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How to Handle the Snail Male

by Eharmony Editorial Team - May 19, 2011

Some men approach love and romance as if they were competing in the Olympics’ 100-meter dash. But there are plenty of men who are just the opposite.

Some men approach love and romance as if they were competing in the Olympics’ 100-meter dash. But there are plenty of men who are just the opposite. The term “moving at a snail’s pace” seems to have been coined just for them. They take every new phase and stage of a relationship with painstaking deliberation and dawdling … much to the dismay of women who would like to keep things moving a bit more swiftly. Or who at least want to know what lurks in the shell-like mind of a snail-like male.

The important question—if you find yourself falling for a slow-going man—is not when he might finally be ready for a serious and committed relationship, but if he’ll ever be. You need to know, “Am I being played? Is he moving at a glacial pace because that’s his style and temperament, or because his long-term interest in me is in the grip of an ice age?”

There are men who will prolong the “negotiation” phase of relationship indefinitely, with no intention of ever “closing the deal.” Perhaps he’s in it for fun, sex, or low-risk companionship. It could be that, in your eagerness, you’ve made it easy for him to linger in limbo by giving more than you should. Maybe he’s concluded you aren’t the one for him, but lacks the courage to say so.

Fortunately, that man is not hard to spot. He becomes defensive, even angry, when you bring up the subject of marriage. He insists on having more space in the relationship, especially when you have expressed a desire for more time together. He compartmentalizes his life, keeping you carefully isolated from his other friends, his work, and his family. These are the attitudes of someone who is probably not interested in a lifelong partnership with you. Find the exit as soon as you can.

But what if the above doesn’t describe the man in your life? What if he is perfectly willing to discuss a long-term relationship and even marriage—but he’s just not ready? What if your relationship is wonderful, but he is in no hurry to make it more than it already is?

Here are three suggestions:

Think like Albert Einstein. In his famous Theory of Relativity, Einstein used a lot of fancy mathematics to say that we all experience the world differently, depending on our point of view. Even time isn’t a constant quantity, but is elastic and subject to our perceptions. In other words, your partner’s concept of what is too slow or too fast is just as valid as yours. Knowing that may not speed things up to your liking, but it will minimize the destructive tug-of-war over who is right and who is wrong on the issue.     

Think like Sherlock Holmes. Exactly why your partner feels the need to go so slow is a mystery—but one with abundant clues in plain sight, if you’ll bother to look. Is he afraid of losing autonomy? Ending up like his miserable divorced parents? Reliving the pain of his last nasty breakup? Discover his reasons and you’ll be better equipped to allay his fears.

Think like Donald Trump. Know your bottom-line offer. How long are you willing to wait before either walking away or walking down the aisle? A lot of years can go by while you sit on the fence. It’s up to you to decide how long you’ll be patient as your Snail Male creeps forward, ever so slowly. If you’re sure this man is a keeper, it’s likely you’ll want to hang in there; if you’re unsure he’s the one for you, don’t squander precious time—move on to better prospects.