Afraid of forever

I had a type. I suppose I still kind of have a type but now I’m married, so there’s that.

I attracted men who wanted a housewife and possibly a mother. Though I love cooking, decorating, planning and children, I didn’t want to be anyone’s mother but my own children’s. I fell for guys that liked their life exactly the way it was. They had interesting careers, they lived to travel, loved going to music shows, had an appreciation for good food, and definitely prioritized spending time with their friends. I felt reassured when they spoke well of their family. I liked serial entrepreneurs, gentlemen that lived abroad, fellas that wanted to live abroad. I especially loved it when they spoke of their future in an open ended way. Turns out this last part is key. I did not want the guy who saw me as their wife or baby mama, I wanted the guy that liked his life exactly the way it was and didn’t necessarily have a place for me in it. It took me a long time to figure this out.

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Illuminated building at night, 1960s by Aart Klein

Everyone thought I was all about commitment. Including me. I very much wanted to get married, own a house and raise a family and everyone knew that. I was the Betty Crocker of dating. I made soup, I baked cupcakes. I spooned whole-heartedly. If you were paying attention to the above rant you may have made the connection that the guys I was disinterested in loved this about me and the fellas I was most drawn to, well…I scared them off…back to their life that they liked exactly the way it was. At the time this was wildly confusing to me because I wanted the same thing they wanted. A life of endless possibilities, adventure, passion and career ambition, yes of course, I also very much wanted to fit a home and children into that equation, but somehow that part seemed to express itself more loudly.

These fellas I liked would be just as into me as I was them in the beginning. I would start out emotionally cautious which they were drawn to… then, as I began to realize how I felt about them, they would literally disappear out of my life. They would always come back to explain that they got “scared” or that they weren’t “ready” for what I was, or at least what they perceived I was ready for. They were emotionally stunted, at least that’s what I would tell my friends. I categorized them as “commitment phobes” and I categorized myself as a person who genuinely wanted to find “the right guy” but was helplessly and hopelessly drawn to men who fell hard and fast for me only to disappear.

Anyway, that is when I started reading a lot about “relationships” and well, lets be honest, I knew my way around the self help section of the bookstore. I became a reluctant expert in commitment phobia. This is what I learned, if you are a person that continues to have relationships that lead no where, either a string of short ones or a couple extremely long ones, you are a commitment phobe. In short, that is any person that is terrified of choosing the wrong person to spend “forever”with and either knowingly or unknowingly, seeking out dead end relationships more often then they would like to. So, uh most of us. I’ll break it down.

The hopeless romantic You actually love love. You enjoy being smitten and are quite frequently. It’s not at all hard for you to fall in love. You might actually shock yourself if you counted how many times you think you fell in love. The trouble is, you don’t really stay in love. You find an imperfection or two that you just can’t live with and you detach yourself from the initial blissful feelings. He or she just isn’t who you thought they were. Or more likely… maybe you you have concocted an ideal mate in your head and every so often you think someone matches up, only to quickly feel incredibly disappointed that they aren’t the ideal you had in mind. You aren’t going to find that person you made up in your head. Start with seeing the beauty in your own imperfections, then maybe you’ll be able to appreciate the flaws of another. That’s the good stuff, not the beginning! 

The settler You really aren’t that picky. In fact you pride yourself on being a “content” person that desires a simple life and a simple kind of love. Basically, you settle and worse you stay with people that, you love but you don’t really want to spend your future or really even your present with, you’ve already put in so much time that you figure, uh, might as well. Either they are so nice that you don’t want to hurt them and just stick around or they’ve emotionally exhausted you enough that the thought of starting all over from scratch is equally draining. If you’re knowingly with the wrong person, you’re wasting their time and yours. 

The great pretender You are going through the motions of commitment but you are terrified. You are questioning the person you are with all the time, you are questioning “forever”, “marriage” etc. You rarely feel connected to the person you are with. You fantasize about cheating and think about other people all the time. Or you actually cheat because it is your escape and in reality you really do want to be married, in love, have kids etc but you’re freaking out. First off, stop cheating and start talking. You aren’t alone in being scared or going through the motions. Talk to your partner, they probably know all this about you anyway. Also, you can’t connect if you are concealing all that stuff. Start there. 

I think everyone in our generation and the last generation is terrified of choosing the wrong person. Children of the 70’s and 80’s were exposed to very high divorce rates that generations before us were not. Whether it was our parents or our friends parents divorcing, we were undoubtedly affected. Maybe our parents stayed together but we weren’t personally a fan of their marriage and so we concocted this ideal in our heads of what our “perfect” mate would be like. Maybe our parents appeared to be sooo in love in front of us that we spent all our dating years trying to mimic that exact picture. There is actually a lot more to say about mimic pictures, we come up with our “ideals” from watching romantic movies, our favorite TV characters, musicians, actors etc. Think about it. How did you come up your “type”?  If you remember Vanilla Sky that is exactly what Tom Cruise had done.

