Recently I caught up with a friend, who I'll call Susan. Susan is beautiful, smart and successful. She's longing to get married and have a family of her own, so when she met Mark, it seemed as though her dreams were finally coming true.
Mark was as smitten with her as she was with him. He wanted to see her as often as he could. He spoke about the future and hinted about marriage within the first few weeks of dating. He introduced her to his family and friends. And then he texted her out of the blue one day to tell her he needed to take a break from the relationship because he was scared.
Susan is devastated. She can't understand why he'd pull away so quickly, but she hopes that by being patient and kind about his fears, he'll feel safe to come back. She finds all kinds of ways to justify why he feels scared; he's been hurt before, they got serious too soon, he doesn't know how to handle having such strong feelings for someone, he doesn't feel worthy of love. She's refusing to move on and date other men even though she hasn't heard from him in weeks. She's determined to prove to him that she can be his soft place to land in a cruel world.
What does it really mean when a guy says he's scared? Is it possible that he really is overwhelmed by the love he feels for this woman? I have to say, in the vast majority of cases - unlikely. Men might feel afraid by the strength of their feelings but they rarely see this as a sign to run.
For a grown adult to behave this way is silly. Usually when a man says he's scared, he means he wants out of the relationship in a way that will a) Give him room to come back if he changes his mind and b) gets him sympathy. After all, who could be so hard hearted as to be angry with a man who's biggest problem is that he just loves you too much for his own peace of mind? This way, he gets to end the relationship, AND gets you to feel sorry for him.
Ask around for yourself. Find men who are devoted boyfriends and husbands and ask them if they ever felt afraid, and did it make them want to leave. They'll tell you that if they did feel scared, the idea of losing the woman they loved was far scarier. You don't have to look much further than the recent story of George Clooney who after years of claiming he'd never marry again because he "wasn't good at it", recently told his fiancée, who he proposed to after only 7 months of dating, that he couldn't wait to be her husband.
But what if a guy really is so genuinely scared by the strength of his feelings that he can't handle being with you? Well, think about what this says about his character. He's showing you that when things get difficult, that when he feels uncomfortable, his response is to run. What will your future be like with someone who bails in that way?
Even if he comes back, what's to stop him getting scared and running away again if he gets cold feet the day before your wedding? When you tell him you're pregnant? When one of you loses a job? When you, or one of your kids get sick? You need a man you can lean on, not someone who makes his scared feelings more important than the people he loves.
If you find a guy who tries the "I'm scared and need to go sort my head out" excuse, just understand what he's showing you about how he handles difficulties and tell him to take all the time he needs. And then find a man who might also be scared by the strength of his love for you, but finds the fear of losing you to be far greater and far more intolerable. This is what you deserve.
Tiffany Mcevoy is a relationship coach and writer for high-achieving women who are ready to quickly meet and marry their soul mates. She has been coaching since 2010 and has worked with women from every continent on how to attract and sustain the healthy, loving relationship of their dreams.
She currently resides in London, and can be reached at www.borntobeaheroine.com.