Am I commitment-phobic?

"What is wrong with me? No matter who I date, I always find some silly reason to stop seeing him. His hair is too long, I don't like the way he dresses, he talks with his hands ... need I go on? Once, I stopped seeing a man because his fingernails were too long! I realize that these are all minor problems or habits that can be changed. And believe me, I know I'm far from perfect, so why do I notice such stupid things? And more importantly, how do I get over them? Often, I get along great with a man, and we seem perfectly compatible, but I always manage to find that one little thing that just irks me. Then I focus in on it and can't stop thinking about it.

Of course, there are the men that I don't find faults in, but those relationships never work out. It's almost as if I find these things intentionally. I'm beginning to think I'm a commitment-phobic. I am 28 years old and never been in a serious, committed relationship. I date often, so it's not for a lack of trying. Any suggestions?" --iVillager mouzie2000

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Sherry Amatenstein

Sherry is the author of The Q&A Dating Book and Love Lessons from Bad Breakups. She has taught dating seminars, appeared as an expert... Read more

Dear mouzie2000:

First off, congrats on your awareness that the problem isn't that there is some irredeemable flaw with each eligible man who crosses your path. Rather, the dilemma is that you inevitably work very, very hard to find grounds to render an eligible man ineligible for a lasting love connection.

Pardon me while I slip into a ''shrink suit'' for a moment to ask a few psychologically pointed questions: Did your father betray your mother? Betray you? Did a first love plunge a knife into your naive, trusting heart? Spending time examining your history will give you insight into why you shut down toward men who seem to care for you and lust after ones who don't. We see everyone who comes into our life through the prism of our preconceptions and fears. Understanding the roots of this baggage will help dilute its power and enable you to judge each man on his own merits and demerits.

That you're only now becoming aware of what seems to be a deep-seated pattern of, yes, commitment phobia could also mean that you're readying yourself, like the caterpillar shedding its cocoon, to start looking for love rather than reasons to avoid it.

To aid in that cause, the next time you begin finding reasons to denigrate a promising new guy (does he have spidery eyelashes?), stop and notice what you're doing. And redirect your thoughts away from this flaw. How? Think of something else. It takes time to retrain your mind to stop rushing into its well-worn groove. And it takes effort. But so does focusing on long fingernails and spidery eyelashes. The difference is that one endeavor brings you pain and the other might bring you lasting passion.

Talk about dating on the Ask the Dating Doyenne message board.

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