July 22, 2007

Commitment Phobia is now a Woman’s Thing


N.B.: Article from Wasfasahla.com
It used to be a male thing just like football and hunting, but now, more women are becoming commitment phobic and for many valid reasons.

Although statistics are hard to come by, psychiatrists are saying that the female fear of commitment is becoming very evident to them. According to the cases they see and the tales they hear, it seems that females are becoming more reluctant to settle or commit – although they still won’t admit it in so many words.

The age for marriage has gone up worldwide and Egypt has followed suit. Although there is a bunch of reasons that come into play here, female commitment phobia is one of the main causes that delay marriage in our society. “In the past three years I have seen an increase in the number of women who come to me saying that they just can’t take this step – of marriage,” says psychotherapist Nevine Zaher. “They give a hundred reasons why the man they are with is not suitable for them and try to justify to themselves why they should break up the relation. Although their reasons may vary, it all comes down to one conclusion. They have commitment issues.”

Let's face it — many of us can't make up our minds on simple matters like changing the colour of our bedroom, let alone sharing our lives with one person. And while making a wrong decision with a paint colour- although inconvenient – is rectifiable, making a wrong decision in selecting a lifetime partner is downright terrifying. And so, females have come up with their own solution to this problem. There are a hundred and one ways that they express this fear of commitment.
Whether it's by staying in mediocre relationships that are going nowhere, blowing up their partner’s tiny flaws to gargantuan proportions, breaking up and getting back together with the same incompatible person, or hiding out at home watching old movies and refusing to mingle.

The behaviours may appear different, but the underlying cause is the same: we want to be in long-term committed relationships but are terrified of what we'll have to give up in the process.

With so many conflicting messages (Be independent! Find someone to love! Live your life. Have kids because your biological clock is ticking. Be the best you can be professionally. Men are intimidated by strong women.), it's not surprising that women go from one to the other without direction.

But this was never your mother’s problem. Female commitment-phobia is a relatively new phenomenon. Not to say that our mothers didn't struggle with a certain amount of anxiety, but when push came to shove, they chose family over anything else because the idea of an unmarried woman at that time was unheard of. Like it or not, a woman had to maintain a certain measure of respectability, i.e. get married and have kids.

But that was then, what about now? Well, we have a much bigger problem on our hands. We're still confronted with the social pressure of getting married but it's not like anyone really cares what we do anymore, except maybe our parents or grandparent.

At present, women have more choices and opportunities than they did back then. We can get married, have kids, get divorced, get our MBAs and PHds abroad, be managing directors of successful companies or creative kooky artists.

This abundance of choice, although we think it’s a privilege, maybe a curse in disguise. “How can anyone live up to the image of a liberal woman as it’s been carved out in the past thirty years?” says H.S who is the managing director and co-owner of a successful production company. “It is humanly impossible to be a perfect wife, a loving mother, a successful business woman, thin and hip with the perfect highlights and the latest Christian Dior clutch bag! And I think that women's commitment-phobia stems from not wanting to settle for one thing and forsake the other options. We see women who have settled, whether it’s for a career or for marriage, and it freaks us out.
But I think I know why many women now prefer to be professionally successful but single; you control your own destiny. You’re not tied to someone else who could potentially bring you down.”

So maybe women have got more than they bargained for. After working so hard for equality, freedom and choice they were stuck. Now that they have the right to choose, they are faced with the problem of how to choose.

The truth is many of us were brought up to be chosen rather than having to do the choosing ourselves. Schooled in the art of luring a man into the trap and making him settle down, we never learned how to scrutinize, analyze, and evaluate the opposite sex. It was enough that he fit the set criteria for the ideal husband – well mannered, financially secure, and socially adept. We may have the power to make our own decisions now, but that doesn't mean we're any more equipped than our mothers to make GOOD ones. With so many dizzying options to pick from, today's women are far more prone to catching the commitment-phobia bug than ever before. Think about it. It's all too easy to decide on a car when you have only two models to choose from. But when presented with a hundred different makes, (sports, sedans, vans or 4x4s), the whole matter can become far more confusing than it needs to be. So it’s not strange that when it comes to making a decision about love and the rest of your life - where the stakes are much higher - it's all too easy to freak out and lose our heads. And since no one is telling us what to do anymore, we only have ourselves to blame.

Yet it’s not just about choosing the right man. There are many variables in the settling down equation that make reaching a conclusion all the more difficult.

