You had an amazing connection, the passion was unbelievable, you had never had a relationship feel so good—then one day something unexpectedly changed, he or she was detached, unloving, and it was never again the same. Perhaps it ended abruptly (if you were lucky) or maybe it dragged on for a couple years while you desperately tried to get back to where you started from.
That’s a scenario I’m very familiar with. As a relationship coach, a large percentage of my clients come to me to learn how to get their boyfriend or girlfriend back after a sudden, devastating breakup. It’s inconceivable to most of them how distant and cold their once incredibly loving partner is now being. It’s always very clear to me when a commitmentphobe has broken someone’s heart. Helping these clients understand is the only way to help them let go.
What makes commitmentphobia so hard to recognize and even comprehend at first is that most people, both men and women, who say they’re looking for commitment or marriage, are actually doing just that. Most of them want to be in a loving relationship with all of their heart, and many even want to get married and create a family. Most people don’t experience any commitment issues until something triggers them.
What causes lovers to get hurt is that the better the relationship, the more anxiety a commitmentphobe feels. This is the result of their conscious desire battling with their subconscious fear. Since they consciously know they want a good relationship, they usually assume their partner is wrong for them when they find they are just not happy in the relationship.
In reality, their unhappiness is brought about because their partner is such a good choice for them that it triggers their anxiety. As they start to recognize a true commitment might actually come to fruition, they become increasingly fearful and they withdraw. Sometimes by just getting space and creating distance in the relationship, but many times they suddenly bail out completely. Then the abandoned partner is devastated and usually has a very difficult time letting go.
As your partner starts to feel anxiety and withdraw, if you become afraid he doesn’t love you as much as you love him, you’ll start to act out of insecurity rather than love. You may try to manipulate him into loving you more by using guilt or blame, or by playing the victim. If you’re afraid he’s going to leave, you may become needy and smothering—hanging on for dear life—or you may begin competing with him to prove your worth.
You may start to sabotage the relationship, creating arguments over nothing or acting out. You may become jealous of others that you perceive your partner finds more attractive—which only makes you less appealing. All of these actions, conscious or not, drain your energy because they put your happiness in the hands of someone else. When you succumb to your fears by taking insecure action, the result is usually what you fear most: you push him away and he leaves you.
Alternately, when you act empowered by choosing to face your fears and to accept responsibility for them, you can gain wisdom to make your relationships better.
Here are some ways to avoid future heartbreak:
- Slow the pace of a new relationship.
- Don’t talk about any kind of commitment for a minimum of one year.
- Guard your feelings if he has never had his heart broken, had a relationship last at least a year, or if he says all his past partners were inappropriate in one way or another.
- Don’t act insecure. His anxiety will cause him to start finding fault with you.
- Give him healthy space.
Most relationships only last three to six months, and in my experience many of those were high intensity that crashed and burned. True love takes time to develop, and a person’s issues take a few months to come to the surface.
Everyone has fear on some level; we develop it in our childhood. Be it fears of abandonment, intimacy, commitment, change, rejection, failure, or even fear of success. Unfortunately, most people have no interest in changing their issues until life as they know it becomes unbearable—typically by having their heart broken—which can actually become the best thing that ever happened to you.
Call me for a Breakup Rescue if you need support to get through a breakup.
Donna wrote this column for DigitalRomanceInc.