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.]

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