Beth asks “I ended things in mid-November after two months of dating an emotionally unavailable man. He pursued me ardently throughout the whole time we were together, lavished me with romance, talked about marriage, kids, moving in together, and couldn’t peel himself off of me each time we met. He finally told me he was in love with me, and I told him I felt the same, so I decided to see if he wanted to get a little more serious.

He said he couldn’t possibly be in a relationship right now because “I would hurt him first”. I soon came to realise I had a commitment-phobe on my hands. He then told me he had been dumped by his fiance 10 months earlier, and had very little faith in relationships.

I cut off all contact several weeks after we broke up, but since then, he has emailed me repeatedly and gone against my wishes. I read the first few emails, and he goes on and on about how madly in love with me he is, etc., tries to get me to be “just friends” with him, says his life sucks without me and needs to have me in his life in any way he possibly can. He’s basically obsessing and refuses to let go.

I continue deleting his messages and have blocked his email. Do you have any other suggestions for me? I don’t understand much about commitment phobia, but I did a little reading and it seems like it’s a very serious fear–I know it’s not my problem, but it could help me move on if I understood more about the nature of this phobia and what I can expect from someone in this mindset (so I can arm myself!). I thought he would leave me alone, but obviously I was wrong so any insight is appreciated.”

The thing you need to understand here is the commitment-phobe doesn’t commit to anything – so none of his behaviour is unusual in that context because he doesn’t stake himself on an outcome either way. Instead, he flip flaps and messes with other people’s lives and emotions…like yours.

Until the moment that you commit to what they’ve been suggesting, they’re happy because in their mind they haven’t committed to anything at that point. But if you actually believe what they’re asking and commit to their suggestions, this is where the problem arises because when you do this, it suggests that you expect, need, or want something from them which sets off their panic button. Suddenly you start hearing ridiculous excuses that weren’t around when they were wooing you…

Don’t get me wrong; being dumped by his fiance and feeling a bit ambivalent about relationships for a while is understandable however, the entire two months you were both together, he had been dumped by his fiance then too and he wasn’t so devastated or off relationships that he didn’t pursue you or blow smoke up your bum telling you feelings and intentions that he had no intentions of delivering on!

You’re trapped in a game that you will lose at if you engage. Yes his commitment is a very real fear but to be solely focused on that issue would miss the point and have you seeing the trees instead of the wood. Obviously I can’t say how long he’s had commitment issues and whether they’ve specifically arisen out of his breakup but the core problem here, aside from his lack of commitment, is that he is not over his previous relationship, he has excess emotional baggage, doesn’t have both feet in the relationship, and may even still be emotionally attached to his ex.

Fundamental foundations for a relationship to progress is that while we all have a little baggage (of the hand baggage variety), you don’t start relationships when you’re emotionally unavailable, unwilling to commit, clearly have issues with relationships, and may still be emotionally tied to your ex. A sign that you’re ready to be in a new relationship is when you’re not emotionally tied to your ex in either a romantic or negative way – you need to be over them, the relationship, and ready to move on.

To continue to engage with him would be like chucking your energy into the abyss. It would also be a sign if you try to fix, heal, and help him that you may have your own issues to deal with.

He’s not obsessed with you; he’s obsessed with the idea of not ‘losing’ again plus if anyone is going to do the rejecting here, it’s got to be him because his ego is too ‘fragile’ to accept that someone isn’t prepared to put up with his BS.

You let him back in your life on his terms and you’re essentially being demoted and he’s pulling a classic move where he blows hot, cries wolf, manages down your expectations and starts chasing you again to re-balance things, only this time you end up on lesser terms.

You can’t just slip slide from talking about marriage, kids, moving in together (maybe a little quick 2 months in although it is different strokes for different folks) to ‘let’s be friends’ territory – talk about a frickin’ anti climax!

A big sign of a man with poor intentions is one that talks big but proves to be all big talk and no action. Dodgy men do tend to be very quick out the gate to pursue and talk out their backsides and the OTTness is actually a red flag that no doubt gets proven when they pull the rug out for under your feet. Also these men don’t have any regard for anyone but themselves, so they disregard your wishes and make contact because their needs and desires always take precedence.

His problem existed before you, it exists now, and it’s not your responsibility to solve his problems – it’s your responsibility to recognise the myriad of red flags here, enforce your boundaries and opt out, because you won’t be making a silk purse out of a pigs ear here…

You sound like you have good inner strength and the key is to accept the truth of his actions, not of his words. The guy doesn’t know his arse from his elbow but like in a lot of these relationships, you don’t need him to explain anything now because you need to trust your instincts, process what he has done, and act upon it.

These men do run out of steam, especially when it becomes clear that 1) you have boundaries and 2) that to be involved with you they have to commit and that it can’t be on their terms. Where they don’t run out of steam is if you give any indication that you’re willing to let them marginalise you into a different position. Stick to your guns, don’t second guess yourself, and remind yourself that it’s better that you know now, and have the option to run.

Really, short of getting legal on him (which becomes necessary if it crosses into harassment), the key things here are to stick to No Contact because that means you don’t engage, which means they run out of steam.

Your thoughts?

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