By Elina Furman
For years, it was the men who had the monopoly on commitment-phobia. But what about commitment-phobic women? Yes, women! Raised to believe that men are the commitment-shy gender, many women coast through life completely oblivious about their own commitment anxiety—believing they want a relationship yet systematically pushing away one perfectly suitable candidate after another. Isn’t it high time we looked at ourselves and admit that maybe, just maybe, we are the ones who have become commitment-challenged? If you’re ready to finally face the truth, go down the list of these common symptoms and see if any apply.
- Once the excitement of first romance has passed, you get bored in most of your relationships.
- You have a habit of dating unavailable men (married, involved with someone else, geographically or emotionally distant, etc.).
- You have a long and elaborate list of requirements for your ideal mate.
- You consider your married friends’ relationships boring and feel that many of them have settled for too little.
- You cultivate larger networks of friends and acquaintances at the expense of romantic relationships.
- You date more than one man at a time to prevent becoming dependent.
- You have a difficult time getting over past boyfriends.
By now, you probably have a better idea of where you stand on the commitment meter. If you’re now thinking: “Yep, that’s me,” now what? Is there any hope for getting over these issues? The answer to that is a resounding yes! Here’s how:
Accept your uncertainty
One of the biggest mistakes many of you make is thinking that any uncertainty, however slight, is a sign that your relationship is doomed to failure. You think, “If I’m so confused, that must mean something is wrong with my relationship. Shouldn’t I just know if it’s right?” But indecision and anxiety are a very normal part of making a commitment to someone. If you weren’t a little uncertain, then you’d have something to worry about! Face the fact that there’s never going to be a time when you’re 100 percent certain of anything. So if you’re 80 percent sure that the person you’re with will make a good partner, then that’s all the certainty you’re ever going to get.
Just do it
Once you’ve determined whether you’re 80 percent confident, it may be time to take some good-old fashioned action. Be conscious, be circumspect, and be careful, but take the leap. As with any phobia, we often have to face what scares us the most in order to conquer our fears. So it should come as no surprise that one of the best cures for commitment anxiety is just to make a commitment. And if you make a mistake? Well, so be it. After all, one of the ways we learn to trust our instincts is through hindsight. In the end, following the 80 percent rule will help you take calculated risks, not reckless ones.
Avoid the crystal ball
If you’re on the brink of becoming exclusive, cohabiting, or getting married to someone, it’s all too easy to panic and wonder, “But how will I feel one year, five years, or ten years from now?” After all, people change, right? How do you know you will feel exactly the same way five years from now? The answer is: You don’t! No matter how tempting it is to worry about the future of your relationship, you have to accept that there is absolutely no guarantee that things will work out. Worrying about the future is one way to avoid making a decision. No matter how many psychics or astrologers you visit, no one can tell you what to do with your life or what the future holds. In the end, the best thing you can do is focus on the present. Ask yourself: “Am I getting what I want out of the relationship at exactly this moment?” If the answer is yes (or 80 percent yes), rest assured the prognosis is as good as it’s going to get.
Okay, so men can sometimes act like dominating control freaks, but it’s important to note how often we’re guilty of the same offense. Picking fights, acting moody, and making your partner feel like he’s always doing something wrong is a great way to get someone to break up with you. In fact, that’s exactly what many of you do so you can get out of the relationship or avoid commitment. Many of us commitment-phobes have a perfectionist streak that makes us try to control every aspect of the relationship. Unless our partner fits some preconceived mold, we feel we can’t possibly commit to him. Whether it’s his sloppy ways or inability to dress himself, it can be all too tempting to want to change him or control the relationship. Of course, if you’re not ready to commit, no one will ever be good enough for you. So either accept your partner for who he is or leave the relationship altogether.
While it’s important to have a full life, many women overdo it. It may be impressive that you have a gazillion friends and unique hobbies, but if you don’t make room in your life for a committed relationship, don’t be surprised if it keeps eluding you. Think of it like this: Once you make room on a table and clear all the stuff away, something new is bound to appear on it. This rule applies to everything. If you’re obsessed with your pet, work 24/7, are absorbed with your children, or are a clutter bug who’s embarrassed to bring people home, you probably don’t have as much time or space for a committed relationship as you think. So if you fit any of these categories, it may just be time to clean up your act and make some physical, emotional, and psychological room in your life.
Elina Furman is the author of Boomerang Nation and other books. After years of personal experience with commitment phobia, she conquered her own fear and now lives with her boyfriend in New York City.
Excerpt from KISS AND RUN by Elina Furman. Copyright © 2007 by Elina Furman. Reprinted by permission of Fireside, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.