Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ Fear of Commitment
I’ve been seeing this girl for a couple months now, and I’m concerned because I’m starting to have feelings for her. When we got into the relationship I kind of made an agreement with myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to get to emotionally attached as I’m not quite ready to surrender my freedom to a long term relationship yet. I feel like I’m approaching an ultimatum where if I’ll need to decide if I should stay or go. I really do like this person, and as I said I’m starting to care for her, but I’m not ready to stop living my life either (as in doing what I want, when I want, staying out late with my friends, etc.) I really feel torn about this. What do you think?
OK hang on a second. I think you’re creating a dilemma for yourself that’s totally unnecessary. Of course the emotions you’re feeling are real and we’ll get to those in a second, but I think you may have a skewed understanding of what a healthy romantic relationship should be. Yes, in any healthy relationship there should always be some degree of give and take. Compromise can often provide a sustaining, balancing energy to the dynamic between two people. What you seem to be expecting however, is a reversion to some kind of child/parent dynamic where you’re begging Mom (i.e.: your girlfriend) to let you go out of the house just this one night with your friends, and becoming completely subservient to the whims and desires of your partner. Do those kinds of relationships exist? Yes. And they’re incredibly unhealthy and unfulfilling for both parties. But that does not sound like the scenario you find yourself in. As you said yourself, you like this girl very much, and even find yourself developing (gasp!) feelings for her. So your fear, while understandable, given the kind of bullshit men in this culture have rammed down their throat about how they need to fear commitment because women only want to break a man down into some spineless husk, are illogical. If I was to phrase your question another way, it could read “Dear Dr V. Everything’s going great in my relationship. I’m happy. So, do you think I should bail?”
As is usually the case in deeply emotional circumstances, the primal, unconscious aspect of our psyches can fall into turmoil, thus throwing our conscious selves out of whack. In your case, I think perhaps some of the “commitment-phobia” may come from the basic, evolutionary drive in males to procreate with as many females as possible. I’ve spoken about this in response to other readers before: basically there’s a cosmic joke of sorts played on the human race, in that many of our primitive, animal drives remain just as strong today as they did before we walked upright and had thumbs. However, the reality of the modern human mind and personality complicates what are at their core really the most simple of instincts. In this case, it’s the instinct of survival. I don’t mean your personal survival, but the survival of the species. The more genetic variation there is in any given gene pool, the higher a chance of survival for the members of that gene pool. So it’s really the reptilian part of your brain that gives you the “Wandering Eye.” And that’s fine, I don’t advocate for repression or denial of that which nature hardwires into us. What makes us human is the ability to recognize and acknowledge those feelings and desires, yet also know that “Yes, that stranger over there is smoking hot. But could they give me the love, empathy, understanding and support that comes from my partner? That fantastic exchange of intense emotion that makes me miss her when she’s not here?” More importantly, are you willing to give that up in exchange for sexual autonomy?
Which brings me to my next point. Really, all you will be “giving up” is a carte blanche to sleep with whomever you want. In a healthy relationship, both partners will continue the lives of who they were before they found each other. That is to say, it shouldn’t be an issue for you to take a night out on the town with the boys, continue your professional and recreational pursuits and even maintain some personal space for yourself to be alone, because ideally your partner will want the same things for herself. And so long as nothing from those outside elements interferes with what will hopefully be a dynamic of unconditional openness and empathy between you two, there’s no reason those other things that cannot remain a part of your life should the commitment you two make to each other (don’t run away frightened when I say this) deepen even further.
It’s a cliché to say that men are afraid to commit, but clichés are repeated so much because they often ring true. I don’t fault you for how you feel, and I don’t think you should beat yourself up over it. Yet at the same time, I think it’d be a real shame if an irrational, albeit real, fear forced you to make a decision you’d regret and worse still, miss out on something potentially brilliant.
With Love and Light,
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Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.
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