The first time I ever fell in love I hit the jackpot. Okay, maybe not exactly THE jackpot. I was 19 and I was in love, so, to me this guy could do no wrong.
He was skinny, and a little bit of a jerk to everyone we knew.
But not to me.
Okay, maybe a little bit. But I didn’t notice till years later.
I had watched Grease so many times I thought unrequited love was romantic or something.
Okay our love wasn’t quite unrequited, but he had this really strange allergy.
Not to anything food-related or anything like that. Although I hear this affliction is quite common these days.
Anytime, I would even hint that I was even thinking about considering mentioning that we should make our relationship official or something this horrible thing would happen to him.
It wasn’t anything as horribly painful as hives or anything. But, he would have something very similar to a panic attack.
This would lead to him to break out in something I can only describe as disappearing for weeks, sometimes months, at a time.
It was like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. He’d be there one second and then POOF! He was gone. Leaving nothing but trails of smoke behind him and a very very confused girl, infatuated with him, heartbroken.
It was awful. I didn’t know what to do. Usually, I would be distraught the entire time he was gone, which usually lasted a week sometimes longer.
My schoolwork and my health suffered tremendously. If we happened to turn up at the same place, he would almost magically escape before I could even say hi.
As you can imagine, I was devastated. However, his affliction had another symptom! As soon as I would turn my focus back to school and found ways to stop pining over him, his radar would go off.
I don’t know how it works exactly, but the second I wasn’t thinking about him his sickness would magically disappear, erasing all memory that it ever happened. Apparently, this amnesia was contagious, because, when he would waltz back into my life it was as if I didn’t remember it at all and the whole cycle would begin again.
It was all very impossible to explain. I’m shocked that Night-Line never did a special.
“This just in, Texas man mysteriously turns into smoke when even the faintest hint of commitment is in the air.”
Looking back, I realize he was just terrified of commitment.
Once he was so affected by his illness that he broke out with another girlfriend for a whole year. By then I had gotten so used to his song and dance that I didn’t even miss a beat.
I was done pining in about a week and found myself bartending to fill my time. I eventually found myself dating other people and having a good time. However, his commitment phobia must’ve been catching because I couldn’t get close to someone to save my life. I would come up with the most ridiculous reasons not to let someone get to know me for a very long time
I was almost completely convinced that the second I did they would leave. Or worse, if we did get serious, I was positive my phobic ex would show up and I’d drop this new guy as if it was nothing because I was still so hung up on guy number one.
It was a vicious cycle.
I didn’t properly date anyone until I’d graduated college.
However, after a year or so, his new girlfriend found herself hinting at marriage (what? Was she crazy?!) and he ditched her too.
Surprise surprise he wound up worming his way back into my life under the pretense of friendship.I had grown tired of unrequited love by this point and he found himself dealing with a very lonely existence.
There was nothing I could do.
I was just a kid but even I knew it was time to pull the plug and walk away, but I learned some incredibly useful information from the whole ordeal.
Man, do I wish I knew then what I know now.
How to Identify Commitment Phobia?
- His Past Relationships
This one is simple. If you look at all of the relationships he had before you, you’ll notice a pattern. They will all have been remarkably short-lived for whatever reason. Generally, at the first sight of any attempt to pin him down and take away his precious freedom. Perhaps she was monopolizing his time or dictating who he could and couldn’t be friends with.
Relationships are built on trust and the ability to live separate lives while also moving forward together.
- His Ability to Make Plans
Often, a commitment-phobe will avoid making plans for the distant future at all cost. For example, if all of your dates are spur-of-the-moment type things. Talking about things to do in the future creates the illusion that things will last that long. However, actually making plans that are set in stone with reservations or pre-purchased tickets are a rarity in the world of a commitment-phobe.
- His Speech Patterns
This falls in line with his ability to make plans. Instead of saying,
“I’ll be there at 6 o’clock,”
“I’ll get off work at 4:30,”
he’ll likely lean toward using modifiers, such as, probably, maybe, about, or my favorite I’ll try.
