Commitment Fears and What to Do About Them
Have you ever wondered about men’s commitment fears and what to do about them?
How could he disappear so quickly after he came on so strong? Why hasn’t he called? Was he just into the sex? How could he not see how great we are together? Why doesn’t he make a date? Why did he put his profile back up? Will this man ever commit? In fact, what am I supposed to do about his hot-and-cold commitment fears?
And we’re supposed to be the mysterious ones! Truth is, men are at least as hard to figure out as women. Their behavior can be confusing, frustrating and maddening. They tease us with clever poems, roses, daily texts and calls, only to turn around in the blink of an eye and completely disappear or disappoint us. Who hasn’t fallen for that grand opening dating game, where they lure us with intoxicating conversations, funny dates, a perfect little heart necklace, delicious kisses and more?
So let’s talk about men’s commitment fears and what you can do about them. And don’t forget to watch the video below on this important topic.
Commitment Fears: The Good News
The good news is that almost all men, like us, really do want true love! Down deep they realize that they’d be happier, more content and more sexually satisfied if they had a good relationship. The bad news is they are also scared, and they push real intimacy or commitment away. Men fear being overwhelmed and taken over in an all-consuming relationship. Believe it or not, they also fear rejection and abandonment. And all these fears play out in a variety of ways. The dating games men play are both unconscious and conscious games which create a maddening push-pull with your heart. That’s why dating them can be so confusing and frustrating.
Guy’s fears of being vulnerable, of being loved and loving, lead them to enact their dead-end dating patterns. Like us, they have habitual ways of sabotaging themselves when it comes to romance and love. Unfortunately, men often follow these same self-destructive dead-end patterns over and over again, sinking possibilities of love into the netherworld in the process. It is super important to understand your man’s issues. Here’s why:
Understanding Men’s Commitment Fears
First off, understanding their commitment fears can liberate us from self-blaming thoughts. A guy gets cold, refuses to make a lasting plan to be together, or worse, disappears. Immediately we start blaming ourselves with negative judgmental self-talk. We think, I’ll never find love because there is something wrong with me. Or, I’m too fat, too old, just plan unlovable at my core. Once we understand that the problems are coming from our partner’s deeper psychology, we can let go of this negative, depressing self-talk. Instead we can more easily say, “It is not just about me. It’s about him and his issues.” We can view relationships in a more balanced way, examining more objectively who did what to whom.
Armed with this knowledge you can quickly get away from guys who are DUDs (Definitely Unworkable Dudes). Or relationships that are truly dead-end or even destructive. You can see clearly when it is time to stay and work on the relationship or when it’s time to cut your losses and go. Here are three common types of commitment fears.
Commitment Fears: Type #1 The Classic Commitment Phobe
It all starts out perfectly enough. At first the Commitment Phobe comes across as a super or at least interesting guy who is totally into you. Months pass and you draw closer, happily thinking he is the One. Then the “F word” rears its ugly head. Not that “F word”—I mean “F” as in “future.” If you even mention having a future together, he changes the subject and slithers out of the conversation. If you come back to the topic he gets quiet, nervous, upset, or angry.
The Commitment Phobe may be reluctant to act like he’s in a couple when you are with friends or out in public. He may talk only in the first person, saying “I” instead of “we” or “me” instead of “us.” He may keep you away from meeting his friends and family. You may be in an on-again, off-again relationship with a guy who has this type of commitment fear. Where he always seems to want you when he can’t have you, yet he just cannot pull the trigger and commit when you are together.
Commitment Fears: The L Word
If the relationship has progressed to having sex, he may need to make an escape and go home instead of spending the night in your bed. He may feel emotionally unavailable to you. Usually guys with this kind of commitment fear are unable to use the “L word,” as in being “in love” with you. Even though you have been seeing him steadily for many months or even years. He may say he is not sure what love really is or that he is incapable of experiencing love. Or that he doesn’t have to say it, he just has to show it. In fact, he may come right out and say that he does not believe in love, marriage, or getting serious and settling down with one person.
