You may stay awake most nights worrying about commitment.
Commitment Phobia worry most singles.
Being single and constantly on the lookout can be exhausting! Then when you find that ‘special someone’, your mind starts racing. You start thinking “How serious will this get?” “I’m I really ready to be tied down?” “This shit is driving me CRAZY!!”
Just the idea of agreeing to be with another human being for the rest of your life makes your heart pound. Granted, you’re not in any physical danger regarding your significant other, but you start experiencing anxieties and fears that your body just can’t understand. You stay awake most nights drinking coffee.
What you are experiencing is a condition known as ‘Commitment Phobia.’ It’s a claustrophobic response to intimate relationships. The dictionary defines claustrophobia as a fear of enclosed or narrow spaces.
To a commitment phobic, that’s what a relationship symbolizes – an enclosed space in which he or she may get stuck. Commitment phobia comes with all the classic phobic symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Excessive sweating
- Intense anxiety
- Labored breathing
- Suffocating sensations
- A general sense of dread
As most of us know, these are all “fight or flight” responses- the body’s way of mobilizing itself against a threat. And it is how people with severe and active commitment conflicts respond when they feel they are involved in a romantic situation that bears the trappings of permanency.
Then next, they know after a short while, will come relationship problems. (More issues to deal with down the road).
The brain sends a message to the body: “I’m terrified.” And the body sends a message back: “Danger! Get Out! Now!!”
You don’t have to be in any real physical danger for the body to mobilize its defenses. If you perceive something as a threat, then the body reacts as though there is indeed a very real threat.
“Give me liberty or give me death!” it cries. “Fifty-four or fight!” “Not another nickel to the King!” Whether you know it or not, your body has gone to war.
Why war? What’s so scary that such drastic action is called for? And who is the foe? For someone with a genuine commitment phobic response, the foe is the relationship itself. It’s the loss of freedom that’s frightening.
If on some very visceral level you equate commitment with the loss of freedom, then commitment may be anxiety provoking or even truly terrifying. Your body gets prepared to help you escape.
It will respond to that relationship the same way it would respond if you were a claustrophobic trapped in an elevator, an airplane, a crowd, or a closet.
DIFFERENT LEVELS OF FEAR
Of course not everyone experiences his or her fear of commitment in the same way. Fear can range from severe to more subtle. For example:
- Overwhelming panic: is the best way to describe reactions that are both immediate and intense. The minute the relationship gets “tight,”fear sets in. These men and women can’t help but recognize what they are feeling.
- Anxiety: Anxiety ranging from mild to intense is the way many men and women with commitment conflicts describe their feelings.
This group rarely feels outright panic, and the symptoms of fear, or phobia,may be so subtle and so seemingly disconnected from the relationship that at first they are only vaguely aware of what’s taking place. But when the anxiety hangs around long enough, they become acutely aware of their discomfort.
- Controlled fear: is the feeling expressed by those men and women who acknowledge their conflicts and who are attempting to lead their lives in a way that compensates for their feelings.
- Hidden fear: is the only way to describe the reactions of those men and women whose history clearly indicates that they are avoiding commitment, even though they have no conscious awareness of what they are doing. These men and women are so terrified of commitment that they rarely, if ever, consider becoming involved with anyone who would present them with the opportunity to confront their terror. Because they are attracted to partners who are unavailable or pulling away, unless they accidentally stumble into a committed relationship, they have no idea of the depth of their anxiety.
WHY SHOULD THE IDEA OF COMMITMENT BE SO THREATENING?
Some people might argue that fear of commitment is built into our genetic code, that in the human jungle the mere act of caring for and accommodating to a full-time partner is a threat.
After all, it means slowing down, lowing defenses, and becoming less alert to the possibility of danger. The fact is that commitment is scary for a lot of reasons, all of which need to be acknowledged and examined.
First is what we see as the primary conflict – what we feel when commitment threatens our basic and powerful need to feel free.
These are those who would even take this a step farther and question whether or not permanent commitment is healthy or even normal. These people question whether humans are meant to form permanent unions with each other.
While thinking about this is provocative, there is probably no satisfactory answer to the question of whether people, like swans, are designed to mate for life. And we are not about to argue the merits of marriage versus a single life.
Forever is scary. Commitment – whether in the form of marriage or not- represents an enormous responsibility. Once we commit ourselves, we owe something to another human being.
Someone else counts on us, depends on us, relies on us. The notion of this extra burden is frightening. But there is a difference between having commitment fears and being downright phobic.
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