When You’re Tired of Waiting on His Promises

When You’re Tired of Waiting on His PromisesHas this ever happened to you?

He swears he’s in love with you. He wants you to have a future together. He makes a promise to you.


He’ll delays telling his friends you’re his girlfriend, promising to do so when the timing is better.

He’ll find a place for the two of you to live together as soon as his lease runs out. He’ll propose as soon as he has the money for a ring.

So many promises. So much hope.

Weeks pass. You mention his promises. He swears to you that he’s onto it. You just have to be patient.

Months pass. You mention his promises. He tells you to stop nagging him. You need to trust him.

A year passes. You stop mentioning his promises. Somewhere deep inside, you know the truth. He never intended to live up to his word.

When you’re in that situation, it’s hard to know what to do. You want to believe him so much. This is the man you want a future with, after all.

But you can’t deny the evidence. You can see that he’s done nothing.

Living in limbo is painful. You want to move forward, but he’s holding back. You don’t know why, and you’re not sure if you want to know why. You may learn something you wish you’d never learned.

When a man’s words don’t match his actions, you have a few options:

  1. You can give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s being honest with you about the timing not being right, or not having the money. You can be the better person. You can be patient.
  2. You can push a little harder. Maybe he’s procrastinating. Maybe he’s forgotten about the promise he made. Surely he’ll appreciate a little reminder. Or two. Or three.
  3. You can apply a little leverage. You can give him some space and see if that lights a fire under him. Or you can issue an ultimatum: either he lives up to his promises or he loses you.
  4. You can put the truth on the line. You don’t know why he’s not taking action on what he promised you. So ask him. Tell him your fears. Tell him you’re worried that he made that promise just to make you happy. Watch his face closely. Ask your gut what it thinks.

Here’s what I think of each of those options. I’ll finish by telling you what I’d recommend, and why it will bring you closer than ever.

Option #1 has its pros and cons.

Giving your loved one the benefit of the doubt is a good idea. It’s one of the qualities that make relationships last. Couples who don’t automatically assume the worst of each other do better than couples who jump to conclusions about each other’s motives.

But, when you’re in a new relationship, you don’t actually know what his motives are. You don’t know him well enough yet. So you might do well to be cautious.

Option #2 is problematic. If he’s promised to do something to move your relationship forward, then it’s not your responsibility to remind him. Nagging him can backfire. He might feel that you don’t think he can do it by himself. He’ll dig his heels in even further.

Option #3 can work in some circumstances, but I don’t recommend it. If there’s one person you don’t want to have to play games with, it’s your future husband.

This is a very popular strategy, though. It gives you a feeling of power. It satisfies the part of you that thinks he should pay for not following through on his promises. Some experts recommend it as a one-time thing. If the threat of losing you gets him to finally “put a ring on it,” then surely it can’t be too bad.

My view is that:

The way you start a relationship should be the way you mean to continue.

That’s why I recommend Option #4, talking to him about it.

When You’re Tired of Waiting on His PromisesHonesty takes guts. It’s scary to ask your loved one a question when you’re afraid to hear his answer. But if you can summon up the courage to ask, and the courage to listen non-judgmentally to what he has to say, then you are so far ahead of most couples.

That’s how successful teams work. They don’t blame each other for not moving the project forward. They don’t play games. They use frank, honest talk to get clear about what needs to be done and what’s holding it back.

He’s on your team. Talk to him.

Be honest about what’s at stake for you. Find out what’s at stake for him. Give him permission to be truthful with you. You’ll be building skills you’ll use for a lifetime to come.

