Can People Really Be Afraid of Relationships?

There may be some real psychological truth when a date says, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. They could fear being in a romantic relationship.

It is one of the most complicated fears because it involves a lot of history and baggage, says psychologist, Dr. Ron Glassman, who specializes in fears and phobias.  “This fear is common in people who have been in a series of bad relationships. The commitment and closeness may also mean a loss of control or space in one’s personal life.”

That said, these people can rarely get past a first date.

“A relationship fearing person hears ‘how do you feel about kids?’ as ‘this date will lead to several more dates, marriage and kids, how do you feel about that?’ Someone who has that response can be turned off to a second date instantly,” Glassman adds.

The fear can strike in both men and women and often shows up very early, even before a relationship has formed, says psychiatrist, Dr. Frederic Neuman. “Many such individuals seem inexplicably to their friends as simply too busy or unwilling to date.  These are the people who want all the advantages of a caring relationship and family, but such an affair is unimaginable to them because of the underlying fears of commitment, rejection and being dominated.”

These individuals may not like attaching themselves to anything.

“They rent instead of buy, they lease instead of purchase, they are very diligent in keeping their distance, even with friends,” says Glassman.

Another underlying belief is that the closeness associated with being a couple, can be dangerous, says relationship therapist, Stephanie Manes.  “If at any point being close meant being in the firing line of verbal and emotional abuse or total neglect, their fight or flight instincts kick in when someone starts getting too close.”

We all get stuck in old stories of painful events from our past. When old wounds get dredged up, our defenses come right back out.

“This is when people excuse themselves from the table and never come back and you never hear from them again. Or, they start some kind of a fight that ends in a relationship fiasco,” says Manes.

Although these feelings are deep rooted, like any other irrational fear, it goes away only after confronting it. With repeated involvement, a person becomes less hesitant.

Manes advises her patients to try a few more dates, not with the expectation it will go anywhere, but to learn a little about the fear that keeps stepping in. “When the urge to run comes on, can they stick around a little longer to see what it’s like on the other side?”

“People prone to being taken hostage of feelings from the past need to build some kind of internal alarm bell that will snap them out of the bad dream and into the present,” says Manes. “Some of the old excuses start to fall away and they start to really ask themselves, what is wrong with this picture?”