I have a gazillion questions in my inbox but this email jumped out at me:

“What does it mean when a man says ‘I can’t give you what you want’ or ‘I can’t be the man you need me to be’?”

When a man (or a woman) makes statements like this, these are what I call your golden opt-out moments or ‘windows of opportunity‘. If you have boundaries, values, awareness about red flags and a reasonable level of self-esteem, a warning statement like this will make you very uncomfortable. It will bring you back down to earth with a bump. And it is a warning statement. It’s time to get out of the relationship and suffer the short-term pain for the long-term gain.

He is giving you a chance to get out now while you can.

He’s also telling you who he is and trying to make you be real about him and the relationship so that you can opt out.

Here are the translations:

When a man says ‘ I can’t give you what you want’ he’s saying ‘I can’t give you what you want. I’m also not prepared to give you what you want so please stop wanting from me and move on.’

That’s it. He means exactly what he says.

This man already knows his capacity or what he is prepared to give. He’s also wise enough to recognise that you want more than what is on offer. There’s nothing mysterious about what he’s saying – he’s giving you a heads up and a warning.

When a man says he cannot give you what you want, it’s a red flag and a sign to run in the other direction.

Don’t make the mistake of millions of women by deciding that you know better. You don’t. Also, don’t make the mistake of deciding that you will marginalise your own needs so that you can hang onto him. All you’ll be doing is setting yourself up for a mighty big, painful fall.

‘I love you, and of course, you can give me what I want’, you might proclaim. Er, no, he can’t. You’re discounting what he’s said and trying to invalidate what he’s communicated because it doesn’t suit your view of things. You’re in denial. It’s not up to you, though, to decide what he can give.

When a man says he cannot give you what you want and you want a relationship, it means that he doesn’t want a relationship. It’s time for you to let go and move on.

A decent guy in this situation will not only tell you this but will opt out and move on with his life. A guy who wants to enjoy the fringe benefits of the relationship while managing down your expectations will hang about. He has thinking that works like this:

I’ve told you that I cannot give you what you want. I’m giving you a heads-up, and if you don’t have enough self-respect to move on and you stick around, I am not responsible for any pain that you may experience. Yes, that’s even if I continue to shag you/get an ego stroke/or lean on your shoulder and moan. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because I’m still around that I’m in a position to give you what you want. I’m not, but I am all for getting my own needs met if you’re going to stick around and let me use you up.

When a man says ‘I can’t be the man you need me to be’ he’s saying ‘Please stop putting me on a pedestal and creating illusions. I am not the man you think I am, and I am not the man who you so clearly need me to be. I cannot meet your needs and have no desire to.’

When men (or women) say stuff like this is because they know who they are, what they’re capable of, and what they feel about you and any relationship. They’ve likely danced this dance before with other people and they are trying to shut off the willing, waiting, hoping, dreaming, betting on potential and everything else that comes with putting someone on a pedestal.

If a man says that he can’t be who you need him to be, it’s because you are under illusions about who he is and the relationship. He’s making a vague attempt to bring you back down to earth.

You’ll likely have projected your ideas about who you think he is and the relationship you could have, and he’s getting nervous. He may even feel you’re being emotionally demanding and actually, you may well be. If someone is saying that they can’t give you what you want, it’s because you’re asking and expecting from them even when it’s apparent that they cannot meet your needs.

Really, he’s saying, ‘Back off! Stop expecting! Stop dreaming! Quit betting on potential! See me as I am!’

Again, a decent guy will not only tell you this but opt out and move on. In fact, if you were to persist in trying to be with him, he may even have to do No Contact on you. But a guy who doesn’t give a monkey’s about you and is happy to enjoy the fruits of your misguided feelings for him will think something like this:

I’ve told you that I’m not the man you need me to be. If you still want to be with me in spite of this, I know you want the illusion more than you want self-respect and a real relationship. However, if you stick around, even if you don’t realise it, it’s on my terms. So even though you might think that because we’re still sleeping together that maybe I can be the man you need, I still can’t. And there’s no point in continuing to complain because I told you that I could not meet your needs; it’s not my fault you stayed.

Hard as it may be to hear, there is no hidden meaning to these commitment-dodging statements.

When people show you who they are through their actions or tell you who they are, you need to be listening and watching, not denying or deciding that you know better, or playing Dan Brown looking to break a code.

Add context to the situation and you really get a sense of what they mean:

When a man makes statements like ‘I can’t give you what you want’ and stays in the relationship, he’s a lazy man. He’s reshaping the relationship on his terms and trying to manage down your needs and expectations so that he can get his needs met with minimal contribution while marginalising your own needs. He knows you’re not The One but he’s okay with passing time with you. He’s saying ‘I can’t be the man you want. If you’re okay with sticking around for some sub-par treatment, though, what kind of man would I be to pass up the fringe benefits?’

Don’t look for meaning where there is no meaning or suspend yourself in disbelief. Heed the warning signs.

Your thoughts?

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.
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