What it means when he says he’s not ready for a relationship

men and commitment

When he says he’s not ready for a relationship, the conversation often goes something like this:

I like you…I’m just not ready for a relationship right now.

You’re too good for me. You deserve better.

I can’t give you what you’re looking for right now.

I love hanging out with you but I’m just looking to have fun right now.

I really want to be in a relationship, I just can’t be in one right now.

Why don’t we see where things go and just have fun for now?

I’ve got a lot on my plate right now and don’t have time for a relationship.

Any of those lines sound familiar?

When you’re single one of the most frustrating things to figure out is whether a guy is ready for a relationship (with you). You want to know if he’s worth investing your time and effort yet you want to tread carefully because you don’t want to scare him away.

The ‘where is this going?’ talk can make or break the beginnings of a relationship and it leaves us with two options: assume all men are commitment phobes OR really take the time to listen and hear what they have to say so you can interpret what they actually mean.

There are many reasons why men say they’re not ready for a relationship.

1.They need more time to decide they want a relationship with you (but communicate it poorly)

Men and women have different timelines when it comes to commitment. Typically it takes longer for men to come around and decide that they only want to see that one person. And so when the ‘where is this going?’ talk happens way before he’s made a decision, he doesn’t have a straight answer for you. It’s not a yes or a no. He needs more time but may not realise he needs more time. When communicated poorly, it’s easy to interpret his lack of enthusiasm for fear of commitment.

What to do:

Timing is key. One of the most common questions I get asked is when in the early stages of dating should you bring up ‘the talk’. It’s different for every relationship as each has their own pace. Without giving a timeline, I think ‘the talk’ should be initiated once you feel he’s made a real effort in getting to know you i.e. he’s invested in spending time with you, he makes an effort to take you out, he respects your time and company.

If he says he doesn’t know…

When he says he’s not ready for a relationship, don’t dismiss it as rejection. He may not know what he wants. If he says he doesn’t know, be curious not defensive. Ask him why with genuine curiosity. Assure him that he doesn’t need to have all the answers but that you want to understand what’s on his mind.

2. They don’t feel needed

It may sound so simple but one of the reasons why men are hesitant to commit is that they’re not sure what they could bring to the relationship. Women are more independent than ever and it can be intimidating for a lot of men. I meet a lot of career orientated, single women and one thing they tell me over and over again is how men find them intimidating.

And so they contemplate – do they play dumb and submissive so that they can make their men feel good?

They answer is a BIG FAT no. You don’t have to change who you are. But you need to accept help and learn to receive. Accepting help doesn’t mean you need it, it says – I’m happy and ready to have you in my life. At the core, everyone just wants to feel needed and acknowledged.

3. They have an avoidant attachment style (but don’t know it)

The attachment theory originated from studies on how babies behaved when their parents left a room and then came back. But it was then later applied to relationships. The theory believes that there are three attachment styles in a relationship: secure, avoidant, anxious. If your guy shows any of the following, he is likely to be relationship avoidant:

  • gets annoyed or withdraws when you want to introduce him to your friends
  • freaks out when you leave something at his place
  • hints that you want to spend more time with him

What to do:

Give them as much space as possible, these guys have to realise they want a relationship on their own.

4. They want to date other women (a lot of them)

It’s a simple idea but there are stages in a man’s life where he doesn’t want to just date one woman, but many. Maybe he’s broken up with a long term girlfriend and wants to see what’s out there or maybe he’s been really stressed with work. If he has other priorities, it’s much easier to keep things casual.

5. They’re afraid they’ll lose their freedom (or that you’ll take it away)

When two becomes one, it’s easy to lose a little bit of yourself. Schedules and social circles merge and many men are afraid of losing the life they had before as a bachelor, a life he probably loved.

What to do:

Encourage your guy to have boys nights, continue with extra curricular activities.

Want to learn more about what men mean when he says he is not ready for a relationship. Want to attract men who are ready for commitment? Check out Casual to Committed.


Iona is a Wellness Coach specialising in relationships and dating. She works with single women to write their own love stories.