A phobia is an irrational fear and a phobe is an individual who has an irrational fear. Those who have phobias have learnt from their early experiences that there is pain associated with the object that they fear, so it is a psychological problem
Let me illustrate with my own situation……..I was bitten by a dog when I was four years old. I now have a phobia of dogs, in particular large dogs. This is because I have associated dogs with pain. It has nothing to do with the individual dogs, it is because they trigger my association with pain, so when I get too close to them, I start feeling anxious and move away from them, quickly. Therefore when a commitmentphobe moves away from you/avoids you, it is not because of you personally, it is because of the anxiety they feel about what you represent………..…..commitment.
Moving onto commitmentphobes, I can imagine that those who have chosen to read this blog are either having a relationship with a commitmentphobe and want reassurance that they will change or they have had a relationship with a commitmentphobe and want to understand their behaviour so that they can be reassured that the problem was with the commitmenphobe and not them.
A commitmentphobe can cause a significant amount of psychological damage to the people that they have relationships with, usually unintentionally. This is why if anyone asks me should I stay with the commitmentphobe? My answer will always be a resounding NO. This is because I know that their self-esteem (as they are often rejected on a regular basis) and sanity (as they try to understand their unusual behaviour) is highly likely to suffer
The most common behaviour of a commitmenphobe is that they send mixed messages. One minute they are pursuing someone relentlessly but the next they are withdrawing from the relationship and demonstrating rejecting behaviour. This is confusing and painful for the other person as they never feel fully wanted, they often feel rejected and they often feel toyed with and insecure in the relationship as there is constant inconsistency in the relationship.
This behaviour often leads people to think that they aren’t good enough or there is something wrong with them, so damages their self-esteem. This often encourages them to “work harder” at keeping the commitmentphobe happy, so that the commitmenphobe will want them consistently and they can feel good about themselves. They often end up running themselves ragged trying to get the commitmentphobe to like them, which they do every now and then, which makes the relationship more addictive.
Every commitmentphobe wants a relationship on their terms. They want to have the other person in their lives when it suits them and to leave them alone when they want. They expect the other person to just accept this.
Every commitmentphobe gains benefits from their behaviour. They ensure that they get a half-hearted relationship on their terms and in addition to this, in many cases, their partners are prepared to chase after them, which boosts their ego. What is the costs of their behaviour? They sometimes feel guilty………….which they reduce by making excuses for their painful behaviour. You can see here that the benefits of their situation outweigh the costs (which they reduce or eliminate)
But can a commitmentphobe change?
The short answer is, without therapy or serious self-reflection, NO
For a commitmenphobe to change, they have to motivated to change, which they often aren’t as they are getting many benefits from their behaviour i.e. relationships on their terms and the added bonus of an ego boost, when the other person pursues them to prove their worth as a result of their damaged self-esteem either from their own childhoods or as a result of the commitmentphobes behaviour. So why would they be motivated to change?
The only time when a commitmentphobe will change is when the costs of their behaviour outweighs the benefits. This is unlikely to happen as they reduce the guilt they feel at hurting people (the only cost) with excuses, which most of the time they use to con both themselves and the other person into believing that their behaviour is normal or right – it isn’t. All commitmentphobes have psychological issues as a result of painful experiences in their pasts. They have learnt from somewhere or someone that commitment equals pain i.e. loss of freedom, vulnerability, getting hurt etc.
So, what would they need to do to change and why do many of them avoid this option?
To change their behaviour, they would need to take a look at their behaviour, either through a serious amount of self-reflection or therapy. This can be really painful for a commitmentphobe as they would have to register the pain that they have caused others and take responsibility for the damage that they have caused. This is just too painful for many commitmenphobes, and this is why they avoid doing going through this process.
So in conclusion, the reason why commitmentphobes are unlikely to change is that the benefits of their current behaviour i.e. having relationships on their terms, avoiding the pain/fear/anxiety associated with commitment and a daily ego boost outweigh the costs i.e. feeling guilty. In addition to this, for them to change they would have to go through a potentially painful process i.e. registering that they have hurt people etc, through therapy.
If you are in a relationship with a commitmentphobe, hopefully you will realise from this blog that they are highly unlikely to change. The only way a commitmentphobe can change is if they want to. They won’t change because someone else wants them to. You are the one that needs to decide whether you are prepared to continue with this relationship or not as a commitmentphobe is highly unlikely to end the relationship because they can’t commit to being with you and they can’t commit to not being with you and this is why this “hot & cold” relationship continues and will do for years.
There is one key question you should ask yourself if you are in this position
How would I feel if you were still in this relationship, AS IT IS TODAY (because it is unlikely to change), in 5 years time?
I hope that this blog has helped. If you would like help to break free from a relationship with a commitment phobe, email me to book a coaching session at firstname.lastname@example.org.