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Commitment Phobia; Beginning Of The End Or End Of A Beginning?

Updated on December 24, 2014

A lot of us have questioned ourselves at the beginning of an obvious end and at the end of a possible beginning. However some of us keep whirling in the confusion of what could have been or should have been. When a relationship crumbles, doubts raise their slimy heads. Confusion and guilt sweep the emotions to the shores of sadness and anger. As if, what had happened, wasn't enough agony.

The commonest question that pops up in the head is of blame. "Who is responsible? Was he a monster? Was she cheating? Did I not love her well? Was I not good enough for him? Am I not attractive? How come I ruin all my relationships? Is she in love with someone else? Why did he do this? Why did she leave? Why didn't I see it coming? Was it something I said or done? Am I incapable of forming long-term and stable bonds?" And the worst one "Was I the reason he/she left me?". And so starts the cycle of self pity and self-blame.

Well, sometimes the answers are clear. And there are facts staring you in the face that can't be overlooked. Sometimes it is a matter of incompatibility, betrayal, a gradual shift of affections, or external unavoidable circumstances like moving away. Its easy to pin the blame on yourself or your ex when the issues are straight forward. And a few, very few, times, blame doesn't even NEED to be pinned. But, there are other, more convoluted scenarios, where things abruptly, unpredictably, go crazy. When neither the nature nor the end of the relationship is easily deciphered. One such situation arises when you happen to give yourself over to a commitment-phobe.

What is Commitment phobia?

Although the term is self explanatory, its still widely misunderstood. Most people take commitment phobia to be a male problem that has to do with long-term committed relationships and marriage. This definition is of course valid but bot exhaustive. Commitment Phobia is a fear of "commitment" in general. It becomes more apparent and pronounced in relationships and is effectively "caught" and highlighted there, but a commitmentphobe will have a hard time making ANY decision that appears to need an investment of "self".

Commitmentphobes are scared people. They are afraid, and they lose their nerves in making commitments exactly like the claustrophobes lose their nerves in enclosed spaces. Even the mere thought of a "lifelong" or "forever" causes them to panic. Commitment phobia is simply an irrational FEAR. Fear, that is grounded in a dysfunctional belief system and that causes aberrant behavior in relationships. The disorder has an uneven distribution among the genders: men being more likely to be effected than women. But it DOES occur in women. Commitmentphobes have fears which are akin to the sense of being "bound" and "gagged" when they perceive that they are losing their freedom. At the core of these fears is another fear. That of losing all other options, and of responsibility. They are good and solid until they aren't feeling responsible or have their options open.


How does a commitmentphobe behave?

Someone who has a fear of commitment will avoid all situations that may put them on the spot. They will have a hard time settling down, and will create a fantasy world of perfection and then judge everyone and everything to be less than suited for the life of their unrealistic dreams. So that they don't have to "own" it and be responsible for it. Commitment phobia instills the false belief that in a committed situation they will be COMPLETELY and TOTALLY responsible for whatever happens.

These situations may involve decisions about career, belongings, boarding and lodging, buying a car or a house, giving gifts and of course romance and marriage.

The signs of Commitment Phobia:

I don't advocate keeping your antenna on high alert at all times, scanning people for abnormalities. I do however believe in awareness. Commitment phobia is a social risk that is bound to do lasting damage to others who decide to go out, date, live with or marry the commitmentphobe. So it stands to reason that you learn to recognize a commitmentphobe early in the relationship. And if you think you suffer from commitment phobia, decide to get professional help or at least make it clear at the outset of your relationship that you aren't looking to settle down. Its hard, very hard to do if you are a commitmentphobe. The following patterns will emerge over time:

