Just a little bit of empathy can go a long, long way ...
Men and women are different in many ways — biological, mental, emotional and social.
The difference with the importance of commitment in intimate relationship has much to do with social programing and conditioning.
According to Stanley J. Leffew, men's identity is tied more to their vocation and objects than their relationships. Men care more about being turned on, i.e. making it more about the urge, than tuning in (merge) toward the relationship. Men seek relations, more than relationship.
In my own conversations and work with men, I have often heard men say: "I'm looking for the right woman, and if I commit to the woman I'm currently with, I might miss out on finding the 'right' woman."
This belief can be true for both men and women, yet more so for men.
Commitment means showing loyalty or pledge to someone. It also entails responsibility and obligations. Most women have no difficulty committing to a relationship, but men have opposite feelings about commitment.
The following are four reasons many men struggle with, and shy away from relationship commitment.
1. They are afraid that if they commit they will lose their sense of freedom and sense of self.
Many men feel and believe, that if they commit to a relationship they will risk losing the ability to be their own person. They see commitment as a sacrifice that carries too high of a price.
It is helpful to understand that the "freedom" many men say they need may actually be fear and insecurity disguised as freedom.
2. They are afraid of added responsibilities.
Committing to a woman can mean many things for a man, and it is common for men to perceive a relationship as synonymous to added responsibilities.
Men often feel flooded and overwhelmed by the obligations put upon them in relationship — the biggest one being the amount of time he needs to spend with you based on your desire to make the relationship thrive. His understanding and ideas of what makes a healthy and thriving relationship, likely are not the same as yours.
In general, studies show that women mature at a faster rate than men, which means you are a little ahead on the maturing curve than he likely is, so you will have different needs and desires than he does, especially in the areas of love, freedom, commitment, and family. Your maturity and readiness for a committed relationship are likely not on the same readiness and time-frame scale as those of the man in your life.
He sees all this as part of the added responsibility and obligations, i.e. added pressure and restraint = less freedom.
3. They are prideful loners by nature.
As girls grow to be women, they are encouraged to connect, and they understand the value and healthiness of connection and closeness.
As boys grow to be men, they are conditioned to be strong and tough — to disconnect from the feelings, especially their emotions. Growing up, they hear and learn things like, "Don't be a sissy," "Suck it up," and "Boys don't cry." And they learn to go it alone. So their need for a sense of connection, especially intimate connection, is only superficially met, at best.
Commitment for a man means therefore means, "I become vulnerable. You will discover my insecurities if I express true intimacy, and I will become more vulnerable when I think more with my heart, not just my head and penis."
Ladies, commitment brings up insecurities in a man that he perceives as making him weak, and that creates much inner discomfort.
4. They feel a need to please.
As boys become men, they learn to please women — starting early on with their mothers, grandma, and other important female authority figures.
When a man perceives he's not pleasing the women in his life, he feels a need to hide — to protect and defend himself from the sense of failure. He can become angry and/or aggressive as a way to protect his fragile self.
Often a man in this situation becomes passive and withdrawn — by going into his "man cave," hanging out with his friends, etc. If he feels he can never do things right i.e. "please you," he will be consumed with fear and insecurity and likely won't commit in the relationship for fear he will do things wrong in your eyes.
His lack of commitment, becomes his safety zone, sense of security ... his sense of freedom.
When a man can overcome these barriers, he can love more fearlessly, freely and openly.
When he confronts his fears and insecurities about commitment and works through the barriers he's built against love, he offers himself the opportunity to discover himself more fully.
If he neglects to confront this within himself, he will neglect the joy of being in a loving relationship with a partner. He will be alone and superficial for life.
This is the choice and outcome of fear, not love.
David Schroeder, LMSW, CPC from Grand Rapids, MI., is a licensed social worker, certified life coach, and author of "Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey. His practice, Transition Pathways helps people find healthy pathways to love, greater awareness and higher potential. Visit his website: transitionpathways.com.