I often hear from women who are a bit resentful that they haven’t yet gotten a commitment or proposal from the man who they love and have been in a relationship with. They feel as if they have poured everything that they have into the relationship and now have nothing to show for this. And as a result, quite understandably, they wonder if he sometimes feels regret.
An example of what you might hear in this situation is something like: “I have invested two years into my boyfriend. I have always supported him and I have been very loyal and loving. He knew full well when we met that I was looking for something permanent, but he got involved with me anyway. After about a year into our relationship, he told me that he wasn’t going to be ready to commit any time soon. I guess he and I have different definitions of the word ‘soon.’ Because now it has been a year later and he still doesn’t want to commit to me. In fact, he says that he doesn’t know when he will be ready. I am very angry about this. I am not sure if I want to stay in this relationship or not. But I feel like I want him to regret this. How do I make him regret it when I’m probably not going to leave him? I’ve been thinking about withholding my affection or bringing his attention to how lucky and happy our committed friends are. I want him to realize that not committing to me is a big mistake. How can I do this?”
I understand wanting to make him pay attention and realize just how hurtful is not to want to commit. But, you have to remember what you really want. And I’m assuming that what you really want is for him to wake up one day soon and realize that he has been wrong all along and that he wants to commit to you as soon as possible and without waiting any longer. And, looking at the longer term, you want to get engaged and then married and live happily ever after. This is a very valid dream and it most certainly isn’t too much to ask. But you have to be very careful of how you try to bring this about.
Regret is a negative emotion. And if you force that upon him, then he may project those negative feelings onto you or your relationship. You need a plan that reinforces his love for you and highlights the health of your relationship. Withholding your affection isn’t going to do that. It’s only going to make him frustrated, lonely, or unhappy. You don’t want this. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have mutual friends who are happily committed so that he can see that people who are committed can be quite happy. But you don’t want to be so obvious about the fact that you are using your friends in order to drive your own point home. Your boyfriend isn’t likely to think favorably of this and he may resent you for it or he may isolate himself from his friends. You don’t want this either.
You want for him to be happy. And more than that, you want for him to be happy with you and within your relationship. Frankly, if you cultivate a happy, positive, and playful relationship, then there is a very good chance that one day your boyfriend will look around and be hit by the overwhelming thought of “what was I waiting for? I have a wonderful girl in a loving relationship and here I was dragging my feet. I am not going to make that mistake twice.” This is the kind of healthy and benign regret that you want to encourage.
But you don’t want the kind of regret that is build upon fear or guilt or shame. Sure, it’s OK to want him to think that he was mistaken or just incredibly slow. But you don’t want to try to make him think he’s stupid, selfish, or dense. Because this is the man who you love. So sure, it’s OK to encourage him to see that he’s a little late to the party. But you don’t want for him to feel like he’s being punished or that his every flaw is being pointed out. Because this would likely make him think less of you and the relationship. And, as a result, your commitment becomes less likely.