Figuring out if the person you're into does in fact like you back can sometimes leave you feeling like Sherlock Holmes. Every move they make can have you asking your sleuthy little self, What did they mean by that? It can feel like even more of a puzzle when a guy tells you outright that, yes, he likes you, but he doesn’t want a relationship. On the one hand, you have to commend them for their honesty. But on the other hand, where does that leave you now?
The hard truth? If a person tells you that they don’t want a relationship but they still like you, this is an indication that you’re chasing someone who is emotionally unavailable. Can that change with time? It depends. But dating expert and breakup coach Natalia Juarez warns that in most cases, it may not be worth your energy to stick around and find out.
“If you want something serious but the other person doesn’t, cut it off,” Juarez tells Elite Daily. “I’ve had certain clients dating people who change their minds, and I tell them, ‘As soon as they change their mind, then get out.’ Don’t compromise here.”
Before jumping into something new, whether it’s casual or serious — and even before your very first date with a new person! — Juarez suggests developing what she calls your Dating Purpose. This is a list of wants and needs that you’ve identified for yourself. If you strut into a new romance with a clear idea of your own relationship goals, you’ll have better stability if or when the “I like you, but…” breadcrumbing line threatens to knock you on your tush.
“It comes down to clarity and communication,” Juarez says. “It’s so important to have that Dating Purpose, that list of things you want in a partner and a relationship, to anchor you. Even if you have love, even if you’re compatible, if they don’t want to commit and that’s something you need, then that’s it. It’s done.”
Of course, it’s never that easy to let go of something that feels really good, even if it may hurt you in the long-run. And that’s OK. Whether or not you saw it coming, here’s what to do when a man likes you but doesn’t want a relationship, or a woman leaves you disappointed — especially if you’ve been holding out hope all along.
Don’t Be Afraid To Talk It Out
Without further explanation, “I don’t want a relationship” doesn’t always provide enough information about the situation at hand. London-based celebrity life coach and dating expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams recommends digging a little deeper to understand what’s really motivating this person’s disinterest in commitment. “Ascertain whether they don’t want a serious relationship for a long time or whether they don’t want one with you,” Sheridan-Williams tells Elite Daily. “If it is the latter, then do not attempt to revive it. If they have a lot going on in their life and they just need time, be patient and ask them to share their ideal relationship timeline.” She adds that regardless of what they say, it’s smart to create your own timeline, too — nothing official, just something to keep in the back of your mind — so that you have a good sense of how long you’ll wait before moving on.
Also, let's face it, it's a tough world out there, and many of us have been burned in the past — probably including your crush. To get to the root of the problem, create a safe, non-judgmental space for your new boo to open up about possible commitment issues or past relationship snafus. Gently and cautiously nudge them to share without being forceful or manipulative.
If they bring up an ex, for example, go ahead and ask questions. Try to avoid making value judgments about what their ex may have done right or wrong, and instead, put the emphasis on how their ex's actions made them feel. This may give you some valuable insight about your new partner and help to build a bond based on mutual trust and understanding — the building blocks of any relationship, serious or otherwise.
Juarez and Sheridan-Williams both emphasize the importance of having your own terms and sticking to them. If you’re gunning for a serious relationship but this new person says they need time before they can really commit, both experts advise that you keep sex out of it — at least until the other person feels ready to make things official. Juarez asserts that sex early on in a relationship can sometimes lead to uneven levels of attachment, especially in a relationship that’s on such uneven ground to begin with. “Sometimes it’s easier to sleep with someone than it is to have the conversation about defining the relationship,” Juarez warns. She adds that if defining the relationship is something you need, then it would be best to wait to have sex until both of your wants and needs are more aligned.
If the person you're interested in tells you they don't want a relationship for whatever reason, it’s not your job to try to convince them that they are wrong, or apply unnecessary pressure — which very well may send them running in the opposite direction. If they seem amenable to the idea of a relationship but only keeping things casual for some time, indulge in the invitation to take things slow. Make the most of your time together. Go on cute day-dates. Don’t rush into the physical stuff just yet. Give them a sneak peak of what it would be like to be together without pushing it there prematurely.
Listen to your gut on this one — there is no magic length of time that you should wait before throwing in the towel, but if you start to feel like you’re compromising too much, it’s time to either have another conversation or cut things off.
...But Don’t Be Too Patient
My girl Rachel Lindsay, the star of The Bachelorette Season 13, couldn't have handled the wishy-washiness of runner-up Peter Kraus any better. Although it seemed for a time that she may have been more into Peter than the subsequent winner Bryan Abasolo, Rachel knew what she wanted: a fiancé, not a boyfriend. Ultimately, she had to let Peter go because they weren't looking for the same things.
Juarez says if your relationship needs don’t align with your potential partner’s, then the initial chemistry doesn’t matter as much. “I find whenever there’s connection and compatibility in a new relationship, people get really stuck because it just feels really good,” Juarez says. “But there’s all this middle stuff to think about, like commitment and communication. Those are sometimes the hardest things to extract yourself from. It’s easy to ask, ‘Why would I give up something that feels really good?’ And sure, it feels really good now, but if we’re thinking more long-term then this isn’t going to work.”
Ultimately, you shouldn't have to convince someone that you are worth a commitment. If they’re still running cold after you've given them time, space, and safe opportunities to explore a deeper connection, this crush may not be all they’re cracked up to be.
Natalia Juarez, breakup and dating coach
Sloan Sheridan-Williams, celebrity life coach and relationship expert
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