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:
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.
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:
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.