We probably all know one or two men who are attractive and desirable; yet, for some reason they struggle with the decision to marry and remain single into their 30's or 40's. Truth is, there is a combination of factors that cause this delay - and all of them can be overcome.
Every ward has one or two single men who are simply amazing, and yet, year after year, they remain single.
These are men who have fulfilled honorable missions. They have a degree or two and a good job. They attend church regularly, fulfill their callings, go to the temple regularly, and do their home teaching. They stay fit, are socially skilled, and date good women. Yet these men remain single often stating they just haven’t found the one.
Are these men too picky? Are they afraid of commitment? Are they attracted to the wrong kind of women? Do they have some unknown mental health issue or pain from their past that is getting in the way? Or are they just so comfortable with being alone that they feel no motivation to get married?
As a counselor and dating coach who has worked with many men that fit this profile, I know that they do want to get married; they would prefer not to be alone. They also care deeply about doing the right thing and following the counsel of the prophet. And they, too, are concerned about what they're doing wrong.
Most of the time they don’t know if the problem is them or just that they haven’t met that one woman who will fix everything, but they are committed to doing what it takes to fix the problem. All they know for certain is that in spite of the fact that they date great women, they just don’t feel an emotional attachment and they don’t know why. Without this strong emotional connection they can’t feel confident about moving forward with marriage.
I have discovered several common patterns that point to an explanation of what is going wrong and how to fix it.
First, these men often suffer from excessive pressure caused by a common form of anxiety.
Because these men are high functioning in most areas of their lives, they often don’t recognize that the feelings of pressure and distress they feel prior to and in-between dates is due to a form of anxiety called anticipatory anxiety.
Part of what makes these men great is that they think of others’ feelings and don’t act impulsively; however, in this case they are often so concerned about hurting others that they feel anxious about disappointing the women they date. This causes additional pressure that makes them anticipate what their date may be thinking, feeling, or expecting. This creates even more anxiety and causes them to analyze what they are feeling (or not feeling) and take action quickly so as to not disappoint or hurt their date.
What they don’t realize is that this very concern actually inhibits their ability to have fun, relax, and feel a deeper connection. They analyze their emotions so closely that is is difficult for them to feel positive and spontaneous emotions. As time goes on, the added pressure makes it more difficult for them to believe that they will ever get out of the trap. Instead of realizing that their lack of emotional attachment is actually a result of their anxiety, they assume that something must be wrong with the girl they are dating: “If only she didn’t have _____ issue or behavior, perhaps I would feel more of a connection.” They then leave the relationship, hoping for that one woman with whom they will feel a connection.
Second, many of the women they date inadvertently add even more pressure.
Another common pattern in this problem is that the women these men date tend to become excessively available, accommodating, and committed too early in the process. These women will often call or text the men more frequently than the men call them. They will express a desire to see the men frequently and before the men have an opportunity to ask when they can get together. These women are often very understanding and supportive, which further adds pressure to the men to not hurt them. Although these qualities can be good qualities, in this circumstance, they end up actually turning the tables on the men.
These men do best when they are in the pursuit role. They need to be the hunters, not the hunted. It’s not that they want these women to play games or reject them, but they do want these women to be happily living their own lives, expressing their opinions, and pursuing other options. When that happens, these men can relax without worrying about what the women they date are feeling or expecting. When women are not anxious for commitment, these men feel less anxiety, and as a result their positive emotions come more easily. Only after investing in the women (without pressure) over a period of months (while also having a lot of fun), they feel a deeper emotional connection.
Third, when it comes to dating, these men feel spiritually disconnected from God.
These men have strong testimonies and many powerful spiritual experiences; however, when it comes to dating, mate selection, and the decision to marry, often these men feel that God is silent, which only adds to their fears and doubts.
One explanation for this silence is that most people who suffer from depression and anxiety feel spiritually disconnected from God. Without realizing the true source of the problem (their anxiety), these men often assume that the lack of answers means that the relationship is not the right one or the decision is simply theirs.
Without feeling a strong emotional attachment, these men just stalemate or break up. If only they had an undeniable answer to marry the person, then they could move forward with confidence. Of course, in most cases, God probably wants them to decide for themselves, but the different possibilities (and fear of making the wrong decision) only add to their doubt and confusion.
This anxiety and doubt can be lessened when others express faith and trust in them and in the many blessings that marriage will give them. In many ways, these men need an abundance of positive and faith-filled messages to combat their anxiety and strengthen their faith and confidence––rather than receiving criticism or lectures on why they aren’t progressing to marriage.
To learn about the additional complicating factors that contribute to this pattern, and to listen to a one-hour audio in which I discuss this pattern with three men who struggle with it, visit ItsYourTechnique.com. I also have a series of audios that walk men through the steps they can take to overcome this pattern and progress to marriage.
To avoid hundreds of other dating mistakes or issues like these, visit itsyourtechnique.com, where you will get instant access to FREE dating advice, articles, audios, and videos from Alisa Goodwin Snell. Her love-changing theories and techniques will make dating easy and fun.
Alisa Goodwin Snell is a licensed marriage and family therapist and dating coach with 17 years of experience. Alisa is the author of the "It’s Not You—It’s Your Technique" dating system.
© LDS Living, 2012.