Confessions of a Commitment Phobic and What Women Need to Know

I am a commitment phobic. There I said it. I am not sure I like the word phobic because to be afraid of an institution that fails at least half the time doesn’t seem unreasonable. However I am often told I am one so I will accept it.

I wasn’t always this way. I got married when I was 22. I proposed based on the fact that things were going well with my girlfriend and I was graduating from college so I thought we should either break up or get married and marriage seemed the logical choice. It seems odd looking back that I didn’t analyze the situation more carefully. I have always been highly analytical but I guess at that time I didn’t apply that skill or curse, however you want to think of it, to relationships. However, it turned out well and I was happy during most of my marriage.

I probably became a commitment phobic the day I learned of my wife’s affair. Suddenly I had to turn my analytical skills toward my marriage. It was an excruciating process that resulted in us getting a divorce.

I would like to be in a committed relationship. There is something missing without it. I am not too keen on marriage as an institution and don’t see it as important in a relationship but I can see why it is still valued by some. The problem I suppose is that my whole approach to relationships has changed.

One of the things I have learned about myself is that I can’t be in a relationship that has marriage as a firm goal. I am at my most relaxed if I can comfortably say that I don’t ever want to get married even though I could see that happening someday if the relationship is strong. If a woman says to me that she wants marriage and wants to be with someone that has that as a goal I become a complete mess.

What happens is that my analytical part completely takes over. No longer can I relax and just let the relationship evolve. Instead I evaluate everything about the relationship and how it might affect other parts of my life. One of the common compaints you hear about commitment phobics is that they change for entirely no reason. That is not true. We change because our thoughts lead us down a path to an end result we don’t like.

I don’t think women understand what we think about. I am sure not all women are the same but it seems like the ones I have met think that if you love someone then it will move naturally to at least living together and possibly marriage.

I don’t think that way and most men I know don’t either. Love is a nice starting point but it really isn’t part of a living together decision. As I have gotten older I have become very sensitive to any appearance of a fatal flaw that could ruin the relationship. I consider relationships to be very fragile and the last thing I want is to be trapped living together, or in a marriage, if the relationship fails.

Often women think of commitment phobics as narcissists uncaring about their feelings. I don’t think this is true in most cases. In my case empathy can get in the way. Let me give you an example.
In my first relationship after my divorce I was very happy until the day I started talking about how stupid second marriages were. I had never really discussed goals with my girlfriend and was surprised to hear her say she not only wanted to get married but also wanted a baby. This put me immediately into analytical mode and was the beginning of the end. Also I realized that her living conditions were not great and with her low paying job marriage could improve her life. I felt tremendous pressure to either give her what she wanted or to get out of her way so she could find someone that could. It was a hard decision but I broke up with her. Of course she told me that I didn’t love her enough which baffled me at the time, but it goes back to women thinking love equals marriage.

I had a similar situation a few years later. I met a woman online and she also had a goal of marriage and a baby. I decided not to meet her in person but she met someone later who simply told her that he didn’t want anymore children and they got married anyway. That has made me realize that perhaps I end up doing too much thinking for women and maybe I should focus more on saying what I want and what my boundaries are. I find that easier said than done and it would probably still bother me if I knew I was keeping someone from fulfilling their dreams, particularly when it comes to children.

The closest I probably came to marriage was when I was with the Narcissistic ex girlfriend I have talked about in earlier posts. I really wanted to make that relationship work and believe that if she could have been just a little softer, had more empathy, and been less jealous it could have worked. However she could not change and didn’t want to. Once I finally accepted it I moved on but in many ways that relationship took more out of me than my divorce did.

So now I am older and after several years of single life I am ready for a relationship in many ways. Unfortunately I am even more wary and less willing to make a plunge that could make my life more complicated. My women friends like to say that I just haven’t met the right person and I will make a commitment if I love someone enough. I don’t say anything but that way of thinking still baffles me.

I suppose for any woman that read this just know that men think differently about commitment than you do. They probably want a commitment but they want to know that their lives will be impacted in a positive way. They will likely struggle and analyze which is not a direct reflection on you or the relationship. Obviously if you have a firm goal and a firm timetable you need to do what you must but to the extent you can take the pressure off, and if he is the man you want, then it is in your best interest to do so.


