When thinking of a person who is terrified of commitment, a suit-wearing, James Bond-type probably comes to mind, right? You know, the Barney Stinsons and Mr. Bigs of the world. What we often don't picture is a girl like me who has read almost every Nicholas Sparks book she could get her hands on and can recite all the lines from any Nora Ephron movie ever made. Yet here we are, and I can finally admit the truth to myself: I am a woman who is terrified of commitment.
This may seem like the ultimate contradiction. How could someone like me be terrified of spending the rest of my life with someone if I'm such a sucker for romance? For a long time, I couldn't figure it out. In the past handful of years, I've had a few lovely men in my life (and some not so lovely) who would ask me to take the next step in our relationship. To do the whole boyfriend-girlfriend song and dance. To fully commit to one another. Dodging these questions of "Will you be my girlfriend?" became a bit of an art form for me. It wasn't because I didn't love these men or because I thought I was better than them. It was because I believed the only reason they wanted me was due to the fact that they couldn't have me.
They say the biggest fear a person can have is fear of the unknown. Perhaps this is exactly why I'm so afraid of making something official.
They weren't in love with me, I'd tell myself. They were in love with the gate I had put up between us, the one that separated the two of us from being able to experience true intimacy. These guys weren't in love with me as a person, they were in love with the challenge of trying to open up that gate so they could complete their conquest. Yet what was supposed to happen when I would finally give in and open up the gate for them? What was supposed to happen during the "happily ever after" period? I was too scared to find out, so I never let anybody in. I locked that gate and threw away the key. As much as some of the boys would shake the iron bars trying to get in, I still couldn't find the courage within myself to just give love a chance, to allow myself to be vulnerable and put my trust into that other person. It made me feel like a coward.
Of course, as with a lot of people who are terrified of committing, there is usually a story of heartbreak behind the scenes. A handful of individuals who are scared to experience real intimacy with another person only feel this way because they've been hurt before by love, and they never want to experience that aching pain again. Is it cliché? Of course. But it's just one of the painful symptoms of past breakups. It makes me wonder if all that love and happiness experienced during the relationship was worth the heartache and pain after it all came crashing down.
In romance novels and films, we're almost always exposed to the process of two people falling in love. The formula is always the same: they meet, fall in love, one tries to win the other's affection with big romantic gestures, it works, they make their relationship official with a kiss, and then the credits roll on screen. We rarely get exposed to what happens after the credits. Do the characters stay together forever until they're old and gray? Do they have a one-night stand and then move on with their lives? Do they date for a couple of months until they realize they aren't right for each other? What the heck is supposed to happen afterwards when the thrill of the chase is over?
They say the biggest fear a person can have is fear of the unknown. Perhaps this is exactly why I'm so afraid of making something official. Or maybe my fear of commitment is due to the fact that I secretly want it more than anything — I crave to experience true love — and that is exactly why I'm so terrified of it. Because what happens when you actually get what you've always wanted? What then?
Perhaps the simple answer is, "you allow yourself to be happy."
One day I will muster up the courage to unlock my gate. Not just so that it's left slightly ajar, but so it's left wide open. I'm confident that the day will come, and slowly I'm learning to love myself enough so I can allow my heart to be kept safe in another person's hands. It will happen, but until then, I will concentrate on the "happily ever after" story between me, myself, and I. Because the love that you have for yourself is a beautiful romance worth prioritizing.