Throughout my 20s and 30s, I often stayed in relationships I was deeply divided about staying in.
My mouth would make promises my bones knew I couldn’t keep. Which made life awful for any woman who ever tried to love me.
Today, I’m 3 years into the first relationship I feel internally clear about, which makes all the difference. I’ve been able to overcome challenges, even potentially catastrophic ones, to preserve beautiful connection with my partner, whereas I couldn’t usually get past even trivial trials with past partners.
Which is teaching me an essential lesson:
A man must learn to be honest with himself, every day, whether the life he’s now living is the life he really wants.
Otherwise he’s just torturing himself … and anyone who tries to love him.
A man deeply divided about his choices can’t give the best of himself to whatever he’s choosing.
If he’s divided about the work he does, he won’t show up fully or enthusiastically. At best he’ll offer disconnected work that won’t matter much to anyone, least of all himself. Even if he’s successful at it.
When I was a military soldier, I was deeply divided about my mission. So much that I soon hated my life. I felt more and more useless – not just to the military, but to my girlfriend, to the world. Though I succeeded as a soldier and my service ended honorably, on the day I left all I could do was grab a backpack and go aimless walkabout into the world. I was dead inside, with nothing to offer anyone. So I left everything, including that girlfriend.
I was internally divided about her, too. I thought I hid it well during our 2 years together, but she knew.
For when a man is internally divided about his partner, for as long as she (or he) chooses to stay with that man she will endure an awful ache borne of his wishy-washy half-loving. She’ll rage in response, even if silently, and the relationship will sour.
He likely won’t even see how his divided desire for her contributes to her distress.
In my “Love, Sex, Relationship Magic” Program, I teach that the “Feminine Objection” in love is always “Don’t abandon me!”
In his uncertainty, his partner correctly discerns the threat of his abandonment … which never makes her “easier” to be with.
As her upset grows, he might even blame his own confusion on her being “too difficult to please.” He wouldn’t be entirely wrong, for any man who begins to believe that nothing he does will truly please his partner eventually doubles down on not even trying.
All the while, he remains blind to how his internal confusion makes loving him frightening for her; ever more so as his uncertainty grows, and she feels it.
Of course, doubt and confusion is inevitable for any man. Our clever minds are always making up stories, crafting fantasies about how life would be better, easier, if only … if only a million things. To be human is to endlessly want more and better.
Being internally clear about work or woman doesn’t mean it will always be easy or feel good.
There will surely be times when his challenges are too much to bear and the idea of cutting cord and running for calmer hills will have appeal.
But he won’t cut and run – at least he won’t get far – because the depth of his clarity will soon calm the surface waves of his overwhelm. As he gets his breath back, his deeper clarity will allow him to re-engage his commitments, with even more vigor and depth than before he briefly lost his mind to fantasies of an easier life.
Only vigorous commitment can further a man’s authentic work in the world. A man must also learn that only vigorous commitment will ever truly delight his woman.
For most every woman, throughout her life, has experienced being loved then abandoned, used then discarded, in countless ways both fleeting and enduring. It’s only by the repeated demonstration of an intimate partner’s unwavering commitment to loving her, come what may, that she can finally allow herself to relax and truly open in her loving towards him.
Personally, I didn’t experience readiness for this kind of commitment until my early 40s.
Which partly explains why I always seemed to make women so mad at me, despite my always best intentions.
Then, one night while on a solo retreat in an Idaho mountain cabin, I finally felt in my bones I was ready to build a world with a woman. I felt it so clear that I spoke my readiness aloud towards a black sky of stars sprinkled like glitter.
I met that woman the next day.
We’ve had our trying times, but my deep clarity of commitment to making our relationship thrive has helped carry me – carry us – through all of them.
Each man needs to find and honor his own timing. Some will be ready in their 20s, some their 60s, and some will see that internal clarity come and go, repeatedly.
I personally believe it’s less about the “right partner” and more about the “right timing” for a man, though perhaps it’s both coming together at the same time. I do see for many men, that being divided or unclear about his work – his purpose – can cause deep confusion around relationship, too, even if he’s with the most exquisite partner.
There’s countless reasons why it took ‘till my 40s; I doubt I know half of them, though I do believe one of them was still not being clear in my work.
Regardless, failing to acknowledge and honor my internal divisions created awful messes of love, causing such unnecessary suffering, both for me and every woman who tried to love me.
An easy partner who tolerates a man’s shallow commitment doesn’t make relationship better. All it does it enable him to remain out of integrity with himself, and to love only half-way.
