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Why do we (repeatedly)choose 'commitmentphobes'?


oneK

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Hello everyone out there,

 

I've just signed up and this is my first post of this kind ever. I've read many, many posts over the last few years in trying to figure out my own relationship stuff. I've just ended things (again)with my girlfriend of 2.5 years because of the constant push-pull dynamic that has become our lives since we met. I'll spare you all the details but suffice to say that all the mixed messages, hot-and-cold behaviour and maddening confusion that is spoken of as textbook commitmentphobe behaviour is there. This is bad enough, even without the fact that my previous 10-year relationship was pretty much the same.

 

I like to think of myself as a pretty together, mature guy with a reasonable sense of integrity and self-worth. So why have I let things come to this again? I have friends and colleagues who are or have been caught in similar webs and from what I read in these forums, many other seemingly healthy people get stuck in this situation too. So I am slightly consoled that it is not just me. What is it about these relationships that keeps us so stuck? Is it the commitment-phobe? Are these people masters of deception and confusion? Or is it us? Is there a weakness or deficiency within us that make us unable to break free from this when others would?

 

I need help with this. I really don't want to ever find myself in this situation again; it is so damaging for everyone involved.

 

Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year

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You are probably not going to like this, but most people initially think only with their lower half and completely ignore the forest of red flags flying in the air when they meet those commintmentphobes. By the time their upper half starts thinking again, they are neck deep in and emotionally attached, putting up with a lot of carp hoping against all hope that things will change and all will end with happily ever after. Do that enough times and stable relationships don't feel right anymore, so it turns into a never ending cycle or rinse and repeat.

 

For people who have managed to break away from that cycle, you'll always hear the same thing - struggling with lack of drama, trying to create some kind of drama, because stability feels too weird. They are looking for problems like an addict for his drug of choice. It takes some serious perseverance and self awareness to change direction.

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Well, when you keep breaking up with someone it's practically a sign from your higher power that you're with the wrong person so you have to look within as to why you have this codependent behaviour (from your childhood more then likely) that makes you keep returning to a bad situation. There is absolutely no sense in going back if neither of you have gotten therapy or have learned through self-help whats inherently wrong with you (and she, her).

 

Have you ever read up on codependency, white knight syndrome, love avoidance? Ever tried to help yourself with your inability to let go and stay gone?

 

There is no safety in numbers when it comes to those "isms" either so no point making the fact that (too) many are suffering from it a source of comfort.

 

Work to be the best you can be so you get off the merry-go-round of dysfunction.

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yep i have struggled with this all through my life also. well I for one can say that i had never witnessed a 'normal, stable' relationship when i was growing up. my parents taught me that LOVE meant 'passion' ie fighting and making up.

as dancing fool above said, if i ever did find myself in a stable relationship i could not handle it, felt it wasn't enough and left.

 

i am aware enough now to intellectualize what i feel when this is all happening. i admit i actually get a bit of a thrill from arguing, from crying, from the pain i feel.

its important to realize that the person you have the drama with has similar issues. if they didn't they would simply walk away from all that trouble and instability. anytime i've been with someone who was emotionally healthy, i have totally confused them with my behavior, they have NEVER risen to it. but the others, oh yeah... they rose to it and we could continue like that for years and 2 kids later-very sad. so yeah like you said... WE repeatedly pick these people.

 

its worth noting that years ago i had NO IDEA that i was causing this, i took zero responsibility for my part.... and for the most part i was very confused about what i was doing wrong.

 

THIS forum helped me so much, i recognized myself in some of the threads started and listened to the advice given. as the awareness happens it is the best relief in the world.

so stay on ENA for awhile, read a lot, think a lot... and take responsibility. no victim stuff and don't put anything on the other person. at the end of the day YOU choose to be in these relationships. YOU STAY in them ask yourself WHY.

 

i haven't been in a relationship since. i really hope that when i d,o i will use what i have learned. its a slow process and unfortunately my default button looks for pain and excitement.

