It’s wedding season, and plus ones everywhere are looking at their dates and wondering, “Where is this going?”
What I gather from my female friends is that the question of men and commitment is something that they want answers to, sooner rather than later. Men, on the other hand, well, we tend to be a little bit more comfortable remaining in the dark on this issue.
Dr. Jeremy Nicholson tells Psychology Today that commitment has become a bigger issue in our modern culture for both men and women. Men, he says, are being told that careers, friends-with-benefits relationships, the hook-up culture, pornography, and even video games are ways to satisfy sexual and emotion desires in lieu of “higher costs” of long-term relationships.
But, putting hookup culture and its implications aside, most men also just simply have difficulty expressing our feelings, specifically how we feel about a relationship and where our commitment level is.
To help you out, here are four questions to help gauge your man’s commitment level during each stage in your relationship. Keep in mind, this isn’t a magic quiz. Answering these questions satisfactorily will not make commitment all of a sudden easy and worry-free. But these questions can start the conversation and offer some significant clues as to how committed he really is or wants to be.
Things are just getting started: What’s his number one priority?
Priorities are a great place to start, especially if it is earlier on in the relationship, because frankly a lot of us guys don’t have our priorities in line yet. Some guys are fresh out of college; others are heavily invested in their careers, meaning that their mind is not necessarily on the romance and the future. So if you’re ready for commitment and are hoping to move toward marriage soon but he’s not, well it’s better to know that now.
Try asking him something like: “What would you say is your most important goal in life at this point?”
Maybe you can find a better way to phrase it so it doesn’t sound like a job interview, but you get the gist. If his top priority is getting ahead at work or "just having a good time" while things like having a family, relationships, and marriage are a lot lower on his list, then that definitely merits a red flag.
If, however, he says that friends, family, and relationships are a top priority for him, then great! But don’t let him stop there. Ask a good follow-up question like “why are these relationships important to you?” Chances are, a guy who values the relationships of his family and friends, might just also be on the lookout for another relationship (i.e., his future wife-to-be).
It’s official (or close): Does he have a five-year plan?
As a self-professed planner, avid list maker, and daily “to-do” kind of guy, this is my personal favorite question to be asked: “If you could plan out the next five years of your life, what would they look like?”
Simple and to the point. Personally, if I was in a committed relationship, I would jump at the opportunity to share my dreams with a special someone. Finish grad school, get married, family, go back to Italy, finish my book—all part of my five-year plan, at least I hope so (just trying to figure out the difficult finding-the-right-woman part).
But if you and your guy have been dating for a while and his five-year plan in noticeably void of things that relate to you or even a hypothetical you, that could be a warning sign. Best to follow up with, “Where do you think I will be in five years?” just to be safe. If your commitment levels don’t match up and you don’t think they will anytime soon, then it might be time for a tougher conversation.
You are best friends: How is he dealing with baggage from his past?
For some men, a fear of commitment can be rooted in a past broken heart or an unstable family situation. Ask him about how he feels his past influences your future. It will give him the opportunity to open up about some of the more difficult aspects of his life with you. Note: This type of question is best for couples who know each other pretty well—not one to throw out on a first or second date (unless, of course, you are JoJo on The Bachelorette).
Perhaps his parents were divorced and that makes him worry that he’ll be the same way. Maybe he thought he would marry his last girlfriend, and then she dumped him. In these cases, questions like “Is there anything that you feel is holding you back?” or “Do you still think about said relationship and how this affects you?” are good ones to ask.
Use your best judgement here, but remember we all carry some baggage into our relationships. For some, it’s a a small carry-on. For others, it may be something that he has to check. Either way, give him the opportunity to share if and why he seems to struggle with commitment.
Things are getting serious: Is he in or out?
If the two of you have been in this relationship for a while (say six to twelve months), then I think you are definitely within your reason to ask a more direct commitment-related question.
“What do you want out of this relationship?” or “Where do you see this going?” are two good possibilities.
Honestly, sometimes we just need to be upfront and communicate with each other regarding our expectations. Is it marriage in a year? Marriage in two years? How long do we date before it’s time to go our separate ways?
There really is no way to dodge this question. If he says that he really hasn’t thought about the future, well then your answer is right there. If he has thought about it though, then this question gives him permission to be vulnerable and talk about where he sees the relationship going.
Maybe your guy has great answers to all these questions. Hopefully they allay any commitment concerns that have popped up in your mind. If so, then great, this last question will be a fun one.
“So it sounds like you really want to marry me?”
I know, a crazy bold question to ask. Maybe you’re thinking that this question is too brazen or that you might not feel comfortable throwing it out there. And perhaps you’re right, but I see two options: Either he says, “I don’t think I’m quite ready for marriage,” and you have a better sense of his commitment level, or better yet he says, “Do I want to marry you? You bet I do!”
Moving toward marriage is a big step, and learning to gauge a guy’s commitment level along the way can be a tough task, too (Sorry!). But, if you’re ready for the answers, these questions can be a helpful guide.
Photo Credit: Jordan Voth