This is why a man must be honest with himself about whether he genuinely wants the life he’s living today.
Otherwise, his lack of vigor for the challenges he faces will only make life poorer for the one who loves him, and for himself, too.
However, when he is deeply undivided in his choosing … well, little can stop that man from consistently creating exquisite experiences for himself and anyone fortunate enough to receive the gift of his undivided presence.
note: this all goes for a woman divided and shows up in same-sex relationships, too.
P.S. If this resonates with you, please share your experience, insights, in the comments below.
thank you! (lol actually trying NOT to preach 🙂
Brian – damn! If only I had read this (and had the gravitas to understand it) when I was 20 – the tears and heartache and confusion I could of spared myself & Others…. thnx for putting this out there – I think you are 100% on the mark with this one…
Yeah I totally get it, Trevor 🙂
My boyfriend of 9 months recently made the decision to walk away from what could have been a very beautiful relationship. He kept telling me he was 90% sure and not once in 9 months did he say those 3 little words. His actions showed great kindness towards me, he is a lovely person but never allowed me fully in, I could feel it. We had a great time together and I fell completely in love with him, when he was in a good place he was so caring and loving. His work was not going well…he was having the worst year in his entire career and it was really weighing on him. I tried to support him but the worst it got the more he pushed me away. I finally told him he needed to work out what he wanted because I cannot be with someone who wasn’t ready to fully commit to me (we are in our late 40’s). I needed to hear those 3 little words. He did what I thought he would do and decided to walk away…he sent me a long email outlining his thoughts and concerns but ultimately it came down to he just isn’t sure and can’t make a promise to me, he had so much uncertainty from past hurt to his job…it was all too much. It’s been 6 weeks and I miss him everyday, I believe he was in love with me but for whatever reason he couldn’t allow it to grow and break down those walls. I’m sad but I know I need to let him go.
Clara, I know it’s heartwrenching, but I believe you did the most loving thing – for both of you – to let him go figure things out on his own. Many, many years ago I was also prone to writing “long letters outlining my thoughts and concerns” to girlfriends I wasn’t convinced about … It was only years later that I only needed 10 pages to say what could have been said in just a few loving sentences because I was afraid of feeling my pain … not realizing I was already in so much pain.
It took losing a really good woman more than once before I started waking up to all this.
Wishing you well on your healing journey.
LOVE LOVE LOVE your writing and work Bryan! You are one very wise and insightful human 🙂 thank you for sharing your wisdom x
Thank you Bridget 🙂 I really appreciate you taking a moment to say so. [Deep bow]
Good info Bryan!
I’ve had that same feeling of being uncertain and making promises I couldn’t commit to. My girlfriend at the time saw the uncertainty in me. I almost had a nervous breakdown when she left me. That made me want to change how I see relationships. I wanted to do better, but I didn’t know how. I decided to be honest with myself about my feelings instead of just ignoring them hoping they will eventually work out. Now my current wife feels she has that partner that will always be in her corner and she’s helped me to grow and love others so much, I couldn’t image life without her. We are a team and respect each other as equals although she views me as the head of our household. I wish you many prosperous years of love in your relationship and thank you for letting me know I’m not the only man who understands what it takes to commit to someone you love whole hearted
I read this to my fiance … she was deeply moved to hear of your experience, Tim. Thanks for sharing with us. (and yes, you are definitely NOT alone in understanding the monumental efforts it can take … at least initially … though let’s be honest … ongoingly :))
Oh wow big nerve touched here Bryan. I find myself in the situation you described right now. With a girl who loves me to bits but whom I can’t fully commit to. All sorts of issues to deal with including four kids (two each from previous marriages), clashes of personalities between kids and adults, one of us struggling workwise and yet we have a great time when it’s just the two of us. Sadly every now and then we fall back into patterns or situations that make me want to run for the hills
UKDad! Man … you and your partner would benefit GREATLY from the “Conflict to Connection” 90-Day Couples Program I host with my fiance (she’s a Marriage & Family Therapist) … learn more @ http://www.bryanreeves.com/90day/
p.s. … I also offer private sessions for couples. https://bryanreeves.com/coaching/
Who will really understand the sorrow and the impact of this except the woman abandoned, there will always be another woman to tolerate the indecision, thinking “she” is the one who will wake him from the illusion he lives in or she will continue to blindly join in with the delusion he will change. And when he tires of her as we all do he will find another fantasy only to start again
Eventually when that man runs into a woman he really REALLY likes, who holds strong boundaries, he’ll be faced with a stark choice:
Either begin the journey of waking up (to real love) … or continue living a mere shadow of his potential as a Man.
