Rather Be Tied Up Than Tied Down? What To Do When You’re The Commitment Phobe

When it comes to commitment, it's fellas that get the bad rap. But what if you're the one with a fear of being tied down? Victoria Stokes finds out why some women are more Samantha than Carrie...

According to pop culture, commitment is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of men. Take Sex And The City‘s Mr Big, for example. After six series of trying to pin him down, Carrie is left heartbroken when New York’s biggest player tragically but not surprisingly jilts her at the altar.

Or what about the emotionally unavailable Chandler Bing? In the early seasons of Friends he freaks at the very mention of a long-term commitment (while simultaneously running away from on/off love Janice…) before eventually – and with a lot of coaching – finding forever love with Monica.

In real life, bachelors like Leonardo DiCaprio make a solid case for the perma-single life, while antidotally, there are few of us who haven’t heard tales of ghosting, cold feet and two-timing on the regular from our female pals and colleagues.

But what if it’s you who gets all hot and awkward at the prospect of a romantic commitment? Far from the desperate stereotype not all of us are in a rush to get married and likewise not every woman has been planning her wedding since the age of five.

In reality, women can fear getting tied down just as much as the fellas. In fact, psychologist Karina Melvin says she sees more female clients with commitment issues, than she does male. Unlike men, whose reluctance to settle down is often more obvious, Karina says many women aren’t initially aware they’re suffering from a fear of commitment at all.

“They tend to view the problem as external, feeling that there are no eligible single people for them, or that they have no luck,” Karina explains. In reality though, it usually stems from something deeper.

“Some women have a fear of being mothers and see a committed partnership as entangled in motherhood,” Karina surmises. “Other women have a father who in their eyes is truly wonderful and so no potential partner can measure up, and yet more women have been badly hurt in the past and struggle to move forward for fear of repeating the heartache.”

The latter scenario rings true for Molly, 29, who has remained single for the past three years after a messy breakup with an ex led her to fear getting into a serious partnership again.

Many women aren’t aware they’re suffering from a fear of commitment.

“There’s this part of me that feels like I want to be in a relationship, but it’s like there’s this mental block: I don’t want to relive all that pain again,” she confides. “In the past year or so, I’ve dated about four different guys but it’s never went beyond lasting just a couple of weeks. I’ve usually put a stop to it just as things are starting to get comfy because I’m not ready for where it’s going emotionally.”

While Molly is very aware of how she feels around commitment, Karina says not every woman is so adept at spotting that she’s afraid of getting into something exclusive.

“Commitment phobes often profess to be actively looking for a partner yet they aren’t successful,” she notes. “This isn’t because they aren’t attractive or interesting enough; it’s because a deeper part of them resists partnering up and so orchestrates to remain single even though they consciously desire to settle down with someone.”

Typically though, if you’re coming up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t date someone who’s perfectly eligible, feeling overwhelmed as a relationship starts to progress or finding it difficult to put a label on where you’re going, you can be certain you’re resisting a commitment on some level.

Fortunately, commitment issues aren’t something that you’re (ironically) stuck with for life. Being aware that you’re actively dodging something serious is the first step, advises Karina, “otherwise you will be fated to many failed relationships or relationships that never quite get off the ground.”

Open communication is the next port of call. “When you’re with someone, be mindful to open up and allow space for intimate conversations about yourself and your feelings,” Karina suggests. “As you open up you may begin to trust and enjoy the emotional intimacy that comes from sharing yourself with someone else.”

Finally, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to know someone and take it slow. “Make space in your life for them and be sure to introduce them to your friends and family,” Karina encourages. “Seeing how much the people in your life like your partner can help to reinforce your commitment to them.”

And if you’re still fearing the big C? For many, as corny as it sounds, defeating the problem could just be a case of finding the right person, as confirmed commitment phobe Molly points out.

“I guess the chemistry just hasn’t been there with all the previous guys I’ve dated and nobody wants to commit to something that isn’t quite right,” she notes. “When I find a relationship that really fits, with someone I think I can trust not to hurt me, I reckon that’s when I’ll be happy to make a real commitment.”

Hey, if fictional fellas like Big and Chandler can find it in themselves to settle down, and renowned singletons George Clooney and Simon Cowell can give up the playa life to have families, there’s hope for us all yet.

This article first appeared in STELLAR’s August issue. Our September issue is on shelves now! 

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