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'I always dreamt of getting married. But there was just one problem.'

You can find a lot of literature written on male commitment phobia. One popular book that springs to mind, ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, even inspired a movie. What you don’t often hear about is a woman with a fear of commitment, a woman who is afraid of happily ever after.

I’m one of them.

I was your average female who dreamt of meeting her one and only, having a fabulously on-trend wedding and buying the dream renovator where she will eventually raise her family of Instagramable children. I pursued that dream throughout my twenties, and twice I came close to achieving it.

They were both great relationships. But I hastily ended them as soon as talk of marriage became serious, as soon as the dream started to look like a possible reality.

An enveloped fear of being trapped and fear of missing out on what could be became a regular pattern of behaviour in my dating life. It was hard to comprehend that I had commitment phobia, when ultimately this was my dream, the way my life was supposed to be.

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I had long-term, serious, committed relationships starting in high school. But we weren’t mature enough to handle such big emotions, and the relationships broke down in a series of betrayals. As a teenager already dealing with the usual hormonal changes and not yet confident in myself as a person, these breakups were devastating and confidence-crushing. So by the time I entered adulthood, my self-esteem and view on relationships were already a bit tainted.

After developing panic attacks and anxiety in my early thirties, I decided to seek the help of a highly skilled psychologist. I can honestly say I do not know if I would be where I am today were it not for the amazing work of this person.

After many sessions, I learnt that the human brain is very tricky, and very smart. Its primal purpose is survival and through our ancestors, the cavemen, we have learnt to respond to sudden dangers that threatened us by developing the ‘fight or flight’ response. This response was very appropriate back then, when face-to-face with a saber-toothed tiger, and still valid now if being chased by an axe-wielding murderer. However, it’s not so appropriate when faced with a new romantic relationship.

Our brains are constantly evolving and learning from dangerous experiences to protect ourselves and those memories get filed away in our minds as a threat. So, when an individual has been exposed to continual heartbreak or neglect through emotional relationships one might start to perceive them as perilous. This is where anxiety causes the ‘fight or flight’ response to kick in and why you will find commitment-phobes either picking arguments with their new love or running for the door.

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'How did I get here?' Image: Supplied.

Strangely enough, society puts a large emphasis on following your instincts, going with your gut, but what is not made clear is how sometimes your gut instincts are following a learned pattern that may not be needed in your current relationship.

The modern-day fairy-tale tells us of couples knowing it was meant to be after their first date, of destiny working its magic to bring them together. Not all great relationships start with butterflies in the stomach. In fact, those butterfly feelings are also the same symptoms of anxiety and the two emotions can easily be confused.

So, when I did meet my now husband, it was not love at first sight, it was more pleasantly surprised each time we met. Once I knew who he truly was, good and bad, I fell in love and he became my warm blanket.

After three years of marriage and one child, I find myself in awe. How did I get here? What was different this time?

That's not to say that the commitment phobia went away. Instead, I learned to communicate, and he listened. He gave me space when I needed it and in return that brought us closer.

So, for all those runaway brides out there who suffer commitment phobia have faith when I say, my marriage does not suffer because I am afraid of commitment…it just means he always gets to choose where to go for dinner.

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