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Why spend 12 years with anyone who you have to constantly convince to be with you?

 

Why are you so afraid to be on your own until you've done the work which will stop you attracting this character type in different bodies? You keep attracting commitment phobes because there is a lesson about yourself that you refuse to learn, so the same character keeps showing up until you learn it.

 

It takes discipline to not allow oneself to get into a relationship with someone who is totally incompatible with you. Like I said, you shouldn't be spending any time with anyone that you have to convince to be with you.

 

I think it's more the person who is hell bent on wringing the commitment out of the phobe than it is the phobe themselves. It's like they won't take "no" for an answer.

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"Have you ever read up on codependency, white knight syndrome, love avoidance? Ever tried to help yourself with your inability to let go and stay gone? " Yes. these themes are resplendent on ENA for good reason.

 

OP: Yes, we often choose people who are commitment-avoidant. Why? Because it protects us from being emotionally vulnerable. Which like any good 5-year old, leads me to ask myself and encourage you to ask yourself more "whys": why do I want to protect myself emotionally? Am I afraid of being abandoned? Did someone leave me when I was very young or was someone inattentive which may have impacted my ability to trust someone else? Do I know what a healthy relationship looks like? etc etc

 

I suggest a few concepts deserve your contemplation. (1) We are what we attract. This may not be obvious, but at some level, it is true. If we are insecure, we attract the insecure - and often end up in co-dependent relationships as a result. If we are afraid of abandonment, we choose someone with a similar fear and of course, we achieve our vision and abandon each other. How coul dwe not, when neither one of us expects and invests success in the relationship? (2) The only way out is through. Dig deep. What we attract gives us an opportunity to work out some unresolved thing. What is that thing? Did I fix it? If I haven't addressed it, it will remain in every future relationship: accept that as truth, or address it. (3) What you see is what you will become. If you envision being left behind, you will be. If you envision an LTR, you will find it.

 

In short: It is important to ask exactly your question am I choosing this relationship model for myself? And then: What would I choose instead? Can I envision it? Finally: Do I have the tools I need to achieve something different?

 

It isn't easy, but then if it were easy, it wouldn't be so valuable.

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I've just ended things (again)with my girlfriend of 2.5 years

 

So part of the problem here is you. Why would you stay for 2.5 years with a women who exhibits those behaviours?

 

I think you need to set-up and withhold a clear set of deal-breakers and boundaries with regards to relationships. Going forward, as soon as any one of those textbook commitmentphobe behaviours in someone you are dating, you walk away. This way you are not repeating a cycle, which means that you learned from your prior mistakes.

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OP ENA held my hand through my walk through absolute hell when I was stuck in a revolving door that I would have rationally left closed. I needed to know why I was doing what I was doing. I needed a reason to stop doing it.

 

link removed

 

This simple link might be one place to start. Through my work here, I also learned about high conflict personalities, attachment styles, and other challenging topics in the way of forming relationships. Often I picked up an idea on ENA, googled it, read up on the new topic, and then brought my ideas back to ENA as I tried to apply them to my own situation.

 

If you commit yourself to facing your innermost fears, you will prevail a smarter, wiser, and stronger you. In my case, it was dark and scary and I was on ENA all day for lots of days. Now, I am now in a completely different place and just so amazed at the difference.

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Thanks for all the great responses.

 

I am asking these questions of myself aloud as an act of self-reflection. I see the pattern in my choices and am honestly bewildered at how long I have stayed in these situations. Not being able to take 'no' for an answer is certainly true for me.

 

In therapy, the idea that I could be selecting these women because I secretly desire drama and am myself, afraid of commitment was presented to me. I struggle to accept that because in the early stages, there was little sign of this - both of these women were, on the surface, stable and expressed a strong desire for a committed relationship. This made me more enthusiastic, especially the most recent relationship as it seemed to be very different from the 10-year marathon from before.

 

 

 

Why are you so afraid to be on your own...

