Commitment Phobia: Not Just a Male Phenomenon?

Overcoming Commitment Phobia

Q: What makes a man commitment phobic?

A: Audrey Chapman: There are a variety of reasons why a man might avoid a commitment. Maybe he's never seen a man make a commitment with a woman in the community or family system he grew up in. Maybe he was dominated by a woman. It could be so many reasons.

Q: Can a woman make a man feel less threatened in the relationship?

A: Audrey Chapman: I think that he has to understand what is so threatening for him. Sometimes the threat has nothing to do with the women they are dealing with. It has to do with the fact that they grew up in a household where they never saw their mothers and fathers have true, honest faithful relationships. Maybe they grew up with a mother that had affairs and they saw it, knew it or were exposed to it. Or they grew up with a mother who was not always attentive to their basic needs - things that created in their minds a mistrust of women.

Often by the time somebody is 30 or 40 years old, what you are getting is an accumulation of what we call old, unfinished business…but you're not the culprit, you're not the cause of it.

Q: Does not marrying mean you are afraid of commitment?

A: Audrey Chapman: I think it's possible to not ever marry and be content with it. It's usually societal pressure that makes that person feel they are an oddball in the society. It's just like couples who decide not to have children. People ask: 'Where are the babies?' When a couple says: 'We chose not to have any children,' they can't get over that. It doesn't seem right to them. Everybody wants you to fit into their norm.

Getting the Right Attitude

Here are some tips from Chapman's book that may help you out of a commitment-phobia rut and plow ahead to a more satisfying relationship:

  • Cultivate self-awareness - You must be honest with yourself and forgive yourself for not being perfect.
  • Forge ahead with a clearheaded appraisal of your love and lifestyles so you can begin discovering whatever you need to change.
  • Accept responsibility - You and you alone have control over your life and your love-style. If something goes wrong, don't blame others.
  • Face your fears - Confronting your fears head on may be one of your greatest challenges, but it can bring many rewards, whereas fear can make you obsess on one man, like the character did in the movie Fatal Attraction.…Challenging that fear by ending the relationship and allowing yourself to be alone for awhile will greatly empower you.
  • Keep the faith - Never lose faith in yourself. Life isn't over just because Mr. Right isn't with you at the moment. As one woman in Chapman's counseling session put it "Men are like buses. If you miss one, wait, and another one will come along."

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Audrey Chapman is a family and relationship counselor located in Alexandria, Va. Visit her website at, or call (703) 914-2068.