lifestyle

Confessions of a female commitment-phobe.

Buzzzzzz. Buzzzzz. Buzzzzz.

My stomach is in knots as my phone vibrates. A text has come through from a man I met last night at a Sydney bar.

“It was nice to meet you Emily, could I take you to dinner sometime this week?”

That knotted feeling isn’t excitement, it’s anxiety. I feel trapped already. I ignore his message. I know it’s rude, but I can’t make my fingers touch the keys.

That feeling of knots in my stomach is familiar. I had it when I was a boy-crazy, 13-year-old with her first high-school boyfriend.

Seriously.

I vividly recall telling a fellow schoolmate that I felt trapped and didn’t know how to get out of my ‘relationship‘. 

It’s been the same with every boyfriend or fling since. I even had it when I was with a man I deeply loved for seven years – that fear enveloping me at the idea of being in a relationship.

My freedom was at stake in all of these situations. And at the end of each commitment, a feeling of utter relief… For a period of time.

Ah, commitment, no thanks.

I am a commitment phobe.

As explained by Dr Margaret Paul, relationship expert and author, commitment phobics crave a lot of love and affection but run when they get it. It can cause a push-and-pull cycle of chasing and rejection until all involved wind up in a great deal of pain.

When you’re not in a relationship you may desire that love. But the moment you have it you may no longer be able to breathe.

Relationship therapist and sexologist Isiah McKimmie says that feeling may be from a fear of intimacy.

“And being vulnerable. We can stay in relationships while they’re exciting and fun but reaches a certain point where it doesn’t go deeper than that,” McKimmie says

And symptomatically, if you fear relationships, then you will feel relieved when it’s over. Your freedom is no longer under threat.

For me, I was able to reach a great level of intimacy with my long-term partner. But the anxiety over losing my freedom never went away.

Dr Margaret Paul says this kind of behaviour can manifest through a volatile or unstable childhood. It can develop through witnessing a loveless marriage between your parents, or experiencing a painful relationship of your own. Or, quite simply, you have a fear of missing out on what could be.

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I don’t know why I’m scared. My parents are mad about each other and have spent the last year actively learning to fall even more in love as empty-nesters. They’re brilliant role models.

But I do wonder if it could be through consuming too many stories about unhappy marriages. Between movies, TV and blogs, marriage gets a bad rap. We constantly hear divorce is likely – that half of all couples who walk down the aisle will one day file for divorce.

McKimmie says one way to find out if it’s a serious problem is to “check in with ourselves and ask, Is it causing me pain?

If it is, you need to intervene in your own behaviour. Talk to a psychologist if you want to end up in a healthy relationship.

“Being aware of your patterns and being aware of what you’re doing is always the first step. Instead of saying, I never find the right guy,” says McKimmie.

Hanging out at #sintra

A photo posted by Emily Verdouw (@emilyverdouw) on

I find myself deeply anxious at the thought of marriage and wonder often whether it’s something we all “need” to do.

Being free is exhilarating. Knowing you can take your life in any direction at any time. I think change is comforting and stability is frightening.

But McKimmie says it’s also a phobia that can be resolved over time.

“There does come a point in our lives when we’re ready to settle down, and for different people that will be a different points.

“But only once we acknowledged I want a partner and I want to settle down.”

So maybe this stomach-churning feeling will disappear on its own. Maybe once I meet the right man who has the same boundaries and need for freedom.

Or maybe I’m right, and marriage-and-relationships-are-unnecessary-frightening-life-time-binding-contracts-designed-to-trap-us-and-make-us-unhappy.

Related I’ve had three marriages and none of them were a failure.

Related Please stop blaming your shitty marriage on your kids. 

Related Getting married again. And again. And again. Is that OK?

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So, are you a commitment-phobic woman? There must be more of us out there. Tell me I’m not alone (We commitment-phobes hate that). 

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