He cheats and rationalizes, “She don’t have to know.”
Over dinner there’s an attractive someone sitting across the restaurant. She compulsively wants to know him, even though her partner sits right next to her.
She made a minimal commitment: “I’m only in this until…” And until “then” she swallows a lot of compromise. After years of secretly swallowing she becomes bitter.
We talk a lot about “commitment issues,” as though it's the diagnosis of anyone who doesn’t want to make things work. I understand the commitment phobic to be nothing more than those who fear emotional intimacy.
We can have someone so dashingly exquisite asking for our hand and still feel the most intrusive anxiety. Simply put, anxiety is the body’s way of protecting itself- not from commitment- but from emotional intimacy: vulnerability (a.k.a exposure) and belonging (a.k.a. rejection/abandonment).
Without emotional intimacy ambivalence will block the development of your relationships. Ambivalence says, “I really want to be connected to you, but I can’t work myself through my fear, so just put up with getting half of me.”
As a result of your half-fulfilling relational style, ambivalence will have you creating intensity by working more hours, by scanning for a “better” partner, by reaching for another height of satisfaction, or by becoming emotionally dependent on substances.
As a means of counteracting ambivalence, you have to get up and over the fear of vulnerability, the fear of being abandoned, the fear of loosing your identity and dreams, or even the fear that you won’t make a good partner.
In other words, you have to trust emotional intimacy as the catalyst that onsets the production of the very things you want: safety and fulfillment.
Emotional intimacy sounds like this:
I am afraid that you will leave me. I’m not good enough for you.
Talking about emotions scares me; can you help me work on this?
During sex I worry that you don’t like my body, so I try to hide.
Terror sometimes overwhelms me when it feels like you are emotionally 700 feet away.
I miss you. I just have to see you tonight and I’m coming over with a bottle of wine.
What’s the antidote to sustained ambivalence?
Figure out what makes you so afraid. Share this with your partner. If they are trustworthy, mature, and willing to do the work, you’re going to have to take responsibility for your fear.
Again, get up and over your fear and land in the place where you practice trusting safety.
If your partner isn’t willing to do the work, well then the writing is on the wall. You might want to take this as a sign that your partner can’t offer sustainable emotional safety.
Ambivalence via fear of emotional intimacy can be a life-long agent that keeps you arrested. Either push through your fear or settle for half-fulfilling relationships, resentful partners, and a whole lot of emptiness.
No one has commitment issues, we’re all just afraid of being truly safe.