Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas

 

My boyfriend of a few months has suffered from depression and anxiety, on and off . He feels guilty at being responsible for someone else's feelings (probably because his mother was an alcoholic who relied on him for emotional support.) It means that in relationships, when he gets too close, he panics and ends it. He says he doesn't want this to happen with me, but he now wants a couple of months on his own to sort himself out. However understanding I am, I can't really understand the extent of his anxiety. Why won't he just commit? Yours sincerely, Val

Virginia says... A champion "non-committer" myself, I'm always very wary when "not committing" is seen as some kind of disease. It is quite true that the presence of an alcoholic parent (and I should know – I had one) can make you exceptionally wary of getting too closely involved with other people. Your experience is that sooner or later you'll either be kicked in the face or let down in some way or another, and naturally any sensible person, having been in that position so often when young, decides to take action, when getting involved with anyone in later life, and get the kick in first.

A non-committer of the type you're talking about (and there is more than one type) usually falls wildly in love. The moment the other person gets close, they become extremely wary and back off, since the very closeness itself sparks off such painful emotional memories. The hurt partner usually withdraws, then the non-committer feels safe again and comes close, only for the whole pattern to recur again and again.

What you should do, Val, is (and I can hardly bear to repeat this old cliché) play it cool. Think of your partner as a nervous pigeon. If you sit very still and don't make any advances, the pigeon may, eventually, agree to take corn from your hand. But make any attempt to stroke his feathers and he'll be off with a great flapping of wings.

Now I wouldn't blame you if you felt it wasn't worth spending your life treading on emotional eggshells around your boyfriend. However, there's another kind of non-committer. And that's the person who thinks they want to settle down and have a family, but actually doesn't. They have far too many interests and a rich life of their own, which they feel will be hampered by the presence of another person. It could be that your boyfriend is one of these.

The final non-committer is the one who is, at heart, a committer but just doesn't want to commit to you. Calling him a non-committer stops you feeling hurt. But it could be that your boyfriend's instincts are right, and you're not made for each other.

Don't get swept up too much in his psychological problems or, even worse, his psychological answers. It may be that his therapist is right in his or her conclusions about his reasons for not wanting to commit. It may be that they're completely up a gum tree.

Let him have his time on his own. But don't hold your breath that he'll be in touch after the time has passed.

 

Readers say...

He's being honest

"Why won't he just commit?" you ask. Read a copy of any wedding service, which spells out in detail the enormity of the commitment required to throw in your lot with one other person. The reality is that thus far your boyfriend has not met the person to whom he would willingly make such a commitment, and that, I'm afraid, includes you. One day he might meet that person; or then again he may not. In the meantime he is wise not to promise what he feels unable to deliver.

Ian Hurdley By email

 

It's not him, it's you

In my experience and, from talking to male friends, a man usually "panics" not when he gets too close but when he realises his feelings do not match those of his partner. I am sure he cares for you and does have issues of anxiety and depression. But I doubt these will affect him so much when he meets the right woman. Ask him to be honest, and if he still says he loves you and wants things to progress, suggest counselling. If he agrees to this you will know he wants it to work.

Natalie By email

 

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, Four years ago I had a baby with my then boyfriend. Things weren't going well – he was into drugs and even hit me once – so we split up. When our daughter arrived he was over the moon but after we split he gradually lost touch. Now he's written asking to see her, saying he's changed. He's with another woman, and they've got a child, but I'm in two minds. I've been so happy without him in my life. And don't see why he should disrupt our situation. My parents are dead against letting him see her. What do you think? Yours sincerely, Jen

What would you advise Jen to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (finewinesellers.co.uk)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

    £15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

    Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

    £11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

    £15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy