The Commitment Phobic Guy

Getting emotionally burned by a past romantic relationship, premature death of a beloved parent or romantic partner, or fear of making romantic, economic, and parental entanglements that may compromise one financially (The Commitment Phobic US Consumer) are some of the reasons people give today to explain why they fear making romantic commitments. Although it is understandable how these experiences might make one hesitate to settle down forever, they do not explain a true commitment phobia.

Commitment Phobia is a subconscious defensive style around intimate relating that either stops a person from forming romantic relationships altogether or stalls ongoing relationship processes that could deepen commitment. Importantly to really having this problem is that avoiding commitment is in harmony with the needs and goals of a person’s identity (the ego) that was formed early in life.

If you have a history of losing interest in your lovers when the relationships begin to move beyond the casual stage of intimate relating, have negative ideas about relationship commitment that stops you from forming romantic attachments all together or chronically stall or sabotage relationship processes that would deepen commitment, you may be commitment phobic.

Although today’s post focuses on the commitment phobic man, women can be commitment phobic too. In fact, some surveys show that women are less likely than men to commit to long-term relationships, today (Women More Commitment Phobic Than Men).

The Childhood of The Commitment Phobic Person

Men who avoid committed romantic relationships are generally the product of unresponsive or over-intrusive parenting that tends to result from his parent’s distressed marital relationship, personality conflicts, or stress and environmental pressures (Commitment Phobic Adults Could Have Mom and Dad to Blame; Understanding and Dealing With Commitment Phobia). This may have taken the form of ignoring the child’s needs through neglect of him or requiring the child to satisfy the parent’s needs and desires through narcissistic involvement with him. Whether the parent ignored the child’s needs or imposed his/her needs upon her child, the boy subconsciously interprets his needs as having to take a back seat to the needs of his primary caretaker(s). He learns to push his needs out of his awareness and develops an invulnerable persona of extreme competence, control, and ultra responsible personality that becomes the basis to his self-esteem. This, of course, takes place inside his psyche and does not speak to the quality of the relationships he has with his parents in his adult life.

Avoiding commitment is in harmony with the goals of the identity that he formed way back then. As our romantic relationships progress beyond the causal stage of intimate relating toward commitment, there are exchanges of need, disappointment, demands and requests by lovers that threaten the commitment phobic man’s ideas around self-control and invulnerability. These exchanges challenge his desire for perfection. His lover’s disapproval of him subconsciously suggests to him that he is not good enough, falling down on the job, which is not in harmony with his sense of self and esteem.

But, perhaps, even more, his mate’s criticisms around her unmet needs stimulate needs of his own and also stirs up negative feelings and anger of having to dance to the tune of a demanding partner who emotionally feels to him like the parent who tried to control him with his or her needs. Just when it would be developmentally useful for him to stay in the relationship, face his fears, and find another way to contend with other people’s needs, he finds way to jump ship, physically or emotionally. He begins to find flaws in his lovers, gives reasons why they are a poor match, acts narcissistically indifferent to her requests, can become mean and demeaning, or engages in destructive relationship behaviors (infidelity, alcohol or drug use) as a way to distance himself from her. These distancing behaviors are also his intrapsychic attempt to emotionally separate from the parent whose narcissism threatened his autonomy as a child and right to self-determine his existence.

Tips for The Commitment Phobic Guy

You may decide that you do not want a long-term romantic commitment. Of course, this is up to you. But, if you are tired of running away from romantic commitment, then you have to squarely face your fears and work through them. Let the steps that follow help you to begin the process.

  1. Admit that your fears of commitment have resulted in the ending of more than one relationship of yours. People begin each Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting by declaring that they are alcoholics. By keeping their alcoholism in sight by their acknowledgement, it never leaves their mind, which helps them to engage in behaviors that keep them sober. You must do the same. Keep your commitment phobia in mind and you will be aware of behaviors that destroy relationship connection.
  2. Think through the early relationship to your parents. How did they shape your ideas around romantic relating? Did one or both parents ignore your needs or try to impose their needs and desires upon you? Is your fear around commitment an intrapsychic response to separating yourself from a parent of your childhood?
  3. Evaluate your complaints about your current lover. Do your complaints center on need and control? Are you acting out the parent who either neglected your needs, imposed his/her needs upon you, or both? Remember, you tend to choose more narcissistic mates whose needs and desires either eclipse your needs or ignore them altogether. It is not that your perceptions around your frustrations are wrong, it is more the intensity of your reaction that discloses your fears and works to undermine a relationship that may actually be good for you.
  4. Face up to your own neediness, so you can own rather than project onto your lovers negatives ideas around having needs. All of us have needs that come up in romantic relating. If you really want a long-term love relationship, you have to get comfortable with feeling vulnerable. This is what is required to successfully merge your life with another person.
  5. Become present to the ways that you distance yourself in relationship. You may become overly critical, make mountains out of your mate’s flaws, or act narcissistically indifferent toward your partner’s needs and desires. Or, you may lose yourself in work, infidelity, or drug or alcohol use to distance yourself from your lover. Being mindful of these distancing behaviors give you a chance to choose another way to deal with your fears.

Remember, after the honeymoon phase of intimate relating, Love is a Decision that we make to act in ways that deepen our commitment and love to our lovers.

If you liked my post today, please let me know by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows. You can also Tweet or Google+1 today’s article to let your friends know about it. Warmly Deborah


39 Responses to “The Commitment Phobic Guy”

  1. avatar kathleen says:

    Valuable article and Im also looking forward to the one about women. I met several months ago the most loving man Ive ever known (my ex husband of 20 years i now realize in retrospect was narcissistic, and my parents not nurturing or able to express love easily)
    After several months I began to fear this new boyfriend was too clingy, he might depend on me two much and I feared he might smother me and I would loose my freedom. He had fallen in love way too fast. So I broke up with him and immediately felt relieved and he was devastated. Now in the following months I feel this increasing profound loss and think about him everyday. He doesn’t trust me to come back. I feel like Ive made this terrible mistake

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Kathleen, good to see you here. Yes, I’m thinking the one on woman through right now for one of my upcoming posts. Sometimes if we fear commitment from our childhood and adult experiences, we can interpret a person’s readiness to love as clingy. You make a very good point here Kathleen. I have seen this many times clinically. I’m sorry for the loss. Kathleen, I believe if he is the right one, he’ll face his trust fears and try again. If not, then you have a valuable experience to think through your discomfort with the type of closeness that true intimacy requires of us.

      That being said, it’s a different world. We human beings, especially women today, are so aware of the need for boundaries in relationships and desire for self-definition that our natural drive to mate, give ourselves in relationships is being seriously challenged. It is a balancing act of emotions, fears, and autonomy to stay true to ourselves while at the same time giving ourselves over to love. Good to say hello dear Kathleen. Warmly Deborah.

  2. avatar Salvatore Maddi says:

    Wow! This is a definitive approach to helping us understand commitment phobias. We all need to consider where we stand on all this, and what we need to do to grow and develop, so that we can have deep romantic relationships that last.

  3. avatar Jeff says:

    great write up, Thanks for that Deborah

  4. avatar madie says:

    nice article… i read it first time that people may also suffer from such commitment phobia…please give more ways to get rid of or to nail such type of phobia ..

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dr. Madie, women and men can be fearful of commitment, you are right. One of the first things, perhaps, the most important, is the true desire to have a meaningful, long term relationship. And, then the steps I mention in the article help very much. I also recommend that people go to therapy to understand their fears better. Thank you Madie. Warmly Deborah.

  5. avatar snodia says:

    Appreciate you sharing, great blog.Thanks Again. Cool.

  6. avatar sachal bhatti says:

    valuable discriptive essay. i think circumstances are the major cause to sabotage committed relationship process. one question i want to ask u that how could we keep alive long term relationship with lover?

  7. avatar Cathy says:

    I actually found this essay very similar. I was always told that i m a phobic but i never actually accepted it. When i want to understand how did i turn up to be one. I definately had controlling parents however it was a loving relationship. I had always blamed this habit because of some past relationship, which i only sabotaged. But lately after losing a wonderful person from my life, i am no more in denial. But now i feel more scared of myself after realising that i am a commitment phobic. I am taking my time out so that i can find an effective solution. I want to know how to get rid of that anxiety and losing control feeling in a relationship. How do i accept that i have to adjust in a relationship. The moment i have to think of adjusting in a relationship i get mad n try to literally run away from the relationship. Will yoga help in such cases? I found it calms me down for some short duration. I dont know about long term aid from yoga in such cases

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, thank you for commenting today. Yes, women can be phobic too. It is great that you are taking time to look at the ways that you have sabotaged your relationships. Yoga can definitely help you to learn how to relax and let go physically, which over time does translate into how we approach problems in our lives and relationships. But, this can take time. Still, most definitely a good thing to do.

