There’s a wide gap between wanting to commit to a partner and being able to handle it. That situation is hell. You’re pouring all of your feelings into a guy but he’s not ready. The problem is that he won’t admit it, so he strings you along, running hot and then cold. Don’t put up with that tiresome BS. Ignore his repeated insistence that he wants to be in a relationship with you and pay attention to all of the behaviors that prove he can’t handle an adult partnership instead. It will save you so much heartbreak and wasted time.

If he’s still entangled in a previous relationship, he doesn’t need a new one.

That goes without saying, right? The only exception, really, is if you’re dating a guy who’s legitimately separated from his spouse and simply waiting for the divorce to go through, as long as there’s zero chance of reconciliation. Otherwise, stay away from every dude who tries to tell you that he’s in the process of breaking up, and call out any “it’s complicated” BS for what it is. He can’t handle a relationship with you if he’s even remotely involved with another person.

His response to any attempt at meaningful dialogue is some variation of “I’m fine.”

He’s passive-aggressive and his answers are shallow. The only time he has a meaningful conversation about his feelings is when he initiates it. Not only is he not interested if you bring up the topic, but he actively shuts down and refuses to engage.

His feelings are fickle and he keeps waffling about what he wants to do.

His signals are so mixed that Chex asked him for his recipe. It’s a salty blend with just enough sugar to tickle your sweet tooth. One day, he waxes romantic, brave, and courageous, as if he’s an intrepid voyager setting out on an adventure with an uncharted course. By the next week, the salty bastard’s running cold again, tentative and risk-averse.

There’s no consistency in your budding relationship—or in him.

Some days, he’s everything he every promised to be, but it never lasts. It gets to the point where you can count how many days in a row you’ve gotten along, but you can’t keep track of the arguments, sullen silences, and ambivalence.

He hesitates before every new commitment or decision.

No matter how much he says he wants to, he just can’t take the plunge. Becoming exclusive, calling himself your boyfriend, moving in, getting engaged—he drags his feet with every natural progression of the relationship, which all but proves that it doesn’t feel natural to him.

He wants a girlfriend more than he wants you, specifically.

The boy’s in love with being in love. He’s all about having a girlfriend—in theory. He digs the idea of a girlfriend, any girlfriend, but the reality of the situation will never fit into the idyllic version he’s built up in his mind. Although telling everyone he’s in a relationship is his very favorite thing, he’s not crazy about actually maintaining it.

His family situation is rocky or nonexistent.

By itself, this isn’t an indictment. Plenty of people have issues with their families. When you’re dealing with a guy who wants a relationship but can’t handle it, however, the way he gets along with his relatives says volumes. Fractured familial bonds can affect every connection he tries to form with anyone.

All of his relationships have been short.

Past a certain age, everyone has their fair share of relationships—short, long, and in between. A man who’s had nothing but short relationships probably has commitment issues coming out of every orifice. You have to ask yourself why he’s never been with anyone long-term and what that says about his behavior as a partner.

The guy has no friends to speak of—except for you and yours.

A lack of friends suggests that he has trouble creating and nurturing any relationships. Platonic, familial, romantic—he’s got no one except you, your friends, and your family. What’s yours is his, at least until he decides to show off his indifference again.

He’d rather be by himself than with you.

Funny how that works, right? No matter how often he insists that he’s 100 percent ready to commit to you, he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with you. Given a choice between spending an evening with you or hanging out by himself, he picks himself more and more often. See? That’s because he likes the idea of a girlfriend more than he enjoys participating in his own relationship.

You have no clue what he’s thinking.

Even though he wants to be official, you have no clue what his future looks like, or if you’re even in it. There’s no way you can know what’s on his mind because he never opens up to you. His conversations lack depth, his revelations are shallow, and if you stop to think about it, you’ll probably realize that you know next to nothing about who he is and what he wants.

He breaks his word more often than he keeps it.

No wonder he has such a problem with commitment. He can’t actually commit to doing much of anything. He says he will. He’ll meet you and your parents for dinner, he’ll take out the trash, he’ll stop cutting off contact when he’s mad, he’ll book a getaway for the two of you—but he never cares enough to remember his promises.

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