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Commitment phobia is a very painful experience both for the one who engages in the pattern and for those who are involved with that person. Usually the art of pushing and pulling and seduction are the domain of the commitment “phobe.” The answer dwells deeply in the family of origin survival patterns.
Commitment phobia is something I see in my office often and happens to both women and men. The key piece is fear. Fear of intimacy and deep emotional connection. People who are commitment phobic feel they need to cut off their feelings after a certain point of knowing someone as a means of feeling in control and feeling emotionally protected. This is often not conscious and going on at the deepest level of the sub consciousness.
You can spot a commitment-phobe a mile away only if you know what you are looking for. But if not, it is not at all obvious because one can be deeply taken in by the art of seduction that is prevalent at the hands of a commitment phobic person. They are deeply involved in the thrill of the hunt as a key part of the experience. Once they “get” the person, it becomes less interesting for them. They begin the process of keeping score. They are consumed with picking out the negative traits in the other person in a meticulous fashion. I am not saying people should ignore negative traits or stay in relationships they’re not happy with, but with the commitment-phobic person, this endeavour of seeking out negative traits in the other person is particularly acute and almost an obsessive process.
Basically, they are looking for perfection; which is what they erroneously feel would make them happy, in control and ultimately emotionally safe. When they find someone that they feel would measure up the push/pull journeys begin. They are there and then they are not. You know what I am talking about: The person is fully present and ensconced in compliments and sweet nothings, and then they don’t call for four days. You know- the disappearing act! When the commitment-phobic person is there, they are thinking at the back of their mind about their backdoor way out at all times.
A very unhappy commitment phobic client said to me once about his latest conquest: “I’m not here for a long time, but I’m here for a good time, so I’m going to be very seductive and very romantic with her. But, as soon as I get a whiff that she is starting to relax with me, be more human and real with me, I’m outta here!” We find out through the therapeutic process that this person has done this repeatedly and he suffers from loneliness yet he cannot move away from this pattern. He comes from a divorced family that had immense instability throughout the childhood. So he is constantly working to mitigate future pain. Staying in the moment and just enjoying the new love is out of the question when the pattern is active. He needs to feel one step ahead in his relationships always. He is deeply consumed with not being “trapped” by a woman who depends on him in any way. He perceives any form of intimacy as a trap,
Another sad case that I became aware of, was a woman that dated and even became engaged to a covert commitment phobe. He promised her a rose garden for years and one month prior to the fully planned and rsvp’d wedding, he bailed. The only reason they did not get to the actual wedding day (only to have him leave her standing alone at the alter) is because she finally woke up and started to piece together the commitment phobic symptomlogy he had been displaying. She decided to question him very deeply which did force him to admit he was not going to go through with the wedding. He had been seducing her and stringing her along, in a bid not to “hurt” her. Instead he felt that lying was a better option which included the act of a last minute wedding day bail out!
Look out for people you are dating that are constantly looking at other people while on a date with you. Also be mindful that the commitment-phobic person is a born sales person in that they can spin a web and tell a story that is unparalleled. What is actually happening is that they are usually covering their lies with the stories.
The truth is, when I work with a commitment-phobic person I realize that they themselves are not at all in touch with their inner truths. I ask the question, “So why do you think you’re doing this?” And the answer invariably is, “I don’t know. I’m not sure.” They are very cut off from their own emotions as it is very scary for them. True, real grit, deep authentic truth and reality is tough for many people but for the person who is commitment-phobic, it is nearly impossible to have them face this type of emotional delving and truth.
This article is a cautionary tale alerting people to not to get involved with someone they suspect is commitment phobic because if a long term commitment is what you are after, this kind of person is sure to get you hurt! It is not going to be a pretty situation, unless you yourself are a commitment-phobic person. We know that like attracts like, so that may also be a likely scenario. It actually may be a good match temporarily since both parties are not interested in longevity. However denial is not just a river in Egypt! I have seen two commitment phobic people get married In Vegas within one week of knowing each other because they got caught up in the romance of it all. The intensity of the connection made them slip into a denial state that seduced them into a marriage decision. Of course it did not last and lots of pain ensued! But I also see the scenario of the commitment phobe in a relationship with the highly clingy person. It’s a match made in hell seduced by romance and destroyed by codependency and low self worth on both sides.
A lot of commitment-phobic people tend to grow up in volatile addiction families or in families that the parents are in a loveless and silent relationship. In either scenario there is a palpable feeling of tension, unhappiness and dissatisfaction that everyone just wants out of. In the case of the loud and volatile family there is a lot of insecurity about what will be happening the next day or what the mood of the mother or father will be in at any given time. These people were brought up to constantly have one foot in and one foot out. Can you imagine a child being completely invested in a mother or father whom they cannot trust? The child feels in a constant state of emotional panic. This volatile, unstable home creates a neural pathway belief system to be commitment-phobic. “Why am I going to commit when it’s only been unsafe to commit to people that I am supposed to trust and relax with?” For those who grew up in a silent, loveless and inexpressive home the child has no role model for healthy committed adult attachments. They have no idea what it feels like have healthy emotional bonding.
For those of you who are commitment phobic and want to get over this, you need to engage in deep therapy, to look at your family-of-origin stuff, because clearly if you had a choice, you probably wouldn’t be doing this. I’ve worked with many whose answer to the question, “Why do you do this?” is a big “I don’t know.” The consciousness level isn’t there. You’ve got to get conscious and commit to getting in touch with what’s making you act in ways that clearly hurt other people and yourself.
My opinion is that being in a relationship provides us with a forum to learn and to grow the most. I am not saying that when one is single one does not learn a lot, but when in a relationship you learn the discipline qualities of getting through emotional boredom, sexual boredom, immature impulsiveness, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and open and insecure in front of your partner and cultivating a sense of deep trust. These are qualities that are tremendously growth stimulating for a soul. Our souls look to find opportunities to become more vulnerable, more open, more trusting, less suspicious, less escapist. We are, as souls, relationship-oriented, and I think that in relationships we tend to grow the most and to work our spiritual lessons most profoundly.
Quick tips for the commitment-phobic person:
Victoria Lorient-Faibish MEd, CCC, RPP, RPE
Masters in Educational Psychology
Canadian Certified Counsellor
Registered Polarity Practitioner
Registered Polarity Educator
New Decision Therapy