It has been said by millions of women that men are afraid of commitment; but really, what incentive is there for a man to commit to a woman? And why is FEAR the most often used word to describe men that are not on the commitment fast track? Why can’t it be that a man may be making a conscious decision after having weighed the pros and cons, and ultimately deciding a commitment is not in his best interest? Why does this all translate to fear for women?
In reality, both men and women are afraid of commitment, and these fears are typically manifested in two different ways.
Male Commitment Fears
ACTIVE AVOIDERS (typically men) are those that are always running away and being chased. They find themselves in relationships where their partner wants MORE and they want LESS. Their partners complain that they are withholding emotionally. Active avoiders create obstacles and hurdles and inflexible boundaries to avoid closeness and intimacy. Sometimes these men erect barriers to limit how much they give to avoid the expectation of a commitment (as in time and energy). They resent the very realistic expectations of a partner with regards to intimacy, shared time, or fidelity.
These folks are quite adept at avoiding commitment and have a built-in repertoire of behavior patterns that create distance (such as repeated infidelity, rationing out sexual involvement to dates and times when HE wants it then he jumps up and leaves right away, not letting a woman come to his home, not inviting her to family gatherings, refusing to participate in special occasions such as birthdays, holidays and the like with her). They make it clear that all expectations she may have for intimacy or exclusivity are unwelcome demands. These types have a long history of disappointing and hurting their romantic partners.
Female Commitment Fears
The PASSIVE AVOIDER (typically female) is the partner that wants MORE. They do everything they can to bond themselves to their partner, but consider the people they choose to focus on! Passive avoiders develop anxiety because the partner is not giving the emotional security or providing the emotional connection needed. You are aware of the fact that you are always trying to get your partner to do or say something that will be concrete— that you can hold onto to define the relationship. Your partners frequently fail to fulfill your expectations. You spend an unbelievable amount of time and energy trying to ease, push, whine or nag your partner into more of a commitment. You have a history of connecting with partners that hurt and disappoint you.
Passive avoiders are drawn to inappropriate or unavailable partners, make inappropriate commitments, and are too quick to give your all. Sometimes your desire to bond is so strong that you lose all sense of yourself and your boundaries. You have inappropriate responses to negative information about your partner (such as “he’s married… okay, he is going to leave her if I have anything to do with it!”)
If a woman assesses a man being fearful just because he doesn’t want what she wants, I can certainly see why he would not want to commit to a woman that has her own idea of what his concerns are. On the other hand, a man may be open and tell a woman what he needs or wants in order to commit, but the woman is stubborn, or doesn’t get it.
That’s when a man may assess what his limits will be with the woman that he is involved with, and decide to deal with her only on that limited level. These men may not be running anywhere! They just aren’t going any further than they choose to go. But he is still fearful because he doesn’t leave the woman totally. Some men change their minds and settle (“oh it’s not that bad”), but most relationships enter a circling/hold pattern, where the man is afraid to land but he’s not really going away either.
Defining Commitment Fears
I cannot say why men prefer women not use the word “FEAR” because that is what it is. When you are worried that something is not going to be in your best interest and you are worried about getting hurt, getting used, being unhappy, being tied down, not being able to have wild sex with hoochies, etc. – you are FEARFUL and avoiding perceived pain.
In your fear, you make a DECISION that the best thing to do is avoid the possibility of PAIN, and so you run away, go in a different direction. There is nothing wrong with saying you are afraid of something! Fear is a normal human emotion just like being angry, being sad, being happy. But the bottom line is women are AFRAID of being abandoned and behave accordingly, and men are AFRAID of being committed and losing options, and they behave accordingly as well. Each gender finds reasons to justify their behaviors.
These justifications do not change the fact that most adults, having been hurt in love before, become afraid of being hurt again and do all they can to prevent that from happening. Usually that means setting things up so that they get their needs met with as little emotional or financial investment as possible which indicates a true FEAR OF COMMITMENT.
Keep this in mind: I am not talking about isolated incidences with whacky men or women that nobody would want to commit to if he or she had good sense! I am talking about those singles with an established pattern of meeting suitable mates then running from them… a pattern of finding fault with everyone… a pattern of choosing unsuitable mates… a pattern of avoiding true intimacy… a pattern of erecting barriers to closeness.
We can always come up with what are valid psychological excuses (for us) to do what we want to do. That does not change the fact that a man with commitment issues has an established PATTERN of repeatedly doing the same thing: hooking up with woman after woman, then finding some crazy reason to run away from her.
Originally published July 6, 2009
Category: Date Smarter, Not Harder