I am writing to you, not as a commentator or a critic, but simply as a friend who, for a very long time, felt the same way you did about committed relationships.
I have been that girl at the bar prowling for some poor soul to make a move so I can have someone to sink my claws into for the night (metaphorically, of course). I get my drinks paid for, but I never give out my number. If I do, they will be promptly ghosted, because I am a breed of commitment-phobe that doesn’t even bother with cheesy lines that absolve me of my issues. I’m just blatantly a bad person.
Now, I understand you might not be as jaded as I am. You could be a guy in your early 20s who enjoys the endless supply of women at frat parties. Your name is likely Chad, Tyler, Trevor, Ben or something similar. You have a “Saturdays are for the boys” flag as your only form of decor, one flat pillow on your bed and navy sheets. For you, the game is simply a means of hedonism, because endless sorority girls to hump and dump in a natty light-induced stupor is a fun way to pass the weekend, and honestly, I don’t blame you.
If the above matches your description, you are probably the most honest of us. In a way, I can respect the financial perspective of not investing if the proverbial sex market is too good. So long as you're safe, consensual and honest with your partners, feel free to carry on till you’re 30 when you inevitably settle for a Karen.
It is the benevolent sad boys, the “fix-me” dudes strumming a sad guitar at Crescent Moon Coffee’s poetry nights, and the serial monogamists that give us non-committal types a bad name. This tends to be because of your adamant insistence that you aren’t like the aforementioned frat boys. To an extent, you’re right, you are not like a Chad, you’re much worse.
Growing up, you were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed when it came to love. You were sensitive and either didn’t fit in with the cultural expectation of masculinity or you donned the mask of competitive sports to throw everyone off of your soft boy scent. You got your heart broken sometime in high school and you never really recovered from it, and for some reason, you attribute this past hurt to your under-researched speculations of sociopathy. News flash, Brendan, you’re not a sociopath — you’re probably just depressed.
You tend not to cheat, but every relationship is the same. You lure some phenomenal woman in with the deep, wounded timber in your voice and soulful eyes that awaken some sick Florence Nightingale complex within the poor girl. It fills her with the false notion that she will be the dazzling angel sent from heaven to rescue you from your heartbreak, and in turn, you will love her forever and always. No matter how wonderful and understanding she is, it will always end up the same way: With you back on the market after a brief, two-month tryst and some amazing 20-something-year-old girl listening to Taylor Swift on a midnight drive around town, blaming herself for not being able to fix you.
It is my opinion, as the self-appointed queen of the commitment-phobes, that you are the weakest link among us. This is because Chad from Sigma Apple Pie is going to meet someone eventually and probably lock himself down with his own volition, completely forsaking his player mentality. He’ll be a little rusty at the whole relationship thing, but he will be willing to be terrible and a little stupid until eventually he gets it. His story ends with coaching little league while his nursing major of a wife sips pinot grigio in the bleachers.
The same can’t be said for you — you aren’t willing to explore that level of temporary emotional ineptitude for the sake of intimacy.
There isn’t going to be some moment that you magically get over your commitment issues. You’re not waiting for the perfect girl to come in and finally be worthy enough to fix you. You talk about being terrified of dying alone when your actions right now — that you refuse to evaluate — will directly result in your worst fear.
I know I sound harsh, but as someone who understands that you’re not a monster, I’m giving you some tough love and telling you the only way to find the emotional fulfillment you write bad poetry about is by confronting your complex emotions.
A lot of us see relationships in terms of winning and losing, where the loser gets their heart broken and the winner remains unfazed, able to walk away from the relationship unbroken. We don’t do it maliciously; we do it as a trauma response to prevent ourselves from ever feeling as low as we once did. We operate on a plane of existence where being by ourselves is both excruciating and better than risking the possibility of vulnerability, abandonment and heartbreak.
I know you think you’ll change, that one day it’ll all shift and you’ll be ready to have a long-term relationship with kids, a dog and a joint bank account. I’m here to tell you first hand that the old men and women dying alone in a hospital bed thought the very same thing, right up until the bitter end.
I may not know how to navigate the uncharted waters of a relationship, and I may have some alarming complexes that I’ll eventually talk to a therapist about, but at least I am willing to try. I’ve gotten hurt a few times, and I will probably continue to get hurt, but I will not allow that possibility to restrict my ability to love. I will pick myself up and keep going, because one day, it’ll pay off.
Heartbreak is not a terminal illness, and you have the autonomy to change your outlook and confront your emotions. Vulnerability is the glue that makes human connections worthwhile. It is simply having the courage to show up and dare to be vulnerable without knowing the outcome. It may hurt, and you may mess up along the way, but I promise that once you feel your emotions and don’t shove them away like an unwanted sibling, something effervescent will bubble up in you and remind you what it is you’ve been chasing this whole time.
Despite many of your opinions of yourself, you do deserve love. Regardless of your past or the future you fear, I hope you find it eventually.
Johnna Sisneros, reformed commitment-phobe