Nothing to fear but April 20, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
My boyfriend of two and a half years dumped me last week because he is afraid of commitment (that’s what he says anyway). I know he feels bad because he cannot even look at me without getting tears to his eyes. I also know that we were very happy together. He never mentioned the fear to me before then and I kept saying to him “I saw a really pretty ring today.” I am so confused because I know he loves me and I know this is tearing us both apart. I can’t even call him because I want to give him his space. I gave him a book yesterday about fear of commitment and how to overcome it. My question is should I even have any hope that he will be able to face this fear and possible come back to me? One of his biggest fears is kids. He does not want any kids but he thinks I do. I have tried to tell him that all I really want is him. I am so confused. HELP!
— Desperately In Love
There’s no delicate (or graceful) way to say this: getting a book about overcoming fear of commitment from the person to whom he fears commitment will not help him overcome his fear of commitment. Immersion therapy works with, like, spiders (and it also helped me overcome my fear of Los Angeles) — but with relationships, not so much. There may not be anything you can do. Which is different from saying he will or won’t come back. At the moment, he’s got to figure this out on his own, not with the person who triggers the fear. But you are allowed to give him a deadline (see the column on space). Tell him you need to know what he thinks by — oh, I don’t know, pick a date in a month or two. Set the date, then back off. He should at least be able to commit to that. Without your giving him any books on meeting deadlines.