AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN CARTER
Interviewer: What makes GETTING TO COMMITMENT different from the books you have written before?
Steven Carter: The biggest difference is that this book offers solutions. In the past (in MEN WHO CAN'T LOVE and HE'S SCARED, SHE'S SCARED), we wrote exhaustively about 'the problem'-- everything you could ever want to know about the fear of commitment. But this book is very different. This book finally takes the crucial next step. It is more positive, hopeful, and future-oriented. It is not a book about fear, it is a book about possibility.
Interviewer: You say in your book that there are 8 obstacles to genuine commitment and connection. What do you think is the single greatest obstacle?
Steven Carter: BLAME. Most people never get past this. They may say, "I know I'm the one with the problem", but deep inside they still believe they could be different (more capable of making a commitment) if they had a different partner, or if their partner behaved very differently. But that voice of blame keeps you stuck. You will never move forward until you first take complete responsibility for your struggle with commitment.
Interviewer: Why are so many people struggling with commitment?
Steven Carter: People want love and commitment in their lives. This is something I hear every day, even from people with tremendous fear. But everyone is frustrated and confused. The desire is there, but they don't know how to move forward. Commitment is not a simple thing. It is challenging, it is hard work, and it can be very frightening. But whether your partner is the fearful one, you are the fearful one, or you both feel stuck, GETTING TO COMMITMENT shows you how to move forward.
Interviewer: What is it about commitment that is so scary?
Steven Carter: Every time we try to connect to another human being, all of our history of both successful and failed connections is stirred. Not just old flames, lost loves and a few bad dates, but all of the oldest relationships we had -- our relationships with our parents and siblings and other caregivers, as well as the relationships they had with each other. There is bound to be a lot of unpleasant emotional 'memory' in all of this mixed in with the positive memory. But it is the negative stuff from the past that so often stops us from moving forward in the present. It can paralyze us, even if we have no conscious memory of it.
Interviewer: Is some commitment fear 'normal'?
Steven Carter: Commitment is supposed to be a little scary. It is a huge life passage where so much is being given up and gained at the very same time. We have written a great deal in the past about these fears. I get more nervous talking to people who say they aren't afraid of commitment -- I don't think they're being honest with themselves...or their potential partners. The fear is healthy and normal. What you do with that fear is the real issue.
Interviewer: What makes it so easy for so many people to run from commitment?
Steven Carter: Commitment is all about connection, making a deep and powerful emotional connection over time with someone you care about. But so many people struggle with deep connection. They may feel connected by pure attraction, or by having sex, but they don't let themselves get emotionally invested. They don't reveal themselves and they don't take risks. Not consistently and regularly. This makes it much easier for them to suddenly leave. When you are truly connected it isn't easy to leave.
Interviewer: You talk a lot in GETTING TO COMMITMENT about the importance of acceptance. Could you explain that?
Steven Carter: Each of us enters into relationship with a head full of fantasies, agendas, and image needs. Some of these are reasonable and attainable, but many are not. Relationships are about working with the very human partner you have found to forge a unique and special bond. They are not about trying to make that person into someone they are not, nor are they about rejecting someone who doesn't measure up to your relationship fantasies. Acceptance is the key here.
Interviewer: Your co-author Julia Sokol was married, but you were single when you wrote MEN WHO CAN'T LOVE and HE'S SCARED, SHE'S SCARED. Today, you are married. How has your personal struggle shaped this book?
Steven Carter: While GETTING TO COMMITMENT is not an autobiography, it would not have been possible to write it without my personal experiences. Ten years ago, after the incredible success of MEN WHO CAN'T LOVE we were actually asked to write this follow-up book, but I couldn't do it. I didn't know what to say. And I didn't fully believe there was a way through the fear. Today I know differently. I have gone from being the 'poster child' for commitmentphobia to being in a loving, deeply committed marriage.
Interviewer: Did you suddenly wake up one day and say, "I'm ready."
Steven Carter: I wish it were that simple, but overcoming the obstacles to commitment and finding the courage to love takes work. For me, it took many years of work, and a real commitment (there's that word again) to changing my life. For some people it will be easy. For some it will take time, as it did for me. But everyone can do it. And it is worth the work.
Interviewer: Do commitment fears ever really go away?
Steven Carter: It is a process. They dissolve over time. And the most powerful weapon to combat the fear is a loving, meaningful connection. First this connection must be internal -- that means self-love and self-care. Next comes a loving, healthy partnership. This is, of course, also crucial. Casual connections don't reach the heart and open us to trust and care. Relationships that skip across the surface, with everyone playing it safe, don't change our fears.
Interviewer: Many years ago you and Julia Sokol coined the term "commitmentphobia." Why do you call it a phobia?
Steven Carter: Because real commitment fear tends to present with classic phobic symptoms such as anxiety, stomach aches, and a pervading sense of dread. It is a claustrophobic reaction to being in a relationship.
Interviewer: In GETTING TO COMMITMENT you talk a lot about the value of counseling and therapy. Is this a blanket prescription?
Steven Carter: I know that therapy is not the answer for everyone, but I also know it was a very large part of my personal answer. I would have been remiss in not making that clear. Most couples would benefit from some form of counseling if their relationship is not moving forward. It might not always make the problem go away, but it will certainly clarify what the future holds. Then you have the information you need to make some choices.
Interviewer: Is your life better now that you are married and in a committed relationship, or is it just different?
Steven Carter: My life is both immeasurably better and incredibly different. Truthfully, it's hard for me to remember what my single life was like, and I see that as a very good sign. When you are in a healthy, committed relationship, it's hard to imagine living life any other way.
Interviewer: If your partner is afraid of commitment, what can GETTING TO COMMITMENT do for you?
Steven Carter: This book makes the path to commitment completely clear. Maybe your partner is the one who is afraid. Or maybe it is you who has more fear. It doesn't matter; this book speaks to both partners in a relationship.
Interviewer: If you could only give one piece of advice to men and women struggling with this issue, what would that be?
Steven Carter: Don't give up. The fear of commitment doesn't have to be a life sentence unless that is what you want it to be. I was the embodiment of 'the problem' and I have been able to change. Yes, it was hard, but it was not impossible. If you want commitment in your life, really want it, you can get there.
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