What do you think of when you hear the word “commitment”? What about the phrase ‘being committed to something or someone”? What comes to mind then? I have found that the images are different depending on the individual. Please realize that deeply caring about someone is not the same as being committed to them. I was reminded of this when a certain person in my life decided to tell me he was committed to me; it was just a different kind of commitment according to him. Then later on he proceeded to tell me that he deeply cares about me and wants to be in a relationship, but he is not committed to me. Confused yet?
I have been dealing with this same person for nearly 20 years. This is the type of confusion that he continuously created when ever commitment came into question. At first he says the right words and acts like he really means what he says, but after he gets what he wants, his effort is finished and the sabotaging begins. This is what someone who has commitment phobia does. They want a relationship, but they also want space and freedom. They can be loving, attentive, and very charming, but at the same time passive aggressive and emotionally neglectful. Their sabotaging begins subtly, but then gets worse and worse over time. They are not proud of their behavior and actually feel guilty, but it doesn’t stop them. They are governed by fear, lots of fear.
A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. Commitment phobia is a very difficult thing to deal with, especially when you are the one on the receiving end of the behavior. In my case, for 15 years this person tried to hide their phobia and denied their depression and problematic personality features. The problem with this is that it all will eventually bite you in the ass in a very big way.
Our family was torn apart by the action of this person. It has been four and a half years since the big bite happened and he subsequently left us. He came back after three years after a psychological evaluation and had started counseling. He stopped his counseling shortly after returning home and for the past year and a half we have been slowing rebuilding our family unit, but unresolved issues arose.
I haven’t really written in the past month, because certain revelations have been happening and I needed time to process it all. Slowly I have been trying to chip away at all the layers in an attempt to deal with these unresolved issues. Talking ensued, lots of talking. What was finally revealed lead me to one conclusion – he has commitment phobia.
How does one even develop something like that? To answer that question, you would have to divulge into why any phobia developments and the reasons really depend on the person. In this particular case, I can honestly say that this person had a lot of baggage prior to meeting me. Our various problems that we faced as a married couple just added to the mix of things he really didn’t want to deal with.
This whole idea of commitment phobia is something that I am having trouble wrapping my head around. I am a very committed person, always have been. I am also a very loyal person, almost to a fault, which has led to me being taken advantage of. I don’t know if these aspects of me are derived from being autistic or if they are simply aspects of who I am regardless of anything else.
In The Discovery of “Aspie” Criteria by Attwood and Gray, under “A qualitative advantage in social interaction, as manifested by a majority of the following”, number one states “peer relationships characterized by absolute loyalty and impeccable dependability”. Yup, that is me.
I am a loyal, dependable, and committed person. I am known as someone who doesn’t give up and am always looking for solutions and new paths to follow when I encounter a road block of some sort. I am also someone who establishes strong bonds with people and have been known to be overly trusting way too many times. Keep in mind that not every autistic person is overly trusting, but I am one of them that is. I am also naïve even after being on this planet for 41 years. Perhaps this is due to me being developmentally delayed, but I can’t say for certain.
Rules are rules to me and that includes rules in a relationship. You don’t cheat, you don’t play mind games, you are honest and open, and you are there for each other. This allows for trust to build. Trust must be earned. It took me so long to learn that. I give way to many chances when it comes to people. I don’t know why I do this, but after being hurt so many times I finally took it upon myself to learn about the importance of personal boundaries.
I was never taught about boundaries growing up. I also was never taught how to say “no”. I was taught to comply. Perhaps that plays into why I give too many chances, but I can’t say for sure.
I have been told in the past that I am too kind, that my heart is too big, and that I must have a lot of patience. I have been told that these aspects of me allows people to take advantage of me, to take advantage of my heart, which only leads to the heartache that I have experienced many times.
I married a guy who is basically a douche, but tried to hide that fact, because he really did and still does love me. The thing is, apparently love is not enough to keep someone from being unfaithful, being neglectful, and emotionally abusive. This is why all these years I have been so confused and so hurt. Why would you tell someone you love them over and over again, tell them you want to marry them, make future plans with them, have children with them, spend nearly 20 years with them, and then systematically destroy it all? It boggles my mind.
For four and a half years I have been hanging on unable to move beyond the shattered remains of my life I once had. For a moment I thought I was getting it back. Everything felt so right. We were a family again, but it was short lived. The man I bonded to can’t commit. All those hurtful things he did happened because he couldn’t commit and the lie he had been living finally caught up with him. Instead of being honest with me, he used emotionally abuvise tactics to destroy our marriage so he didn’t have to be the one who initiated the divorce proceedings. Something I had to do.
Here we are again. He didn’t want to look like the bad guy, so he has been sabotaging repair efforts and I don’t know how much of his behavior he is even aware of. Ingrained behavior is difficult for a person who is demonstrating the behavior to actually see that they are doing it. Denial is something he is very good at.
About three weeks ago I felt something emotionally close in my heart. At that time I learned that my ex-husband wants the benefits of the family he loves, but not the responsibility and commitment that comes with it. As these revelations were coming out, my ex-husband also started talking about not wanting to look like the bad guy by ending our relationship a second time. Go ahead, if you haven’t already, start shaking your head at me and make disapproving expressions. I know, I know. Déjà vu all over again except without the infidelity and abandonment parts.
I have taken these last few weeks to process this feeling of something closing in my heart and trying to figure out what this sensation was about. I have come to the conclusion that it was a door closing, so to speak. This feeling was something new to me and I have had difficulties determining what it meant.
For four and a half years I have been unable to move on. Too much hurt, too much anger, and too many unanswered questions. I think that feeling of a door closing in my heart means I am ready to take those first steps onto a new path. It still hurts, but the pain is different this time. I have found that I have too much self-respect to continue on this roller coaster of a life that my ex-husband lives in. My children and I have had to lower our expectations to such a low point so we can be pleasantly surprised when he does a nice thing or he does what he said he was going to do. It is ridiculous that we have to do this, but we have to take care of ourselves. There was just too much disappointment and hurt that was happening.
My ex-husband was given a second chance to make things right. Instead of working with me to find middle ground and nurture our relationship and our family, he has chosen to dig himself in and not budge. Working towards middle ground means commitment and that is something he is just unable to do.
I don’t regret giving my ex-husband a second chance. I had to find out. I had to take the chance. I needed questions answered and I needed to know if we could really be a family again. I got my answers. The result was not what I expected or wanted, but I got what I needed. I got what I needed in order to finally move on with my life. As the Rolling Stones song goes:
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need
In closing, I raise a glass of your preferred beverage to what the future may bring. May it be a bright future indeed. Blessed Be.