It would be easy for a woman to mistake a man that is afraid of commitment for a Narcissist. In fact, a lot of the actions taken by both can be very similar. However, the motivations of each is very different. The phobic is motivated by fear and the Narcissist is motivated by the need to win and be in control.
I will deal first with the commitment phobic. There is a very good book on that subject called “The Men Who Can’t Love and The Women Who Love Them.” I don’t really like the title because it sounds more like a Narcissist to say someone can’t love and it is contradicted by one of the key points the author makes, and that is that the commitment phobic actually wants a close relationship.
In my opinion the fear of commitment is more of a spectrum. I fall into that category but prefer the words commitment resistant. It would be hard not to be if you have lived any length of time and gone through a divorce or failed relationships. My ex N girlfriend got this book for me which I found useful but my response was that it really couldn’t be called a phobia if there were legitimate reasons to be afraid. I shared that book with a woman friend of mine whose boyfriend was hung up on his ex wife and resisting commitment. I suggested yelling at him like my ex N girlfriend did to me but she opted to try to kill him with kindness. They are now married. By the way don’t ever suggest to a Narcissist that they play any role in making you comfortable because that really makes them angry.
So how might a phobic behave in a relationship? Well things might proceed very fast because he might think that he has found “The One”. However at some point he might pull away for what looks like no reason but it could either be because of a general fear or something that he sees in a relationship that makes him afraid. Depending on the severity of the phobia and what is making him resist or pull back he will either just run away or you might begin cycles of getting close and then apart with some inconsistent behavior thrown in, all of which drives most women crazy.
Now you may see a lot of this behavior from a Narcissist but a key difference is that the phobic, unless of course he is also a Narcissist, is not trying to intentionally hurt you or lie to you. He may not be as direct as he should be if there is some characteristic of yours he doesn’t like but it may just be uncomfortable for him to do so.
The Narcissist, on the other hand, will do or say anything to get what he wants. He doesn’t care if he hurts you in the process or he may actually want to hurt you. Lies and keeping you off balance is part of his plan. He may want a commitment if he sees you as capable of being the doormat he needs. However if he just needs you for the short term you will fall by the wayside after he finds someone else.
So there you have it. The phobic could end up being the right partner that you seek, or he may never be ready. The Narcissist will never be a good partner. It is telling the difference solely from early actions in a relationship that can be difficult.