I like to whine about being single, but the truth is, I have a fear of commitment. I love options, saying goodbye to youth is scary, and I want to do 602 more things before I have babies. This is not a female thought or a male thought — it is simply a human thought.
Committing to one thing means you have less options available to you. (Duh.) This is why it's difficult to imagine eating only one cuisine for the rest of your life, or sitting at the same desk for all eternity. Most humans like options, and I'm definitely one of them. However, there are differences between why women and men are scared of commitment, and it has a lot to do with the different expectations society has for women and for men.
Elite Daily spoke to a female and a male relationship expert to discuss why women and men fear commitment.
Men Have Literal FOMO
Yup, the same way you don't like missing out on a party. Relationship and etiquette expert April Masini explains that the fear of missing out often leads to the fear of commitment in men. "They don't want to have sex with just one partner," she explains. "They want freedom, and so they avoid commitment because they fear a relationship lockdown."
Dating expert John Keegan confirms this: "The number one reason a man fears commitment is because he has to give up all the options all fantasies he dreamed about. At one point, most men want to date every women in the world. "
Uh oh, my worst fears are confirmed. Is every man a forever f*ckboy? Keegan explains that it's not just about sleeping with every woman on the planet — men fear committing to one lifestyle in particular. The FOMO is real.
Even if they don't have a particular number of partners they are aiming for, Masini explains that many men have a financial number in their head at which they are ready to commit: "A man may decide he needs to make a certain amount of money at work before he can responsibly take on a relationship."
She explains that the reason men do this more often than women do is because they "tend to equate self-esteem and identity with work." This is the same reason why men who are out of work over a long period tend to get more depressed than do women in the same circumstances.
Hold the phone. I have life FOMO, too, and I'm a lady. That said, I'm not worried about missing out on many other partners, but more about what happens after I commit to someone. Do I still get to live my best life? Or do I become a support system for my partner? Therein lies the difference...
Women Fear Losing Their Independence
For women, commitment and marriage traditionally lead down the path of children and care-taking and possibly even leaving work, or at least defaulting to their husband's career goals. Women fear commitment because historically, it means an end to their independent lives.
While many women have started "leaning in" at their jobs, and stay-at-home dads are more commonplace, there are still major disparities when it comes to women in the workplace. You might worry that committing to a family might take you out of the competitive game. This can manifest in a fear of commitment.
Men are often seen as the commitment-phobes, but "there are plenty of women who choose unavailable men because they fear commitment," explains Masini. She says that it can look like they just keep ending up with the wrong guys, but that's not always the case: "The reality is that deep down, they don't really want a commitment because they fear it, and choosing unavailable men is a way to honor that fear."
Masini adds that we should not confuse women who want children with women who want a commitment. Women have an actual biological clock counting down how long they can have kids for, and "they want to do it with a partner — until they realize that the relationship with the partner isn't working, and what they really wanted all along was the children, not the commitment," she says.
This really resonated with me. I often freak out about getting closer to 30 years old and not having a ring on my finger, and it's not because I really want to settle down right now. No, when I panic about getting married and having a family on a timeline, it mainly has to do with the fact that I know that I want children, and the longer I wait to have them, the riskier it will be.
While men certainly have more of a I'm-going-to-miss-out-on-some-other-experience-or-woman-or-lifestyle FOMO when it comes to commitment and women have more of a am-I-going-to-keep-my-career-and-independence fear, maybe we aren't so different after all. We're all curious humans who want to make the most from life, and it can be scary to decide to take a path with someone you know you'll end up hurting if, for some reason, you end up changing your mind.
My advice if you are worried about committing to a relationship? A good, old fashioned pro and con list. Of course, you're aiming to never break up, but it's good to remember that mistakes happen, and breakups and divorces are OK. Take some of the pressure off of the word "commitment," and maybe you'll find that it's not so scary after all. Especially when you're committing to the right person.