“I’ll try and be there around 6.”
“Maybe we’ll go to that concert in a few months.”
“I’ll be off around 4:30”
This way of speaking gives him what my grandmother called wiggle-room. A true commitment-phobe clings to uncertainty like a toddler clings to a security blanket. It’s his Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card in case he decides he doesn’t actually want to follow through.
- His Ability to Create Meaningful Bonds
It’s not just in dating that he won’t let people get close. This barricade extends to most, if not all, of his relationships. He might be out of communication with his parents or simply not have a close bond with them. Or, perhaps they are the ONLY people he seems to be close to. Regardless, he will have very few close relationships. If you found that some of his friends would turn to you to fill in the blanks when misunderstanding come up or your ex would act strangely, then it’s likely that they are also held at arms length.
- His Relationships Tend to Be Undefined
I have the advantage of always being able to make friends with everyone I meet. It’s a rare talent these days, I know. A year or so ago I dated this guy whose best friend was going through a breakup of his own. So, he would confide in and bounce ideas off of me when he was feeling conflicted, since I’m good with heloping tith that kind of thing. We became incredibly good friends because of it.
One day he expressed his concern as to whether my guy was going to treat me like he did his exes. He said I was different from them, but it was kind of my ex’s nature to treat women like they were disposable. It was clear to me then that he had never even actually dated any of them… and had no intention of dating me.He would go out of his way to keep things as unofficial as possible. He nearly had a panic attack when someone called me his girlfriend.
Needless to say, that didn’t last long.
So, if your guy avoided titles or suddenly became very pale any time anyone hinted that he was your boyfriend, then it’s quite possible that he was avoiding commitment all-together.
- His Unpredictable Responses
His mood regarding you might have seemed to be carefully balanced on the edge of a knife, meaning it could go either way at any moment.
One day he would be incredibly sweet, treating you as if you were the only girl he’d ever look at lovingly. Other girls didn’t exist. Then, overnight it was like he forgot all of that and there was this immense ocean between the two of you. At the time, it may have seemed as though it was hard to explain and may have caused even more issues between the two of you.
This sudden change of heart, or more aptly, flip-flopping of the heart was caused by his sudden realization that he had let down his guard and over-compensated by putting it back up ten-fold.
- His Fear of the Future
If you ever mentioned to him that you were considering getting more serious, then you may have found him a little less than receptive. Meeting the parents or mention of moving in together, things like this will have sent him into panic mode. He may have even picked a fight with you over something trivial and used that as an excuse to become severely distant or worse break up. Basically, any discussion of getting serious would send him into a tail-spin.
What are Common Causes of Commitment Phobia?
There are two theories from Carl Rusbult regarding relationships, Interdependence Theory and Social Exchange Theory. When combined, the two theories basically boil down to three things.
Fulfillment – Costs verses Benefits. Man, that sounds like the introduction to an economics class. Well, it’s very similar. The costs and rewards get broken down into four sub-groups.
Emotional – This one is fairly simple. It falls into the positive and negative feelings regarding the relationship.
Instrumental – The instrumental costs are the things you start doing during the relationship that are things you wouldn’t normally do and don’t actually like to do. Kind of like the cons in a pros and cons list. Then there are the rewards, i.e. the pros, which would be the things that you didn’t neccesarily like doing that you don’t have to anymore. For example, you might see emptying the trash more often, because your boyfriend was over a lot adding to the trash, as a cost. But having someone around to cook for you and splitting the chorses would be a reward.
Opportunity – Now, THIS ONE is actually from Economics 101. An opportunity cost is anything you have to give up in order to have something else, like if you gave up on your dream and moved to be with him. Basically, it’s a trade-off. The rewards would be things like if you moving meant you get to split bills and possibly get to live some place new which means adventure which is a plus usually.
