Why Many People Misunderstand Commitment Phobia
Is your independence extremely important? Do you feel that, once you start to get closer to the person you are dating, that you feel s/he is infringing on that independence?
Perhaps you also find it difficult to depend on romantic partners. Additionally, you might find that intimacy is challenging for you. In this blog, I will help you make sense of this, as well as practical tools you could take today to sustain a mutually healthy and beneficial intimate relationship.
Many of us experience commitment phobia because of the impact of childhood experiences and genetics. Specifically, when we are babies, we depend on our caregivers for the right kind of consistent attention to our needs.
Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller write, in their groundbreaking book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love, “If your parents were sensitive, available, and responsive, you should have a secure attachment style; if they were inconsistently responsive, you should develop an anxious attachment style; and if they were distant, rigid, and unresponsive, you should develop an avoidant attachment style” (pg. 9).
They go on to write that other factors, such as genetics, also play critical roles in one’s development of their attachment style. Specifically, consider that there is a notable portion of us are simply born with a higher degree of emotional sensitivity, which can make it more challenging for caregivers to regularly help us calm down.
Decades of research have revealed that about 50% of the population have a secure attachment style, while about 20% of us have an anxious attachment style and 25% of us have an avoidant attachment style. This blog is about this last category.
While the research also informs us that the need to be in a close, intimate relationship is hardwired into our genes, for the 1 out of 4 of us who developed this avoidant attachment style, this need is very challenging to meet.
The following quote can help elaborate on this reality: “All of these people [people with avoidant attachment style] feel a deep-rooted aloneness, even while in a relationship. Whereas people with a secure attachment style find it easy to accept their partners, flaws and all, to depend on them, and to believe that they’re special and unique – for avoidant people such a stance is a major life challenge. If you’re avoidant, you connect with romantic partners but always maintain some mental distance and an escape route. Feeling close and complete with someone else – the emotional equivalent of finding a home – is a condition that you find difficult to maintain” (Levine & Heller, 2010, p. 115).
Here are some strategies you could start using today to stop pushing the kind of peaceful, joyful, and mutually rewarding intimate relationship you may want and of which the science tells us you (and all of us) need:
Remind Yourself that You Need Intimacy, Even Though it Makes You Uncomfortable
Try to regularly pause yourself from acting impulsively regarding thoughts of “s/he isn’t right for me.” The reason is that this voice inside you could be a deeply unconscious strategy designed to keep relationships at a distance, even though you may not actually want this.
Ask yourself questions such as, “Are all those small imperfections I’m starting to notice really my attachment system’s way of making me step back? Remind yourself that the picture is skewed and that you need intimacy, despite your discomfort with it. If you thought s/he was great, to begin with, you have a lot to lose by pushing him or her away” (Levine & Heller, 2010, p. 127-128).
Create a Relationship Gratitude List
Regularly remind yourself that you are in an unfortunate habit of thinking negatively about your partner or date. This is simply a part of the avoidant attachment style.
When you regularly notice, highlight, and list your partner’s actions and traits in which you value, it will help to replace this unhealthy, avoidant pattern.
“Take time every evening to think back on the events of the day. List at least one way your partner contributed, even in a minor way, to your well-being, and why you’re grateful they’re in your life” (Levine & Heller, 2010, p. 129).
I can help you better understand your relationship difficulties and replace them with much healthier patterns of thinking and behaving.
I invite you to contact me at 954.391.5305 so we can discuss how I can help. I provide telehealth sessions through a HIPAA compliant video or phone session or see you in person at our Coral Springs, FL office. I (Jordan Zipkin, LMFT) look forward to speaking with you!