 

Why do I stay after many rejections and endless back-and-forth? This too, I have tried to look deep within myself to understand. What I know is that I am not afraid to be alone. Whenever I have been rejected, I have accepted it without trying to win the other back. My problem occurs when the other comes back after I accept their rejection. I want to do the 'right' thing and for me, that means understanding your partner's hang-ups and trying to help them through it. I'm also not gullible (I think), and can tell when someone is being insincere. I think part of the problem in dealing with these 'commitment phobes' is that they are often truly wonderful people in many other ways and we keep hoping that this wonderful person will just stay put.

 

Thank you for the reference to White Knight Syndrome. I just read a bit about it and see a lot of it in myself.

 

until you've done the work which will stop you attracting this character type in different bodies?

 

What does the work look like? I clearly have a problem here. Am I only able to be attracted to these kinds of women? How do I unlearn this?

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Yay you have a starting point! Start from White Knight, since you can see that within yourself.

 

I too was a fixer. In my discovery, key elements that resonated for me include:

 

(1) Fixing others shifts the focus to someone else and away from me. "Fixing" includes supporting people while they are in transition, and other more passive behaviors that don't feel like "fixing"

(2) My sense of boundaries was all goofed up. I regularly took responsibility for finding solutions to other people's challenges, problems, weaknesses, and wish lists. Even if I didn't take responsibility, I invested myself in finding solutions - which is the same thing, I discovered, as taking responsibility. If I support you in your endeavors, and you fail, its your fault. If I try to achieve and I fail, its my fault. I was afraid of failure and focused on "you" instead. If I failed, it was your fault for sucking up my time and energy. A beautiful system!

(3) Fundamentally, I chose people whom I deemed in need of fixing. Outwardly, these men were strong performers with accomplishments in their professional, educational, and athletic lives. Still, there was some inner dynamic that was weak, and I zeroed in on it like a laser beam. Then I bemoaned the fact they had low self-esteem. Well, I sorted for that, completely unknowingly, and reinforced it by viewing them as in need of a fix.

 

Why? Because I needed fixing, of course. Accomplishing their progress kept me from focusing on whether I was accomplishing my own goals, and made me feel good about being such a devoted partner. Choosing chaos gave me a sense of accomplishment when success seemed impossible. I have since learned to make wiser choices and value success in small increments.

 

Why? Because my parents were inattentive, my father was emotionally distant, and my childhood was chaotic. So I replicated all that, found a way to ensure attention by choosing people who "need" me, and chose chaos so that I wouldn't fail. I didn't even know other people thrive in calm.

 

And NOBODY called me on it, not even the therapist I spoke to. Only me, google, a leadership program (sort of) and ENA.

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And NOBODY called me on it, not even the therapist
That's because many therapists themselves are codependent and they aren't congnizant of the fact that they are actually enabling.

 

There are good therapist that are proficient in treating codependency so if you're going to go that route OP, then make sure you ask the therapist you're interviewing if they have experience in treating it.

 

BTW: Congratulations on your self-discovery/improvment, *IthinkIcan* Well, done!

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What does the work look like? I clearly have a problem here. Am I only able to be attracted to these kinds of women? How do I unlearn this?

 

the work is consistent therapy for a length of time where you begin snatching up by the roots that which is the genesis of why you do what you do. IT's how you start to unlearn and break the habits.

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the work is consistent therapy for a length of time where you begin snatching up by the roots that which is the genesis of why you do what you do. IT's how you start to unlearn and break the habits.

 

I was in therapy for nearly a year and lots of family of origin stuff came up, many things I hadn't ever considered but very painfully true.

 

I must say, I don't have much faith in the therapeutic process. It's great for analysing the problem but from what I see, recovering from these is a constant struggle. It's like a chronic disease. Like diabetes. Or haemorrhoids. Those impulses never truly go away and we tend to revert back to old patterns of behaviour. Can we really undo this deeply ingrained circuitry?

 

So my work makes going consistently to a therapist in person quite difficult as I'm always working late. Does anyone have any experience with online/skype therapist? Know any good ones who can help with my special blend of issues?

