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Men and women today frequently find themselves languishing in a relationship status black hole. As far as I can tell, neither sex is a fan of this phase of courtship, often referred to as the "talking," "hanging out," or—if you are lucky to have such clarity—the "just dating" phase. You like him, he likes you, you text all the time, maybe you have even gone on a string of dates—but he won't commit. 

Or maybe it's just that you haven't even broached the subject. Maybe you are waiting for him to "take the lead" by letting you know he doesn't want to date anyone else. Whatever the case, we women often find ourselves wondering what might be standing in the way of our exclusivity being unambiguously legit. 

The term "commitment phobia" can cover a blanket of hangups and—let's face it—is also typically overused in an attempt to soothe our wounded pride. Sure, a guy could be total commitmentphobe, but it's more likely he is a guy who is proceeding with caution because he wants to be sure to get things right. 

At least, thats what I found when I asked a group of six men about the matter. 

Currently dating and over the hurdle or single and looking for something serious, these men tell us what's really behind a fear of commitment. 

Broken Hearts Club

It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that, among the six men I asked, the shadow of mistakes or wounds from past relationships was the number one reason they might avoid a committed relationship. 

"Past scars now scare me," says Kevin. "They make me want to hesitate, to second guess relationships." Kevin explains he is usually not the one to have issues with exclusive relationships, but that more recently he has become fearful of what to do differently in the future. "Am I doing something wrong?" Kevin now asks himself. In the face of a new relationship Kevin can't help but wonder, "Am I setting myself up for inevitable failure?" 

Isaac explains that he has had one too many experiences dating women who responded negatively when he suggested exclusivity, and it now makes him less inclined to be the first to suggest commitment. "I even had a woman call off a first date the day before because she was 'not ready for a relationship,'" Isaac explains. "At a certain point a guy gets gun shy." 

Dan also says that fear of rejection can make him hold off on getting more serious with a woman. "It's easier for me to start putting up the walls from the get-go than risk getting hurt later when I get too close," Dan explains. "The most gregarious guy in the room may also be the one trying to hide the most," he explains. "I want your attention, but only at what I want you to focus on." Dan's advice for women who want a man to commit? Give the man in your life some acceptance for who he is today, and walk with him as he becomes the man he ought to be for you.

Wild at Heart

Myth or not, a lot of men worry that a committed relationship will mean the end of his freedom. Perhaps past relationships have been unhealthy or maybe "The Old Ball and Chain" joke is more damaging to male/female relationships than we might have thought. 

"For years I was afraid to commit," explains Andrew. "I was always apprehensive because I did not want to give up my freedom. As cliché as that sounds, it was true. I wanted to be able to go out of town for a long weekend at the drop of a hat, and be able to live life without a plan." 

Tim says that for him, the biggest fear in a committed relationship is that he'll lose what he loves about his life. "A guy could be wondering 'If I commit, am I going to lose the ability to do x, y and z?'" Tim explains. "Which really means, 'Am I going to lose the ability to be myself?'" Whether or not you can watch Sunday football whenever you want is a fear that has a lot to do with a man's maturity level, explains Tim. But it is valid for a man to fear being changed, emasculated or dominated.

Andrew agrees that, in the end, fear of loosing his freedom was resolved by maturity and finally having met the right woman. "Until I was ready to start a life with someone, I was not willing to give those things up," explains Andrew. "I do miss the spontaneity my life use to have, but giving those things up are worth it knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with my favorite person."

Something About Mary

This is a difficult one to come to grips with, but sometimes—for one reason or other—the relationship is just not right. Maybe from your perspective everything is hunky-dory, but if your guy is dragging his feet, it may be that he is struggling with some aspect of the relationship, and that is totally valid. 

Isaac explains that sometimes it's the case that he really does like her, "but there's something about the relationship that makes [him] apprehensive." Isaac explains, "Maybe there's just a simple compatibility issue, or maybe it's something bigger." 

While Jake admits that he doesn't typically struggle with commitment, apprehension about compatibility could be a potential reason for delaying commitment. "Outside of the occasional date just to get to know someone, I have always dated with exclusivity in mind," Jake clarifies. "If I were to draw up a hypothetical though, the first thing I could see making me apprehensive is if I do not feel a connection emotionally and relationally (i.e. do our personalities mesh, does she seem to understand me and my passions in a way that others might now, do we actually enjoy being in each others company, etc.)." 

There are a lot of reasons a man might hesitate to commit, but they may not all be bad ones. If you are wondering what might be holding your man back, ask him. Ask him if there is anything that he feels is holding him back from moving the relationship forward and I guarantee your relationship won't feel so stuck.  

Photo Credit: Nirav Patel