      You have to explore what losing control or having to adjust yourself in relationship means to you. I don’t know your background so I can only give you some general reasons why people feel as you describe here. You may have had a controlling parent and as a result have become so fearful that you think you will lose your identity if you adjust. Explore this idea if you can relate to it. People who have this fear often feel afraid of adjusting in relationship because they feel they will have no power if they adjust. You may want to consider a short term therapy to explore this fear further. Or, some people grow up to be self-centered and adjusting in relationship feels like a narcissistic assault on them. In other words, they have learned that other people are there to meet their needs but that they don’t have to give back. Thus, they treat their romantic partners as if they were the indulgent parents of their childhoods.

      Thank you for your comment today Cathy. And, I wish you well in your self-exploration and in love. Warmly Deborah.

  8. avatar KC says:

    Deborah Thank-you for writing this article! I finally realized a guy that I have liked is an extreme commitment phobe. We have talked on and off for 2 years. The dating only lasts 1-2 weeks before he freaks out and wont speak to me. I have mentioned his commitment issues in person and it helped to talk about it. But when he freaks out he wont respond to any of my text or calls. He completely ignores me. Do you have any suggestions on how to help him?

    Great article and it helps to understand why commitment phobes behave this way.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are very welcome KC. Yes, freaking out after every period of intimacy does sound a little commitment phobe :). I have to admit, it’s hard to address your question because until he gets some counseling for his problem (and facing it), you will have to let go and let him come to you. But, I resist telling you this KC, because you deserve a relationship with a person who allows you to be you without feeling threatened. I just posted an article today called- Put Your Best Foot Forward in Love: Be Your TRUE self. If you haven’t read it thus far, take a look at it. Because I sense that you have to hide so much of your needs and natural tendencies to make him feel safe.

      I’m so glad that the article gave you better understanding into this challenging emotional issue. Just because a man has commitment and intimacy fears doesn’t by any means make him a bad person. In fact, he may be a very good person despite this issue, which may be why you are hanging on to the brief periods when he can relax into the relationship. Take good care of yourself. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  9. avatar Anon says:


    I met a great guy 7 months ago. We have been friends for years and the attraction was always there.

    We embarked on an amazing relationship. We were totally in love and never had one problem in our relationship. We never fought once, were in sync and really happy.

    Then he turned around and said he couldnt be with me. That he really loves me but has been worrying more and more than im not the one. I find this totally contrasting to what our relationship was.

    He is completely distraught as am I.

    I know from his past relationships that this has been a reaccuring trend for him. He always does this.

    He lost his mother when 19 after a 4 year battle with cancer.

    Is he a commitment phobe? How do I help him see this? I refuse to give up on the thought that we could be together.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Anon, oh, I can really understand how confused you must be, to not get one hint of this going on in his mind. He may be commitment phobic, especially because you give me two very important pieces of information that indicate this. First, he has this pattern and second that he lost his mother as a young adult. Losing a loved parent so young can make one fear the loss of love again.

      It’s interesting Anon. Sometimes people don’t trust their own feelings and experience enough to know what they really want and need. Instead, they let ideas like, is he or she right or wrong for me…….. It is a matter of self-trust; trusting in one’s own being that we are the source of true knowledge when it comes to knowing what is good and right for us. But this takes experience and also not running away from our feelings.

      I hope this helps you to think about what is happening more. You may give him this article to read and my response and open the whole topic up for discussion. Warm regards to you. I hope 2014 brings you a happy resolution to this matter. Warmly Deborah.

  10. avatar Stacy says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I’ve been talking with a guy for the past 2 1/2 years only to learn that he doesn’t want a relationship. He has had to relationships in the past which was long term and engagements broken off. We were getting alone just find until he came to see me and I invited my best friends over for dinner. He started having all kind of stomach problems and visit went down hill from there. After reading your article I see what’s going on with him. He did have a childhood were his mother blamed him for ruining her life. We get alone just find, we still talk and tell each other everything but I don’t think he’ll every be able to commit. He has seen a psychologist who told him its ok to be alone…I think he really want a relationship but don’y know how to go about getting help. How can I help him find the best therapy.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Stacy, I’m glad you liked this article. I enjoyed writing it too. I’m unsure why the psychologist told him it’s okay to be alone. Yes, we have to be okay with being alone sometimes in life. But, the desire to have relationships (friendships and romantic partnerships) is normal and healthy for us. That being said Stacy, people have different needs when it comes to intimacy and closeness that usually has to do with their upbringing and past emotional issues or trauma. Sometimes people wish to be alone because they cannot cope with the normal tensions and problems that occur in intimate relating. So, it’s easier for them to be alone. Of course, this is a person’s choice. But, as I said, research shows that positive intimate relationships are good for our health, social adjustment, and general happiness.