 

You are all very kind to respond so thoughtfully, thanks so much

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OP I keep repeating to myself and now to you -- there is no way out but through. By which I mean, when you got to the really painful stuff in therapy, what happened? Did you keep going? When you get to the painful part, keep going. The painful part is really hard, obviously, but it also is a treasure. The pain holds the key.

 

What do you want out of therapy?

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What do you want out of therapy?

 

The short answer to this is that I want to know the 'truth', to clear all the obscurity. For me, the pain from being a part of this dynamic is not the rejection or prospect of being alone. It's the constant state of uncertainty within myself. I keep coming back to a state of questioning my own sense of reality - is she a commitment phobe or am I labelling her? Am I really the one with the problem? Is she right when she says that if I truly loved her, I would accept her with all her fears? Is this an inevitable part of all relationships? You guys probably know Sheryl Paul and her work on relationship anxiety. On her blog, there are many stories as told from the commitment phobe's perspective. Sheryl Paul herself took 7 years to commit to her partner and admits to still feeling fear. Her argument is that fear is normal and that people should understand that. When I read stuff like that, I get back into a state of questioning my own sense of rightness.

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The only answers that matter pertain to you, because you are the only force wIthin your control.

 

Break it down into smaller pieces.

 

Do you have what you want in your relationship? Yes? Can you commit? Yes? Fine. No? Why not?

 

Do you NOT have what you want? Can you commit? If yes, why? Why accept less than you want? If no, well, that's logical. Accept what you have and commit, or end it and move on.

 

Does that thought pattern help?

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Why accept less than you want?

 

Because deep down I'm afraid that what I want is somehow unreasonable. I wonder if this is my problem with wanting the 'fairytale' love and that I will go from one relationship to the next wanting something that I will never find. I look at other couples, most couples and there is a lot of hardship associated with relationship and not a lot of happiness and quite frankly, I often believe that this is as good as it gets.

 

Is my lens warped? I don't think so. I think it may be just the way it is and part of getting older is accepting that and deciding if you'd rather be alone or take it as it is.

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Because deep down I'm afraid that what I want is somehow unreasonable. I wonder if this is my problem with wanting the 'fairytale' love and that I will go from one relationship to the next wanting something that I will never find. I look at other couples, most couples and there is a lot of hardship associated with relationship and not a lot of happiness and quite frankly, I often believe that this is as good as it gets.

 

Is my lens warped? I don't think so. I think it may be just the way it is and part of getting older is accepting that and deciding if you'd rather be alone or take it as it is.

 

hmmmm.... funnily enough i feel the same. i look at all the relationships of my friends, relatives- and there is not one of their relationships that i envy. i'm pretty sure that if i was the woman in these relationships i would be done with them. so perhaps my 'idea' of what a relationship means is completely unreasonable too. interesting.

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I too felt this way, all of my adult life. Everyone else kept telling me what I can't have. I eventually believed them.

 

I learned what I can't have: a fantasy, a solution to my faults, a free pass, an escape.

 

What I can have: looks, character, worldliness, and values similar to my own.

 

Keep the vision. Then live up to it.

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  • 1 month later...

I used to firmly believe that everyone I dated was a commitmentphobe

 

Now I am seeing it differently. Being fused to another person for the rest of your life is intimidating. That person should be perfect for you. But it's really, really hard to 1.) find that awesomely compatible person and 2.) be emotionally ready to make serious sacrifices for them. But people still crave that connection. So they find relationships where they push people away, or find themselves with people who will never let them in all the way-- there is a certain safety in both of those things, because there is an expiration date on the relationship. I think all of this is unconscious though. I don't think most people truly want to reject, or be rejected, but at the same time everyone wants the security of love.

 

Are these commitmentphobes really, honestly compatible with you on all levels, or is it possible that something deep inside of you or something in them is saying to run away? It's not necessarily a personality flaw, or anything personal against you. It's just compatibility. You probably aren't going to meet more than a couple of truly compatible potential partners in your lifetime.

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