What it's like to be a true commitment-phobe
I could start by saying that I always warned them, but I didn’t. Not well enough. I told them that I didn’t like relationships, dating steadily-commitments in general. But I never told them that I would just stop responding one day. I never told them that the times they would ever see me again was when they were across from me in the pasta aisle. I never told them that I would cringe the moment they waved at me. I never told them that I would turn the other way and pretend like they stopped existing as much as I desired for them to think the same of me.
I never told them because I never planned it.
I head into each “flirtation-ship’ with the same mindset: That maybe this time, it’ll be different. Maybe he’ll be the one to make me push myself out of my comfort zone. Maybe he’ll be the one to make me understand that safe isn’t always sound.
But he never is.
From the time I moved from Liberia to America to live with my parents at the age of 8, they have been telling me the same thing, “You are not an island. A person needs humans to live.”
Not long ago, I was scrolling through my newsfeed when I came across this quote by Sylvia Plath: “It is so much safer not to feel, not to let the world touch me.”
The more I read her words, the more I pictured myself sitting on the island that my dad would repeatedly imagine up for me when my hermit-like lifestyle started to take a toll on all of the relationships that surrounded me.
In grade school, I was always the girl that said that she would take a pack of pencils, a notebook and a knife when people initiated the game, who or what three things would you want to have if you were to be abandoned on an island.
By the time I began high school, I had stopped using the term “best friend,” to describe my closest friends. I felt like there were three relationship statuses that I needed to abide by, acquaintance, colleague and friends. And the smaller the number, the better I dealt.
By the end of high school, simply uttering the words, “I love you,” to my family members had a glass-cutting-effect-against-my-tongue feeling.
At some point between the age of 8 and now, I’ve come to realize that I’ve done and tried everything humanly possible to keep myself as detached from human beings as possible.
At the age of 20, nearly 21, I still don’t use the label “my best friend” to describe my relationship with anyone in a serious manner. At the age of nearly 21, I’ve dipped, ducked and dove away from any relation with the opposite sex that felt as though it could further into a relationship. And at the age of nearly 21, I’ve come to the understanding that I am a commitment-phobe.
I’ve always been the person that everyone wondered about. Is she dating anyone? Does she really want to be alone forever?
As much as I resented the judgement and expectations, I’ve used the guise of being relationship-phobic as a form of defiance. Or maybe it was self-protection.
I realized in middle school that many (but not all) of the women on my father’s side are cursed. Not, “bite into the apple, choke and die, Snow” cursed, but cursed with the idea that the only way they can be happy is if they have a man wrapped tightly around the index finger, pointing them in all of the right directions. However, more often than not, they blindly end up in the wrong spot.
My grandmother, the lovely woman that I was named after, never married the man she was in love with for decades and still loves. Her best friend at the time and my grandfather ended up getting married instead.
My biological mother never married my father. They mutually broke up, he moved to America, got a great education, fell in love with the woman, my mother, who has raised me since the age of 8, got married and has built a life heaped on the notion of love and trust alike.
The realization that I’ve rug-burned my knees to get to is this, I am terrified of committing to anyone or anything that requires some definitive ranking of status because I am terrified that one day, he or she will leave me. Family, friends, relationships.
Now, I don’t mean to sound like a complete robot. Every now and then, I remember that I have lips, and I smile. I remember that I have arms, and so I extend them out to those who are in need of hugs.
I think I understand so desperately that I am achingly human and so I try to subside my side-effects of rash-ness, spontaneity, willing-ness and curiosity with what I thought was strength. Defiance. Aloneness. But I’ve learned time and time again, that one is just as crowded as two.
I’ve been acting out of fear.
The idea of being entirely naked with someone, anyone frightens the daylights out of me. The idea of putting my everything on the line and waiting for that anyone to come and pick it up ripples my stomach into thrashing waves of nausea. The idea of waking up at four a.m. and wanting to feel nothing more than the presence of having that everyone in my arms weakens me to my core.
Now sitting here, re-reading this same Plath quote, I see my curves in her words. I see my fears and worries.
The reason I had said no to every guy that ever tried to push me into the arena of committing to a relationship was this: I had let my mind fill with what ifs and fears.
I am and was afraid of being hurt. Of not being enough. I let my insecurities blind me from seeing my securities. From seeing what made me strong and different and so fighting-ly flighty.
Through these last few months and because of a few incredible guys that I have been lucky enough to come across, I’ve realized that there’s nothing wrong with staying for longer than a few weeks and letting things go farther than the pacing of my heart can handle.
I’ve learned that sometimes, getting hurt is the best thing that I can let happen because it toughens me more than the fear(s) of anything ever could. And I hope that you can let whatever you’re denying yourself of do the same for you (within reason and responsibly speaking, of course.)
I am not encouraging anyone to step outside of themselves to appease anyone, please don’t misunderstand me. You don’t need to fall in love and get married and be with wives or husbands, but you do need to have at least one person outside of your family that you can count on. Someone that you can call at midnight and talk to. Someone that makes you feel as though it is okay to be uninhibited, unpolished and messily and perfectly you. Maybe I’m drunk off of watching The Truth About Cats and Dogs or maybe I’m just really starting to understand how this whole living life and communing with others works.
I’m encouraging you from my bed post to find the center of what drives your decisions and to make sure that it comes from security and self-betterment and not the warped wonderland of fears and insecurities.
(Image via Shutterstock)