The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Commitment - Fear of

I am afraid of long term romantic relationships

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:   “Hi Dr. Kenner. I’m a 20-year-old single male and I’m looking for a real love story, which I’d like to call the ultimate relationship. When a girl says she loves me, or whenever I feel committed to some girl, I just want to walk away and put an end to the relationship. I’m not the type of guy who wants to have a short-term relationship. Is this normal? Maurice.”


Maurice, what you’re identified is mixed, unanalyzed emotions. You’re ambivalent. One of the skills is to explore your own ambivalence. You have very mixed feelings. On one hand you want this ultimate relationship. On the other end, you sabotage yourself and you put an end to any good relationship that you could have. Part of that is really learning to know yourself. The answer to your question, “Why do I do this? Is this normal?” The only person that can answer that is you. Why am I doing this? In a very non-judgmental manor, you don’t want to throw up your hands and say, “Why the heck am I doing this?” because your subconscious will say, “I don’t know. Must be something abnormal about you.”


If you ask yourself in a gentle, nonjudgmental manor, “I wonder why I have an urge to walk away from,” let’s say the girl’s name is Meredith. And then write on paper what you know. What does your subconscious kick up? It may be some perfectionist ideas. Perhaps it won’t be the ultimate relationship and I won’t know how to break things off without hurting her feelings if it’s not perfect. Or another possibility, it could be fear of rejection. If I get too close to Meredith, she may see who I really am and I’m uncomfortable with that and I may not be able to handle the rejection. I’ll feel like a loser. I’ll feel defeated.


Another possibility, you might discover that it’s trauma related. This happens for many people. You know, I really want a phenomenal relationship, but you know I have the history of seeing my parents going through a horrific divorce and I remember promising myself that I would never put myself or my kids through that. So if I get too close to Meredith, I put myself at risk for eventually splitting up. So that’s a third possibility. The first is perfectionism, another was fear of rejection, the third is trauma related.


A fourth, hey, man, you’re 20 years old. A fourth is fear of pregnancy. Because if you get too intimate, too fast, suddenly she finds out that she’s pregnant, what then? Everybody in your age category and even before your age and after your age has that fear, especially the guy because they’re not the decision maker in the case of having a child. But the woman also struggles with that. That’s something definitely to take seriously.


A fifth possibility is you just feel clueless. You don’t know how to introspect. You don’t know what an ultimate relationship consists of. And for that, I would highly, highly recommend getting the book that Dr. Ed Locke and I wrote. It’s called The Selfish Path to Romance, how to love with passion and reason. And we talk about how to make yourself lovable so that you feel good about yourself and worthy of a relationship, and that involves multiple things. You want to avoid faking self-esteem. Faking that you’re better than you are. You want to know how to deal with blows to your self-esteem. If someone does leave you, how do you handle that? You want to develop moral character, and by that I mean honesty and integrity and being a person that you admire. Being productive. You want to learn how to value your values in life and pursue them, including romance. You need to care about your appearance. Nobody likes a schlump except for another schlump. That doesn’t mean you can’t go around in kick around clothes around the house occasionally, that’s fine too, but if you always dress like you don’t respect yourself, other people will treat you that way. So first you need to learn how to make yourself loveable.


And then we have another part in our book, a whole section, with four chapters on finding your soul mate. How do you introspect to understand what you’re liking about the person and what you’re not liking? What you’re liking about the relationship, your connection with the person, and what you’re not liking there. We talk about how to choose the right partners. How do you mesh on all of the multiple things that anyone needs to mesh on? And that includes obviously moral character, you both want to be honest, it includes having good communication skills so you can keep the relationship going, and it includes similarity in your values and your tastes. It includes similarity even in your habits. If one is a night person and one is a morning person, is that going to work out? For some people it does. For some that’s a relationship breaker, even though they’re two good people involved. It involves what I would say is the core of a romantic relationship which is emotional intimacy. How do you achieve that with another individual? And keep that robust over the long-term if you want the ultimate relationship?


I also think, Maurice, it’s a problem with the word “ultimate.” When I married my husband, I said, “I don’t know. We may grow in different directions.” This was privately, to myself, and I don’t know if it will last or not. But from everything I know right now, I adore him. He is my world and if anything changes, so be it. I’ll deal with it then. Luckily we’ve been married for, I’ve stopped counting, but it’s wonderful. That would be a wonderful help. Again, you can get our book at The name is The Selfish Path to Romance, how to love with passion and reason by Edwin A. Locke and Ellen Kenner. I’m sure that will put you on a better path.


Here is a question I received from Joe. “Hello. I have been verbally abusive in the past and later on I have verbally abused other people. At first it made me feel better but then it made me feel worse later on, lowering my standards. I now find that I accidentally mutter under my own breath and I’m left thinking, “Did I just say that about someone when I didn’t want to?” How can I stop muttering under my breath so I’m not wondering if it was audible? Sincerely, Joe.”


Well, Joe, you’re right about the aggression. Let me address that first. When we speak aggressively to somebody, it feels good in the moment because you’re expressing yourself and later on you have a guilt hangover. Oh my God, I said that? So you need to know how to express yourself better. You need communication skills. That will help with the muttering too. Because if your only way of communicating is to say, “She’s a bitch or I can’t believe, he’s such an incredible pain in the butt.” If you find yourself saying that, you need to know how to say that more accurately and appropriately. “It bothered me when you called me an idiot. I’m hoping that will stop.” That would be much better to say to him rather than, “You’re a pain in the butt.” So you want to give yourself the opportunity to learn communication skills and you can just Google communication skills and come up with listening skills and speaking skills. Or maybe take a course in it or find a good book. You can go to my website, and look at the books I recommend there.



Movie clip     

Male:              Trust. Important in a relationship, and it’s also very important in a clinical situation. Why is trust the most important thing in making a breakthrough with a client?


Dr. Kenner:   That’s from Good Will Hunting. Why is trust the most important component in making a breakthrough with a client? It’s the same reason it’s the most important component in making a breakthrough with anyone, whether it’s your partner or your kids or an in-law. If you need to earn trust, trust is not something someone can “give you.” You need to learn about a person’s character, the people you deal with, and sometimes your best friend can bite, you betray you. Sometimes your kids can bite you and betray you, and then they have to earn back the trust and that takes time. Trust is your evaluation of basically another person’s character. Do you trust them or not? Are they honest or not? Are they fact focused or not? Are they going to level with you or not? And that is critical to all good relationships.