Is It Cold Feet, Or Something Worse?

A man's fear of commitment can be deeply ingrained in his psyche. But that shouldn't stop him from moving forward with his life.

Dear Rabbi Shmuley,

I'm in a wonderful relationship--or at least, I thought I was. My girlfriend and I (I'm 25, she's 23) have been together for 3 years, and she and I make each other laugh, share our deepest secrets, and are very much in love. But recently, she's started to talk about taking our relationship to the next level, even going so far as to drag me over to jewelry store windows to gaze at the rings on display. I'm so confused by my reaction--panic! I never thought of myself as a commitment-phobe, but I'm wondering if this is a good old-fashioned case of pre-engagement jitters, or if my cold feet are a sign of something I might be missing that's wrong with our relationship. Should I forge ahead into the jewelry store, or take a step back?

--Cold Feet

Hi, Cold Feet,

These are the regular jitters experienced by men who, in general, have a major problem with commitment. Men in general are deal-makers. They are driven and goal-oriented. It goes against the grain of their nature to enter into one "big deal" that precludes the possibility of any others. So, marriage being as all-encompassing as it is, the idea of it can make a lot of men feel pretty imprisoned. Added to that is the male linear nature, something that I have discussed in many of my books. The image is this: men are lines and women are circles.


This refers not just to the state of each gender's body, but to the state of their respective natures. Women are circles. They have no beginning and no end. They are much more means-oriented. They don't feel trapped by relationships. Indeed, like two circles that interconnect, they positively thrive on them. Likewise, women don't get bored in loving relationships. They have the capacity to renew themselves within the relationship framework without having to look for someone new. Not so for men, who respond poorly to a loss of novelty in a relationship, and who often resemble a line trapped in the middle of a great big circle.

A man's purpose should be to mature and develop through his exposure to the feminine. You're supposed to be more loving, more domestic, more compassionate, and more committed. That's why you prefer the company of your girlfriend to even your best buddies. She is different. She brings out your more gentle side. So it is not only natural that she should want to marry you, it's progress. It's the right thing. You yourself confess to how special your relationship is.

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