It’s so simple right? Then it all breaks down into more specific basic costs and rewards, each of which I’ve laid out here:
Social – Most of the research refers to a partner’s social status and proficiency. But I think that the social costs might extend to losing touch with friends or maybe having to pretend to like a few people you aren’t exactly fond of. But on the upside, you might get to meet some really great people and he may even have some contacts that will be good for you in business, as well.
Options – Like all women know, a few options are good but unlimited will bring you to a standstill. Just walk into any shoe store and you will understand this. It is very similar to walking into the heel department and instantly finding twenty shoes that you seem to pick a favorite. If a man finds himself faced with several women he considers viable options, then it is likely that he will have an issue picking one to be his favorite.
In order to stand out in a sea of BCBG slingbacks, you should be Louboutins. Be undeniably you… the very best version of you. Insert some inspirational quote here involving a crowd and going against it or something. Just remember… be Louboutins!! Block out all other options.
Investments – When you have invested a lot into the relationship, then you are less likely to set it aside or notice other options.
So everything is related. When you have made investments and are feeling fulfilled, you don’t notice other options. This increases the likeliness that you are going to feel more committed.
Someone who is afraid of commitment would be likely to run away if he feels like he’s suddenly too invested or feeling too happy with the way things are going. They are also more likely to notice other options when they realize that they are traveling towards possible commitment.
There are Fundamental reasons that lead people to see the world this way, always expecting the worst to come from letting their guard down.
Here are a few examples:
- Fear of Losing Independence
It’s like couples merge when they get together these days. All individuality is pooled into some type of sole persona. A lot of times men avoid commitment simply because they fear that they’ll no longer be allowed to be themselves.
- Fear Being Used
Another common thread in stories about relationships these days is a nightmare for most men, women dating men, getting pregnant on purpose and the roping them into 18 years of child support and limited access to his child.
- Fear of Rejection
He may be fully aware of your current desire to be with him, but he doesn’t know if there’s something you haven’t told him. You might have reasoning to change your mind. You might decide that there is someone else better for you. You might decide that he’s not good enough.
This spurs from low self esteem and self-doubt, which could go back as far as his upbringing.
- Idealized Expectations
Generally, it’s women who imagine the perfect man and hold out for “prince-charming.” But men occasionally find themselves creating impossible checkpoints for the women they’d like to end up with. Often times both sexes see themselves with someone who lacks faults, leaving them seeing everyone they even briefly consider dating as less-than.
- Childhood Trauma
Being a child of divorce or separation would lead to aversion of commitment as an adult, along with being on the receiving end of abusive parenting. I mean, watching the people around you, parent, friends, or family, go through painful separations can make anyone go out of there way to avoid going through that themselves.
- Fear of Failure
Having low self esteem doesn’t simply mean he think you’ll wake up one day and decide that he isn’t good enough or that someone else is better. He might actually think that he isn’t good enough for you or that he doesn’t deserve to be happy. This can be a reflection of his childhood, as well. If he tried his best throughout his younger years only to be met with criticism and disappointment, he may simply anticipate letting you down if he commits.
- Other Relationship Traumas
If he was previously in a relationship that ended in divorce, then he may just not be sure what caused it. He may just fear it happening again.
Or in some relationships the two people get so involved with each other that their friendships fall to the wayside.
The main thing you need to know about commitment-phobes, or at least most commitment-phobes, is that they enjoy the chase and the beginning of the relationship. It’s all about the excitement and the lack of seriousness. Once the fun and excitement disappears, the fear and thoughts of running appear.
How to Reestablish Interest with Your Ex
This is where your traditional ExBoyfriend Recovery tactics come in. I’ll be linking over to several other articles that you might want to check out when the time comes so I’m not merely repeating information you may have already read.
The first, and in my opinion most important, tactic is No Contact. There is nothing less interesting than someone jumping up and down in front of you going “Pay attention to Me!” This is how you take that epic step back and make him realize that he might just be losing you. (It doesn’t have to be true, you just want that idea to appear in the back of his mind and then grow exponentially with every day that you aren’t chasing him and begging for him to “Just talk to you please.”
