Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Commitment Phobia

Of course not every relationship has to end in marriage. Marriage is not for everyone and many people do not believe in it and don’t like the state involved in their personal affairs.  I am not here discussing these couples, where both agree to just live together and never get married (think Goldie Hawn).

I am here to discuss the conflict that surges when one wants to get married and the other doesn’t.

You could think: simple. The one who wants marriage should just leave and find someone who shares his or her values.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. When one is in an intimate and romantic relationship, especially if you have invested several years of your life in it, it is very very hard to walk away. There are feelings involved, there are habits that a couple forms with time which are hard to break, there is a whole history and family involvement, there is emotional and sometimes financial dependency, there is sexual attraction and there is the fear of being alone and starting over with a stranger.

All these elements keep people tied up to the non committing partner for a lot longer than they would wish.

But everyone reaches a breaking point. Frustration grows. The feeling of rejection grows (having someone now want to marry you is a big blow to your ego). Anger grows. Bitterness grows. And, like a pot with boiling water, it eventually spills. The person in a relationship with a commitment phobic eventually leaves and does not look back (maybe after several failed attempts to really leave).

I became aware of this phenomena about 8 years ago. I never had heard of anyone complaining that their BF did not want to marry them while they did. Coming from Brazil, I remember dating meant getting married eventually. I grew up seeing that people don’t just date fort the sake of dating, they date to get married.  If the relationship didn’t work, people would break up.  Either you get married after a few years or you break up, that’s it. But you just don’t hear stories of frustrated women dating men who see commitment as the worse fate a man can have.  I think Brazil is still a more family oriented society and as opposed to individualistic/selfish.

Maybe I wasn’t around the post divorce scene enough? Maybe this happens to all men who have been through a bad divorce? But what about younger women dating men who had not been married before complaining about the same thing?

 I started hearing the sentence “Why buy the cow when the milk is for free” a lot. And I learned that there is a big divide between men and womem’s expectations when it comes to dating.

We meet a man we like, we go on our first date together and soon we start envisioning what our children will look like, how the wedding will be and how our name will sound next to his last name…

Meanwhile, he is trying to make you feel comfortable….so you will sleep with him!

Cliche, but happens all the time.

I think men are more afraid than in the past, for various reasons:

1. The higher rate of divorce.  Men of course see the cup half emtpy.

2. They hear horror stories of men being ripped off their life savings. They forget million dollar settlements happen with the few that have many more millions to spare and use during his lifetime and that women work as well and contribute to the household finances;

3. Influenced by the media, James Bond movies and Playboy magazine, men dream of having a  lifestyle where they can have an exciting life with different women who look like Barbie-even if they look like the Big Bad Wolf;

4.  Dowdy TV shows showing family men as being idiots. How boring it is to become a married man with kids. His wife will gain 30 lbs, start wearing mom jeans and never put on any lipstick anymore (unfortunately happens a lot in this country-women do let themselves go after marriage);

5. The collective histeria amongst men towards marriage and women in general. I hear it a lot: “all women are crazy”. “He is locked down”. “He is p***y whipped” (for a man who has a harmonious relationship).  Jokes about marriage. Negative comments about marriage.  As if by getting married a man’s life is over.

And then there are natural biological reasons:

1) Men are less emotional and romantic therefore less interested in sappy things like weddings and engagements; of course there many many romantic men out there who go all the way with proposals and such. Minority indeed.

2) Men are wired biologically to have sex with many women (hmmm..I have a problem with that..). Maybe the cavemen…

Since I was a victim of a commitment phobic as well, I googled the subject and found a wonderful website:

Andrea created this website. She was wise to detect the same problem that it took me years to understand. She now is writing a book, inspired by the tons of women who have visited her website. I actually predict Hollywood will be picking up on that theme soon and make a movie out of her book, just like the “He is just not into you” guy.

Which brings me to the “He is just not into you” idea. That episode in Sex and the City really hit me. I agree that relationships must have that sizzle in the beginning, that need to talk a lot, to see each other a lot.  When any of my still single or divorced GF’s meet a man who only call them once a week, it is so clear to me that he is not into them!! What if she happens to die during the week, how many days will her body be rotting before he finds out? 🙂

Anyhow, the only way to get out of  a relationship with a commitment phobe is to leave it for good. Most of the time it makes the guys with cold feet come back. They need to lose you to value you, a fact with man men. Some, I think the minority, never bother coming back, which just shows you you were really going down a dead end street.

So why not just date and relax and enjoy your man? No matter how liberal you want to me, how “Love and Peace” you want to be, there are certain protections that come with marriage. Also, there is a bigger sense of permanence and pride when you say “my husband” instead of “my boyfriend”.  There is a calm that comes with being married, knowing that that person is your mate for life and will be there for you, that even after a big argument it is not the end. Being able to make some lifelong plans together is another plus. 

As sad and difficult as it is to leave a man you love, you must do it if marriage is in your life plan (and children). Otherwise you risk to lose your best years waiting for a man to lose his irrational fears.  And by doing so you either free him to evaluate what he wants and offer you marriage, or YOU are free to meet another man who is also looking to settle down.

What you should never do: force a man to marry you, give him ultimatums. He will resist even more, just like a child. Or he will end up marrying you and hating you..and you will have a marriage from hell.  He will resist any attempt to “control” him and will not be in tune with your needs. He will resent you and avoid you with sports and hobbies and friends/lovers.

So first talk to him sincerely about what you want. After a reasonable period of dating where you both know each other well (for some 2 years, for some less, for some more).

If he refuses to talk about it, or if he flatly tells you he is not interested in marriage*, start planning your exit strategy. If you were naive enough to live with a man without marriage, you will have to find your own place.

I have been through the sheer frustration, loss of self esteem, anger, self doubt, sadness and physical and mental stress that is to be in a commitment phobic relationship. I don’t wish this to anyone. So listen to what I told you..and read about this issue.

* We have all heard that this same man who doesn’t want to marry you will marry the next woman in 6 months. I can’t understand this phenomena. Maybe he just wasn’t into you too?


October 1, 2007 - Posted by | Relationships


  1. i broke up with someone after 4.5 years this week. i was ready and willing to wait forever probably for him to decide if we would get married. But something inside me suddenly realized that this was not fair to me. That i had to get a backbone and end things first. it is really hard because i know he loved me, though maybe not enough. The not enough part is easy to ignore but not forever. i know i made the right decision, but its so hard. you are right though, i can see him getting married with the next girl he dates. and maybe i am just not the right one, so its good we end this now before i invest even more time into this. this scenario hurts a lot to think about.

    Comment by ct | January 17, 2008 | Reply

  2. Addressing the last comment of the article: Steven Carter, author of the best-seller book Men Who Can’t Love (on commitmentphobia), says that the true commitmentphobes who marry (without beingcured) are still in the beginning or phantasy phase. But, if this the case, it will not last.

    Comment by John | December 23, 2010 | Reply

  3. I am so glad I read The Rules. I had a one year plan with my 60 year old bachelor boyfriend. After receiving a sweat suit, soap and kitchen timer for my birthday, I finally saw the “handwriting on the wall”. He is not in love…next! See Rule # 12.

    Comment by Sandra | December 21, 2012 | Reply

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