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7 thoughts on “When You’re Tired of Waiting on His Promises

  1. CC said:

    When is an ultimatum not manipulation?
    Thanks. 🌸

    • Lorna (LaLa) said:

      An ultimatum is about setting clear boundaries, not manipulation. As I see it, issuing an ultimatum says that your boundaries have been well and truly threatened and you will not allow them to be breached. But if you issue an ultimatum, you have to MEAN it and stick to it – therefore be careful, as you are skating on thin ice, since it should be a one-off threat, and if they don’t give in to it, you are pretty well stuck. It is a bit like punishing a child for wrong-doing then letting him get away with the same thing next time. Or threatening punishment, but not carrying it out. Your boundaries have been pushed to the limit, but you are demonstrating that if they keep pushing, they will wear you down and they’ll get away with it. Therefore, you weaken your bargaining power. That’s my opinion, anyway. Hope it helps. Lorna

  2. Valerie said:

    Reading Lorna’s story hit home for me. I had a similar situation with a man with a drinking problem, as well as pharmaceutical drug abuse. I finally left for good, after 9 years! I realized that I couldn’t help him, he had to figure out his own fears and come to terms with his childhood abuse and problems with other woman and commitment, as well.

    It is always sad to say goodbye after giving it all that you have and being patient and kind. You just have to be honest with the man and honest with yourself. What can you live with and what can you live without. The roller coaster ride is not the way to live. We all have to look within to see why we are addicted to their behavior patterns. It was way too much drama for me, and being alone for awhile has been a great healing process.

    I found that we have to be whole and happy within ourselves, and then the right man will feel our positive energy and won’t have a problem with commitment.

    • Lorna (LaLa) said:

      Valerie, Thank you for your response, and I am pleased for you if you have moved on and found happiness elsewhere. Unfortunaltely, at my age now (69) I very much doubt if I will find anyone who “fts the bill” for me. It is not just a case of grabbing the first available man that comes along. There are lots of them (some of whom are already married!!), but don’t always tick the right boxes. Sadly, the man with the drink problem, who I have recently lost, ticked lots and lots of boxes for me, but his dependence on drink was just too great for us to overcome. For a while, we loved each other very much, and I will always be grateful for that, even though it did not work out. I have lovely memories, as well as all the nasty memories of the high drama our relationship turned into. As you say, that is not easy to cope with – especially if there is no end in sight. I am trying to get on with my life alone. I’ve put my house on the market and have seen a shop in a beautiful litlle village by the sea that I would dearly love to buy. So I’m putting all my energy into trying to make that happen. It stops me from being lonely, at least. Best wishes to you for a wonderful future. Lorna

  3. Lorna (LaLa) said:

    Oh, James, I agree with you whole-heartedly on this one. BUT – as you say, it is scary – absolutely terrifying, actually, to “take the bull by the horns” and launch into trying to talk to him. We all, as women, know how difficult that is Yes, he may talk ’til the cows come home to his girl “friends” in the office/pub, or his mother or sister and get their advice on the relationship, but it usually has an edge to it, somehow, as they will mostly have an agenda of their own regarding him, which has been my experience – but get him to open up and talk to YOU, is another matter altogether. How can you do that without it seeming to be criticizing and escalating into an almghty row? I have read your advice now for years, and know to some extent how to do this, but still made a cock-up of it – so for the benefit of others who are just new to this forum, can you explain what is the best way to approach this delicate subject, please? In my experience, men immediately go into flight/fight/freeze mode if they feel threatened in any way. In my case, when I said I want to know where I stand (after 5 years of being messed about), he went into freeze first (denial), then fight (“I want you out of here!!”) then flight as he took to his heels and ran out of the door to his apartment, when I tried to talk to him – telling me to bang it behind me when I left. He then went back into fight as he rang me a couple of days later when he was drunk, then freeze again when I got angry with him, as he has now blocked my numbers, so that I can’t contact him. Admittedly, he is different, as he is an alcoholic and suffers from anxiety and depression, and is finding it difficult to give up the booze (which I wanted to help him to do – and he agreed to do), but I wonder how many other men would have a similar reaction to feeling they are “trapped”? Not everything is straight-forward by any means. Lorna

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Lorna. You are so patient and kind with this man in your life. I wish he had the same level of patience and steadfast loyalty that you seem to have for him.