      Remember, we can want something for people that they don’t want for themselves. Stacy, he himself has to feel the need for a good intimate relationship. When he does, he’ll find the help he needs to make a romantic relationship work.

      If this doesn’t work out for you, I know there is a wonderful person waiting for you. Warm regards Deborah.

  11. avatar Julia says:

    This is a really good post. I’m glad I found this. I especially like reading the comments people are leaving and the responses you give Dr. Deborah. I can definitely share their pain and confusion, as the guy I’d been dating for the past 3 months just broke up with me for a reason I couldn’t understand and thought was stupid and deeply offensive. We’d been acquaintances for over a year but we never really hung out. He asked me one day out of the blue to go on a date. The date went well and we began seeing each other steadily, about 1-3 days a week. We went out on a double date with one of his buddies and all went well. After that, I was invited to go on a camping trip with more of his good buddy and wife–and everything seemed fine. We had a good time together and my guy was very affectionate, more than usual (but I do have to mention that most that affectionate was doled out under alcoholic influence.) He has admitted that booze helped him loosen up. We came back to the city after the trip. I didn’t hear from him for 3 days and he suddenly showed up at my work to tell me it wasn’t working. Totally dropped a bomb on me. I asked why and his reason was that I reminded him of his mother! He has mentioned that he didn’t get along with her…as well as his always angry alcoholic dad (just throwing that extra tidbit of info in there). He also mentioned that he’s never been able to emotionally connect with any girl. Even though he said he still really liked me, he couldn’t imagine investing anymore emotions into the relationship. All that did not make any sense to me and I was upset but mostly baffled. After reading your article, it makes so so much sense now. Thank you for sharing this knowledge. Instant pain relief. 🙂

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Julia, yes, the comments people leave are so illuminating to the problem and helpful. I’m so pleased at people’s willingness to share and to help others.

      Julia the out of nowhere breakup is a way commitment phobic people break up. It’s out of the blue and the reasons given are superficial and do not constitute a breakup or they really have no basis to them. It is a fear reaction. Julia, people who are pathologically shy and fearful often drink excessively to reduce social anxiety fears and discomfort. What you describe here makes sense to me. The difficult thing is people who do this end up hurting people because the personality under the influence doesn’t last long. I’m glad that my post helped to clear up some of your questions. Because I can say from what you describe here — it wasn’t you Julia. You take good care. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  12. avatar Jason says:

    Hello there nice read. I have a bf whom is scared of commitment. We have roller coaster 4 times already. I refuse to give up on him. He says he loves me and cares about me. When things are gong so good thats when he runs. I love this man so very much. Everyone else in his life besides three people have abandoned him. I refuse to. He was sexually abused as a child. I know that he loves me granted there have been few actions to “prove” it. He told me I was the first person to ever buy him flowers. Can we have a great relationship? Can I help our relationship?

  13. avatar DazedandConfused says:

    Hi Dr. K,
    GREAT article, thank you so much for writing this. I found this piece while trying to understand the difference between narcissism and commitment phobia. I know only a small percentage of the population has true NPD, but the man I have been in love with nearly four years has displayed behaviour that has me puzzled. Brief synopsis: We met online and chatted for weeks before we met. He definitely seemed into me (in writing) but put off meeting, even canceling our meeting on the day of, twice. When we finally met, we really hit it off. But he continued to be hard to pin down. (He “fell asleep” while texting one night, he “forgot about something he had to do at University” another, he was out of town every weekend–no, there was nobody else.) We both ended up moving to other cities within the year but kept up correspondence. We met up a few times over the past couple years but every time we got together (no sex b/c no commitment!) he would completely disengage within days. No calling. No texting. Then he would show up again between 3 weeks and 3 months later. “I’m so sorry for being selfish. I’m so sorry for being moody. I don’t know why I’m like this. I don’t want to hurt you. I love you immensely.” (Note: no promising a future though! He was very smart to avoid ever over-promising.) He seems to deeply desire a relationship w me, but is either unwilling or unable to do it. As for his childhood, he idolizes his father, speaks kindly about this mum. Raised primarily by a child care provider who died when he was 10. I’ve spoken to a couple other women he’s ‘dated’ and one said she would never call it dating (hung out at her flat a few times, some intimacy, no sex) and that he only professed to be in love with her once she was engaged to another man. Another woman he’d dated for a short time said he disappeared completely after compiling mix tapes and telling her how into her he was. I know narcissists tend to come on strong, but that wasn’t my experience with him. He knows how much deserting me hurts me (I’ve called crying, I’ve explained calmly in person) and he claims to understand and says it won’t happen again, that he wants to see me/speak more often–yet he disappears shortly after, EVERY time. I’m curious to know your thoughts, as I’m once again left confused by his most recent behaviour (and have since placed a block on his mobile). I always felt as though he genuinely loved me, yet he continues to act as though my devastation when he leaves isn’t even happening, let alone matters. (My father was an alcoholic and my mum a bit frazzled and overprotective much of the time, so I understand that I was primed for a relationship like this! I’m just not sure whether I have been dealing with a man who has a commitment phobia–or a full-fledged narcissist. I would love to get your insight.) Cheers!

