I Was Engaged To A Man With Commitment Phobia

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happy couple on a boat on water
Is your man afraid of marriage? What it's like to love someone with commitment phobia.

"I would never pressure someone into marriage," I said, with the wisdom of all my 26 years. "Not to bash your ex-girlfriend, but how could she want to marry you if you weren't thrilled at the prospect of spending the rest of your life with her?"

Over the next four years, I found out. I became her: the embodiment of everything I pitied.

Even though we'd just met, I felt a level of emotional intimacy with Max that I hadn't experienced before. Our conversations were deep. Intense. Meaningful. But I still tried to maintain our friendship status; I didn't want to be his rebound.

Then one night while we were drinking a couple of beers with Keith Sweat's "Nobody" playing in the background, he asked me to dance. Before I knew what was happening, our faces were inches apart, hands were roaming and we were nearly kissing.

"This is getting dangerous," I said. He pulled me closer.

In the midst of the exciting romance that ensued, I completely lost my footing. Like anyone in love, I began to float through life. Everything I knew about myself became negotiable. Example: Two weeks after that first kiss, he whisked me away to Joshua Tree where we stayed at a campground with no running water—and I had a blast. Pre-Max I would never disappear for a weekend with a guy I had known for such a short time. And, without running water? Please.

Max stretched my comfort zone, or maybe I was just willing to be uncomfortable if he was by my side. His free spirit released me of the self-imposed chains that kept me confined to a safe, simple and, dare I admit, boring life. And in the process, he introduced me to a part of myself I didn't know—a part I liked. We surfed in ice cold waters, hiked up Angel's Landing (an incredibly tall mountain with nothing more than a chain link railing to cling to as you spiral up to the top in single file) and cruised through America's heartland on a Harley. I felt like I was living someone else's life. And I loved the person I was becoming. 15 Signs You're Meant To Be

He was everything I thought I wanted—the cowboy, the artist, the guitar player, the dreamer, the romantic. When I came home after a long day at work, I found rose petals scattered in the entryway of my building and hundreds more strewn throughout my apartment. When I left for a day with the girls, he completely remodeled my apartment—new couch, new accents, new lighting. How could I resist a guy who rides a Harley, excels at interior design and paints landscapes?

If I hadn't been blinded with the rush of new romance, I might have surmised that Max was overcompensating for an unsteady heart. His statements about marriage and forever were pessimistic at best. Six months into the relationship I wrote in my journal, "If this guy ever gets married, he's going to have to be dragged down the aisle kicking and screaming." But even my intuition couldn't shake me of the desire to heal his wounds, erase his fears and prove to him that love can last. Like most women, I was sure I could change him, that in a few years, when I was ready, my love would make him want to get married.

Over the next three years, our friends found partners and got hitched—some even met, married and divorced—in the time we were still just dating. We watched friends break engagements and marriages, thankful that our relationship was solid.

But over time, I began to question why we hadn't jumped on the marriage track. Sure, Max was full of fun, laughs and adventure—and I loved the carefree girl he brought out in me—but I wanted more. I was ready to grow up, buy a home and have a family of my own. He wanted to maintain the status quo—a responsibility-free party zone. 

"How would you react if I delivered an ultimatum like your ex did?" I casually asked one day, hoping he wouldn't recognize the question for the ploy it was.

"I would do whatever it took to hold on to you and buy myself some time," he said sweetly, averting my gaze. He bought three more years. Waiting For A Marriage Proposal? Advice You Need

In the same way that love took me to a new high, it also showed me how much I would sacrifice to save the part of myself I found in Max, the part of myself I held inside all along.

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