  • A strong and passionate involvement in the beginning, that keeps resurfacing in peaks.
  • A game of cat-and-mouse. They are ardent when they see you withdrawn and withdraw when you rise to the bait.
  • The affection is sincere and the love genuine, while it lasts. This person will love you with his/her whole being, precisely because it isn't "forever". In their subconscious mind they know this is temporary.
  • You'll find out in due course of time that there is a history of brief relationships. Some of these relationships may have ended when plans of engagement or marriage were en-route.
  • They'll want your love and attention until they get it.
  • Once you get attached, they will ask for space and freedom.
  • They'll keep their lives compartmentalized. Will needlessly lie to you, just so that they can believe no one is controlling them and that they CAN and should keep their privacy.
  • You'll discover minor and major untruths, exaggerations and outright lies from time to time.
  • When busted, they will weave convoluted and fantastical stories to cover for it.
  • They will balk at the words "future", "always", "forever", "commitment", "domestic", "marriage", "stability" etc. They will craftily change tracks during serious conversations.
  • They will feel tied down when you are around and become uneasy and withdraw. But will be equally or even MORE averse to the idea of losing you.
  • They will swing between being caring and even somewhat possessive to totally unconcerned within a day.
  • They will have unconventional living arrangements, e.g. They may live with friends or family instead of living on their own. They will try to have as much freedom from domestic responsibility as possible.
  • Their commitment phobia may extend to their careers and they may make erratic and bizarre career choices. They may complain about their workplace and may have a history of escapism.
  • These people are rather charming, so their relations with co-workers are good. They excel at everything that doesn't require commitment.
  • A "passive" commitmentphobe will get involved with unsuitable partners, date married individuals or have long-distance relationships. All are examples of instances where there is enough excuse to bow-out without much fuss.
  • They may, and not infrequently, do have extra-marital affairs. Or they may cheat on their partners if not married. These behaviors stem out of fear as well. It gives them a chance to flex their freedom a bit.
  • They'll keep you guessing with mixed messages about their feelings and the meaning of the relationship.
  • They'll treat the relationship like a burden if it gets serious and will try to run away pleading work etc.
  • They will have very convincing stories to avoid committing to a future together with you. These might be regarding their plans, careers, families and health etc.
  • They may be evasive or secretive about their whereabouts and plans.
  • They may inaccessible and try to run and hide from you, for no apparent reason.
  • Mood changes which are sudden and drastic are common and the bizarre swings may be blamed on you being too clingy.

Commitment phobia is a reality. Like other behavioral problems, recognition and acknowledgment are keys to successful resolution of the problem. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is quite effective. But above all, the sufferer has to have a will to stop.

"It is easier to stay out than get out - Mark Twain"


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      snm 2 years ago

      I gave an ultimatum to my commitment phobic boyfriend of a year and he chose to end our relationship. I want to tell all of you ladies out there, protect yourself recognise the signs early and for heavens sake leave. You cannot change him, he will not change for you when things get serious he will leave you. The most romantic/ noble and loving man will leave you.

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      Ra 6 years ago

      this one fits my relationship perfectly!!!i think i'm in a relationship with a commitment phoebe i don't know how to deal with it!! and specially with his mood swings!! can u give me some advices??

    • etna5678 profile image

      Yasmeen Anwer 7 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan

      Dear Suburban poet,,,I had published this even before i read your song!!! :) I thought I had inspired YOU!!!

    • The Suburban Poet profile image

      Mark Lecuona 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Hmmmmmm.... you posted something about this on one of my songs... uh-huh.... Glad I could inspire you! Ha....

    • etna5678 profile image

      Yasmeen Anwer 7 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan

      Dear BestConcerns, Nice to see you here...Thanks for visiting.

      Your question about Psychiatry is an excellent one. There has always been some distrust and raised eyebrows at the field. The main reason being that Psychiatry and psychology are indefinite sciences and put human behavior under the microscope, looking for abnormalities. also the stigma attached to a psychiatric diagnosis is traumatic for the patient and their relatives. I know a doctor who introduces her sister as her cousin because she suffers from OCD.

      These reasons more than make the case for anti-psychiatry on the grounds of discrimination and Human Rights violation.

      The fact is that Psychioatric illnesses DO occur and now there is ample scientific evidence to support the diagnoses. Neurochemical disturbances, genetic aberrations and Organic brain changes can be proven with various investigative tools.

      For a very long time humanity did not approve of surgery. And for a long time no one knew the mechanisms behind many of the physical diseases, and there weren't laboratories which spewed forth data for the clinicians and patients. Treatment of diseases continued even when herbal healers were outlawed and declared heretics.

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      BestConcerns 7 years ago

      Nice article on Commitment phobes.

      I was wondering your hubs on psyciatric issues are quite informative.

      I dono;there are a lot of people who formally contradict the psychiatry as medical science altogether(and run anti psych movements and says that its does not help or rather more damaging to the patient.

      Hope you shall go through it and comment on it too.

    • etna5678 profile image

      Yasmeen Anwer 7 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan

      Thank you Vicki. I hope that the "someone" has either recovered or isn't in the playing field anymore!

    • Vicki.Pierce profile image

      Susan Ungrey 7 years ago from Grand Rapids, Michigan

      Excellent hub! I loved it! I know someone who fits this perfectly!