Commitment Phobia: Learn How to Spot and Deal with It

By

Commitment Phobia: Learn How to Spot and Deal with It
Understand how commitment phobia can impact the growth of your relationships.

The Role of Fears in Resisting Love

The emotional patterns that cause some men to develop commitment challenges are often rooted in fears. Diana Kirschner discusses these fears extensively in her books, “Love in 90 Days” and “Sealing the Deal.”

For instance, men who have fears that they cannot measure up to please a woman will rarely invest the energy to ask a woman what she really wants or needs because they are afraid that they cannot fulfill those needs or wants. So, they would rather not hear what a woman prefers, desires or needs to be truly happy.

If a woman is mature enough to initiate expressing her needs and desires, a man who is not secure with developing a deeper relationship will interpret her words as, “She is saying, I’m not good enough or doing enough. She is criticizing me.” So he will pull back.

Unfortunately, open discussions about wants and needs are critical to a relationship moving forward. It builds trust and closeness when we know that our partners are aware of and seek to fulfill our deepest wants and needs.

Yet as Diana Kirschner says, “The fear of not measuring up can make it difficult to move forward into a committed relationship with a partner, no matter how terrific she is.”

Diana also talks about the fear of being controlled. This type of dating behavior often occurs when a man has been raised by a loving yet domineering mother who pried into his life such that he associates being cared for with a sense of being smothered or stifled.

As Diana says, “No matter what he feels for you, he is terrified of jumping fully into a long-term relationship. In his view, he has to give up the lead role in his life. It seems like his golf buddies, bar days, sports, even the Super Bowl, are going to be ripped away by the all powerful, all controlling vortex of the couple.”

Many women think, “Well if I just give him space and encourage him to continue the things in his life that he enjoys as a single man, that might reassure him that I’m not trying to smother him.”

This loving support would be effective if he were conscious of his fears and emotional patterns. Yet, as Steve Carter mentions in his book, “Men Who Can’t Love,” men are rarely aware of their commitment phobias.

As a result, the commitment phobic man will tell you how wonderful you are for encouraging him to engage activities away from the relationship, but when he returns to being around you, he will feel even more internal distress because of the contrast between a sense of ease or relief when he is away from you, and the sense of unease  that returns when he is around you and that is created by the subconscious part of him that resists the relationship.

So instead of becoming closer, often he will drift more out of your life, or engage in negatively projecting attributes onto you that are not who you are, an act of fault-finding that allows him to justify him pulling away.

Also, when a man who has commitment challenges feels uncomfortable with a relationship or wants to leave it, he will sabotage it instead of coming straight out and saying he is not happy.

This is a man who will show up and make love with you when he is truly not feeling the deeper connection, and then distance himself, creating confusion for a women who wonders, "What just happened? We just made love and then he is miles away, sometimes literally."

This is also a man who might begin seeing other women to deal with his lack of connection with you, and not tell you that he is seeing other women until you want to move more deeply into the relationship. Then, he will announce that he has feelings for someone else.

Yet, this is also a man who will miss a woman terribly and suddenly become more attentive if she pulls back from the relationship. This creates a push/pull effect on the relationship that is very damaging over time.

When Steven Carter looked at the impact of this type of push/pull relationship dynamic on women, he found that since the men’s behaviors were so inexplicable, women often concluded, “It must be me—I must be doing something to create this.” 

Many of the women that Steven interviewed, tried harder to be more fit and sexy, more kind,  loving, giving and understanding when they noticed that their partners were withdrawing.

Yet as Steven noted, “Showering him with love only aggravates his problem” because as a woman demonstrates more loving behaviors, the man with commitment issues becomes even more distressed, but often doesn't realize he feels this way. He just pulls away. 

It takes professional counseling to shift the internal resistance that some men have to deeper and committed relationships because often the core issues are out of the  man's conscious awareness.  He may be in complete denial of these patterns, preferring to think it is "missed timing," not "feeling a connection," or create other justifications for why intimate relationships with women are short lived.  

If a man is unwilling to seek counseling, a woman needs to recognize a “no win” situation for what it is and exit the relationship before significant damage occurs—for it takes a great toll on a woman's energy and self esteem to experience a relationship that is essentially a roller coaster ride of ups (creating by moments when the man allows himself to be close to her) and downs (when the man inexplicably pulls away or sabotages the relationship).

Instead of hanging on to such relationships, recommit yourself to attracting a love who is truly ready to embrace a deeply growing love relationship.Remind yourself that there is an abundance of  men who enjoy deeply committed and intimate relationships with one woman.

Do not believe it when a commitment phobic man tells you that  your expectations are too high, that you are too picky or not accepting of the nature of men.

Believe instead that you are indeed healthy to want a deeper relationship with a man who can reciprocate openness, effort, and commitment.

Spotting the Commitment Phobic Man Early in the Dating Process

How do you know, when you have just starting dating someone, if he will exhibit commitment phobic behaviors three or four months down the line?

Listen to what a man shares about his dating history and life and watch for the "not ready for love" behaviors described earlier in the article.

If he shares that his former dates often left him for other men because they felt that he was not trying hard enough in the relationship, yet he insists that he's the kind of date that will go above and beyond to show a woman that he cares, then this is a red flag. It reflects that his perception of himself is not in alignment with how others experience his behaviors.

If he shares that it has been more than eight to ten years since he has had any type of substantively intimate relationship with a woman, then that is a sign that he is not investing the energy to develop, maintain and grow relationships with women.

He may be too attached to his single life and resistant to creating space in the life for a deeper relationship, to actually invest in the process of developing an intimate relationship with a woman.

If he dismisses the significance of not having a deeper relationship in his life, with “I just haven’t found the right one,” or It’s never quite the right timing,” then recognize that those are just justifications for not being willing to invest the energy to find “the right one” or create “the correct timing.”

If he ponders why relationships just can't stay in the casual dating zone—or why people have to move in together, or get married, run away quickly.

A man who is comfortable with deepening relationships understands that it is a natural progression for relationships to lead to more integrated shared lives, and welcomes that progress.

If he says, "If a relationship ends--it's no big deal. I just accept and move on," that's a sign that he isn't investing and commiting himself fully into relationships.

When you fall hard and deep into love, and feel highly integrated with another person, it is indeed a big deal when the relationship ends. Sure you survive, heal and move on positively, but it is a significant life event when you experience the loss of a relationship in which you felt committed and deeply in love with another person.

If he says he is a natural giver, but has challenges reciprocating loving and romantic gestures, step back.

You are talking to a man who will gladly partake of your gifts and expressions of romantic love, and then resist reciprocation because he doesn’t truly feel comfortable giving to you from his heart.

Often, he is unaware that he feels this way or is behaving in a withholding way. You’ll hear him justify the lack of reciprocation with, “Reciprocation should happen not because of an expectation from the person who gave a gift, but because a man feels natural to give, not because he has to.”

The problem is that historically in romantic relationships, he does not ever get to a point to feel natural to reciprocate gifts without feeling pressured, no matter how wonderful the woman is or how deserving she is.  

To learn more about commitment phobia, email me for  free consultation, and also consult with these wonderful resources:

Sealing the Deal by Diana Kirschner
Men Who Can’t Love by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol

GET MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS IN YOUR INBOX!

Sign up for our daily email and get the stories everyone is talking about.

Ask The Experts

Have a dating or relationship question?
Visit Ask YourTango and let our experts and community answer.

FROM AROUND THE WEB