Fear of commitment
Fear of commitment in much popular literature refers to avoidance of long-term partnership and/or marriage but the problem is often much more pervasive, affecting school, work, and home life as well.
The term commitmentphobia was coined in the popular self-help book "Men Who Can't Love" in 1987. Following criticism of the perceived sexist idea that only men were commitmentphobic, the authors provided a more gender balanced model of commitmentphobia in a later work, "He's Scared, She's Scared".
Commitmentphobia is often most strongly apparent in romantic life. Generally, commitmentphobic people claim that they are eager to find a lasting romantic attachment and get married, yet they fail to find appropriate partners and maintain longlasting connections. Ironically, in these romantic relationships, the commitmentphobic partner craves what he/she fears most: love and connection. This paradoxical craving for a frightening reality leads to a confusing and destructive pattern of seduction and rejection. The results are emotionally devastating.
The key to understanding commitmentphobia is recognizing that such behavior is rooted in fear -- fear of lost options or fear of making poor decisions. The commitmentphobic mind sees decisions as permanent, opening the possibility of being caged or trapped forever with no means of escape. Commitmentphobia is a real disabling fear, that can be manifest in many areas of life, including career, home ownership, or even shoe shopping. This fear can make simple every day decisions into a tremendous burden.
To assuage their anxieties, many commitmentphobics become fantasy-driven, using their active imaginations to fill in for the lack of emotional security and closeness in their lives. Of course, these fantasies pose additional problems because no potential partner, car, or job can ever live up to the fantasy. Commitmentphobics are also prone to self-destructive behavior, such as walking out on partners or jobs without notice, leaving themselves and the people in their lives in untenable situations.
One potentially misleading aspect of commitmentphobic behavior is that the partner who is actively running away from commitment is not the only one with a problem. In fact, commitmentphobic behavior includes "settling" for inappropriate partners, pursuing unattainable partners, and engaging in instant relationship mergers as well as fleeing from what might have appeared to be a stable romance. Any persistent behavior that actively prevents a person from making a commitment or allows a person to make excuses for not having made a commitment can be considered commitmentphobic.
Authors Carter and Sokol handle this circumstance by describing "active" commitmentphobia, which is most strongly characterized by running away from relationships, and "passive" commitmentphobia, which is most strongly characterized by longsuffering devotion to an active partner who is running away, longing for a partner who has run away, and fantasy reconciliation scenarios.
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