  14. avatar Lisa says:

    I like your blog, as mostly I have only found oppinons of experts advising to get the run when one get’s involved with an emo unavailable. I am glad there is some hope in the end.
    I have been writing with a guy from overseas now since 2 years who was looking for a friendship right from the beginning. He has a few friends online, mainly female ones. Unfortunately I have fallen for him totally, considering his pics and his thoughts. He never got more interested in me, and I made the mistake after a few months of writing that I told him about my deeper feelings towards him. He stood me up, still asking if the friendship kind of connection would be useful for me, as he didn’t want to make me any hopes for more. When he realized that I reacted somehow disappointed and insulted, but in the end agreed with this connection, he told me about having written with a female friend for understanding the female aspects on his issues he still had from his last relationship. Then he developed affection for that penpal friend, but after a year she moved to an old study friend of hers and their communication ended. He told me that in times of affection he had been contacting her often, even phoning with her and they had nearly met each other. It felt so cruel to me that to me he kept writing after a whole couple of days. Since that I am making him believe I really only want to be friends too. Last Christmas when I sent him a card and some Austrian chocolates he wrote a mail and sent a flirt to me for the first time. I didn’t take it seriously so I didn’t return it to him. He often philosphies with me, also about topics of love and friendship where he stated that a friendship can turn into any kind of significant relationship. He meant that a friendship that wouldn’t last, would also not last as a serious relationship.
    But since a longer time now he has made the gaps between our mails bigger. I am thinking he is losing more and more interest. I want to make a very big gap too, maybe in a time he will least expect this from my side. I hope he would start missing me. But, I am not sure if he will, or if he only sees me as a “post-card” friendship. Although he has depressions at times, he always mails in a very freindly way, always wishing for me to be happy. This shows me that he has good intentions actually.

  15. avatar Uk says:

    Powerful. Thank you.

  16. avatar Cintia says:

    Hi, I started dating a guy 5 months ago, it was great, we were both liking each other a lot, slowly feelings were developing; he is great, thoughtful, generous, honest, communicative, intelligent and was extremely excited about the awesomeness of us having met each other. I knew along he was suffering from the intimacy and he shared that with me (not used to sleeping in same bed, needing time to be alone, etc) and we worked on slowly getting used to each other. I also knew that he had fears (having kids because of possible sickness (his sister has a child with diabetes), having bigger responsibility (since he already takes care of his family, fears of being in a failed relationship, fears of divorce) at some point, I felt our feelings/declaration of feelings have stagnated, we were both under extreme pressure at work, I moved to a different city etc and was a bit myself in a negative zone. I kept on bringing up the issue without being able to control it (if we are not feeling in love now- is it going to come later) do we have a passionate enough relationship and in one night I escalated the conversation and said we should breakup. Couldn’t sleep all night thinking I made a big mistake and That I do have feelings for him, I was pushing him away because I wanted a proof of love from his side. He however, was ready to let go. He said, I triggered him to think hard, but indeed he doesn’t think this is the passionate love we both dream of and he decided with strong finality to end it and became extremely cold. His friends think and his dating history suggests that he has commitment issues. He is convinced that he is not in Love and although I’m a wonderful person in many way (that he may regret leaving), he wants love.
    I know that it is extremely rare to meet in life someone who has beautiful values and qualities like him and if I was given a chance, I would like us to work on the relationship together, to create a common vision that could hopefully alleviate this fears. I am not sure How he is feeling right now and whether having a conversation with him to share with him how deeply I care (which I did not show enough during the relation) and go through how I think we may be able to succeed in creating a shared vision of the future would resonate with him. When he was determined to end it, I already tried to make him give us a bit more time, all he said, is that it is too late and he knows the outcome would be the same so why get more attached and invest time and energy.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Cintia, oh, I do understand how good it would be to be with a person who has beautiful values. The possibility of this for most people is so intoxicating that it’s very common to “think” with our feelings instead of our head. From your description, it seems from the start, he was saying he has either commitment issues. It could be that he’s commitment phobic, or that he’s just not ready for various reasons.

