Whilst writing my book The Mr Unavailable Guide (working title), I am writing a lot about the issue of commitment-phobia and it’s stranglehold on relationships. I come across so many women (and men) who engage in such self-destructive behaviour and who clearly exhibit a fear of commitment, yet many of these people don’t acknowledge that they have any issues and believe that they are just being dealt a bad hand in relationships, and that they have no control over what’s happening. It’s quite the opposite.
In my book I write:
If you experience commitment-phobia about relationships, you have disproportionate fears and beliefs that prevent you from being able to fully commit yourself to a relationship. You are essentially afraid of promising or vowing to either be with a person or in a relationship with them. You literally avoid commitment, or sabotage and stall the processes that bring it about.
Unlike other phobias where there are clear, obvious signs of distress when confronted with the fear – such as when someone has a phobia of spiders, water, lack of space, people, buttons – you aren’t necessarily going to have an overt reaction when confronted with a man or the possibility of a relationship and freak out, breaking out in a sweat, panic attack, or running for the hills!
Instead, commitment-phobes tend to engage in subtle and not so subtle, conscious and subconscious actions that sabotage opportunities, relationships and situations that may place them in the zone of having to realise the fear of committing. Often these actions are in direct conflict with aspirations and desires that are verbally expressed or desired, but as with everything, actions do speak louder than words.
Many commitment-phobes are the last of the great pretenders, talking a very good game, making all the right noises and apparently leading lives that appear to be in contradiction with commitment-phobia. They are kings and queens of the quiet agenda. It’s not the domain of resolutely single people though; commitment-phobes are dating, in relationships, engaged, married, and in between and seemingly seeking someone. Commitment-phobia doesn’t affect one type of person or situation. It can affect anyone and varies to lesser or greater extents. Most commitment-phobia can be overcome, but only if the commitment-phobe truly wants to.
I’m not one for advocating the single, attached, or married life, but I very much advocate that whatever choice you make, you make it from a positive place. Instead, I am constantly finding that people are choosing their relationship status based on fear, insecurity, and beliefs and disbeliefs they have about that status in the context of their lives. Being single because you fear opening up to someone or relinquishing your ‘freedom’ is just as bad as being attached because you’re afraid to be alone, or married to any old Joe because you believe marriage, any marriage, is better than being perceived as some sort of failure.
Relationship status is just that, a status, yet people do define and measure the quality of their life against it. This means that a fear of commitment can permeate very negatively into every area of your life.
So what next? Well of course I’ll have to do a separate post on how to stop being afraid of commitment, but in the meantime I suggest that you take some time out to get real with yourself. List your relationships (or if you’re a serial dater, your dates) and look for common themes and patterns – how you met, why you chose to be with them, what were the negatives, the positives, how did you feel with them, were you The Other Woman, was he emotionally unavailable, did you do things that in hindsight brought about the demise of the relationship, why and how did you break up, do you still sleep with any of these people, do you still maintain contact etc.
Ask yourself if you know what you’re afraid of. What are your views on commitment, love, relationships? Are there any strong beliefs or disbeliefs you have about them? Write down the positive and negative points about your relationship with each parent and check that there is no correlation between that and the people that you date. What are your goals in the short, medium and long term and are you living the life you say you want to lead? If not, why not?
Look at it as Crime Scene Investigation! Examine the evidence to lead you to the answer.