Women usually want to see their relationship evolve, whereas many men are perfectly happy to let things stay exactly as they are for years on end. What that means is, if you want things to move forward, you have to be the one moving them forward. From I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To.
The first step is to assess whether they are moving at all. Are you seeing each other as often as you want or think is necessary to maintain the relationship? Are you seeing each other with an appropriate amount of intensity? If you’ve been dating for six months and you still only see each other once a week, or you mostly just hang out and watch TV, that’s not evolving if that’s not what you want to be doing. (If you have kids, that may be all you can manage, however. All rules have exceptions.) If it’s incredibly intense every time you see each other, that’s not sustainable. You have the power to speed things up or slow things down. Suggest doing something different, or make plans to shake things up.
When working to evolve a relationship, sometimes you have to be a little bit stealthy about it, so you don’t scare away a commitment-phobic boyfriend with good potential, and methodical, so it is clear to everyone that you are not going to waste the next five years doing exactly what you are doing now (dating on weekends only, never going away together for the weekend, not meeting each other’s families, not moving in together, etc.) Don’t be whiny or emotional about how things aren’t going the way you want. Instead, be straight-up and frank about what you would like to see happening next. Keep the pressure off, but be clear. Think of it as negotiating a sensitive business deal. Not that relationships are a business (although if you ever get divorced, you will know that in many ways, they are), but you should both feel like you are getting most of the things you want, you should both feel just slightly out of your comfort zone, and you should both feel happy with the way the deal is going. Something has to happen for something to happen. Shake it up to get a different result.
As you work to help your relationship evolve, be careful. Sometimes when you want something badly, you might get too eager or emotional and put the pressure on. This can scare someone who is nervous about commitment. Handle with care, pay attention to reactions, and don’t be emotional. Be straight-up, and if you detect the other person getting nervous or withdrawing, back off and reassess your approach. Think of the commitment-phobic guy as a wild animal. You can’t rush in with your hands out or he’ll run away (or bite). Enact your strategy gently, sweetly, with reassurances and support. Here’s what you could try:
• Making day plans, if you only see each other at night.
• Discussing having standing weekend plans—you assume you will do something unless one of you informs the other he or she is busy. Propose this casually, not with pressure.
• Revealing something personal about yourself in a quiet private moment together, if you have been guarded about doing this.
• Pulling back just a little to encourage your partner to move forward just a little. If this doesn’t work, try the opposite—be just a little more available and affectionate, to remind him you are there for him.
• Changing it up. If you always stay home, suggest getting dressed up and going out. If you always go out, suggest staying home and cooking together.
• Planning a weekend getaway (if you both feel ready for it—don’t do it as a surprise, or before six weeks together).
• Proposing getting your families together for a low-key social activity.
• If it’s time, maybe planting the seeds of moving in together without necessarily bringing it up directly. Point out cool apartments or areas of town to live in. Talk about your future together casually, like, “Wouldn’t it be cool to live in this neighborhood?” You can also be fanciful. “I could totally see us in a cool apartment in Paris someday.” This can get him thinking in that direction if he isn’t, but if he gets scared, back off and reassess your approach.
In a good and evolving relationship, both parties have to be willing to step slightly outside their comfort zones for something that matters to the other person. If progressing matters to you, then the person you are with should be willing to go there with you. If not, maybe it’s not the right relationship for you.