Many people find relationships easy. They meet someone, they fall in love, they invest in their relationship, and they see it blossom.
There are some of us, though, who have what’s called commitment phobia or relationship anxiety.
Yup, some people have a fear of committed relationships. What does that mean, though?
What is commitment phobia?
Being in a relationship, especially a long-term relationship, is an incredible challenge to commitment-phobes.
Let me tell you, they can go really far. They can go as far as to completely affect the person’s ability to make decisions when it comes to making choices in their life.
They experience love and life just like any other person, but when it comes to making decisions – especially those that require them to commit in any way – they freeze.
That’s not to say that new relationships don’t interest them – in fact, they are at their best when they meet their new potential partners.
Sadly, as the relationship progresses and the other person starts expecting more commitment, they start looking for a way out.
It’s not that they don’t like the other person – they often do – but their feelings of anxiety that arise when they think about truly committing to someone are way too high.
It’s hard for them to develop a healthy relationship with anyone, even when they find the right person for themselves.
There are different kinds of commitment-phobes though.
Some won’t even try dating, but instead pursue super short flings, while some will pursue short relationships or even relationships that are months long The panic sets in when they start to believe they have to commit more deeply.
Therefore, there may be no relationships in their past, or there may be many failed relationships.
This particular problem, even though it can affect both men and women, is traditionally thought of as a male issue.
We hear about commitment-phobic men more than we do commitment-phobic women.
The truth is, commitment phobia applies to different things in a person’s life, not only romantic relationships.
It can affect the way the commitment-phobic person lives their life in many ways, such as choosing education, a city to live in, or basically making any choice in life.
Now that we have some basic information about what commitment phobia is, let’s investigate it a bit further.
Most common causes of commitment phobia:
The most common causes of commitment phobia usually come from the person’s family of origin, and present in many different ways. Here are some examples:
• The person’s childhood emotions and needs weren’t completely satisfied
• The person felt abandoned as a child or an adolescent one way or another
• The person saw that their parent’s relationship was completely dysfunctional
• The person witnessed their parent’s divorce (sometimes messy, sometimes not)
• The person had severe childhood trauma (such as family violence)
• The person’s parent or caregiver had a personality disorder (such as narcissism)
Sometimes, problems don’t lie in the person’s family though, but rather lie in their poor judgment which leads them to choose toxic partners.
For others, their problems stem from bad things happening to them in previous relationships.
Those causes include:
• The person has been in a serious relationship that ended with their partner abandoning them
• The person has been hurt by a loved one and now has trust issues
• The person has been in a relationship involving abuse, infidelity, abandonment etc.
Again, there are some other causes, and some of them can be connected to the person’s overall mental health.
A person who has an anxiety disorder may be more sensitive to things happening in their life, which can lead them to develop relationship anxiety as well.
A commitment-phobe’s 5 relationship fears:
1. They are afraid of being loved
Perhaps they weren’t loved in their childhood, or they feel like any time someone says they love them they are going to end up hurt.
They are afraid to let themselves be loved. Do you know what they say about how people will only accept the love they think they deserve?
Well, this is something like that.
Some commitment-phobic persons think they are unworthy of love. Just like any other human being, they crave love but are simultaneously afraid to receive it.
They might take a nice thing their partner does and turn it into something bad. They might say things like ”Oh, she’s way to caring, it’s too much” or something similar.
If this person is a girl, she might have been with men who can’t love her in the past and so isn’t used to being loved.
Their self-esteem is low for one reason or another, and it makes them think being loved is a very scary thing.
2. They are afraid of recreating other relationship patterns
If the person has seen their parents or other people close to them experience dysfunctional relationships or relationships with problematic patterns, they might feel obliged to break free from this cycle of pain.
They probably saw some nasty stuff growing up or they were too young and some regular, normal events, such as the divorce of their parents, affected them deeply because they were vulnerable.
They don’t want to repeat the things their parents (or other people) did, thus they prefer not to pursue committed relationships at all, in order to make sure these patterns don’t develop.
Certain things they saw people doing in their relationships caused them a lot of pain and they don’t want to recreate these patterns of toxic behavior in their own life.
3. They are afraid of the relationship ending
One of the biggest fears people with feelings of anxiety towards relationships have is the fear of the relationship ending.
They can never fully commit because the idea of the relationship ending one day frightens them.
The truth is that every person takes a risk when they fall in love with someone.
The more we get attached, either to our romantic partner or anything in our life, the bigger the risk of getting hurt once it’s gone.
4. They are afraid they didn’t choose the right person
People with commitment phobia are constantly afraid that the person they are with isn’t right for them.
Even when things are going perfectly, they keep thinking that there might be someone better for them out there, someone they still haven’t met.
They are afraid that committing to this particular romantic partner will ruin their chances of meeting that imaginary perfect person that only maybe exists.
This might seem like a compatibility fear but it is actually connected to the way we perceive commitment.
5. They are afraid a relationship will always stay the same
This might seem contradictory, but it’s really not. The relationship-avoidant person will constantly find flaws in their current relationship and their current partner.
Committing to someone means accepting those flaws as a part of your life, and this is something they can’t deal with.
They don’t like to think that their partner, or better yet their partner’s flaws, will remain forever.
They hope that some things about their partner can be changed, and at the same time they’re afraid they won’t change.
Also, they feel like they need to change things about themselves, and that could cause issues in their committed relationship.
5 ways to overcome a phobia of commitment:
The fear of commitment won’t let you find safety.
It doesn’t give you the chance to enjoy life, even though you think you’re living it to the fullest. I know this because I was a commitment-phobe myself.
I would jump from guy to guy, from relationship to relationship, from one city to another and I could never maintain a job for longer than six months.
