Why Commitment Phobics Exhibit Cycling Behavior

Cycling behavior is unfortunately something I have a lot of first hand experience with and it is not pleasant. The result is instability in a relationship and it has caused my girlfriends to feel like they were on an emotional roller coaster. 

The root cause of my behavior is the combination of being a commitment phobic and a highly analytical introvert. What I have learned though is that the behavior I exhibit is fairly common. Women that are involved with someone that cycles generally express frustration that their partner exhibits extreme changes in behavior for what looks  like no reason.  However there are very real reasons but they exist  below the surface and may take some digging to uncover.  I will describe what has caused cycling in my case. I am not going to suggest that it would be the same cause in other men but perhaps it will provide some insight into this type of behavior. 

First there has to be a fuel source. For me it is a conversation where some goal for the relationship is mentioned. For example if a woman says to me that she needs to know that I have a goal of getting married or living together that sets me on my way. 

Up to the point of “the conversation” the relationship can be very enjoyable. We are living in the moment and enjoying each day as it comes. My mind in that case is free from clutter.  After “the conversation” it all changes because now everything is seen through the lens of whether I can be with that person the rest of my life. I become a mess. 

What happens is that any perceived flaws in the relationship become magnified. For example one of my most important needs in a relationship is space. Sitting alone and letting my mind go where it wants is how I get my energy back. I have found that most women I have been with don’t understand that. If a woman needs and expects a lot of attention from me the result is a constant feeling of pressure. This now becomes my secondary fuel source and any other flaws in the relationship just continue to stoke the fire. 

So what happens is that we externally might be doing the same things we always did but internally my mind is racing and the pressure is building. I have found myself looking for all appearances very calm as we discuss some mundane event of the day while inwardly I just want to get up and run away as fast as I can. It was usually more of a function of how much I was physically present with my girlfriend more than anything in particular we might have done. Some of the articles I have read suggest that commitment phobia and claustrophobia are closely related and I can definitely see how that applies in my case. 

Eventually the pressure gets too great and I have to get away. Once a separation occurs the initial feeling is one of immense relief. Because this can be a confusing time for a woman often my girlfriends want to talk. This is certainly understandable but it is generally the last thing I feel like doing.   Those conversations usually didn’t go well and would often result in an escalation and a possible break up even if the break up was temporary. 

After some time apart my thoughts usually return naturally to the good parts about the relationship and a reconciliation will occur with the determination to make things work this time. With the reconciliation will come a feeling of relief but eventually this will be replaced with pressure again as the changes I tried to make don’t work and the cycle will repeat itself. 

I am not sure how to avoid this type of behavior in the future. One of the things I like to say is that I can actually see myself being married someday but I can’t be in a relationship that has that as a goal. Perhaps that statement only makes sense to me. If I ever get a chance to check it out I will let you know. 

2 thoughts on “Why Commitment Phobics Exhibit Cycling Behavior

  1. Well, I walk in the same shoes. I understand that a commitment-phobe man and I hate it. I really do. But I do the same. Is there a cure for this behavior? Are we so lucky that we can change after, say a 3-years of psychotherapy? Or there are only some very general principles, which are easy to understand but hard to apply? I am confused and those who loved me, are hurt and broken. Thanks for your blog anyway, at least I know I am not alone.


    1. Thank you for your comment and let me assure you that you are not alone. It would be hard for me to say if counseling would help you or not. I think the answer to that would come from looking at your past relationships and determining what caused the pressure and the cycling with the eventual breakup. If you can say that you probably would have been content and happy in one or more of your relationships and it was only fear that kept you away then some counseling may be in order. I have had counseling in the past and the hard part is finding a good counselor that you have confidence in and who will tell it to you straight, so to speak. They are out there but hard to find.

      I have taken a different approach. I don’t think there is enough acceptance of just how hard relationships are let alone marriage. I acknowledge that fact and I trust what I have learned in life. I know that it is possible that I might get married someday but it is not important to me and I know that I can’t be in a relationship that has marriage as a goal. I am not even sure I want to live with anyone full time. Therefore I won’t get into a relationship with anyone that doesn’t accept what I am saying. It is also important to stay away from women who need rescued in some way so there is no pressure to commit to give them a better life. The part that is easier said than done is to be consistent with what you want. I have encountered situations where I have said that at first but then over time been asked to just consider marriage as an option. Don’t go down that path! Stick with whatever you have determined to be true about yourself. At the same time don’t try to make the decision about what to do for the woman you are with. I have been guilty of that in the past. Make the assumption that she is a mature adult and can make her own life decisions.

      The earlier you can have discussions about goals the better off you will be. If you want something different than the person you met wants it will create a problem. Try to look into the future and if you see the eventual outcome to be a breakup then it is better to end it earlier rather than later.

      I suppose I should emphasize that it is is important to determine what is true for you. What works for one person may not work for another. Stage of life can play a critical role. If you are young and want a family my approach wouldn’t fit. Sometimes success is really about making the right compromises as you go through life so you would really need to look at your own situation and see what fits. If you are looking for Miss Right it may not be reasonable whereas just finding someone you are compatible and comfortable with is good enough.


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