      I always tell patients and friends in similar circumstances that they need to accept his words, accept what he says as true or else you will get hurt. Letting the desire for a meaningful relationship take precedence over his words can only lead to disappointment and hurt for you.

      There’s a saying Cintia that maybe you’ve heard: “Don’t wish too hard for something, you may get it.” Whether he is commitment phobic or he believes both of you are not right for each other, long term, he’s made up his mind.

      Trust in yourself Cintia. There is the right mate out there for you. You don’t want to try to make something work that long term you may regret. Warm regards Deborah.

  17. avatar Cintia says:

    I would appreciate dr. Your reflections.

  18. avatar Julia says:

    I was dating someone for over 6 months and one day he told me he had a connection with me but it hurt him knowing that he may hurt me. We talked and sorted everything out and then next thing you know he says the same thing i feel a connection with you but i still have doubts and im deciding to end it. Also i just dont have the feelings for you compared to others but he refers to an old highschool breakup and the one after who moved away leaving him. Before me and ever since then he has had 2 week maybe 3 mth relationships. Im his longest, we even went to a different country together,also he strangely blurted out “If i have commitment issues its my problem i thought i beat it…” then it escalated to maybe i cant be alone ect. Its my grieving process now so be gentle on me. I just need some advice because this situation just doesnt make sense or maybe it is clear as day but im blinded by my own emotions right now.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Julia, thanks for writing me today. His behavior is confusing Julia. Something is definitely going on to make him go in and out of the relationship. Is he commitment phobic? Well without meeting him, I can’t say for sure.

      The most important thing here Julia is YOU rather than him. I know you have feelings and I understand this is emotionally hard on you. It’s so easy for us to concentrate on the other person in relationship, when his emotional issues regarding you are up and down and unclear, to him. One thing you can trust, is you don’t feel comfortable right? Trust your gut Julia. There is definitely something there. I always tell my clients and friends who have been in your shoes – Hear what he says rather than what you want. Going by fantasy of what he didn’t say will only bring you more hurt.

      You take good care now. Warm regards Deborah.

  19. avatar Pia says:

    Hi Dr. Deborah,
    I have a small question. When CPs want to break off and run away, I see many people say above that the guy knew he couldn’t commit, and had to run away. And acknowledged it was their problem.

    Is it possible that some may not do that at all? Like starting with the criticizing, completely blame the partner for everything, and how she screwed up and broke his trust, and that’s why he can’t be with her? Without acknowledging the real issue?

    And if they do that, do they actually believe that, or know that it’s their problem from within, but just feel more guilt-free blaming the partner?

    Thanks a lot for your valuable advice 🙂

    • avatar Pia says:

      Oh and just to add, she didn’t really break his trust, he perceived and insisted she did because he thought she might lie to him

  20. avatar Cally says:

    Hi Dr. Deborah Khoshaba

    Fantasic article and in so much relation to my current situation. Been friends with a man for 2 years and although he states we are simply friends, we act like a couple. Although he doesn’t want to leave my side and we have been on holiday, acting like a couple, the very word ‘commitment’ scarss him. I on the other side are very commitment pro and want to commit to only him.

    Can someone grow out of having commitment phobia?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Cally, I’m sorry for the delayed response to you. I’m glad you found this article helpful. I’m sure you see by some of the comments to this article that this is a thing many CP persons do. They act as if they are in a committed relationship in terms of time spent and even emotional and sexual behaviors. But, they label the relationship a friendship to reduce their fears and hold romantic partners at bay.

      That’s an interesting question Cally. “Can a CP person grow out of it?” Yes, with proper understanding of themselves (fears/anxieties) either through their own personal growth efforts or getting professional help. As it is with most personality fears and anxieties, people can differ greatly in degree. I think your question has to do with one’s level of commitment fears and level of self-awareness.

      Thank you again Cally. Hope to see you here soon. Warm regards, Deborah.

