Trimble: Commitment phobia pervasive but curable

By Leah Trimble

If you’ve seen the movie “Good Luck Chuck,” then you’ve witnessed my life on the big screen. If you’ve seen the movie “Good Luck Chuck,” then you’ve witnessed my life on the big screen. You know the story: man sleeps with woman, woman marries her next boyfriend. This is nice for the girls wanting the “real deal,” and its a curse — or a blessing, to some men — for the guy.

My problem isn’t quite that serious. But I have noticed a pattern: Almost every time I undertake some sort of relations with a man, he gets serious with a different girl shortly after. I’m ashamed to say that marriage or engagement have succeeded more than once. This is embarrassing — am I so repellent that the next girl to come along, no matter how mediocre, seems so much better? Or is the problem my own unresolved fear of becoming close to someone?

My roommate believes it’s the latter. She thinks that I refuse to get near anyone that shows a real interest in me  — I’m too picky, I find faults in everyone, and I hold too many feelings back. She thinks I, like countless others, suffer from … duh, duh, duh … commitment phobia.

Surprise, surprise — commitment-phobes aren’t just men these days. Women have joined their male counterparts in not wanting to surrender their independence, and men aren’t getting any more used to the idea. Why are we so anxious about settling down? More importantly, can a desire for independence coexist with traditional relationships? I think so, but only with a few much-needed realizations.

In an interview with Discovery Health, Audrey Chapman, a relationship counselor and author, categorized commitment-phobes into four categories:

“The Pity-Party-Goer” describes the person that continues to complain all the time and sets him- or herself up for failed relationships. When the relationships don’t work out, these people use these failures as reasons to explain why relationships don’t work.

“The Boomerang” is the person who keeps breaking up and then revisiting the same relationship, even though nothing has changed. We all know these people.

“The Detective” constantly searches for the perfect man (or woman): the best man, the macho man, the man with the slamming body, etc. Any prospective partner has to fit all of those criteria. (I might fit into this category.)

Finally, the “Picky Picker” is the person that nags and nags until his or her partner can’t take it anymore. It’s exhausting.

If you have commitment issues, you probably fall into one of these categories.

Members of both genders and all sorts of sexual orientations can experience the fear of commitment, for multiple reasons — it doesn’t have to be because of a desire for independence. Maybe you just got out of a emotionally draining partnership, for example.

In any case, this is a brutal cycle. In fact, Dr. Amir Levine, a New York City psychiatrist, told CBS News that a fear of dependence is one of the most common reasons for remaining single — and the only way one can overcome it is to, as they say, confront one’s demons.

AskMen.com counsels readers to address the problem in four steps. First and foremost, commitment-phobes should “modify your screening process.” This doesn’t mean that you have to lower your standards, but if you want a successful relationship and not just another fling, you should go further only with those who fit your needs and complement your values and personality. If you notice that you and your partner don’t match at the very beginning, picture how you’ll feel in a year when they’re ready for the next step. They’ll be excited, and you’ll just keep noticing the traits of theirs that turned you off in the first place. That’s not commitment phobia; it’s poor planning.

Next, the article says you should put partners to the test in some way that will prove they’re committed. If you decide they’re worthy, then it’s time for you to put some effort into the relationship. You have to work at it, just as with anything else.

Finally, and most importantly, take things slow. You don’t have to be engaged in less than a year or meet the parents after three dates. Your relationship has to move at a pace that’s comfortable for both of you. Don’t be afraid to look at successful examples around you.

If you have the aforementioned issues — and believe me, many people have at least one — then you have to tackle them head-on. If you decide that you’re not ready for a relationship, period, then that’s your choice. But for the rest of us, it’s time to get over this crap and rehabilitate ourselves. That’s the key to a successful modern relationship.

Email Leah at [email protected]

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