      I see what you mean about his fight or flight reactions, and the intervening freeze mode that seems to thwart his productive response when you try to discuss how things could be better between the two of you.

      The truth is, you can only do your 50% in a relationship. When you talk to him, you’re giving him an amazing opportunity to see inside your mind, to understand what you need and want from the relationship. Then it’s up to him if he wants to rise to the occasion, be your hero, and meet the needs you have expressed.

      Course, that’s the real key. So I would ask you to think back about the interaction and make sure you laid out your needs in a way that caused him to believe he had the power to meet them. Ensure you lay out your desires in a way that inspires him to want to meet those desires. It certainly is an art. Because people can read unspoken the emotional tension as a threat, even if the words we choose our honey sweet.

      Sometimes the key is state management. Meaning, communicating in ways that evoke the right emotional state from him. And that starts with asking yourself what he likely believes about himself, about you, and about his ability to meet your needs in ways that bolster his own happiness in the process. I wonder if he does not believe in himself to the extent that you do.

      Wishing you the best,


      • Lorna (LaLa) said:

        Thank you James for your lengthy, very supportive reply. I really appreciate it. You are right in that he does not believe in himself. Even when I said how proud I was of him, he said it was patronizing!! (Can’t do right for doing wrong!!). And I AM so proud of him, he has so much to offer the world – he is a beautiful, talented musician, which is a real God-given gift not everyone has. We have never really managed to talk freely and openly about difficult things, which has been the problem all along. He very often just hits the roof and tells me to leave, rather than talk. And unfortunately, I often lose my temper, too, when he is abusive, and say things I shouldn’t, as I will not be treated that way. I am not a saint and not always as patient as you think – although I do try very hard! I also suspect he may have ADHD, because he seems to have so many problems relating to this – anxiety; impulsivness; difficulty with money; obsessions; inability to know the “rules” and to read people; too trusting at times – “nice” and over-helpful; unable to say “No” when appropriate – he gets taken advantage of. I really wanted to comment now to this new article of yours, thinking perhaps it would help other ladies to understand how (some) men can be. He has hinted that he may have been sexually abused at his boarding school by one of the tutors. He has never opened up about this, but stated recently that a lot of the masters were paedophiles. I had wondered, but found it difficult to broach the subject. It is very much in the media nowadays, and more and more incidents from the past are coming to light. It was never talked about before – I wonder if it has triggered things in him from the past. I did ask if there was anything going on with the other boys in the school, but he said not in his dorm. He certainly has extreme hang-ups about sex, and finds it difficult to handle his emotions. I am reading a very distressing novel at the moment which could be written by me, regarding a man who was sexually abused as a child having severe emotional hang-ups and finding it very difficult to have a “normal” relationship. I certainly think the man I have been involved with could benefit from some counselling, but he does not think that is necessary. I expect it is too painful to go there – he prefers to block things out with copious amounts of booze. Anyway, all that being said, it looks as though I may never see him again, as he has blocked me out of his life at the moment, which is a real shame, as I know we did really love each other. I did write to him asking if we could try again to sort his excessive drinking out, and that I will always be there for him, day or night, if he needs to talk, but got no response. I think he really believes he can’t give it up, and feels desperately ashamed. Maybe I’ll leave it a while and try again. I know that January and February are usually his worst months. However, I have now completed my training course to become a counsellor on a 24/7 telephone helpline for alcoholics and drug addicts, and attended AA Meetings, so maybe I can use some of the experience I have had this last five years by helping others with their own problems. We are able to refer callers on to free therapy and detox/rehab. So if I can do something to save just one poor soul, all the heartache I have had for these last few years will not be in vain. Thank you, too, James for your articles which have helped me enormously to see more clearly into a man’s mind. I will continue to read them. Keep up the good work – you reach so many needy, hurting people. Lorna xx .

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