This is a guy who is terrified of jumping fully into a long-term relationship because he believes he can’t be himself and fully be with a woman. In his view he has to give up the lead role in his own life if he is stuck in a supporting role with you and/or the children. It seems like his golf, buddies, bar days, sports, even the Super Bowl are going to be ripped away by the all-powerful, all-controlling vortex of the couple. For this man commitment, love, and marriage mean being trapped in a cage from which there is no escape.
Commitment Fears Warning Signs:
When you mention commitment, moving in together, getting engaged, or married he (a) clams up, (b) changes the subject, (c) gets nervous, (d) picks a fight, or (e) all of the above. Another Warning Sign: the guy is forty-five plus and has never been in a long-term relationship or married.
Commitment Fears: Type #2 The Peter Pan
This type of commitment fear shows up as a guy who is afraid of growing up, being a man, and taking on the responsibilities of a relationship, children, and family life. This particular dead-end dating pattern starts in the guy’s early family life. He may have had a father who worked himself into the ground and yet could not provide enough income for a good family life. This was his role model and he identifies and feels doomed to repeat this life script in a serious relationship.
Or the Peter Pan may have had a larger-than-life business mogul father whom he felt he couldn’t measure up to. If he was repeatedly put down by his parents, told he was stupid, incompetent, or not good enough, he may have internalized that input as part of his self-image. Or he may have had a hyper-demanding mother who criticized his father and/or him for not being good enough. Men in his family may have been put down by the women. The Peter Pan is boyish in his leisure activities. He may be a video game addict who is glued to his game console at all times. Or he may spend many hours watching or playing sports.
Even if he is successful and doing well financially as an adult, the Peter Pan is still afraid he cannot provide the emotional caretaking that is required to make a woman happy. To a Peter Pan, having a relationship means having to take on enormous responsibility. This triggers his commitment fears bigtime.
Commitment Fears: Mama’s Peter Pan.
In this variation, the guy is smitten with you in the beginning. Even though there are some alarm bells, you are charmed. After all, he has such a great relationship with his mother! He seems to really appreciate women. He is self-confident and a little cocky and thinks he is hot stuff. You find that all very appealing. Plus, he is a loyal guy who is close to his whole family. He may live at home or near his relatives. Or he may visit his family at least once a week. He may even be a great caregiver who looks after a sick or impaired family member.
Little by little, the other shoe drops. You find out that he talks to his mother on the phone every day. As the relationship unfolds you come to understand that his family only tolerates you and may not like you very much. You find out that you may be the wrong color or ethnicity or just not good enough in his mother’s eyes. Even though he says he is truly crazy about you, the bottom line is that his life is all about loyalty to his mother, his family, and his ethnic roots—all of which somehow turn out to be in opposition to what you need and want.
He can’t take you away to that Caribbean resort on your birthday because his family reunion is that weekend. The mama’s boy is torn in half between his feelings for you and his loyalty to the clan.
On the other hand, there are mama’s boys who are less emotionally entangled with their mothers. If you are willing to be patient, it is possible to help this type of guy grow away from his childlike enmeshment and into a relationship with you.
Commitment Fears: Our client, Karimah, and her Mama’s Peter Pan type
Biagio and I totally hit it off after meeting on a large online site. We would amuse each other, talking and laughing for hours. We were totally on the same wavelength and even used to finish each other’s sentences. Even our bodies seemed to fit together. It was quite magical. We dated furiously for six weeks and then he told his mother about me. She was a super-controlling Italian mama (mind you, I love Italian families!) who did not take kindly to the idea of her son dating an African-American woman.
Biagio swore up and down that he didn’t care and he was going to choose me. But I noticed that after every visit with his mom, he became withdrawn, depressed. It made me very uncomfortable. After two years of battling about it, I told Biagio I was leaving and I meant it. He came after me and actually cut things off with his mom for a while, which I think was good for him! It has been four years now and we have just gotten married.