  21. avatar Anna says:

    I just got out of a relationship with someone who I think was legitimately commitment phobic. What I mean by saying “legitimately” is that I stumbled across the idea today and only this and one other article I read seemed to touch on the very real, very heartbreaking reality of what I just went through.

    The man I was with was one I met at a party. He was charming, attentive, and made me feel something I hadn’t felt in awhile. He also confided that he didn’t like to discuss exclusivity prior to being a month to six weeks in, and that he usually only like to see girlfriends once or twice a week. Beyond that, he indicated that he had not dated in quite awhile because women were just too clingy.

    Initially, I was put off by the fact that he was very overweight because living a healthy lifestyle is extremely important to me, but in the weeks after the party (it was two before I had enough time time date him), he asked me deep questions and showed a seriousness that I wasn’t used to in dating. Occasionally, he crossed the line to being pushy, but after awhile, he wore me down with his persistence. Our first date was so fun; we joked around, had fun, talked about writing and literature, the fact that I was a lady and he respected me so much and enjoyed being a gentleman with me. I was supposed to have a date the next week with someone I had met online, but I was so charmed by the constant attention that I cancelled and replaced that date with our second one.

    Things progressed quickly and within the third week, I agreed to be his girlfriend because what woman wouldn’t agree when a man was making her a priority, sending her dinner when she was sick, and generally treating her like a princess–that’s what he called me, his princess. We had a lot of fun together particularly in those first six weeks, but he also kept mentioning how he usually didn’t make it past six weeks with women, and he had never been dumped. That made me quite nervous, but he assured me that this time was different and that we would last.

    At first, he was hesitant to introduce me to his family, but I believe it was at about four or five weeks that I met them, and I got along with them very well. Before long, we were talking about moving in together later in the year, as well as getting engaged and married and even moving together and having kids down the road.

    Our first sign of trouble was right around the nine week mark; he was starting to pull away and I was trying to be as graceful about it as possible when I very suddenly received the news that I had a potentially serious health condition. Terrified to tell him and to tear him away from his man cave when I knew he needed recharge time, I resisted telling him until he convinced me to do so at the end of the day and he was extremely loving and wonderful about it. He also had a conversation with his best friend around that time who explained to him that if he wanted our relationship to work, he was going to have to prioritize it. My boyfriend bounced back and took amazing care of me over the next couple of weeks until the scariness of my diagnosis had passed (I was sick, but not severely), and we proceeded onward. Then, a few weeks later, we were talking about our someday move and I confided my concerns to him regarding leaving my family and a place that I loved. Despite prior conversations that our move would be many years down the road, he suddenly could not tell me what I wanted to hear–that he loved me and we would figure it out. This only a day after telling me I was definitely “the one” for him. The next day, we had another tumultuous interaction where he admitted that he knew what I needed him to say, but he just couldn’t bring himself to say it.

    A few hours later, he and I spoke on the phone and he told me that I had burned him out by relying on him 100% emotionally over the prior half of our time together, and that I was being overly needy and needed to work on that for our relationship to work. This was an issue I was afraid of from prior relationships, and in the past he had always assured me that he didn’t see it as an issue–he would just show me more love and affection if I was acting that way.

    I am not saying I acted perfectly over the next few weeks, nor that I didn’t rely on him overmuch emotionally after my diagnosis, which at that point was a month prior. I went off the deep end with extreme anxiety and I’m sure it drove him away to a degree, but what I suddenly wasn’t getting from him was any indication that the relationship was a priority to him. He stopped communicating with me effectively and started to find so many other things to fill his time, accusing me of having not given him enough space and making emotional demands that were making him want to be around me less and less. Again, I’m not saying my behavior was great during that time, but the man went from barely being able to handle being apart from me and telling me I was amazing at LEAST once a day to hardly even acknowledging that he loved me. In the end, he told me he only wanted to see me once a week, and while initially agreed meekly to trying to “work with him” on it, I realized that I was drained and defeated and ended the situation before it could get any worse the next day.

    I don’t understand what happened, and I certainly did not go into every detail, but the fact that he became cold and uncaring almost overnight doesn’t make much sense to me. I cannot explain how the man who would have done anything for me (or so I thought), became the man who could not even be bothered to see me in person so we could end the relationship.

    I wonder what is wrong with me that I attracted someone like this, or else what I did SO wrong to make him go from loving me so much to barely wanting anything to do with me. My feelings are hurt and I am trying to find a way to believe in love again, because none of this makes sense.