7 thoughts on “Confessions of a Commitment Phobic and What Women Need to Know

  1. Hi, I find your post about commitment phobia and cycling very interesting . It describes my partner who is 49 years old and we have been together on and off for over two years . I feel that he is a narcissist and we openly discuss this , what are your thoughts on the being out of touch with emotions that you have for that person during these cycles ? This is bordering on narcissism ? Thank you

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    1. It could be narcissism but my experience with Narcissists is that they don’t commonly cycle. To many people a Narcissist seems inconsistent in their behavior but they are surprisingly consistent if you look at them the right way. A Narcissist seeks admiration and needs to be in total control of their partner. If that is occurring in a relationship they are happy. If it is not they are angry. Therefore their changes are driven by these external events and they can change quickly but I don’t think of that as cycling.

      I consider relationship cycling to be more internally driven with the main drivers being the conflict between wanting to be in a relationship while also being afraid of commitment which helps highlight anything seen as a flaw in a relationship. During the time period when the flaws are most pressing I am going to speculate that it is the main thing your partner thinks about. Our society teaches us that relationships are black and white. You are either together or you break up like you are dead. Very few couples actually transition to the in between world of just being friends. Therefore if he is hostile it could be driven by a combination of him focusing on the flaws while thinking that he needs to make a decision. It sounds like it could be the right time to get him to open up about the flaws if you have the strength to hear it without letting things escalate. Perhaps a counselor might make a good referee. Thanks for the comment and good luck!

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      1. Thank you for your reply and I appreciate it . I have actually just broken up with him again after another 9 months (within the over 2 years ). What you describe is very similar to what he says and does , however I do think that you have to look at the ability of being able to allow these break ups as you’ve admitted you have had in your past , does show a level of self absorbed behaviour which in my opinion is higher on the narcissism spectrum than the average person . It shows a complete lack of feeling and care for what your partner feels , whilst you continue to do what works for you . It also shows an inability to compromise or put others needs before your own at times , which is actually the only way a relationship can work . The commitment phobics !!! Cycles !! Are in fact in my opinion narcissistic in the very fact that everything is about you you you !!! I agree with you about narcissists being very consistent in their own way (ground hog day comes to mind ) But the core issue of narcissism is self absorbed behaviour which is actually detrimental to others around them ……. They also are quite happy to plod along quite consistently as long as you are fitting around them , if you start to make demands !! Which really is just a normal right to talk about your own needs being met or potential future planning , they are not OK with this unless it’s all on their terms !!! When you say you want to be married one day !! I think you are deluded in thinking some magical woman will come along and you will automatically feel different !!!
        I believe narcissists are commitment phobics and commitment phobics are on the narcissistic spectrum . A narcissist can get married and still never commit to give and take and emotional investment.

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      2. Sorry about the break-up but thanks for your comments. That is good food for thought and I think I will create my next post around your comments. I have wondered if I am a Narcissist as part of my inward search. I did get married when I was 22 and was married 26 years so I was able to commit once anyway. It is definitely more difficult now.

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  2. Becoming a little commitment phobic after going through a divorce , from a marriage of many years is I think , a very different subject . You said in your comments when your relationships break up and you have time to reflect , you start to think about the positive things in the relationship ? Do you then want that person back and miss them ? Is that usually after days ? Weeks ? Months ?

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    1. The one I felt that the strongest with was the one I call a Narcissist in my earlier posts. Our normal cycles were probably 3 months on and one month off over a 5 year period. We would usually start to miss each other plus I would start to think of different ways to try to handle the issues between us. I for sure could not meet her relationship expectations and always made her angry so I felt like I was the one that failed which is a typical feeling you get when in a relationship with a Narcissist. However, I certainly also have limited nurturing energy and need my space in a relationship so some women see that as selfish and narcissistic. Could be. My ex wife said that I am not that way at all because she is married to a true Narcissist. I know him well and I know I am not like him. Relationships are just plain difficult!

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    2. By the way in an earlier post I did say that Narcissists could also be commitment phobic but that not all commitment phobics were Narcissists. I have given your comments some thought though and definitely want to touch on that in my next post.

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