Granted, many men will still choose the latter, though I assure you … they do at significant personal cost and suffering.
None of us humans get to escape the consequences of our actions. We may not be consciously aware of the consequences we’re experiencing, but we ARE still experiencing them. It may just be a growing awareness of some awful LACK we are unable to fill with our addictions, no matter how hard we try.
Fortunately, it’s not your job (or any woman’s) to wake a man up. It’s only your job to take really good care of yourself by honoring strong boundaries.
Not sure if this is resonating, but since i feel a urge to write about this.. Kind of makes me think it does. So here’s my story… An ex and I just got back together trying to give it another go. I had left him because i had a drinking problem and didn’t realize it at the time. However, i want able to express any emotions to him because i was too afraid to open up for fear that he didn’t care anyways because of the way he was already treating me. Once i left.. I finally accepted my drinking problem and quit. I worked more on myself and loving myself for who i am. I learned it’s okay to open up if someone is worth it. Then the ex comes back. He says he doesn’t want to live without me. He’s showing more love and attention than before. But every now and again.. I get this feeling that his mind is not all together. It’s not really just a feeling.. It’s what I’m seeing in his words.. And his actions. Like he can’t remember something from an hour ago. I’m thinking.. Ok.. I’m going to take this slow and stay aware.. But i alsodon’t want to be fearful and suspicious.. But could this be his mind being divided? Or is this me being divided?
Lost Star … I strongly encourage you and your partner to get support in coming back together. Old patterns are too easy to slip into. (and my partner is astonished how I forget things ALL THE TIME that just happened hours ago … it’s PRIMAL not personal, and a good support therapist or coach will help you see that and not make things personal) … Me and my fiance offer a “Conflict to Connection” 90-Day Couples Program that could benefit you greatly! Learn more about it @ http://www.bryanreeves.com/90day/ … I/we also offer private sessions for couples. Whatever you do, I strongly urge you to GET SUPPORT. You don’t have to – you’re not supposed to – figure this out alone. https://bryanreeves.com/coaching/
Very eye opening. In a relationship with a man I’ve been with for 5 1/2 years. We have 5 children between us (none together), we’ve created a family, recently he said we are too different to be together. We spent weeks working on this problem, he decided we have too much invested to part ways and that he still loves me. But … he SAYS a lot of things and DOES none of the things he claims to want to do as far as work on himself and our relationship. We had been engaged a few years ago and that fizzled out, so with the new commitment, we bought a ring and were going to DO this….nothing. the ring us still not on my finger. Sex is all but off the table, he doesn’t connect, won’t talk to me..I felt like I was going insane until I read this. We didn’t want to break up our family but….now I see it just may not even be a choice. Thank you for always having such wise words!
I’m sorry you’re struggling with this Jennifer … I do offer Relationship Clarity Sessions to individuals/couples wondering whether/how to stay together. Whether or not you feel called to work with me, I definitely encourage you to get outside support before deciding to end the relationship, at least to help you (both, preferably) see your situation from a more clear space. (contact me through this website if you want to explore that)
Wow!!!! I am so impressed with the depth of your honesty and the courage you exhibit in sharing these powerful insights with the world. It brings hope that there really is a shift happening and the social conditioning of our males in society is healing. You are playing a crucial part in this Bryan. I have gained so much wisdom from your work and sincerely appreciate your authenticity!!! The work your doing is helping me in mine…
Thank you!!!!!!!Thank you!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!
Thank you Candace 🙂 deeply appreciated.
WOw brother this is spot on and quiet triggering because it resonates so deep! My beloved is not all in and I feel it.. we talk about it, we process it, we unpack it.. he comes into awareness recognizes his patterns wants to do his work and I open.. then we circle around again.. I set boundaries, and know my self worth, it is making me more sovereign the more I have to self source my commitment to myself and to my own soul evolution. We have a 1 yr old baby.. so it’s a bit more complicated then just moving forward.. sometimes I feel really clear that I need to move on and other times it feels really right to do our core wound work together and be available to raise our sweet babe together.. we just went through a big loop and recommitted.. now reading this brings up a deeper knowing and more questions for my heart to be with.. thank you ????????
I needed to hear this. I forwarded this to the man whom I’ve been with for the last 2 years. Every 3-4 weeks he runs, then comes back with new promises of change. I beg each time, please let me go. I realize after reading this I am enabling him, and it’s going to take me to walk away for this cycle to stop. It’s painful, because he has a good heart and he is capable. He just can’t seem to stay there.
