Are you afraid of commitment? Have you been in a relationship with someone who experiences trepidation at the thought of pledging devotion? We tend to think of people who shy away from commitment as being immature or unwilling to make sacrifices. Maybe you use it as an excuse yourself to keep others at arm’s length. Perhaps you generate the term dismissively as a reason to end a budding relationship, stating it as an embedded character flaw.
But what if we are thinking about the fear of commitment all wrong?
What if the true fear is not one of committing and promising to keep, but one of losing? The fear of commitment hides other fears behind its legs. Do you recognize any of these?
Fear of Losing Self
When we commit – to another person, to a career, to children, or even to a lease, we are bonding ourselves to something for a length of time. We can become afraid that we will begin to melt into our commitments, our edges becoming soft and the delineation unclear. Perhaps you fear being swallowed whole by that which you pledged. We all know people who become their jobs or who seem to lose sight of themselves in a marriage. It’s a scary thought to lose yourself. However, it is not inevitable. Be clear who you are. Know your nonnegotiables and your truths and hold to them.
Fear of Losing Freedom
There can be an inverse relationship between commitments and freedom. The more obligations you have to others, the less you can act without regard. Freedom is certainly precious, but it can also be misunderstood. Sometimes we think we want to live in a boundary-less world, but in reality, we tend to want flexible and known limitations. Complete freedom comes with a sense of disconnection and loneliness. We are not that different than the teenager who tests the boundaries, looking for the “no” that tells them they are loved and cared about.
Fear of Failing
When we promise something, we are putting pressure on ourselves to step up and make it work. There is always that doubting voice in the back of our minds that says, “What if I screw up?” There is always a risk of failing. In fact, in many ways, failing is inevitable. It is one of our greatest (and, yes, harshest) teachers but only if we allow it to be. If you try, you might fail. If you don’t try, you certainly will.
Fear of Losing Love
The other losses can apply to any kind of commitment; this one applies to relationships. When we allow ourselves to realize what we have, and to promise to remain faithful to it, we then become aware of the magnitude of its potential loss. The only way to be sure that you will never lose love, is to never allow yourself to taste it. It may be effective, but it is a hell of a tradeoff. This one hit me recently.
So next time you find yourself or another afraid of commitment, look at what may be hiding behind. What are you afraid of losing?