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.
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.
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.