Peter Pan Commitment Fear Warning Signs
He comes right out and says that marriage and family life would be too much of a burden for him. Or he has to consult with family members every time he makes a decision more important than what socks to wear.
Commitment Fears: Type #3 The Savior
This is a super-duper caretaker, a Mr. Fix-it. He comes in and repairs your broken pipes, helps you with your work project, runs errands, and is uber-helpful. In fact, he will do just about anything you want him to do. And he tries to be romantic, too. He wants to buy you fancy dinners, maybe even a car or a house. At a deeper level, however, all his caretaking is about buying your attention and affection because at the core he feels like he doesn’t really deserve love.
The Savior is insecure and feels not good enough. He comes across with a needy vibe underneath it all, where he is looking to you for approval, asking what you think, what you are drinking or ordering for dinner, before he makes a decision. His feelings depend on what you think and feel. If you are sad, disappointed, afraid, or upset, he simply cannot tolerate your being down emotionally. He can’t separate out his own feelings. His deepest fear is that he cannot make you happy.
The helpful Savior can be good for you at first. But if you outgrow him by becoming less needy and more independent, the whole relationship can fall apart.
Commitment Fears: The Case of Gina and her Savior named Bill
When I started seeing Bill, I needed a car for my new job. He helped me buy an older model at a very cheap price and did some work on it for me. Bill was so caring and helpful and bonded with my kids really quickly. He got them a used Xbox game and they loved to play with him! Bill was not the type I usually go for, but I really thought he was perfect for us. But after a while he started getting on my nerves. I had some problems with my boss at work and became depressed. He somehow couldn’t tolerate that. He started drinking and started spending less time with me. I think out of frustration.
But my father was an alcoholic and I could not tolerate the drinking. So I called him on it. Bill admitted that he felt useless because he couldn’t help my situation. I told him that it wasn’t his job to fix everything in my life and that if he continued to drink as a way of calming himself that I would leave him. Strangely, that seemed to turn the trick. We went into coaching and he stopped drinking. Six months later we went to Jamaica and married on the beach.
Commitment Fears: Savior Warning Sign
He is always trying to be helpful and he cannot stand it if he fails and you are still feeling down or upset.
So there you have it: three of the most common men’s commitment fears. Many of the guys who are in these patterns are perfectly willing to endure a difficult or on-again, off-again relationship for years. Years! If this is not what you want—if you want true, lasting love, be smart and act quickly to protect yourself. Otherwise you could end up in a dead-end relationship for the next decade.
If you are several months into the relationship, think about what you want and have some straight talk with the guy. Talk about the vision you have for your love future. See if he wants to work toward the same goal with you. If this kind of talk creates a fight, or he distances or sulks—you may need to reevaluate. If you yearn for engagement, marriage, and/or children and he firmly does not, you need to take a stand for yourself.
Commitment Fears: Distancing From Your Partner
By the way, distancing from your partner is often the most powerful thing you can do to help the guy overcome his commitment fears . It is when your partner experiences loss that he may be willing to examine his own behavior, go into therapy or coaching, or take growth courses in order to get out of his dead-end patterns. Then he may come back to you as a sincerely changed man, ready to commit, to marry, and to create the life of love you truly want.
In fact, if you do distance yourself and your guy is hanging on to one of these self-sabotaging patterns and making no moves to break through his commitment fears, go cold turkey, cut off all contact, and move on to dating other guys quickly. As in right now! There are good guys out there. Repeat: there are good guys out there. And I mean good matches for you, no matter what baggage you are carrying. Plus, when you show that you totally mean business in terms of moving on, your current partner may totally transform and come after you seeking commitment in a real and amazing way!
3 Commitment Fears & What To Do About Them: The Video
Next, please watch the video below. I will arm you with more information about men’s commitment fears and what you can do about them.
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As a relationship expert, I've helped thousands of women get the love they want-even when it seemed impossible. I'm Dr. Diana Kirschner. You might know me from my PBS Special, seen me on Oprah, or have read one of my bestselling books.
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