Feb 26, 2013
Overcoming Fear of Commitment
Op-Ed: After finally overcoming his "fear of commitment," a recently married Lubavitch man shares tips on how he overcame his fear and finally proposed.
After going through this challenge and eventually overcoming it, I want to share some thoughts on "Fear of Commitment."
I am going to try and explain how fear of commitment works. Hopefully this is not your issue, and you will never have to deal with anything written in this paper.
Fear of Commitment is a very hard kind of challenge to overcome; this is because the one who may have this fear is not sure if he/she has it. The person with this fear will question whether their reason for not committing, is their own fear, or perhaps it is because they don’t like something about the one they are dating. Not knowing if the problem is a) their own fear, or b) an issue they have with the one they are dating, is the hardest step in dealing with fear of commitment.
One of the best ways to find out if the issue is fear of commitment or not, is by the person - who may have the fear - making a list with a pen and paper.
On the left side they will write all the positive things about the one they are dating, all the reasons why they have spent all those hours together and kept agreeing to go out again and again and again. Then on the right side of the paper they will write all the cons, the reasons why they aren’t sure. After writing the negative things they should go over the list and put an 'F' next to each one of those things, which are connected to fear.
So for example; lets say that Reuven was going out with Leah. Reuven and Leah go out 4 times for 5 hours each time. Reuven agreed to go out again each of the times, and he even enjoyed Leah’s company so much, that he kept the dates going for hours long. After the 5th date Reuven starts to feel the pressure of commitment, after all he is in the Orthodox Shidduch scene, were the objective is very obvious and known; they are dating to see if they are compatible for marriage.
As the thought of getting engaged gets more real in Reuven’s mind, he may start to have some doubts. What if she is not the right one, how can I know that I won’t meet someone else that is better in the future etc. These doubts are based on valid reasoning - it is true there is no way to know if someone else may be better, or if he/she is the right one. Only someone who has spiritual x-ray vision can see if the one they are dating is truly the other half of their soul. Everyone else is left with the task of having faith to find his or her baschert.
So to figure this all out, Reuven will need to sit down and write a list:
She is fun to be around
She is smart
She is on the right spiritual level for me
She has a good personality
She is attractive
She is capable to be a good mother in the future.
Sometimes she doesn’t seem so attractive
She is a little on the short side.
Not sure if she is the right one for me
I don’t always feel so "into" her
Let's examine the above list:
When you look at the pros it looks like a go. It looks like the best a shidduch date can accomplish: they are compatible, he likes being around her, he enjoys his time with her, he finds her attractive (at least enough to choose to spend over 40 hours with her), he likes the spiritual level she is on. It all seems good.
Let's look at the issues…
1.Sometimes she doesn’t seem so attractive: What does that mean sometimes? She obviously looks attractive enough for you to keep choosing to go out with her. If you didn’t find her attractive, you would have called off the shiduch at a much earlier stage. The reason there is an attraction issue is because of fear. Yes, fear can play tricks on your brain, it can make things look as bad as possible, all in effort to protect you from that which is feared. So even if you are extremely attracted to the girl you are dating, the fear will make her seem unattractive to you.
A famous example is of the couple that were dating for 2 years and then the woman proposed to him, as soon as she did he began feeling sick and said he needed to go home. The next time they went out, he noticed all these negative things about the way she looked, he started losing attraction to her, until he couldn’t even look at her anymore. The fear of committing made him see her in a different way, it projected her in a more negative way, in order to be protected from going further. So yes, it is possible that when he is not thinking about the ‘long term’ he will be extremely excited and attracted to her, but when he starts to fear the commitment he will begin losing interest.
This creates a serious problem; because one cannot commit to a girl or guy that he or she doesn’t have an interest in. So it is a vicious cycle; the fear acts as a barrier that won't let the guy move forward.
2. She is a little on the short side: This is stemming from the same fear as mentioned above, the proof is that he went out with her all these times and hours and that never seemed to be an issue, now that he is thinking about the commitment, any possible thing about her that can be used as a weapon in the hands of the fear will be used. No one is perfect; the fear will focus on all the imperfections and project and magnify them.
So for example, a slightly bigger nose will suddenly look like it is 1 foot long coming out of her face. Which guy would want to marry a girl looking like that?
So it is the fear that is playing tricks on the mind causing one's perception to become warped.
3. Not sure if she is the right one for me: There is no right one. Yes that’s right, the right one is the one you choose. You make it right, and you will have the best life together. There is no right one. And yes, there will always be someone else and the only way to avoid that issue would be to marry every single Jewish single female at the same time. (Not so kosher). So once again such a claim is coming from Mr. Fear. The fear of being bound by your decision without knowing if there is another better option out there.
4. I don’t always feel into her: Once again this is the effect of the fear, the fear is causing you to feel uncomfortable with her because you are thinking about the commitment you need to make, I’m sure if you were given the option to run away to a far off exotic island together with the hetter of the holiest Rav and not ever to have to commit, you would go for it in a second. The proof is that you want to go out again and again and you spend hours each date!
How to conquer the fear?
The proper approach to a successful dating process is to try and insure that the most important elements are there. Do your personalities go well together? Do you have the same goals in life? Are your spiritual levels compatible? Are you attracted to each other? (All you need to make sure, is that you are not unattractive to each other, because attraction will grow with time.)
Once you have the above things checked off, you have done your part…the rest is in the hands of Hashem. You need to trust that Hashem wouldn’t watch you walk yourself into a disaster and not protect you from it. Obviously Hahsem will guide you to what is best for you, and all He is asking from you, in this case, is to make a decision that you truly feel is right. He will stop you if it is the wrong decision. So there is nothing to fear aside for the fear itself… if the above needed elements are there then the next step is to take the leap of faith to jump in to the best stage of your life.
And remember that if you choose to give in to your fears, they will be there the next time, and the next time, and the next time…. However if you take the jump, they are conquered.
During my struggling with fear of commitment, a day came when I decided I would break out, I would conquer my fears. I decided that I would keep my eyes open for any sign Hashem may place before me, to lead me in the right way. That night as I was siting in a Starbucks, trying to find the courage to rise above my fear, I took a look at the words that were written on my Starbucks cup. It read:
The way I see it #76
The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.
Within 10 minutes I proposed.