What Do I Do About My BF’s Fear of Commitment? [Ask A Dude]

Hey Incredible Dude,

The guy I’ve been seeing is a very close friend of over 15 years, but our relationship was never romantic until last year in September. Since then we’ve been dating and it’s been great; he made it official a few weeks ago. BUT now, he’s doing the whole pull back thing. He’s very responsive when I text (still being sweet, too) but I have not seen him in a week. I am not a clingy, needy woman and want him to do his own thing and maintain his freedom, however I’m awfully confused.

I know commitment is a scary thing for him (as he’s admitted this to me), so why in the world did he decide he wanted commitment but now seems to be running?? I love him and really hope that we can work this out but I’m willing to let him go, if that is what I need to do. This limbo though is making me feel sad and unsure if we both want the same thing.

Should I leave him alone and let him come back in HIS time?


Does he want out but scared to tell me he made a mistake?

Thanks for your help!
Oh, so confused

Dear Oh, so confused,

Commitment phobes are confusing. The fact he even decided to make one in the first place is a testament that he wants what you have to work out but that doesn’t mean he actually knows HOW to be a boyfriend. He seems to know how to be a “bad” boyfriend though, so that makes me a little on the suspicious side. It all begins with fear.

Phobias aren’t usually rational. They’ve passed that point a while back. It’s sensible to be scared of falling to your death when standing on the ledge of a skyscraper, not so much from the second step of a step ladder. But that doesn’t stop people from panicking when they get to the “top” and look down. Phobias are the result of trying to avoid panic, a loss of control, and maintain a sense of safety. And there’s no question people have phobias against commitment.

I have an uncle who gave up the love of his life because he was too scared to commit to her. Still tells me about it 35 years later. I’ve known women who cheat after 3 weeks of any new relationship. Like clockwork. Those filled with fear over something panic when it happens. Once you panic you begin to sabotage, consciously or unconsciously. And that could be what he’s doing.

Is there a cure for commitment phobia? Yes and no. You have to be willing and wanting to overcome your fear. The fact that he’s willing to jump into a relationship after all this time says something about the wanting. I’d call that a step in the right direction. Now his fear could be coming back into play. This is to be expected. The fear doesn’t go away and the impulse doesn’t turn off. He has to work at it. And you have to be willing to work with him.

There’s a point of no return where you have to tell him to put up or shut up. No question. Are you at that point? That’s the question. I don’t know if you are, you have a better gauge on what you’re willing to put up with and what you aren’t. I will say this though, the first and best thing is to make him aware, which it sounds like you’ve done. Nobody can make a change until they understand what needs to be changed, why, and how they’re hurting people by NOT changing.

Once you’ve made him aware and broken down the what, why, and how, then the ball’s in his court. He has to put forth the effort. If he doesn’t, drop him. If he does, and it’s enough according to your emotional needs, then keep taking it one day at a time.

That’s actually not a bad strategy. Sometimes the fears of commitment come from having too large of a scope. They think it’s forever. They think build it up to be life or death stakes. You never have to do that. You shouldn’t do that. It breeds unrealistic and strenuous expectations that put a lot of pressure on both partners. Approach him and tell him, “yes, we’re in a relationship but I only want you to focus on tomorrow. That’s all we need to think about. We get through that and we’ll focus on the next day. And so on.” That could relieve a bit of his burden which in turn should relieve some of yours.

My question to you is this: Are you always going to be scared that his fear will tear apart your relationship? If so, then you need to end it. Because being afraid of your partner’s fears can be a poison. Just make sure. Just a question to ask yourself.

I can’t be certain if he wants out. I can be pretty certain he’s uncomfortable and unsure of how to make this work. But he might want to. The question is: are you willing, and can you see evidence that he’s willing, to put in the work?


The Dude

[Got a Dude itch you just can’t scratch? Sick of trying to come up with a not-totally-crazy-girl way to bring it up to your guy friends and get their take on things? Totally over over-analyzing the cryptic messages he leave on your Facebook Wall? We got your back, girlfriend. Send your question over to askthedude [at] collegecandy [dot] com. The Dude won’t sugarcoat it, beat around the bush, or any other weird cliche that means lie to you. Like a nice, juicy hot dog, he’ll be 100% real beef, 100% of the time. So bring. it. on.]



  1. Karl says:

    15 years is a long time investment in someone's friendship and by sharing your body with his makes it even more difficult to end a seemingly "good" relationship. I would go back to being friends, if you can. I mean, if your willing to let him go that easily, it would be nothing for you to not expect any commitment from him at all. Even a friendship has commitments. When we ask each other favours we expect those favours to be honoured, after all we are friends are we not? That is what friends do, we hang out yes, we talk yes, but we also 'use' each others resources, whether that be our time, our money, even our ear. No different than a serious relationship is it? Tell the old bloke that he doesn't have to fear from you that you expect from him a marriage proposal or anything that would jeopardize your current relationship. However, do expect him to change down the road, he may respond differently if another guy shows interest in you.

  2. David says:

    Hey dude…I have been seeing this wonderful amazing guy for little over 2 months now. We had a connection even before we actually met for the first time. Once we met it was instant for both of us that our connection made prior to meeting was real! We hit if off right away, soon meeting friends and family-which can be nerve recking for anyone but it all went smooth…even met his daughter of previous marraige a few times… He said he Loved me and I love him too…and we did not see each other that often as I gave him his space with his daughter on his on week with her and his time with friends and family too as I knew its very important to him…However a few weeks back, he called it off! Saying that he needs space due to work load, family and his friends and now a new relationship…he said that he wants me in his life and is thankful for me being in his life…he had a very bad relationship before we hookep up about 4 months prior to us being in a relationship. And I knew that knowing he might be afraid to commit but I did not pressure him into anything as we took it slow and any prgression in the relationship I took lead from him. I truely love him with all my heart and do not want to loose him. Please help! What do I do…Regards

  3. Melissa says:

    I just broke up with my boyfriend about a month ago. I moved with him to a different state where he was going to school and where I had fortunately found a job. During the move up to the last moments he had been quite distant. I brought up the issue with him but it did not get resolved. We concluded that he had an issue with commitment. After about two months of moving and dealing with the situation I decided I was tired of it. Now after a month passing by I'm wondering whether this can be resolved. We are still texting and we have been wanting to see each other as "friends" for awhile. A friend advised me that it seemed to be a waste to move cross country to be with someone and not fight for it. I realize he may be overwhelmed with school, so many new faces, and long time friends, but where does that leave me? Could this relationship still be patched up or should I just move on?

  4. emily says:

    I have known my friend jerry for 15. We have been friends for a while, but he got close and then we became gf bf ……he got really freak out when , I mentiond maybe if we move in together. He got really distant. Hes been married and divorced 3 times. So, we broke up, and he told me he doesnt love me, like i love him…..we have been broken up 2 weeks…..we hangout together….he tries to vet close but pulls away. So last sunday….we were hanging out and he saids, we are going to be bf gf, sooner than i think? What??? I am so confused? Oh, and hes an ex marine….so he has psd really bad….hes emotionally un avaliable he saids. Hes starting to say , he loves me again? Why are guys , yo yos…..he said , i shouldnt twll u this but, i miss u when ur not at my house??? What should i do??? Hes 43….he dont want kids…i am 34…im undecided…..relationships are confusing

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