I did all of these things to the point where it started to mean something to me. I would give up and leave, without leaving a trace behind me.
I broke many hearts and I stopped taking risks simply because I didn’t want my heart to break.
The reasons for your fear of commitment can be many and they don’t have to be the same as mine. I’m simply here to tell you that there is a way you can cure yourself of it.
1. Find depth
People with commitment issues have the tendency to just scratch the surface of things.
We stop digging the moment we see that it’s going to get too deep for us, because it feels like we will drown. But no. Let’s be honest.
Having depth means seeing meaning in things and giving those things the permission to be a part of our lives.
This is something we can’t really run away from and we shouldn’t want to run away from.
The problem in my case was that I would learn about one new thing until the newness of it wore off and I became instantly bored of it.
This was also the case with men, because the moment I saw that they weren’t a ‘new thing’ in my life anymore I would just leave.
What happened is that I forced myself to dig deeper into things and what I saw was interesting and it gave me pleasure and happiness.
Simply by allowing myself to find depth in things, I started to commit to them.
2. Realize that intimacy can only be built through time
True intimacy and a loving relationship toward all aspects of your life (mostly romantic) can only be built if you’re very persistent and patient.
Because of traumas in our early years, we now have triggers for our phobias, which is mostly the phobia of consequences.
So what happens is that you leave. You’re afraid that you might hurt someone or that someone is going to hurt you and your internal instinct is to run away.
But that’s not what life is about, right? We can’t spend our entire lives running from feelings but we need to face them in order to conquer them.
What all of us need to do is make a list of fundamental values that can guide us in moments when we feel like running away from a certain problem.
You probably look at couples who’ve been together for years and see their happiness, and want that same thing in your life.
That happiness, that intimacy and that love can only be built over time. You don’t get that by running away.
3. You’re not missing out on anything
So, you, as a commitment-phobic person, might also constantly be thinking that if you don’t move to another town or city every few years you are going to miss out on something.
Committing to something or someone doesn’t mean that you’ll miss out on a better opportunity.
Committing to something isn’t about giving up on everything else in life but rather dedicating your time and energy to something that you find value in.
This goes for the places you live, your friends, and romantic relationships as well.
There will never be a ‘perfect’ way to do a certain thing but your commitment to it can make it more than enough.
4. Learn how to say ‘no’
When you have a fear of commitment, what happens is that you try to do so many things at once that you spread yourself too thin on things that most of the time don’t even bring you that much joy in life.
That’s why it’s very important to learn how to say ‘no’.
At first, everything seems to be so attractive and perfect but when you dig deeper you see that it can only bring problems (problems that you don’t enjoy solving) so that it isn’t worth trying.
Instead, say ‘yes’ to one thing that’s flawed but that you’d love to make perfect.
It’s the same with relationships. Don’t say ‘yes’ to guys simply because you want to try out how it’s going to go, but rather find one man you can say ‘yes’ to and work on your relationship so it can be the best one ever.
5. Avoid overthinking
Easier said than done, right? Too often, people who are afraid of commitment overthink things to the point where they see the ending of a relationship before it even starts.
Overthinking can also lead to poor life choices because we avoid situations where we can get emotionally involved in things where we might get hurt.
We overthink certain outcomes that we can’t control and that’s what makes us jump to the next thing because it’s easier than sticking to something that we need to put the effort into.
That’s why you simply need to stop overthinking things that you can’t control.
They say that people who have anxiety live in the future, and I guess in a way that’s true.
Stop worrying about the future so much and for the first time in your life you’ll feel light, and able to just live without fears.
How to know you’re in love with a commitment-phobe: 5 warning signs:
1. They don’t like using ‘girlfriend’ (or ‘boyfriend’)
When you meet his friends while walking down the street (because he obviously hasn’t introduced you to them on purpose) he doesn’t call you his girlfriend.
Giving you the privilege of calling yourself that is too much of a commitment to him, as it implies you are heading in the direction of a long-term relationship.
This is probably one of the biggest red flags he’ll have – commitment issues.
2. They never use the L word
They never, ever use the word LOVE.
You’ll start to think that it will never happen, because not only don’t they say it now, it feels like they aren’t even thinking about saying it at all.
You can feel their love, and keep telling yourself they’re shy or insecure, but the truth is they probably still aren’t certain you’re the right person for them and telling you they love you would be way too much.
3. They are completely unpredictable
They won’t commit to anything! If you have a party they don’t RSVP, they either show up or they don’t.
They aren’t willing to make plans for dates or meetings of any kind that are more than a couple of days away.
This goes only for the biggest commitment-phobes out there, though.
Some, that have a lower level of commitment issues, might be able to do these things.
4. They have a bunch of short relationships in their past
They’ve had relationships, yes, but man they’ve been casual.
There’s not a sign of a long-term relationship in their past, and if there is, it’s a story they’ll never tell, because it’s probably the reason they started having relationship anxiety.
If you’re hoping to be his first committed relationship, we get you. That could, of course, happen.
Keep in mind that it will take a lot of work and understanding both on his side and yours to make it happen.
5. They have undefined relationships with people
Basically, all relationships in their life are almost relationships.
They aren’t willing to openly state what people in their life are to them and define their relationships.
They feel like every option should be left open, generally in life and when it comes to their friends and romantic interests.
It feels like giving a definition to a relationship is impossible to them, so don’t try to have ”where is this relationship going?” talk as you won’t get an answer you’ll like.
We hope we’ve answered the biggest questions you have about commitment phobia. If you’re the one who has it, we would be thrilled if our advice on how to overcome it has been helpful.
If you think you’re in love with someone who has it, this article might help you understand them better.