It used to be that the marital institution guaranteed an upgrade in lifestyle and social status but not anymore when women have been making considerable economic strides.
With money and social status ceasing to be a primary factor in the choice of partner, it's clear that women's growing financial independence has lessened the urgency to commit. No longer dependent on men for financial security and social status, women are revelling in their freedom and are worried that making a commitment would mean renouncing all that they have worked so hard to attain. So with work and men both vying for equal attention, something usually has to give. And for the professional modern woman, that something is usually romantic relationships. “My career has become very important to me,” says S.L an interior designer. “My mother had to give up her job when she married my dad but now that we’ve all grown up and my dad’s business is facing financial difficulties I can feel her resentfulness and her regret. I feel like her identity is totally wrapped up in her status as the wife of a successful businessman and now she has nothing to show for her years, and I don’t want that to happen to me. I will not give up my successful career for any man. He has to accept me like that, career and all but I haven’t met someone who would.”

And if a career is a convenient excuse to avoid commitment, then the statistically-backed fear of divorce is an even more valid excuse. I mean, who would be brave enough to ride a rollercoaster if they were told they have a 50 percent chance of making it to the final stop. With odds that bad – the risk being higher than the most volatile shares on the stock exchange – it’s only risk lovers or those who are absolutely desperate who would consider giving up anything to get married. Such people look at it like, “You can always get a divorce, so what the heck." But many normal women, and especially those who have been in the close vicinity of divorce (whether it was their own, their parents’, their siblings’ or their friends’), are more realistic on the downside because they’ve seen it all before.

With the 50 percent marital survival rate, the stakes of love become so high that it becomes virtually impossible to relate to others in an objective manner. With so many failed marriages, soured relationships, and broken unions, many of us assume that in order to be successful we have to beat the system and find the one person who is perfect for us in every way and we sit there waiting for something that we know will never happen. “Divorce is maybe the main cause behind female commitment issues,” says Zaher. “When women see marriages that had started out as love stories ending up in ruins, they start distrusting their own judgment and even if everything appears fine they are still scared to take the step.”

Meanwhile, one more variable comes into play: age. As we dilly dally in committing to a relationship, we unwittingly become set in our own ways and unwilling to accept anyone who will make us shift our routine even slightly.

Having postponed marriage and carved out a thriving single life for ourselves, many of us have become habituated to doing what suits us, much like a confirmed bachelor. And the older we get, the more difficult it is for us to settle. “Although I have a huge fear of aging and dying alone, I see marriage as a decision followed by a series of compromises and losses,” says L.A, a very sociable and liberal friend of mine. “The idea of being saddled with a husband and children right now is terrifying. I will never have a moment’s peace to read and I won’t be able to sleep with my hair in curlers like I do every night. I will have no time for my yoga and I won’t be able to travel as much. I simply refuse to give all this up. I am comfortable with my life as it is.”

Plus, it’s never been easier to be single. Now that it’s not frowned upon to have male friends take you out, help you with the chores that need a man and provide a buffer against unwanted male approaches, it’s quite OK to be single. On the other hand, since so many women are single, they keep each other company and are there through thick and thin – more so than any man would ever be. With all those hours you and your friends clock on the phone and your coffees, brunches and dinners, you have most of your needs taken care of. The idea now seems to be, "Who needs a boyfriend when I have so many friends?"

Sure, there is the occasional look of pity when you tell someone you're single, but overall the stigma of being uncoupled has dramatically decreased. And with many of their social and personal needs being met by friends, it's no surprise that women are more likely to question commitment.

Right now, it looks like having a baby is the one thing that forces women to overcome their commitment phobia. “When working with my patients, who are mostly in their thirties and have never been married before, the biological clock seems to be the only reason they came to me to help them with the commitment issues in the first place,” confides Zaher.

But it doesn’t feel like that to everyone. In fact, for some women the vision of a bad marriage with children seems to be the reason that’s freaking them out. “Children change the dynamics of your life,” says S.M who writes scripts for a very popular children’s show.
“Everyone speaks about how wonderful it is, and that it's a love you will never experience anywhere else. But this doesn’t deny that children are a lot of responsibility and if the marriage turns bad, like many marriages do nowadays, would I want that extra responsibility? I can barely take proper care of myself and my mother so unless I find a man who can make me feel as secure as my father did, I am not taking any chances.”

It’s sad but true. The majority of women have stopped thinking about commitment in terms of an all-conquering love that grows with age. For a lot of women out there, it’s starting to conjure images of sacrificing their identity to a mundane life of taking care of others who may or may not appreciate it. So if they’re having commitment issues who can blame them. In choosing to commit they may be giving up their freedom, forsaking something better that might come along, giving up their financial independence or their carefree lives. It’s no wonder that female commitment phobia is on the rise. To give all that up for a man, he has to be a saint. And frankly speaking, neither I nor any of my friends have spotted any halos recently.

1 comment:

Anxiety & Fears said...

hi,

you have described very well about commitment phobia in woman's i think many of them have to read this. Great job.