Abiola Abrams is a love columnist, peer educator, and certified life coach. Abiola is also the founder of the award-winning women's lifestyle site The Passionista Playbook and hosts the hit web video series "Abiola's Kiss and Tell TV."
Mothers are thinking, "Just great. Something else that we're getting blamed for." Don't worry, moms. Dads are said to be at fault here, too. A recent study from Tel Aviv University reveals that adults who chronically avoid successful, whole, and healthy relationships are just trying to get their childhood needs met.
That's right. Your commitment issues may be the fault of your parents.
It makes basic sense as divorce rates have been steadily on the rise since the 1960s. Many of us just haven't seen a loving, healthy relationship modeled in person. We're hesitant to commit to someone, because we don't want to fail.
In my own family, my parents are happily married now, but when I was growing up, they separated at times. I've had serious commitment issues of my own as a result. Part of my journey to becoming a love coach was to understand these challenges.
So, it's not just men?
Much is made in the media of men's commitment issues. The unavailable man has practically become the Boogeyman, a fearsome character to avoid at all costs. Well, women also deal with love avoidance. For us, it may take the form of seeking the mystical phantom of the perfect person who can meet a list of unattainable qualities. Then we have an easy excuse to avoiding intimacy.
Dr. Sharon Dekel, a psychologist and researcher at the Bob Shapell School of Social Work, explains in the study that commitment-phobes "are likely a product of unresponsive or over-intrusive parenting." Somewhere, I hear mothers everywhere muttering, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." The study also reveals that those who are not focused on being secure in their relationships feel less personal satisfaction than those who commit more easily.
What are commitment issues? Maybe I just haven't found the perfect person.
Commitment-phobes are simply those who have trouble with or avoid being in long-term, committed relationships. If you run from commitment, you may fear love failure or the loss of your freedom. You may be too insecure to feel fulfilled with the love of one person. You are scared of mucking things up.
Well how do you know if you have commitment issues?
You may notice commitment issues in other areas of your life. You may find yourself unable to make decisions regarding your job, where you live, and in your relationships with family members. When you must commit to anything, you may be easily overwhelmed and fearful of making choices. You might not even be able to plan your weekend until the last minute.
One person who recently contacted me for guidance has found the perfect person who meets almost all of the check boxes on her list. Her only complaint? She says that he doesn't excite her. He's good looking, fun, sexy, and has a great sense of humor, but she finds little things to criticize. She's annoyed by seemingly irrelevant behavior, like he always gets to her house too early, is chatty with strangers, and has an overbearing laugh. Meanwhile, she's still sneaking around with a loser of an ex who she had a hot sex life with, while fearing that her current BF may be untrustworthy.
The verdict? Her boyfriend is not the problem. She is. She loves him but is terrified to commit, so she seeks to sabotage the relationship. By not being all-in, she's abandoning him before he can leave her.
How do I recognize someone with commitment fears?
Commitment-phobes may purposefully criticize, hurt, or even annoy the other person in the relationship. This is their way of blocking love before it even gets going. Commitment-phobes may also fall in love with people who are too young and inexperienced, or who just are incapable of being in a relationship. Of course, this reinforces their fearful belief system.
What to do?
You're not available. Your taxi of love is driving down the street, but the hello light is not on.
Commitment-phobes may have no problem getting into a relationship, but they can't ride it out for the long haul. They may allow their anxieties to get the best of them. Their inner gremlins warn them, "Push your loved one away, before they leave or just abandon ship, and you don't have to deal with the issue at all."
The first step to move beyond commitment fears is to reach out to people who are actually available. Attempting to create loving bonds with people who are available for love is a huge step. Release any unrealistic ideals that were subconsciously created to keep you single.
The next steps
Once you're in the relationship with a great partner, go for it. Let go of overly critical speech or behaviors designed to push your partner away. Love them with your whole heart. Give of yourself and be completely open. This level of intimacy and vulnerability takes courage. Let them in. Share yourself and your stories, including your deepest fears. Most of all, make a decision that you are worth loving.