Do You Have Post Divorce Commitment Phobia?

post-divorce commitment phobia

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

I bet if you asked all the divorced people on earth what they want as far as their romantic life moving forward, I bet you’d get a different answer from each and every one. It’s a little like right and left wing politics. There are those on one end of the spectrum who are hoping for a second marriage in the next 30 minutes. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: people who have post divorce commitment phobia. In other words, they are never getting into a serious relationship. Ever again.

I have met both kinds of men and women, and those in between. A lot of this depends on timing. When the divorce is still fresh, some people have no interest in dating, but eventually then get married again. When the divorce is still fresh, others jump right into marriage number two, which in my opinion leads to divorce number two (but that’s another article.) There are those who end up married in time, and those who never get married. There are endless scenarios because every situation is different.


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I posted this on my Divorced Girl Smiling Facebook Page:

Has your divorce given you post divorce commitment phobia? Let’s discuss!

Here is a very interesting response I got back from “Doug,” a divorced guy with kids.

“Funny you should ask this. I think about this question every time I hear someone lament having a partner that is “a commitment-phobe” or, more commonly “AFRAID of commitment” … hmmm.

It’s a tricky little turn of phrase because it pre-supposes that the ability to commit is the natural and desired want of any well-adjusted person … you wouldn’t say a non-smoker is a “cigarette-phobe” or a peaceful person is an “anger-phobe” because healthy lungs and grace are aspirational and fearing their opposites would never be judged with a label.

And therein was the problem. We often take for granted that people “should” (ooh, red flag when we say “should”) want to commit. Commitment – versus loving and devoted presence – is merely granting an option on the future. In a world where many are struggling to overcome depression (as Lao Tzu says “living in the past”) or fighting to avoid anxiety (again Lao Tzu, “living in the future”), many have found a natural balance in “living in the present” (or, to quote Mr. Tzu, “in peace”).

As you have written so eloquently in other posts, it is a natural and understandable behavior to emerge from divorce and take your time with life. Someone may feel the need to spend time alone. If they have adjusted to their new life, they may boldly reach out to a companion. And if they truly know themselves, their wishes and their partner, they may take the romantic (but statistically risky) step of making “a commitment” in second marriage (demonstrating what Samuel Johnson so wryly called “the triumph of hope over experience”).


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I don’t think commitments are necessarily aspirational or obligatory. Two people get to decide together in partnership what is understood in a relationship. Some couples can go to the horizon and into the sunset without a traditional commitment (think Goldie and Kurt), while others can buy the option and not make it (think: 67% of second … and 73% of third … “commitments”).

The real heartbreak (and name-calling) begins when couples are not in sync on the issue. Yes, some partners have no intention, desire, interest, plans or prospects to “forsake all others” … which is not a phobia, it is a choice. If they are honest, they are not wrong (if they are dishonest, they are wrong for THAT). If the other partner is not in sync, agreement, or being honest about their own hopes, wishes, needs and wants with their partner or themselves, then some soul-searching is in order … to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can string us along without our consent.”

The cycle of expectation-and-disappointment is a brutal experience for the person who rides that roller-coaster but they would be helped to realize that they bought their own ticket. It is not compassionate to make others responsible for our own emotions.

“Fear of commitment” is not “a thing” … it is an honest expression of someone’s personal moment (a moment that in some cases lasts a lifetime … so be it, that is who they are … their actions, if not their words, are usually pretty up front about that). It is not “immaturity” or “[hormone] poisoning” … it is just that person doing their best (even if that “best” falls short for their partner, who may need to move on).

An aspirational relationship reflects harmony, communication and parity at the end of every day. No one partner is “stealing” something from the other … and no one partner is “giving to get” (passive-aggressively sharing of themselves … such as their time, assets or intimacy … yes, sex … with an expectation of an option on the future that has not been freely given or honestly communicated). Those types of behaviors can be labeled too. And, in addition to divorce, such behaviors can also be a source of phobias.”

Best, Doug

What Doug made me realize is that post divorce commitment phobia, (actually, any commitment phobia), isn’t really a fear, it’s a choice. Maybe you’re with the wrong person. Maybe it’s not the right time. There could be many reasons why a person CHOOSES not to be committed to the person they are dating.

