Though I’ve written before that men are often pegged with having commitment-phobia, women experience it too.
Our world today is plagued by many factors that can heighten our insecurities and fears about commitment. The quest for committed relationships and real intimacy is desired more than ever before. Twenty-first century love holds a new set of relationship expectations: Couples seek not only companionship but intimacy, empathy, and mutual effort. This has led to an increase of anxiety for many women about finding that kind of bond.
Here are some of the most significant factors that influence a woman’s ability to commit and how to move past them:
- Fear of abandonment. A woman may be afraid that her partner will leave her, that she will be rejected, or that she will be more invested in the relationship than the other person. Perhaps she was emotionally neglected or had an unavailable caretakers due to addiction, family stress, or other reasons. If abandonment has shaped a woman’s upbringing, it is important for her to explore those past vulnerabilities that might keep her from letting her guard down when it comes to dating and trusting another person.
- Fear of losing herself. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many women experience commitment as potentially meaning a loss of their sense of self. This could stem from having overly intrusive parents or an enmeshed family-of-origin experience. When a women has experienced an environment where she couldn’t have a voice, boundaries, or was not supported in her individuality, relationships begin to represent a threat to that part of her.
Building trust may be a challenge for women who don’t have clear expectations or an understanding about what their role will be in a relationship. Learning to find a balance of separateness and togetherness with her partner will be the key to unlocking the potential of both worlds: having a strong sense of self in the world and being able to experience intimacy, mutual partnership, and closeness to another.
- Old wounds from the past affecting the present. There are two parts to this: our past as it relates to our family-of-origin experience, and our past as it relates to past relationships.
When women have experienced painful partner relationships in their past, this can also contribute to certain belief systems that don’t promote the possibility of commitment. Believing that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t deserve to be treated better than you were previously, or generalizing that “all men/ all women are the same” are all barriers to being able to truly open up to a relationship again.The process of healing and working through attachment issues or wounds experienced in family of origin is done in relationship. If a woman can identify her emotional insecurities related to fear of abandonment or fear of rejection, she can navigate through relationships with more vulnerability and self-compassion toward those parts of herself.
- Vulnerability Issues. Women want intimacy. Intimacy requires vulnerability. For many women, it is difficult to be completely vulnerable in relationships, especially with a partner who has difficulty showing vulnerability himself. Author Brené Brown defined it best when she said “vulnerability sounds like courage and feels like the truth. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”
When a woman is confident in her own values, beliefs, and desires in life and in relationships, she is better able to express them to others. Sometimes, the best relationship work she can do is defining herself more fully. When we bring a strong sense of self into our partnership, we can navigate through the challenges and messiness of love with a clearer vision and sense of trust and security.
We can’t always prevents ourselves from experiencing the anxiety, vulnerability, or risk that can come from being in a relationship. But women can learn to embrace the vulnerability of commitment and lean into its uncertainty. When we push through our relationship fears, we are then able to truly grow and experience the fullest potential of being in a relationship and sharing life with another. Through the process of connecting to herself more fully, a woman will be able to experience the intimacy and fulfillment she is looking for.
- Psych Corner: Why Marriage Doesn’t Threaten Your Independence - July 14, 2017
- Psych Corner: 5 Ways Premarital Counseling Can Help Make Love Last - June 22, 2017
- Psych Corner: How Your Relationship Can Grow Stronger Through Conflict - June 15, 2017