For all you commitment phobes out there...
I have a good friend who hasn't had a girlfriend in the ten years that I've known him. He and I talk a lot about sex and relationships, and half of the time, he cannot keep a straight face, almost like a teenager, embarrassed by our honest, mature conversations.
Other times, we have these very insightful conversations about love, life, and relationships. We talk about the breakdown of monogamy in modern society and the fallacy of marriage — things I love to discuss.
Recently, he admitted that he's afraid of letting his guard down, afraid of rejection, afraid of getting his heart broken into pieces, of liking someone more than she likes him. We always talk about the downsides of relationships, but the bottom line is that while I have been in relationships for the last 20 years, he has been single for at least 12.
He is afraid of relationships for very different reasons than I've ever been. Historically, I've been afraid of losing my independence or yielding to someone who takes the relationship and me for granted too soon. He is afraid of rejection. I guess it's the same difference, though. I guess we have all been reluctant to trust others at some time in our lives.
But then, more was revealed. I surmised that he went for the less attractive girls to boost his self-esteem so he wouldn't get rejected. He agreed. He admitted he would give girls his number despite having no intention of ever following up, except perhaps for sex.
His fear of commitment is actually a fear of rejection. Deep down he would love to be loved, appreciated and understood, but he fears rejection from the girls he is most attracted to.
So instead, he throws little bits out there to the ones he is really attracted to but then runs away, thereby avoiding rejection. He flirts and gives his phone numbers to girls he has no intention of calling unless it's just for sex. He says he is happy being single and for the most part he truly is. Because single is safe. Single is free. Single is fun. And, in his case, single has the upper hand.
He has also said that when he falls for someone, he falls really hard, and he doesn't want to be the one who falls harder than the other. He's afraid of losing himself, afraid of losing control, afraid of losing the upper hand, afraid of rejection and, in return, he gets his needs met by having one-night stands, no-strings-attached, and "friends with benefits" scenarios.
I call this a fear of commitment, and he is not alone. Fear of commitment is just a self-protective mechanism, a tough exterior, a mask made for the manliest of me to hide from and bury the sensitive, vulnerable side which ultimately must reveal itself in order to fully give and receive love in a way that truly matters.
Fear of commitment also happens within relationships where one or both partners hold back, refuse to give themselves fully, always wearing their protective shields. What an uncomfortable place to be, I think. What a lonely, empty space. Sure, being vulnerable is scary but there is relief in finally letting your guard down.
How do I deal with my fear of commitment? It's not an easy journey; it's not something that changes overnight, but with conscious efforts, we can get closer to letting go, closer to surrender. After all, a fear of commitment is nothing more than a fear of letting oneself go.
This list is not exhaustive and is not just for him; it's for me and everyone else who has held back whether in a relationship or outside of one. This is for everyone who wants a real, supportive, loving relationship that fosters growth and independence, which fosters staying in the present, kindness, safety and peace, and ultimately a relationship which really works for you.
Here are 4 steps to overcome your fear of commitment.
1. Stop asking for phone numbers from people you don't intend to call.
This is so dishonest. Your self-protective, scared-to-death ego with all its games and masks have got the real you buried so deep under all that muck that if the real thing came and knocked on your door, you'd be too messed up to see it or know it.
For everyone else, this means recognizing all the behaviors you do to make yourself feel good in the moment, which doesn't serve you any real purpose than perhaps breaking a bunch of hearts or making yourself unhappy.
2. Stop lying to yourself.
What are you telling yourself versus what is going on on a deeper level? Do you constantly compare yourself to your friends in relationships and size them up, comparing your single life to theirs? What purpose does this serve? Are you building a case? Are you doing this solely to make yourself feel better? What do their relationships mean to you? Everyone's idea of relationships may be different.
I recognize many people follow the crowd when it comes to monogamous relationships. I tend to feel suffocated by the expectations based on societal assumptions. And while this may work for many other people, it doesn't work for me, and that is OK.
This doesn't mean you have to disregard relationships altogether. Yes, this may mean finding a partner for you is more of a challenge but that is quite a different thing than just saying, "I love being single" if it's only half true. Finding the relationships that work for you may just mean recognizing that you can work towards creating what works for you. It doesn't just happen.
3. Get your self-esteem boost in ways that don't involve other people's feelings.
Go to the gym, write a book, join an art class. What are you good at? What do you love to do? Get out there and do it. Whether people accept you or reject you doesn't change who you are. If what people think about you is something you struggle with, then you a lot less likely to let go.
The irony of this is that you are the most critical judge. So judge yourself on the things you do have control of.
4. Take care of yourself.
This means eating healthy, possibly avoiding alcohol, drugs, caffeine or sugar, getting exercise, getting fresh air, spending time with caring, kind individuals and, most of all, relaxing.
When you meet someone interesting and you are not catering to your ego, your lies, your self-protective mechanisms and games of shunning all relationships, when you are working on yourself to get what you need, you will naturally be more relaxed, more creative, more of a problem-solver, more at ease and less worried about clinging to your walls. You're more likely to smile and be yourself.
Moushumi Ghose is a Los Angeles based Sex Therapist. Please visit her website. She is the author of Marriage, Money and Porn. Moushumi is the co-host of The Sex Talk, a web-series dedicated to sex, dating and relationships.