Living With–Or, Commonly, Without–A Commitment Phobe–Part II

Let us just take a brief moment to thank Brad Pitt for his innovative contribution to the Commitment Phobe cause. Says Pitt:

Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.”

At once seemingly sensitive to single-sex couples deprived of the right to marry, demonstrating a willlingness to put his needs last, for the greater good–and, all at one and the same time–getting him out of marriage for the foreseeable future [I mean, all 50 states could approve same-sex marriage within the next 10 or 20 years, but it isn’t all that likely, lucky for Mr. Pitt]–it’s a statement that wins points from others while allowing Pitt to remain (in case anyone missed this point in all the brouhaha) notably unmarried.


And you thought your partner had the best excuses. Originality is always appreciated.

Rule # 4 for Commitment Phobes: ‘Marriage’ is often a dirty word.

“For most guys, ‘commitment’ is a four-letter word.”~Asa Barber

Within a month of meeting Sally* on a blind date, Stevie* told her he loved her, she was the one for him, that they would be together always–and begged Sally to move in to his apartment. She readily acquiesced.

It was Sally’s understanding that marriage was clearly in the cards–and without much expected delay.  I mean, she thought–and said–here is a guy who moves fast!

Every year, on her birthday, Stevie tells Sally again that he loves her, she is the one for him, and the two of them will be together always.

In April Sally will turn 33, way past the age she had hoped to marry. And for the eighth time Stevie will bring in dinner from her favorite restaurant, be attentive to her every need–and tell Sally he loves her, she is the one for him, and the two of them will be together always.  When Sally gets up her nerve to broach the topic of marriage, Stevie becomes withdrawn, unpleasant, and accusatory. “Why do you hock me all the time about this? You know I said I’d marry you. I gave you my word. It just isn’t the right time yet. Now will you quit harassing me about it?”

I assume that unless Sally takes control of this situation, they’ll be replaying the same scenario, still unmarried, at her 88th birthday. Unless–as is likely–Stevie changes his mind and decides he’s found another someone he loves, that’s the one for him, that he will be together with always.

Rule # 5 for Commitment Phobes (and women may be more guilty than men here): They often are only truly interested in another Commitment Phobe. 5b) Phobics’ engagement in the relationship is highest when they believe they are about to lose it.

An ounce of performance is worth a pound of promises.”~Mae West


Jake* and Gina* are both 50, and neither has ever married.  Jake might, one day, marry–but, as the English so well put it–it wasn’t too bloody likely. Gina seemed to have more potential at first, but her commitment to a relationship with the emotionally absent Jake was a clue to her own commitment issues.

Gina had truly loved about 4 men in her life. In a staggering statistic that provided real insight into some of Gina’s issues–not one of those men has ever married.  When she looked at things that way, she decided to split from Jake.

That woke Jake up in a hurry–as Shakespeare would have paraphrased, “nothing became her in this relationship like the leaving of it”–and he actively pursued Gina until she was back.  A commitment phobe’s engagement in the relationship is highest when he is about to lose it, so the next few weeks would be high points in their time together–until Jake came to his senses and remembered that he would rather work and be with his friends than spend so much time with Gina-and the whole rigmarole would replay itself.  Jake and Gina seemed headed on a slow track to nowhere;  when Jake acted–well, really as Jake acted–withdrawn from Gina, preferring to spend time with friends, over-working–Gina was quick to pack her bags and head down to the local hotel, where she must have developed a strong social circle, given the amount of time she spent there.

It was clear early on that Jake had issues, but originally it seemed that Gina was ready to commit as soon as Jake came ’round to realizing his true love for her.

But as the two danced their dance of unintimacy, it became obvious that Gina herself, interested only in men who were unavailable to her, was herself a commitment phobe, with a pattern of selecting men unavailable to her.

To return to the inimitable Mae West, she believed, “A man in the house is worth two in the street.”

If you’re with Mae, and it’s important and meaningful to you to marry–and to marry an emotionally available man [or woman, although not in Ms. West’s case]–you’d better fast figure out a way to avoid entering into scenarios like those from Part I and Part II.

You’d better figure out what the early warning signs are commitment phobics, and learn how to drop the axe on those relationships fast. Let’s go through some red flags in the next post–and some of you might want to take notes.

For your delectation

  • From the “I could never make this up” file comes the following, an article that claims that commitment phobia can actually be explained ‘a genetic flaw.’ For real.  See “Commitment phobes can blame genes” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7593301.stm).
  • And once we’re on the ‘phobia’ topic. . .A list of some of the most random, bizarre phobias you’ve never heard of. Could your knowledge base have bypassed the fear of the moon, of long words, or of  hearing good news? Then you’d best get on the phobia ball, and check out “Weird Phobias: List of Funny and Unusual Phobias” (http://www.buzzle.com/articles/weird-phobias-list-of-funny-and-unusual-phobias.html).


*As with all characters in this blog, there is no actual Sally, Stevie, Jake, or Gina, whose names have been changed to protect their privacy.  Rather, these are teaching stores, compiled of bits and pieces from real lives, books or movies, and altered to make my points more interesting and educational.


I help adults and adolescents through the particular struggles of our time: tension between couples, parenting frustration, blending new families, separation and divorce, (un)employment, cancer, and loss. When relationships come to an impasse, I use mediation techniques to try to ensure that each party will have his/her needs heard and accounted for in a dignified way. In addition to talking, listening, and reframing, I utilizes the tools of metaphor, active teaching, role-playing, visualization, and hypnotherapy.for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce.

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