In my counseling practice, I often work with clients who have a deep fear of commitment. These individuals generally say that they want to be in a loving relationship, yet they keep picking “the wrong people.”
Someone like Allison who sought my help because she was in two relationships that she admitted wasn’t good for her in the long term. While it was hard, she realized that it was time for her to make a choice.
Allison had been in a relationship with Jim for two years. Jim was a fun-loving man and sweet. However, there were times when he wouldn’t contact Allison for long periods of time, and he was clear that he did not want children – which was critical to Susan. Shortly after she started dating Jim, Susan met Greg, who was totally different. Greg was emotionally present, had a job he loved that made very good money, and wanted children. Susan knew in her heart she knew that he was a much better choice for her than Jim. Yet she could not seem to let go of Jim. There was a certain “chemistry” that she felt with Jim that Greg just didn’t make her feel.
As we explored the situation, it became apparent that Susan couldn’t let go of Jim because she was actually the one who was terrified of commitment. With Jim, there was no chance of being in a committed relationship – he was not really available. Susan felt “safe” with Jim. But safe from what?
Susan discovered that she was terrified of really being in love, which was a possibility with Greg but not with Jim. In her mind, being in love meant someone could hurt her or leave her. When she thought of being with Greg, she felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her concept of a loving relationship was that, “You are together all the time.”
“I couldn’t just go and be with my friends or take a vacation with a friend. Commitment means a man could hurt me.” No wonder she felt safe with Jim! As long as Susan felt she had to give herself up to be in a loving relationship, she would not be able to make a commitment.
Susan actually has a false belief that is causing her to fear a commitment. She believes that loving another person means doing what that person wants instead of staying true to what they want in life and taking loving care of themselves.
In addition, she also has a false definition of selfish. She believes that a man is being selfish if he takes care of himself instead of taking care of his partner. Here is a more accurate definition of selfishness:
Selfish is when you expect someone else to give themselves up for you and your wishes. Selfish is when you do not support others in taking loving care of themselves.
Giving yourself up is a form of control. You want to control how the other person feels about you by doing what they want you to do. However, when you do what another person wants you to do from love and caring, with no agenda to get their approval, you feel wonderful.
But when you give yourself up for fear of your partner’s anger or withdrawal, you will feel trapped and resentful. To be in a committed relationship, your first commitment needs to be to yourself – to your truth, integrity, and freedom.
Learning to take loving care of you is the key to healing your fear of commitment. When you are taking loving care of yourself, you will be filled with love and you will have more love to share with your partner!