What does it mean if he can't be serious?

Hi Edahn,

I'm a 27 year old woman that has been seeing a 44 year old man for 4 months. We have a great time together. He calls or texts me almost everyday and seems to care about me and my feelings. If I'm unhappy with something he tries to change it to make things better. I don't think he's seeing anyone else and I've told him I wasn't either. He treats me like a girlfriend and respects me. He actually treats me better than any "boyfriend" I've ever had. The only problem for me is that he doesn't want us to be in an official relationship. The only thing I'm unhappy about is his reluctance to call me his girlfriend. He was in a 9 year relationship with a woman who was addicted to drugs and basically dragged him through the mud. Their relationship ended in Dec. '09. Could this be the reason he doesnt want me as his girlfriend? What does it mean when a man treats you like a girlfriend but doesn't want it to be official? I'm so confused and I need some advice...

It means he doesn't see himself ever ending up with you. This is how it works. We all have a certain "image" of the kind of person we're suited for. I put image in quotation marks because it's really more than a visual picture. It's a composite of the vibe you get from them, their voice, their background, their beliefs, their age, and other characteristics. The qualities that comprise that image have a lot to do with our upbringing, our personality, and our challenges. To take it one step further, the premise of Imago Therapy is that we specifically seek out this person because they're instrumental in our mental, emotional, and spiritual development. We'll call this composite image the "Imago match."

When a guy knows that a girl isn't his Imago match, he can either break it off or try and negotiate some type of relationship that allows him to keep the benefits of a relationship-sex, intimacy, excitement, something to do-without having to commit. This is where "friends with benefits," "non-serious boyfriends," "dating without commitment," and the myriad variations of the same fundamental arrangement come into play. In all of these relationships, the guys knows the girl isn't his right match, but he keeps the relationship alive for enjoyment while preserving his right to keep looking for his Imago match.

This is what I believe is happening with you in your relationship. I'm not sure what the reason is, but I would guess that the age disparity is a huge factor. Seventeen years is a large age gap and deep down, he is probably looking for someone closer to his age. It's nothing personal, and it would be a mistake to take it that way. You have your own Imago match out there who's waiting to find you, connect with you, and grow with you.

UPDATE: I've tried to break it off before, but he'll keep calling or texting telling me he misses me etc. Why would a guy do that but not want a relationship? I dont think he's embarrassed to be seen with me because he's invited me to dinner with his family and has taken me out to dinner at a restaurant where he knows everyone...We hold hands and he kisses me or holds me in public...everything he does screams relationship except the title...why do men do this if they're not serious about a woman...
They do it because it has other payoffs: sex, romance, excitement/addiction, a way to spend your time, a distraction, company, etc. If it's not the age gap, then it's something else that's telling him you're not his match. Try to separate your feelings from the situation and see this as plainly and honestly as you can. The facts are 1) he's sleeping with you, 2) he doesn't want to get into a serious relationship, and 3) he's an older guy who came out of a long-term relationship. If you had to take your best guess at what's going on, what would you say? That he's just trying to have fun for as long as he can, or that he really wants to be with you but can't because of some mysterious complex? What seems more likely? You're a smart girl. Just think about it objectively and go have a talk with him.