, and it usually makes you look mentally unstable).
This continues to happen over time. It’s not just arguments, either. It’s little stuff. Like, he’ll say, “Honey, why didn’t you pick up the mail? Don’t you remember? I told you to pick up the mail yesterday, just before you left to walk the dog.” You don’t remember it, but he’s SO specific about it. Maybe you just forgot?
Over weeks and months, you just come to accept that your memory isn’t that great. So when your memory of events differs from his, you believe his. This is gaslighting. It’s a pattern of mental abuse that, over time, can make you doubt your own sanity.
This is often a part of gaslighting or other manipulation techniques, and a variation of it is often used by Selfish Men to avoid doing chores (Feigning Incompetence). If he’s called out on his bad behavior, he’ll pretend like he didn’t know, or that he didn’t know his actions were harmful.
Playing the Victim
He may have one this early on in your relationship when he talked to you about his previous relationships. He may have described his ex-girlfriends as “crazy”. He might have told you that his exes mistreated him, that they kicked him out of the house unexpectedly or flew into uncontrolled rages or were abusive in other ways.
Now that you’ve been around him, you may understand a bit more about how crazy-making this guy can be. But if we’re going to nail him down, we have to understand things from his perspective.
Why He Won’t Commit
The Selfish Man looks at things from his own perspective, and sometimes it’s difficult for him to see things from your point of view. So let’s look at things from HIS perspective.
The Selfish Man (now called TSM) has never truly faced any serious consequences from his actions. As a child, he probably had his mother to bail him out. He’s probably rather charming, too, so people are generally inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Sure, he’s had setbacks. He may have failed a class in school, or he may have had some bullies. He might have faced some obstacles in his life, but nothing that he couldn’t recover from in a reasonable amount of time without any serious, lasting consequences.
As a child, he charmed his mother and then charmed his teachers. As he grew up, he charmed the girls around him. Some of those girls grew into friends (and many of those were rejects from his dating pool, or ex-girlfriends), and some grew into lovers, but either way, most of the women in his life find it hard to tell him no. As a result, he doesn’t really know how to accept “No.”
For him, most problems can be smoothed over with a little communication and a whole lot of charm. But he’s used to papering over his problems rather than solving them.
Have you noticed this?
Have you noticed that when you start to get a little bit annoyed, he turns on the charm? A winning smile, a warm embrace, an affectionate kiss on the neck – he uses charm to distract you from minor concerns so you won’t demand change.
From his perspective, there’s nothing wrong with your relationship just the way that it is. After all, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He may even have some fears that “messing with” the relationship could make it worse.
He has built a relationship in which he has few actual responsibilities or obligations. Oh, he might have to help with a bill or take out the trash, but chances are that you’re doing most of the work.
Take a look at this list of relationship responsibilities. Ask yourself which ones you’re doing for him, which ones he’s doing for you, and which ones you’re doing for each other.
- Meeting the financial needs of the household
- Marketing: Shopping for groceries and other household goods
- Laundry and clothing care
- Meal planning, preparation, and cooking
- Vehicle maintenance and repair
- Household maintenance and repair (plumbing, handyman stuff, etc.)
- Landscaping and yardwork
- Providing emotional support
- Being sexually available to meet the other partner’s needs
- Providing physical touch to meet the other partner’s needs (cuddling, snuggling, etc.)
- Appointments and engagements: Managing the household’s calendar
- Socialization: Managing the household’s social calendar
- Providing intellectual feedback to meet the other partner’s needs
- Providing companionship to meet the other partner’s needs
- Tending to the physical security needs of the household (e.g., locking up before bed)
- IT: Managing the household’s network and computer needs
- Long-term planning for future household needs and wants
If you’re doing most of these (the ones that apply to your situation) and he’s not doing much, then it’s clear to see why he favors this particular arrangement.
The Danger of Comfort
Comfort, for TSM, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it does tend to keep him from running off. On the other hand, it prevents him from making changes.
When TSM is comfortable, he doesn’t move. He will seldom pick fights with you or start a disagreement, as long as all the comforts and privileges continue. He sees no reason to change, either to deepen the relationship or to end it.
When TSM is uncomfortable – if the privileges are interrupted, if you’re demanding a commitment, or if there’s any other unpleasantness – he will try to stop the discomfort (if it’s minor) or hide from it and wait for it all to blow over (if it’s bigger).
But unfortunately, TSM won’t make a commitment as long as he’s comfortable. He won’t move as long as he’s comfortable, so you’re going to have to induce some discomfort.
Locking Down the Selfish Man
TSM likes his comfort. Making him uncomfortable enough to move can cause him to go one of two directions. Either he’ll move to commitment, or he’ll move away and break up.
