Strategies for dealing with a commitment-phobic partner |

Strategies for dealing with a commitment-phobic partner

Neil Rosenthal
Vail CO, Colorado

Dear Neil: Me and my ex-girlfriend have been in an on- and off-again relationship for the last eight years. We had a child about a year after we met. She also had an on and off relationship with a boyfriend before (and during her relationship with) me. When I was getting ready to propose, she told me that her old boyfriend was coming to visit, and of course they got engaged. Eventually he left her. We started getting close again, but then she started dating an old friend of hers at the same time, and just a few days ago they decided to get engaged. I just don’t understand. We love each other very much. If she talks badly about him all the time, why does she commit to him? We have a 6-year-old daughter and I don’t want her hurt. We have a very close bond, and we are still lovers.

” Confused and Hurt

Dear Confused: You are bonded with a woman who won’t let herself get very close with anyone. If she can’t get very close, she’s hoping she won’t get very hurt, either. So she has become commitment phobic: Chronically in two relationships at the same time, so she doesn’t have to give her whole self to any one person. She’s likely to keep doing this ” so you can probably carry on a relationship with her while she’s involved with this other guy.

But why would you want this? Do you not feel entitled to a full-time love relationship with a woman who is yours?

You could ask her what it would take for her to commit to you, marry you and be happy with and loyal to you, and see what she says. If she has a response ” and you can reasonably do what she asks ” do it and see what happens. If she still won’t be yours, drop this relationship and find someone who can be.

Dear Neil: I am coming to a crossroads in my life: Do I stay with my husband or do I leave him? We have been married nine years. Shortly after we married, the only time my husband would have sex with me was when he thought he could get me pregnant. I started to gain weight. Too many sexual rejections had me wanting to leave. My weight got really bad and my husband no longer wanted occasional sex at all. Instead of getting intimate with me, he takes care of himself with porn. It’s now been over a year, and he still hasn’t done anything to start back an intimate relationship with me, even though he said he wanted to. The one time we tried to have sex, he could not perform, even with the male products prescribed by his doctor. Yet I found out that he’s online at least once a day looking at X-rated stuff. Our son and our grandson are sometimes in the room right next to his. I don’t know what to do to correct this situation.

” Lost in Tacoma, Wash.

Dear Tacoma: He apparently functions just fine on his own; it’s having sex with you that he’s resistant to. Perhaps it’s time for a very open and honest discussion with your husband about this issue.

You seem to tie your weight to his interest, so you might begin by asking him if wants sex with you. If his answer is “yes,” ask him how important the weight issue is to him, and if you lost some weight, whether that would significantly influence his desire toward you. You might ask him if anything else is in his way. Is he angry with you about something? If so, about what? Fearful of his ability to perform? Resentful of you?

Sex is normally a barometer about how well the relationship is going, how connected the two of you are and whether you’re resolving differences and/or grievances effectively. Clearly something has shut your husband down. Your task is to find out what that was.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder specializing in intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303-758-8777, or e-mail him from his Web site,

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