Written by Foteini Kanaloupiti
It is one of the newest trends of our century that relationships are initiated through social media (applications like Facebook and Tinder). People seem to seek “lighter” social interactions with no responsibilities. Building such relationships looks easier, more convenient, needs much less active participation and it’s supposed to be more fun. But, let’s be realistic. If indeed it is so much better, then why doesn’t it feel like it’s enough? Why do we want more? Why do some of us still want to have a long-term relationship?
“This is who I am”- Attachment theory
It all seems to start from early life - for example, if we, as parents, responded inconsistently to our children, they might grow up to be ambivalent in their reactions to others. An adult who is more distant probably experienced more detached parenting. It all comes down to attachment needs, according to Attachment theory (John Bowlby). Although commitment-phobia isn’t innate, the need for a secure and stable bond is. If that need is disrupted-or not fulfilled- in early life, that will create a pile of issues for future relationships and one of those can be commitment issues or avoidance of the emotional bond. If we avoid being committed in a relationship or feel under pressure when we are getting too emotionally close to a person, often means that we experienced a painful event in the past. Infidelity, abuse or abandonment in previous relationships or even a parental divorce are some examples. We learnt that being vulnerable isn't always safe and we'd better protect ourselves by keeping others at a distance. Experiences like these can build strong defensive strategies, like difficulties in trusting, which at some cases are extremely challenging to understand and overcome.
Long story short: this is not who we are. If we got hurt in the past, we are trying to avoid being hurt again, which means that we will not easily let ourselves feel vulnerable again. It is not a matter of pride, but mostly a subconscious force which is trying to keep us safe and sound.
Convenience always comes with a cost.
Avoiding commitment may feel good and comfortable at the beginning; however most of the times, it may lead to an empty feeling, superficial relationships and unhappy moments. When we are focused on the absence (instead of the presence) of deep emotions, we end up feeling less connected, lonely or even depressed.
Commitment-phobia or relationship anxiety keeps a big percentage of people outside of long-term relationships or makes them terminate “good” relationships for no reason. People who are afraid to commit, in fact, are crying out for companionship, care and love, but it is never the right time to pursue their real needs. And the reason why is: Change imposes risk and risk includes the possibility of pain.
Feelings switch: ON
If you are one of those people, or, one of us, the best advice is to seek professional help, so that an external observer can help you identify your relationship patterns and change them. Nevertheless, there is some hope to the romantic but commitment-phobic amongst us: the first step is to accept your fear and learn how to dare. Life is unpredictable and full of sweet (in this case) risks which are rewarding if you are ready to take them. Understand when it's your fear talking and not you. Become aware of the moments that you are trying to push people away. Secondly, stop being determined by your past and let go. If you are stuck in previous experiences, there is a great possibility that you will relive them, not because it is fate, but simply, because you are repeating familiar patterns and consequently, you are narrowing your options. You may have been hurt in the past, but now you are consciously choosing people who love you and respect you. For now it's ok. For the future, nobody knows. Last but not least, give yourself time to heal and when you feel ready, you will take the risk again even if you feel terrified! We are all scared here, but it's better scared and together, than scared and lonely. Right?
Commitment-phobia is not a diagnosable condition, but it is definitely real!
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