Why men may not want to say ‘Yes, I do’

2009-01-29 00:00

Sometimes I wonder what the world would have been like if Adam had led Eve in circles on the issue of a lifetime commitment. I was thinking about that as my mind had been preoccupied with the concern I have for the daughter of my mother.

She confided in me that after almost three years of courtship, the man of her dreams is not in a hurry to propose marriage to her. She alleged that the man seems to have an unlimited catalogue of excuses, whenever the words “marriage” or “commitment” come out of her mouth.

She’s now convinced that trying to make him commit to the relationship is like trying to have Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush have lunch together.

But when I asked her why she’s still in that relationship, she lamented that the man seems to have been blessed with a flattering tongue that could easily win any politician’s vote in an opposition stronghold. Some of his standard answers to commitment are, “Why change?”, “We get along”, “We are happy”, “We have no problems”.

While I had no solution to her dilemma, my brother from another mother’s opinion was that the issue of commitment is complex and doesn’t have a single-dose prescription. He is of the view that generally a man has no incentive to commit himself to marriage if he’s in a “come-we-stay” relationship (cohabiting), since he’s enjoying the benefits of having a wife without giving a commitment in exchange. This reminded me of what my mother used to tell my sister: “He won’t buy a cow if he already gets the milk for free.” Crass? Absolutely, but true, unfortunately.

Another possibility was that my reluctant brother-in-law-to-be may be in the middle of trying to move on to another relationship that he’s working on. While trying to make sure that the other woman is the one he wants, he will keep daughter of my mother hanging.

Their other point of view was about his past. Personal hurtful experiences might make him get cold feet when he remembers what happened to his parents or friends or relatives: divorce. He’s probably afraid that might happen to him, so he’s being extra cautious. At this point, I felt that the life of the daughter of my mother is being wasted with so many excuses, while the man tries to “discover” himself.

But my brother from another mother reminded me that it could just be one of many reasons. He advised me to check on their rapport and find out if the daughter of my mother has a tendency to want to control him. If the man feels that she’s of the type that will end up controlling his life, he will not want to be romantically involved with her in the long term. He will end up keeping her long enough for him to find a woman who will let him be himself.

Listening to all that made me feel that Eve was fortunate enough to have Adam in her life. But the setup was probably different then, and there were no other Eves around at that time. If there had been, Adam would probably have said: “What if I commit too soon to Eve and miss out on the most beautiful woman I have ever met?”

My brother from another mother told me that that could be the kind of thought that goes on in the mind of my reluctant brother-in-law-to-be.

I strongly felt that he should make up his mind about the whole issue, but my brother from another mother reminded me of the issue of finances. He said that some men want to wait until they are financially stable. Not unreasonable. Admirable, even, in certain situations for a man who knows the responsibilities that a wife and children bring, and wants to make sure that he’s fit to carry them before taking them on. However, he advised that if this is one of his reasons then the daughter of my mother should check to find out if they have similar definitions of what “financially stable” means.

But while some men regard financial stability as a critical factor, there are those who are afraid of taking on responsibility. With commitment comes less freedom and more responsibilities, and there are some men who dread taking on the kind of responsibility that come with marriage and children.

My brother from another mother finally warned me that if the daughter of my mother is a big flirt, her Mr Right will not commit to her. Why? Well, no man wants to be in a relationship with a woman who cannot control her flirtatious ways.

Staring at my brother from another mother, I realised that men have a ton of reasons why they may not want to say, “Yes, I do” to women and it’s for the woman to either change certain things she’s doing that block her path to commitment or simply let him know what she wants and if he doesn’t act on what she says, then she must move on.

• Tiema Haji Muindi is a Kenyan journalist based in Durban.

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