I have come to chuckle hearing the majority of pop songs out there about “Love”. They are not about Love. They are about the dance of fear and commitment phobia.
I have come to see that one of the main issues people struggle with, is a lack of commitment. We all know the person who literally avoids committed partnerships, or any form of relationship, at all cost, because they are terrified of being hurt or “tied down”. This person is likely clear they are commitment phobic, or at least an observer can spot this pretty quickly. Another obvious form of lacking commitment, is when one person in a couple cheats or another threatens the relationship in some way. If you are seeking out new partners, and this is not an agreed upon, fully consentual arrangement, this tells me you are perhaps fearful of what truly committing to your partner means to you, and how it thus makes you feel. Also, if you are someone who is threatening to break up with your partner, when you don’t get your way (when you fail to control them), you are perhaps fearful of what you feel if you must ACTUALLY commit to a person that also has their autonomy and personhood intact.
But, I have come to know that there are less obvious (yet more insidious) ways most of us enact our terror of commitment while in actual or imagined relationships, and dare I say, let our commitment phobia take control.
Take a moment to consider these questions:
Have you ever become so hyper-critical of a (potential) partner, that they seemed to be perpetually trying to please you and make up for having not done something/anything right?
Have you lectured a (potential) partner about how they need to build trust with you and prove they are worthy of getting more of you, as an argument for “pacing” and “boundaries”, before you are willing to fully love, give yourself to, or deeply commit to them?
When a partner has a strong reaction to something you have said and done, is your first reaction to either verbally, or within your mind, insult them, and make them out to be crazy/unreasonable/stupid/unworthy?
When a partner says and does immature, inconsiderate, or rude things to you or people around you, do you find yourself wanting to manage or coach them, “training” them to be different?
Do you feel as though you constantly want to be around your partner, even though you fight often, they make you very unhappy, and you never feel like they can get close enough, or are able to satisfy your needs?
Do you spend a lot of time feeling righteous about telling your friends and family about how they should be in their relationships, and encourage others to leave their relationships, because of a,b, or c?
I could go on and on asking you these questions, as there are a million and a half ways we are commitment phobic. However, I will stop here.
You may be asking yourself, “Well, how are these questions pointing to commitment phobia? And, what is the difference between having healthy boundaries, values, needs, and expectations, versus enacting an unhealthy pattern?”
Let me lay it out clearly, here.
To answer question 1- “How are these questions pointing to commitment phobia?”
When we give an excuse where we expect our or another’s partner to behave and be more perfect, in order for us to be willing to respond lovingly, compassionately, with understanding and patience, and thus in order for us to be present and calm, and not reject, abandon, or feel burdened or offended by them, we are expressing a lack of commitment.
AND, when we expect our partner or another’s partner to not react to subtle (or not-so-subtle) expressions of blame, rejection, abandonment, shutting down, turning away, avoidance, or attempts at control, and make it yet another reason we are better than them (our partner, another’s partner, or the person we are giving advice to about their relationship), that we should protect our self (shut down or withdraw), that they perhaps don’t deserve us, that the relationship isn’t worth it, or perhaps we shouldn’t be close or committed with them, THIS is an expression of commitment phobia.
This drama I see in 85% of individuals and couples at one time or another, at it’s root, isn’t even about the other person/people. It is about your SELF.
It is about your lack of commitment to growing in your capacity for love, rather than allowing fear (and ego) to take hold of you. In other words, this is about your lack of commitment to overcoming your fear, and steadying yourself enough to acknowledge your accountability for initiating and co-creating a relationship foundation that is shaky at best, because you (and likely your partner as well) have never had both feet in, so to speak. You have played the victim somehow, in that you haven’t fully chosen to Love them (or the people you judge), be there, and take responsibility for your own feelings (e.g. mostly terror related to childhood wounding).
Being committed is knowing you don’t have complete control over your partner or another’s partner or decisions, the relationship, and the outcome, and that you are choosing to solidly, with presence, and openness, SHOW UP, because THIS IS LOVE. In fact, solidly showing up, independent of making the other person the reason you do, is actually, a commitment to SELF-LOVE.
To answer question 2- “Well what it the difference here between commitment phobia and having healthy boundaries, values, needs, and expectations?”
My simplest explanation is this:
Pay attention to whether in your body, you notice feeling out of control, panic, constriction, tension, adrenaline, anger/rage, fear, anxiety, stress, fatigue, numbness, or an impulse to run, fight, control, or disappear. If you feel any of these things in relationship to your partner or to others in relationships, and they are guiding your thoughts about whether you want to be with them, or how close, or in what way you want to be with them, there is a high chance that commitment phobia is at play.
The probability is very high that many of you feel these experiences within your being, and your mind then creates what you view as a very reasonable set of arguments or perceptions about who you, your partner, and others are, and what reality is. And, likely, this skews in the direction of believing that someone is right (often your self), and someone is wrong, and that something bad or wrong is being done to you (playing the victim). Then from here, you spin a story about there being good reason to limit the other person’s/people’s proximity to you, your belongings or your life, or to attempt to limit your partner’s (or friend’s) proximity to others, their belongings or their life/self.
Setting boundaries, and having healthy needs, values, and expectations, involves respecting the inherent autonomy, goodness and worthiness your partner/another has, in the process of each of you being your own human and having your own way of existing. If you are attempting to control, to help yourself not feel fear (or to manage whatever unpleasant experiential manifestation of fear in your being), so you can feel Love, this is not an expression of healthy boundaries, needs, expectations, or values.
The Love should already be there, through your commitment to your Self, to overcoming fear and remaining open, in a space of Love. This then extends to commitment to your partner and your relationship, or to being a good friend and ally to other’s relationships.
Once you have realized this, and put this act of true commitment into practice, for 90% of you, you will then notice your perceptions change. Your partner’s behaviors will change, you will change, and the relationship will change. You will likely have the partner you love, as well as the relationship(s) and life you love, though not anything you could have imagined or created, by yourself.