Subscriber OnlyHealth

Should I wait for a man who isn’t ready for a relationship?

‘You seem to have become attached to this emotionally unattainable man quite quickly’

Dear Roe,

I’ve done my emotional work through therapy for years about my abusive marriage, and came to a peaceful place with my ex-husband. I’ve been dating for a year, most recently a month-long fling that started casual and was moving toward a relationship when my date acknowledged that he was not ready for a “real relationship” and he has “definitely come as close to ever deciding on wanting a relationship” with me. I suspect he is not over his recent divorce and committing is scary for him.

I respected his decision and wished him well, which actually was very sad for me. He says he really likes me a lot, he wants to keep talking while exploring what he needs. He wants to see what happens in the future with us but doesn’t want to hold me back from potentially meeting a man, in his words. I believe him but I am not sure what to expect from myself if he does come back. I don’t want to be the second-choice woman, and I want to practise self-worth as I started in my journey to healing. We are compatible on many levels and I held myself from falling in love with him from the beginning because he said he wanted to take it really slow. I like him a lot too, but I will not initiate contact, out of self-respect or maybe ego. What do you think?

I think when people tell you the truth about themselves, believe them. This man is not ready for a relationship and has told you he is not ready for a relationship. You are right that you need to protect and respect yourself by taking him at his word and acting accordingly, instead of taking this as a challenge to wait around and hope that he will someday become ready for a relationship.


This man may not have terrible intentions. He is obviously self-aware enough to know that he’s not ready for a relationship, he told you this relatively early, and he may just recognise that you’re wonderful and understandably want to keep you in his life.

However, intentions are the not equal to impact, and what he is proposing will not be good for you. This man is essentially asking for permission to bench you; to earmark you and keep you waiting in case, in a hypothetical future, he wants you around as an option. This is not something you should agree to. Keeping the possibility of this relationship alive in your mind will keep you emotionally attached to an emotionally unattainable man, and prevent you from fully engaging with other, more real possibilities. You deserve more, and need to leave this man behind to fully embrace that reality.

I’m glad you are in therapy, and encourage you to speak about this interaction with your therapist. You were recently in an abusive relationship, you seem to have become attached to this emotionally unattainable man quite quickly, and are now doubting your (entirely correct) instincts that you should cut ties with him. After an abusive relationship, learning to value yourself, to maintain healthy boundaries and to trust your own instincts can all be huge challenges, and the fact that you’re already trying to do all these things is an important step away from the painful, unfulfilling dynamics of your past. Keep going. Leave this man behind, and take another step towards your future.