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Night Walk, Surrey, England by Michael Kenna

So… what did I learn from all my reading? I learned that I was a commitment phobe and that was the reason I was drawn to the people I was. This was shocking to me. First off, I had been in a 9 year relationship, isn’t that proof that I can commit? No. No? I thought I wanted to marry him but had I really cared about “forever” I probably wouldn’t have hung around for 9 years without any kind of promise. Then there was the part of me defending my loyal identity, but I really do want to get married and have kids, everyone knows that. If that were all I wanted, I could have had that years ago with one of the guys that adored my “maternal” qualities and were emotionally “available”, they were after all, nice guys. I’m sure we would have a had lovely house and a beautiful family together. Except for that fact that I wanted nothing to do with them. It didn’t matter how attractive, stable or intelligent someone was… if they weren’t my emotionally unavailable “type”, I wasn’t into it.

My commitment phobia came from a deep seeded fear of boredom and predictability. I feared the thought of my Betty Crocker tendencies swallowing my career ambitions and adventurous spirit whole and worse.. being with someone that supported that. I of course didn’t realize all this. The reason I was so drawn to the serial entrepreneur/ world traveler was because I hated the thought of knowing what my whole life would look it. I like to dream, I like to change my mind, I like to move. I wanted my kids to see the world. I wanted an adventurous, curious husband that was always learning and growing and well…was a little unpredictable. I don’t actually like knowing everything. In fact, I’m rather mesmerized by the curveballs of life (not baseball).

My husband wasn’t necessarily the person I had “concocted” in my head. He was too tall and too corporate. He was also a very linear, organized thinker. I guess I always saw myself with someone a little “crazier”. My brother told me last Christmas that he always imagined me bringing home a guy that played “hacky sack”. This is hilarious to me. I suppose, I could see that. I am the resident hippie democrat in my family.

Here’s the thing, had I not had my heart severely broken and confused a number of times and had I not throughly gotten myself acquainted with the “self help” section of the book store. I might have turned myself away from this man that would later become my husband and love of my life. The man I can not wait to be the father of my babies.

Sure, he’s super tall and very corporate and I’m unsure of his hacky sack skills but he fits everything I was needing and desiring all along. He’s travelled more of the world then anyone I know. He’s incredibly curious about people and is always trying to learn, he’s currently obsessed with Khan Academy. He speaks other languages and plays music by ear. He also likes my maternal side. The very best part is, I have no idea what our future holds. It’s quite possible that we will live in Hong Kong, Brussels, West Africa, Chicago or Maine. Our kids will likely be bilingual if not trilingual (if I can get it together) and between you and me… he has a damn fine hippie soul. 😉

My point is, I was wrong. I almost wrote my husband off because he was tall and corporate. I was wrong about who I thought was “made for me”. I was misjudged a number of times and I misjudged a number of people.

If any of this sounds like you, these are the books I read and recommend: 

Committed By Elizabeth Gilbert This one is the least “self help” esque book listed here. Basically it documents marriage and commitment from the beginning of time and all over the world. It’s fascinating and grounding. It helped make me a little more realistic in my expectations surrounding love and companionship.

He’s Scared, She’s Scared by Julia Sokol Stephen Carter This book was enlightening and terrifying. I saw so much of me in it and so many of the people I dated. It doesn’t end well and they don’t really give you much instruction on how not to be a commitment phobe or how to avoid dating one. They mostly just confirm that you are with a whole lot of stories. Harsh.

Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix Oh man, I will go into this book further someday, but mostly… we are seeking out a specific set of negative qualities in a person due to a disconnect in our childhood. It’s eerily accurate. I actually had to put it down but I still think it’s fascinating and totally helpful.

Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov Basically, the greatest book ever for any girl that is “too loving” or “too accommodating” and no it’s not condoning being a bitch. 

Love to you,

A

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5 comments

  1. Anonymous

    You are quite the writer. Just remember, you really don’t need to share everything. Some things are private and should be kept close to your heart. With that being said, I think what you are saying could help many who have struggled to find the right fit. I love you, Mom.

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks mom. Ha.

  3. I’m fairly certain I’m a settler. I’ve read a few of these books. It seems I need to read the rest. And perhaps re-read the others.

    Your mom’s comment is funny. I say, share it all! 😉

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