You stopping this cycle would certainly create a new dynamic, where his lack of sustained desire for staying finds itself suddenly outmatched by your commitment to a new dynamic. Which means he’ll discover he just doesn’t have what it takes (right now) to meet you where you want to be met, or he’ll quickly realize he actually can’t live without you and so better finally figure out how to keep you in his life.
Thank you for this, you have shown me a much needed unbiased and true perspective in both this blog and your book. This especially hit home because I just walked away from a 10 month “relationship” and the constant internal battle of whether or not I made the right decision haunts me daily. I have tried to walk away from him multiple times as his uncertainty has caused a lot of stress, anxiety, and craziness. I finally had had enough of being disrespected and dishonored. During conversations of commitment he told me that I am too black and white and wanted me to consider the “gray area.” At this point in the relationship I knew I wanted someone that was either all in or all out.That is a boundary I would no longer let him dishonor so I told him I was all out. There was no compromising commitment anymore. When he dropped me off at the airport I said my goodbyes and wished him luck and he stated he wasnt going to have the break up conversation with me and that he wanted me to call him when I got home, I said there was nothing left to say and when I got home I let him know I got home safe and I blocked him and have kept him blocked. I keep going back and forth on whether or not blocking him was the right choice, but it’s blogs like yours that help confirm that I made the right choice. So thank you for sharing your insights and experiences.
It’s so empowering to clearly know what you want and stop trying to justify or apologize for it.
this is so weird… this is the third article by you where i can resonate so much with the topic… i am feeling like, i am more like a man, than a woman or something. it really confuses me, because, for me a woman is giving, trustful and concious (about her feelings). and i always seem to be stuck in relationships, where i know, that it’s not gonna last. And by now, I know, that i am just not ready (like, when you had that moment at your solo retreat) to fully commit. but what am i supposed to do… i am only 30… and it’s a pretty long time till 40! but i just don’t feel that i am redy for a relationship – or even understand what they are “for” really… anyway
thanks for your work! it is always good to read from your experiences to see how much can happen with a little paitence, work and reflection.
all the best!
It’s very common that women “feel” more like a non-committal man in relationship, and for many potential reasons, from being raised by parents who rewarded you for being more masculine to not having a healthy model for relationships while growing up to childhood abuse trauma to all kinds of other reasons … The good news is if you’re willing to keep growing and learning – and it seems you are – you’ll be just fine 🙂
Mellow_13…. I am in the same trench with you… I relate to your thoughts/feelings. I am 32 and I am just not ready… there is a stronger pull to do more on my own yet before integrating someone else into my life to point that I want to create a life with them as well.
Thanks for the awesome Information. Although I feel like I have a problem with masturbation. How do I know and if so how can I relax. Do you have a blog about it? Thank you so much.
Hey Gabe … I’ve written a few articles about porn use … I recommend this one: https://bryanreeves.com/5-warning-signs-you-should-quit-porn-today/
… though that is not necessarily the same as a “problem with masturbation” … it all depends on how it’s affecting your life: Is it debilitating to your sexual experience with a partner(s)? … Are you sure? You’re welcome to reach out to me via [email protected] if you want to explore this more.
I was the “easy partner tolerating a shallow commitment” for 4 grueling years. My guy was absolutely divided and I knew it, but he was also great fun to be with. We had a complete and unpleasant break up. Thank you so much for explaining this phenomenon with such clarity! It helps me to recognize it was not “just me”. I’m currently doing my own inner work, personal growth and awareness. It helps to know I will recognize this division in a future man, before I’m deeply invested, and hopefully recognize a man who is able to commit fully. I so appreciate your courage to share your personal story, which benefits me! Thank you!
Thank you Sue 🙂
This makes sense.
I was uncertain and divided for five years in my last relationship, and I remember my ex voicing her frustration around this. Eventually she left, and I finally woke up 🙂
Absolutely true. I feel this right now and you just explained everything going on inside me. I doubt he would ever get it. I don’t think he anywhere ready.
This is like the fourth or fifth article i’ve read.
And every article is like that “Killing me softly” song.
All this is exactly what’s going on in my relationship. I found out yesterday he was cheating on me again but he refuses to acknowledge it as cheating. Him and his family see flirting online as okay, not cheating or crossing boundaries because there’s no intent on doing anything physical. These articles help me realize why i need to leave.
He’s also a “i don’t want drama” kind of guy. I really deeply felt that article too.