Doug’s right. “An aspirational relationship reflects harmony, communication and parity at the end of the day.” In other words, all that really matters is happiness. If you don’t want to commit, don’t. If you’re with someone who doesn’t want to commit, you have two choices: get out or stay in the relationship as is.

Thanks, Doug! 

Like this article? Check out, “Dating Someone Who is Hot and Cold”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    10 Responses to “Do You Have Post Divorce Commitment Phobia?”

    1. Patience

      I’ve loved your blog for a while now Jackie, but just had to comment and tell you how much I love this post! My second marriage ended a year ago, and for the past few months I’ve been wondering what was wrong with me that I don’t have a desire to “fall in love” again. My ex has moved on and is dealing with trying to blend a family, and I am over here “La, dee, da” all by myself…and just fine! Whenever a weekend is coming up where I don’t have my kids I think to myself, “I should go out and meet somebody.” (there’s that SHOULD word again) And then I settle in with Netflix and a pizza and think to myself, “What a wonderful world.” I really like being alone! I crave solitude! I don’t want to have to put somebody else’s needs before mine all the time. I do that enough when I have my kids! Thanks for making me see that it’s ok to aspire to NOT be committed 🙂

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        You are so inspiring to so many men and women, you have no idea! You just keep being happy and enjoying your time. It’s nice to see someone comfortable in her own shoes. That to me shows self confidence and self love. I love it! Best wishes to you!

    2. Jake J

      I wish I had read this before I got married years ago. The Streaker really hit home.
      After everything was perfect for our first 4 months for one moment a complete personality change came out with a nasty rude comment in front of family that was so out of character. I was so stunned but she quickly returned back to her “normal” personality.
      Now after years of marriage I see that streak when her personality change was really more the norm. Pay attention to your gut because I didn’t listen to mine.

      • Heywood Jablowme


        That is called a Bi-Polar Spouse. I dealt with it for 20 yrs. Almost every Marriage Counselor ignored thus mental illness and my now Ex finally was diagnosed after the divorce and suicide attempts.

        If she refuses to get Medical Help LEAVE THE MARRIAGE IMMEDIATELY!!!

    3. Diana

      I absolutely love this blog post.
      I got divorced last year, and been seeing someone, but not ready to commit.
      I found this blog today after He had a complete meltdown because I’m not ready to commit, and I was honest about it from the very beginning.
      I emailed this blog to him, and 10 hours later, he apologized. I’ve told him many times that I want to be alone, and that I like my freedom. I like to spend time with him, but won’t commit. It’s always been his choice to stick around or leave (and I made it clear).
      I think reading this blog really showed him that I’m not joking. I’m seriously happy not committing. Maybe I’m not ready, maybe he is not the one. Whatever it is, I’m ok with my life right now. I’m doing great.
      Thank you for this wonderful blog post.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        Thanks so much for reaching out! It sounds like you are doing great and not letting anyone pressure you into doing something you aren’t comfortable with. Great!! Best wishes!

    4. Michael Adams

      As a Widower who was happily married only to have it stolen by Cancer..
      Since dating again after the greif period I have noticed divorced woman tend to suffer from Post Divorce Commitment Phobis.
      Very frustrating…..🙄👎

    5. Dave

      Sorry…. but as a second time divorcee….. its total PTSD on the marriage and commitment thing. I’m in a 3rd attempt with a woman and the pollution from the previous always lingers somewhere. It’s sad actually. Personally I’ve come to view the institution of marriage as archaic unless one is raising children. Its a romantic notion that truly belongs in the past… equality should have changed the legaliities by now . Is it a choice? … yes and no…. the damage speaks for itself.

    6. zarita hester

      I just came across this post and it was really helpful. I’m getting back in the field after being married 13 years and divorced 3 years. I want to be in a committed relationship as,we are a monogamous couple. I don’t want to move in together at all. I like it being me and just my kiddos. I may get married again down the road, but right now it feels scary. This helped me feel “normal” in these feelings.


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