Look at the article about No Contact and decide how long of a No Contact Period will work for you. Then stick to it. There is nothing harder than cutting someone off and sticking to it, especially when you care about that person. I understand. You will feel the urge to make excuses as to why you should be allowed to break no contact. You might even convince yourself completely. However Chris covered what reasons are legitimate and what reasons aren’t in another article. So, when you get to that point when you are trying to reason yourself into being able to break no contact early, and it WILL happen, go read the article on when is it okay to break No Contact.
While you are doing no contact, you need to unfollow him on as many fronts as possible. This will help cut down on the urge to reach out to him. Don’t un friend him, just unfollow him or hide his posts so you won’t see them. The idea here is that he can see you, but you can’t see him. This gives you an invisible power of sorts. You can control what he sees.
Start working on bettering your life while simultaneously looking at the way you went about the relationship with your ex. First ask yourself some questions to figure out what responsibility you contributed to this situation.
- Did you stop going to the gym and taking care of yourself?
- Were you inserting yourself into his children’s’ lives too quickly or aggressively or undermining him as a parent?
- Have you been ignoring what he wants while staying focused on your wants?
- Did you respect him and his boundaries?
- Are you responsible with your finances?
- Did you have similar goals, either long-term or short-term?
- Did you push for too much too soon?
You see, by asking yourself these questions and answering them for yourself, you can narrow down some changes that you need to make. I emphasize ASK YOURSELF and ANSWER THEM YOURSELF, because so many people feel like they need to us this step as an excuse to reach out to their ex and batter them with questions.
Don’t do it! Besides, no ex will ever give a clear answer anyways, because they either don’t want to hurt your feelings or are deadest on hurting your feelings. You are better off diciding what mistakes you made in the relationship and what things you let slide during the relationship and putting effort into fixing any of them that you can.
I always suggest hitting a gym, because that is a change that takes almost no interaction to notice.
You want to become that woman you’ve always wanted to be on as many fronts as possible.
If you did manage to set it up so that you are still friends with your ex on social media, while also making it so you don’t have to see his posts constantly, I suggest taking pics of a few milestones as you hit them,like if you decide to take up kick boxing or something. This will peak his interest because clearly your life didn’t stop without him. It’ll have him eating out of your hands eventually if you do it correctly.
My one bit of advice on this front is to keep the same posting pace that you had before. If you were only posting once or twice a week, then you don’t want to suddenly be posting 800 updates a day. Trust me, your ex will know exactly what you are doing. However, if you go about it consciously and limit your posts to important milestones and announcements, then he’ll truly wonder what is going on with you. No one needs to know that you made yet another trip to the coffee shop unless you happened to meet and hang out with George Clooney there.
How Not to Scare Him Away
After you get him back, and I stress AFTER, you need to continue working on yourself and your situation. I’m just going to progress with this section ASSUMING that you understand that this is AFTER you get him back.
First of all, you don’t want to just work on your side of things and then quit once you get what you get him back. Eventually, he’ll realize what happened (it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist) and he’ll just walk away again, maybe this time for good.
So, don’t abandon your self improvement just because you got the guy back. Stick to it. Keep improving. There is nothing more motivating than watching the people close to you move forward. Simply for lack of not wanting to be left behind, your (no longer) ex boyfriend will have to do a little growing up to keep up.
Taking into account the types of issues we discussed earlier regarding the causes of fear of commitment is incredibly important when deciding how to move forward with things now that you’ve got your ex back. Like I said earlier though, Commitment-Phobes are all about the fun and exciting parts of the relationship. The best way to deal with this dilemma is to sprinkle the seriousness in every now and again amongst the casual and exciting stuff. Do your best not to be pushy or overwhelming. Talk about things as they come up, but keep a reign on how aggressive you get. With a partner that doesn’t have an issue with commitment, you might be tempted to push your luck. Definitely avoid this at all costs with a sommitment-phobe or he’ll disappear faster than the road runner.