How TSM Reacts to Discomfort
TSM usually has a pattern when exposed to discomfort. He can escalate from one level to the next rapidly and even skip over a few levels, and not all TSMs will do each level, but take a look and see what looks accurate for your TSM:
- Distract with charm.
- Argue, shift blame, etc.
- Silent treatment & abandonment. Wait until this all blows over. Come back in a few days after everything has been forgotten.
- When she goes crazy during the abandonment phase, you can use this against her if she doesn’t forgive you when you come back.
The problem with this cycle is that the crazy-making bit during that abandonment phase gives him ammunition to use against you when he comes back. While he’s gone, you’re frantic with worry, so some of those calls and text messages can get out of hand. By the time he comes home, you feel shamed. You feel guilty for the way you acted while he was gone, and he knows that. So when he says, “Let’s just put this all behind us,” you’re only too happy to do that. By that point, you feel ashamed of your own behavior, so you’re willing to let his behavior slide. And if you don’t, he’s got plenty of ammo.
You already know how TSM is going to react, because he’s done it a hundred times already. But this time, you are NOT going to react with the “crazy” behavior during the abandonment phase. In fact, you won’t react AT ALL.
Without your reaction, you have no cause for shame when he returns. That means you won’t be swayed by his desire to “get back to normal” and “put this all behind us”. You won’t be willing to just let everything go and forget about your grievances.
It’s not easy, of course. You have to be able to refrain from calling or texting him until he comes back, until he does what you want him to do. And even when he does resume contact with you, you have to keep your communication “cool”. Stay calm, collected, and “chill”. Don’t give him your emotional reaction.
The silent treatment is a form of emotional manipulation. If you refuse to give him an emotional response, you win. Now YOU have the power.
Because TSM may react to discomfort by simply finding a new comfy spot, it may be safest to start withdrawing his comforts one at a time rather than all at once. Remember that list above when we talked about all the things YOU do versus all the things HE does? Everything YOU do is part of creating a more comfortable space for him, and those elements can be withdrawn.
Pick one small element that directly impacts him but doesn’t really impact you. For example, maybe you’re going to stop doing his laundry. Maybe you’ll continue cooking for the family but you’re going to make dishes that you know he doesn’t like. (I do not recommend withholding sex at this point.) Wait until he asks about it, then reply with, “I do _______ for my family. You want to be a boyfriend and a roommate, so I just figured you’d do your own ________.”
Here’s the key to this: Do it with a sincere and genuine smile. You’re not being snarky. You’re not being rude. You’re just saying, “This particular service is something I provide for family members. You have indicated that you want to remain a non-family member, so I’m respecting your wishes.”
This technique may cause confusion at first, especially if the withdrawal is something small. Once it becomes something noticeable, it’ll cause an argument. He’ll say, “You used to do _______. Why won’t you do it anymore?”
You say, “Honey (or whatever term of endearment you use), I have been so busy and stressed out lately. You know how we always used to argue all the time over commitment and stuff? I think that’s just because I was so tired and stressed. So I decided that I need to manage my workload better so I’m not so unpleasant. By reducing my workload, I won’t be so tired, and I think it’ll help reduce the amount of fighting we do.”
At this point, he will either accept this or he won’t. He may understand your perspective. He might say, “That makes sense. What can I do to help out more around the house?” (If he says that, you’ve definitely got a keeper!)
He might question it. He might say, “But what do you mean that you only do _______ for your family and I’m not family? I thought we were family.”
Here, you respond with, “Honey, you know that I would love to marry you some day. But you’re not ready for that; you’ve made that clear. And boyfriends aren’t ‘family.’ Fiances are ‘family.’ Husbands, of course, are ‘family.’ But, I mean, I have to set a boundary somewhere, you know?”
He might sulk or pout, in which case, see above for “How the TSM Reacts to Discomfort”. If he does this, stand your ground but remain calm and unbothered. Wait patiently until he comes around.
It is unlikely that you’ll get a proposal after one small withdrawal of comfort (but not unheard of). More than likely, he’ll adapt to the new division of labor.
If he adapted easily to the discomfort, wait about two weeks before repeating the process with another thing you do for him. If the discomfort caused a major row, you may want to wait a few months before repeating the process with something else.
By removing his comforts one step at a time, you’re gradually making him uncomfortable and pushing him to a commitment.
Will This Work?
If your man falls into the “Selfish Man” archetype, and if his reasons and motivations fit into this common mold, this strategy is likely to be effective. But the truth is that your situation may be unique, and there may be other factors at play. If you want a one-on-one psychic reading to look at your specific situation, you can book it here.
If you want to double-check the archetypes and see if he fits better elsewhere, head back over to the main page on men who won’t commit.
If you’d like to learn more about these non-commital men and what you can do about it, I’ve put together a free webinar to help you understand and capture these slippery fellows.