    Thank you for reading, I know that it was lengthy, and maybe I am just looking for an excuse, but again, I just don’t understand how he changed so much in such a short time.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Anna. I’m sorry for the delay in responding to you. It is confusing by your description. Truly, by what you say, I can see why you are so bewildered now. Remember something Anna, he was exceedingly charming and able to meet not only all of your needs – but for most women would be a dream man. He was emotional, intelligent, responsive, and kind. Heh, he was textbook a great guy. No wonder you fell into the relationship, eventually.

      My radar goes up whenever I hear a one-sided explanation for why a relationship went wrong. To him, you were too “needy”. Never mind that he engaged in a way that begged for this level of closeness, right? So, then, what’s really going on here? Well, I don’t know him personally so it’s difficult to say if he truly has CP issues. But, most definitely by your description, I can say he behaved in such a way to bring all of your hopes, desires and needs forward. Then, he backs off because it was too much.

      I’m sure he’s not a bad guy. But, he does sound confused and that he doesn’t know his self very well. He behaves as if he wants this level of closeness and then says it’s too much. Who has the problem here? Let’s say you became a little needy, because of your illness and that this may even be an issue for you. When someone really loves us, needs don’t scare someone off for good. I’m not saying that he didn’t love you. I think he cannot resist making himself a very desirable guy. But, then, he has to back off because he’s created a closeness level that he also fears. So, don’t blame yourself Anna. Maybe, as I said, you were a little needy. This alone doesn’t explain his behavior, as you describe well here.

      Anna, he presented like the dream guy. We all want the dream guy. But, the dream guy or woman doesn’t really exist ~ only in our fantasies. So, for the future, perhaps, you can remind yourself (as you are being wholly seduced by the dream guy) to wait before you let your whole self get into the relationship. That said, don’t ever give up hope. Your one true love is out there Anna.

      Warm regards, Deborah.

  22. avatar Pc says:

    I met a 65 year old man. Im 58 now two years now. Yes we had an affair. He had a live in gf. We saw each other occasionally. Plus i had other priorities. So 2016 mothers day his girlfriend ku ked him out. He said it did not have anything to do we me. He was caught with someone else. So he says.also i became dependent on him financial wise. Although im retired. Hes free now. His own place etc. He said he still wanted to date me and see others my heart dropped. I kept. Feeling confused and angry. Was hoping we make a go at it. My feelings started to change towards him. He knows i want a relationship . Yes he was charming text me everyday. Or call. Go out etc. I noticed something was amiss. He seem to be. Where women was taking advantage of his kindness. Maybe. Anywho i asked him did he have a sex addiction. He had seven affairs on his then gf. His marriage of 32 yrs ended he moved in after 3 yrs of the divorce with his then gf. Now i kept second guessing myself . I spent the 4th of july weekend . I knew he drank wine. But a gallon of gin was in his cuboard. He order several drinks. Why he did that at dinner. Were he became somewhat intoxicated. I said to myself does he have a drinking issue. I have 19 yrs in aa. It felt a tad bit uncomfortable. So one minute he says he want a relationship then. Next thing he dont want to be exclusive. At least not with me. Yes im hurt. I ended this relationship on juky 17,2016. I wonder is it commitment phobia he has and or sex addiction. He appears to be naive. The women i notice was. Basically. Poor women. Some appear to be street women. Or prostitutes. I been around.they look rough around the edges. I know i need therapy. Because this has cause me to think about the bottle. Not good. I noticed he said going to bars is getting old. How well i kbow. But thats what he does. 3 times a week. Most people dont keep going around having random sex with strangers. I dont know if its a personality disorder or what. I discussed it with him. He claims he like to change but he sabotage his last relationship and several others keep saying thats all they want from me is money. It seems he blames the women. I live him . Yes he cares for me. But i am not wasting yrs. Waiting for a 65 yr old man. To make up his mind.whats your take.

  23. avatar Susan says:

    Really insightful article. What would you advise to the person dating this commitment phobic guy? I’ve been in a relationship with one for the past year. Everything’s been fine re his issues (he works away a lot so I think that’s helped). We are now at the stage where talk of moving in together seems the most natural next step. He has openly said that he’s keen on the idea in theory but when we start making actual plans his anxiety levels go up and he just wants to bail. I’m lucky in that he fully recognises and accepts his issues. And I usually just back off and put any conversations about moving in together aside. But for how long do I keep doing this? At some he’s going to have to face his fears but I’m not sure how best to proceed with this. Any advice would be much appreciated


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