Dear Thelma: He doesn't want to commit to a relationship, and I feel unfulfilled

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Dear Thelma,

I'm a woman in my 30s, divorced, and a single mum. I met a guy in his 40s through a dating app and we've been in a companionship for about five or six years.

He made it clear that he has no intention to get married. But the reason I stayed was because he was good to me and we had chemistry together; even my kid liked him.

We date like normal couples but we were never in a committed relationship since the beginning. His reason is he has financial commitments.

I've also considered leaving this relationship as it seems like he will never commit even as a boyfriend, much less marriage.

We do not live together but stay with our own respective families.

Some people have told me that if I'm happy now, marriage doesn't have to be the ultimate goal, which I also understand.

But I'm having doubts if it is right to continue for the long term – it's bothering me.

I believe he is not dating others as he allows me to check his phone and shares with me what he does and we text each other daily.

We live in the same state, and it's less than an hour's drive away from each other but we only meet about two or three times a week or when we have the time.

I need advice on whether I should continue with this, if his behaviour is a red flag, or if I should leave and find someone else.

I do think he has commitment issues and also he's not in his best situation to want to commit now.


He was honest from the start that he likes you but that he will not marry. Although you have been together for years now, you're unfulfilled.

I don't see a red flag on his part. He is open and honest about his needs. It's up to you whether you want this or not.

To answer your questions, I think we should focus on your needs and thoughts.

Reading between the lines, you liked him very much right from the start. But at some point, you dreamed he would change his mind.

If you started off invested in the deal, companionship, but your feelings changed, there's no problem. Needs change over time.

But if you went into this not listening to his clear statement of intent, that's different because you have devoted years to a person whose needs don't match yours.

I think you see dating as a first step towards commitment and finally marriage. That is one kind of relationship but there are all kinds of people in the world and many different relationship styles.

So it's perfectly possible to meet a person you like but who wants different things from life. For happiness, it's best to be with a partner who shares your values.

I can think of all kinds of reasons you might have shied away from the issue, from being afraid that your choices are limited, that it's a loyalty test like in old-fashioned dramas, being overwhelmed and not thinking much, and more.

As for the next step, it should be a practical one. You find this companionship unfulfilling. I would have an open conversation about your needs and what the future might bring.

He's been straight with you, so he should be straight now too. Also, although he began by specifying no commitment at all, it looks as though he accepted your need for exclusiveness, although without the label.

The two of you are close and care for each other. Therefore, talk with an open heart and explore the options.

It's not just stay or split. Your choices include but aren't limited to upgrading your companionship to an exclusive arrangement, spending more time together to see where it takes you, taking a short break, and so on.

But before you do this, I do spot a red flag. I'm talking about your going through his phone.

For people in a committed relationship where one has cheated, there can be some time-limited checking as part of re-establishing trust.

But that's not where you are. The man is up front that he's not into commitment. You agreed to the companionship terms. Under these circumstances, policing his phone is inappropriate. It's disrespectful.

Maybe your ex was a cheat and you have some legacy issues? You're also a single mum and that is a very tough gig.

Delve into this, read up on trust, respect, and the right to privacy in relationships. Whatever is going on, you can make effective change. But do be kind to yourself. We all fall into habits that we later regret. Guilt over these little things is a waste of time. Just make a change.

There's quite a lot going on here, and so it may be useful for you to have a long chat with sensible friends. Alternatively, this is exactly what therapy is for. Consider scheduling two or three sessions to discuss this in-depth so you understand yourself a bit better.

Whatever you do, know that I'm thinking of you and I wish you much happiness.

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