Relationship Connection: I’m afraid of commitment

Question

I don’t know why I’m afraid to be in a relationship. I want one but when it’s time to get serious I get so scared. I’m enjoying being single, but feel lonely at the same time.

I’m attracted to the guys who don’t want a relationship. I find that the guys who do want relationships aren’t attractive to me, even though I would like them to be with me.

I want to be happy with someone, but it’s hard for me to commit.

Answer

The conflicting feelings you’re experiencing aren’t going to disappear until you find a secure connection with another person. I’m not suggesting you run right out and jump into a relationship. I’m suggesting you work to understand what keeps you from committing to connection and then take steps to build a healthy relationship with another person. You’ll be much better off in connection than in isolation.

Individuals who swear off relationships usually have experienced loss, abuse, rejection, abandonment, or betrayal in a close relationship. The hurts could have happened in childhood, adolescence, or in adulthood. I’m curious where you have been hurt in previous relationships and why being alone seems more attractive to you.

Just because you’re scared to be in a close relationship doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. Being close to someone requires vulnerability, which most of us instinctively avoid. However, as Dr. Brene Brown once said, “vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, belonging, and creativity.”

When we put ourselves in the hands of someone else, we are totally exposed and vulnerable. They can hurt us in a way no one else can. When you’re in a safe relationship, you don’t even realize how vulnerable you are because you’re in a secure bond. On the other hand, if you’ve been burned, you have a heightened awareness of your vulnerability.

I recommend you pick up a copy of Sue Johnson’s new book, “Love Sense,” which will help you better understand your conflicting feelings. Humans are born wired to connect to others. We only disconnect when we learn connection isn’t safe. As you understand where this went wrong in your life, you can begin taking steps to fix it.

Recognize that even though you are alone, you’re not alone. A recent report in USA Today cited census data showing that more than 1 in 4 households had just a single person in 2012. In contrast, in 1970, one-person households accounted for fewer than 1 in 6. In 1900, it was 1 in 20.

Our society is moving toward isolation, even though we’re more connected electronically than previous generations. Some commentators, such as Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together,” are noticing that our electronic over-connecting is actually our way of hiding from real connection.

I recommend you practice connecting in a real and present way with those around you. Put down your electronic connections and work on spending quantity and quality time with your friends in person. Practice asking good questions, listening, making eye contact, and see what you notice. Perhaps you have difficulty tolerating closeness with others. Perhaps you enjoy the experience, but have fear that you’ll be rejected. As you better understand your own reactions to closeness, you’ll be better prepared to understand how to navigate a close romantic relationship.

I see your desire to connect to others. You can have a close relationship, even if it takes time and practice getting it right with the right person.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • johnson May 28, 2014 at 8:39 am

    It’s not the commitment and marriage I’m concerned about. It’s if the relationship goes bad, I’m afraid of the divorce court raping me and taking everything I have and then trying to squeeze more from me.

    • Anon May 28, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      I’m sorry but I find your use to the word ‘rape’ in this context to be quite offensive. There is quite a big difference between ordered to pay spousal/child support/splitting assets and being physically, sexually, and emotionally violated. I hope you never have to suffer through that kind of hell.

      • Aliceyn May 29, 2014 at 8:05 am

        Well said Thank you for explaining maybe next time they will think before throwing out words…

        Johnson, stay out of a committed relationship until you are finished being afraid of loosing your physical possessions. If you are serious, get serious personal professional counseling. Take the time, make the commitment to work on yourself so someone will want to be in a committed relationship with you.

  • Hatalii May 28, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Don’t be in too big a rush to make a commitment! You may be anywhere from a teenager to a senior citizen, but your worst enemy is being in a hurry.
    When the right one comes along, you will both know. Anything else is like trying to drive a square peg into a round hole. If you hit the peg hard enough, something will give and it will go in the hole. But then either the peg, or the hole, or both will be broken.
    Time truly is on your side here. Better to be alone and slightly unhappy, but knowing that the right one will likely come along, than to tie yourself up with the wrong one, and regret it for the rest of your life.

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