Commitment phobia tends to be a painful experience for both the individual engaging in the pattern and the people involved in their lives. There is often a sense of push/pull in these “relationships”. The root cause has to do with the family of origin survival patterns.
Both men and women can suffer from commitment phobia. I see it in my clients often. There seems to be an underlying fear – fear of intimacy, and deep emotional connection. On a subconscious level, people with commitment phobia feel they need to cut off their feelings after a certain point of knowing someone as a way of feeling in control and emotionally protected. Again, this happens at a deep subconscious level so they may not even be aware of it.
Commitment phobes are amazing at the art of seduction, so if you don’t know what you are looking for, it can be very easy to “fall” for them. They seek the thrill of the “chase”. Once they “get” the person, the experience becomes less interesting. They are almost consumed with meticulously picking out negative traits in the other person. It’s normal for individuals to examine the other person’s negative traits and evaluate if they’d like to continue a relationship or not. However, for commitment phobes, the process is often obsessive.
They are looking for perfection as they erroneously attribute this to finding happiness in a relationship, as well as being in control and emotionally safe. When they find someone they feel will measure up, the push/pull begins. They are there, then they are not. Fully emotionally present, then completely disappear. When they are present, they are contemplating their way out. Always.
What’s important to understand is the way they think. For this example I will use a man as the commitment phobe and woman as the potential partner. He will think – I’m not going to be here for a long time, so I’m going to be extremely sweet, romantic, seductive. The moment I feel she is being real, or human or emotionally connected, I will run. Through therapy, he may realize he suffers from loneliness, but is still unable to get away from these patterns.
Individuals with commitment phobia may come from divorced families, or “broken families”, or families with trauma and unhealthy dynamics, causing emotional instability during childhood. So they are constantly working to mitigate future pain. They are unable to stay in the moment and enjoy the new love. They need to feel they are a step ahead in the relationship, consumed by not being “trapped” by her, a woman who might depend on him in any way, as they equate intimacy to a “trap”.
This is one of many ways in which commitment phobia manifests itself in an individual. It’s important to keep in mind, they are often unaware of their inner fears and truth, so blaming them would not really be fair. True, authentic emotions are scary for most people, but it is almost impossible for the commitment phobe to face them, especially without the safety of a therapeutic relationship.
If you are looking for a long term relationship, recognize the signs of a commitment phobe and move on. If you don’t, you will get hurt. Does this mean, commitment phobes will never get married? No, of course not. Like can sometimes attract like. They may find someone with a high intensity connection, jump into denial together and get married quick. Neither are concerned about the longevity of the connection, therefore, it is doomed to not work out. Commitment phobes also might find themselves in long term “relationships” with highly “needy” individuals. However, the relationship will be unhealthy as it is marked by low self-worth and codependency.
The commitment phobe needs to understand the connection between his/her familial upbringing and his/her fears. Most are raised in loveless, volatile, silent marriages, divorce, unhealthy passivity in one partner, unpredictability of moods, feelings of tension and unhappiness that most family members want to get out of.
In extreme cases, there might be diagnosed or undiagnosed addiction or mental health issues. Commitment phobes will learn to have one foot in, one foot out as children as there may be unpredictability in terms of what will happen, or a parent’s mood from one day to another. They will learn, why should I commit, when I know it’s unsafe to commit to people I’m supposed to trust? For commitment phobes in silent homes, they may not have had many role models for healthy, committed relationships, or healthy emotional attachments, making them fearful.
If you are struggling with commitment phobia and want to overcome it, you have to ask yourself “why do you do it?” Consider therapy if you’re having a hard time answering this question. Read more about it and educate yourself. The fear is deeply subconscious. You have to commit to making it conscious, and understanding what is it that is making you act in ways that are hurting others and yourself.
As human beings, we are wired for connection, and emotional bonding. Although being single can be helpful in growing and learning, relationships can provide us with a safe place where we can learn to overcome emotional boredom, immature impulsivity, learn to be vulnerable, open and insecure in front of our partners, creating a deep sense of trust.
Some tips for people struggling with commitment phobia:
- Be present in the moment: here and now with the person in front of you. Focus on what is good and right in the relationship right now. Don’t let your anxieties and fears get the better of you. Stay present.
- Accept, deeply, that no one is perfect.
- Make room in your life for someone, a relationship. Too busy for relationships? Too much on your plate? You will learn to handle more, if you allow yourself. Slowly but surely.
- Bring awareness to how your parents did things, and do the opposite.
- Your happiness needs to come from you. Not from a partner, their acceptance or rejection of you. Once you commit, there’s a possibility of getting hurt. Don’t let this weigh too heavily. Getting hurt is not the end of the world. Allow yourself to take a leap of faith. You will learn from it and grow, regardless of the outcome of the relationship.
- Give your self-esteem a boost by doing things that make you happy. Don’t sabotage other shots at love waiting for the “perfect person” who will magically and instantly unlock the key to your happiness and fulfillment.
- Instead of looking at love as a trap, consider finding freedom in love. An authentic, true connection encourages freedom and growth – freedom to be yourself, freedom to love unconditionally, freedom to be vulnerable.
- Find someone who shares your values – this will place you on the right track for a healthy and lasting long term relationship. If you choose someone with different values, you’re placing yourself at a high risk for divorce. Be intentional in getting to know the person thoroughly.
- Surround yourself with people in healthy relationships. If you are surrounded by unhealthy relationships, you will develop a skewed idea of relationships. Seeing healthy relationships around you will help you see a different perspective and overcome your fear of commitment.
- Practice meditation daily to calm your anxiety. Know that you running away from intimacy is your way of calming your anxiety in the short term. It is a band-aid solution helping you “avoid” your fears and doesn’t really fix the problem in the long run.
- Find and use other ways to calm your anxiety, that don’t sabotage your relationships.
- Consider the benefits of being in a healthy, happy, stable long term relationship. Living in fear prevents you from living in the present moment. A commitment can give your life a sense of purpose, meaning, and direction that is bigger than just you. Consider the payoffs.
- Finally, if you are serious about overcoming your fear of commitment, start with committing to this goal. And remember to go slow.