The first thing I need to do is to say how much I dislike the word phobic in this context. To me a phobia is an irrational fear. There is nothing irrational about being afraid of marriage when there is a 50% divorce rate and a good percentage of those that are still married feel like they are trapped in a bad marriage. However it is the common word that is used so I will use it here.
Secondly I would like to define a commitment phobic as I see him. He is not the narcissist or playboy that just wants to use and discard women nor the serial monogamist that is searching for one year relationships. Rather I see him as a good and decent man that wants a relationship but becomes afraid and feels pressured when the subject of commitment comes up. In my view this man can be a good long term partner under the right circumstances.
It would seem obvious, but a woman’s role in all this is to truly define what is important in a relationship. Does it have to be marriage or nothing? Would you be okay with long term cohabitation without marriage? As we get older our lives can be more complicated so perhaps you want a close relationship but living apart is okay. Our society needs more free thinkers about relationships so a woman needs to define what works for her without worrying about cultural norms.
Going through this exercise allows you to set firm boundaries as you approach a relationship. It is critical in the early stages to find out what a man’s history is and what he wants from a relationship. The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that the giddy “in love” feeling and your hope that it is shared with the man translates to taking at least a step of cohabitation. I will go out on a limb here and say that many men consider love and the ultimate living arrangement to be two separate things.
Words matter and you need to pay attention to what is not said along with what is said early in a relationship. If you are one that absolutely needs marriage and the man you are seeing wants marriage also see how that ties into his history. If he had a long term marriage and has been divorced for a while but otherwise seems like a good man then he is probably sincere. If he has never been married with an unstable history or has been married 5 times it might mean something different. With the definition of commitment phobic as I defined it the man should try to give you as honest of an answer as he can. A lot of nen I know say the only way they would get married again would be if it was perfect. Others say that they will never get married. My answer has been that I could see me possibly getting married someday but I can’t be in a relationship that has that as a goal.
A mistake you don’t want to make is to assume that you can change how a man views commitment if a commitment is important to you. This is a time to be rational and to evaluate what is said in a very logical manner.
Along those same lines see how your words affect him. If you say that you need to be with someone that has a goal of getting married and he doesn’t share that goal watch how he reacts. If the relationship progressed for any length of time he may start struggling to find a path forward but you may see him start cycling from hot to cold and in general being inconsistent. If you are firm in your goal then it is better to end it sooner rather than later if you encounter this situation.
But what if you are not all that firm yourself? Showing some uncertainty or saying something like you just want a relationship that proceeds naturally without pressure is music to a phobic’s ears. Perhaps you might say marriage doesn’t work or you are not even sure that you want to live with someone. Under these circumstances you may have a very fulfilling and long term relationship with a phobic. I don’t accept that not making a long term commitment means the relationship will be short term. Obviously the difficulty of divorce may keep some people in a marriage long after the relationship is dead but I am not sure that is a good thing. I think that a relationship that procceds day to day and creates a shared history and memories can be just as secure as anything else regardless of what living arrangement or legal contract is chosen by the couple.