Most people would say they aspire to have a life-long, happy, loving relationship. So, who someone chooses to spend the rest of their life with really is one of the most important decisions someone can make in their life. Thus, it’s wise to make this decision with much thought as well as to spend enough time getting to know the other person before deciding to create a life together.
However, there are many people who never have a relationship. Do these people simply high standards and are waiting to find someone with whom they truly believe they can have this, or are they commitment phobes and just simply can’t or won’t ever move any relationship to the next level?
Distinguishing between the two truly can be difficult, as we are now in a day and age influenced by the numerous dating reality shows and superfluous amounts of available dating apps where single people out there dating are getting the sense that they can and will find the absolute “perfect” match who will have every quality that they could ever want in someone. Easy enough, right? One person doesn’t quite have everything and there must be that ONE person who will have it all.
For instance, look at the ever-popular franchise reality show, the Bachelor. The 30 singles that the one “lucky” person gets to date are all relatively “great catches” that are vetted and hand-picked as potential mates. In real life, if the bachelor were to meet any one of them, they might just as well date and have a great relationship. However, in a situation like that, choosing who to keep or break up with probably comes down to very small, nuanced characteristics. Even at the finale, as the viewers see him in agony over having to choose between two people whom they vow they love, it communicates a very clear message: You can have someone who has everything you want…everything. Because let’s face it. If even this bachelor is truly in love with someone…even that is not enough. It all must come down to is who checks more of the ”boxes”.
Likewise, the introduction of dating apps has forever changed the way people approach dating and searching for a partner. After setting search criteria based on their “checklist” for their perfect partner, most people only choose from those they find physically attractive. The prevailing notion is that someone’s “perfect” person can be found out there from all of the thousands of available people at any given point in time. If one person doesn’t quite have everything, then it’s ok, there’s another app…another person to find that may have just joined… There is truly no reason to work through any “rough spot”, minor irritation, or “deal with” someone’s annoying quirk despite everything else being great and wonderful. The standards and expectations are higher than ever before.
As if dating is not difficult and confusing enough, those with commitment issues, aka “commitment phobes” make it even more so. Especially because they might not even know they are one. They may even say that they want to get married one day and just “can’t seem to find the right person”. However, their standards and expectations are well beyond what anyone would consider “high”. Their reasons for leaving what anyone, probably even them, would equate to happy, healthy relationships are usually quite superficial.
Oftentimes the reasons (justifications, really) are couched in terms like: “Everything is just so great..but it’s their laugh. I just can’t be with someone I am too embarrassed to go out in public with.” Or, “their feet are just too ugly. We are really happy, but I can’t stop thinking about them. It’s over”. Or, maybe it is just the same reason over and over such as “something just doesn’t feel right. I just can’t put my finger on it”.
Or there are those that stay in very long-term relationships, but eternally hold off commitment by shifting the “blame” on their partner. They may claim they are unable to fully commit “just yet” by randomly pointing out random “flaws” or by going hot and cold with them based on insignificant things they said or did. For instance, they may have times when they are very affectionate and loving toward their partner, telling them how much they love them and even telling them how perfect they are together and how much they can’t wait to share a life together.
These times give their partner the idea that they are thinking about a long-term commitment with them and that is where their relationship is heading. But then they go cold and distant and say it is because their partner did or said something that caused much doubt about their relationship and they need to “rethink” things. Their partner will feel guilty and horrible about themselves; taking on the blame for the demise of their relationship. They really “blew” it now. They were headed toward a blissful future with such a wonderful person who loved them so much and because of what they said or did, their entire relationship is on the rocks. It is “all their fault” that they are no longer headed toward commitment and receiving the love and affection of their partner.
Perhaps the most cruel part of all is that just when their partner is feeling so much pain and guilt, the commitment phobe turns hot again and swoops in all loving and kind, fully healing the pain and rekindling the hope for a future. This endless cycle keeps their partner holding on, hoping for the day that they are “finally” doing everything “right” and they no longer do or say anything to give their partner any doubts about committing to them.
Only what they don’t know is that they are already a wonderful, great person that deserves to be loved and in a committed relationship that they desire. It is just that the person they keep hoping to have that with is never going to be able to give that to them because they will continue to find any excuse to commit. That is has nothing to do with them. It never does have anything to do with them.
Yet another way commitment phobes may string along their partners and hold off making a commitment is by giving them the impression that their waiting will ultimately result in be worth it. They may say such things like they are worried things were just “too good” and keep “holding off” on moving the relationship along even after years because they want to “make sure” nothing will change so they won’t end up miserable and/or divorcing.
Similarly, there may “always” be some hurdle to overcome like “when my job is more stable”…”when I have more money in the bank”…”I get that promotion”…..”you figure out your career”…really it is an arbitrarily chosen excuse to not commit and hold the relationship at a standstill. But it works because it all sounds reasonable.
Only, there is always some reason not to commit. And the years may pass by unless the other person gets tired of waiting and leaves. The commitment phobe may never break it off, as they are getting all of their needs met without having to actually commit to anything. For them, it is an ideal situation. The only person who is getting hurt and not getting their needs met is their partner.
Why bring this up? Why discuss this at all? Because dating is hard enough without having some awareness about if you might be in an unhealthy, unfulfilling relationship. Or if you are someone who might have too high of standards or even a commitment phobe and might really not want to be.