What is Fear of Commitment?
Fear of Commitment (or Commitment Phobia) is a fear of becoming involved in or remaining involved in a relationship. Commitment phobia is one of the most common phobias for people to have about interpersonal relationships.
It's not uncommon for either sex to develop a fear of commitment - past experiences can be incredibly hard to shake, especially if he or she was raised in an environment where parents exhibited fears of commitment as well.
Generally speaking, someone who has a fear of commitment develops symptoms not as a result of, but because they are anticipating something happening that may lead to a romantic relationship, taking a relationship to the next level, or moving in together. Someone who suffers a fear of commitment will worry so much about minute things, expecting that the relationship will sour, becoming anxiety-ridden, playing and replaying all possible outcomes in his or her head until things DO go wrong.
It's an incredible vicious cycle that remains uninterrupted until the person who is afraid of commitment opts to make a change.
What Causes Fear of Commitments?
There are any number of reasons why a person may become afraid to be involved in romantic relationships or other types of commitments. Here are the most common (but certainly not all) reasons that people become commitment phobic:
- The person is afraid of losing personal freedom - many people are highly independent, live their lives on their own terms, and see a romantic attachment as a figurative ball-and-chain.
- No desire to be with one partner for the rest of his or her life - sex rates pretty high on the scale of things that many people value in a relationship. Knowing that marriage and long-term relationships involve monogamy, it may make someone hesitant to enter one.
- Inability to trust - due to past experiences someone who becomes afraid of commitment may do so because he or she cannot trust another person with his or her heart.
- Not feeling ready - with the pressures to be a career person and other demands, many people do not feel as though they are ready for a new relationship.
- Insecurity - due to previous relationships and/or upbringing a person may feel insecure, have low self-esteem and may feel as though he or she is "not bringing enough" to a relationship.
- Emotional baggage - hurtful memories and baggage from previous relationships can cause someone to shy away from being that hurt again.
- Perceived loss of free time - a relationship involves spending time and energy together. Many people would rather spend the time alone, or as they please.
- No desire for compromise - a partnership requires a 50/50 compromise. However, not everyone is willing to compromise their lifestyle to fit someone else.
What Are The Symptoms Of Fears of Commitment?
There are a number of ways these ugly fears about commitment can rear their heads and make you miserable. These symptoms may appear as a feeling of uncertainty or of being trapped, especially if your partner wants to take the relationship to the next level.
Here are some of the signs and examples that someone who has commitment phobia may display:
Annoying and/or hurting your partner, which can sabotage your relationship, even if it's going well. The person who is afraid of commitment is trying to keep the relationship at a distance even at the cost of the feelings of his or her partner. It may appear as "lashing-out" and sabotaging the relationship.
"I DO have a life outside of you. So what if I'm late? It's only 10 minutes. Deal with it."
Behaving in an overly-critical manner about your partner and/or the relationship itself. This is done unconsciously to deflect the blame from the person who has commitment fears.
"Why would you bring up living together? I have WAY too much going on to handle that!"
"You're pressuring me to get married - stop it!"
Fears About Being Consumed By Others:
People who are afraid of being consumed by their romantic partner may have had smothering, consuming partners in the past. He or she may avoid any romantic relationships because he or she is afraid of getting lost in a relationship again.
"I can't go out with him - he's so much work!"
Fears About Being Seen:
Being afraid to be noticed by a person who may (or may not) choose to start a relationship. People who are afraid to be seen may seem to be socially phobic; appearing scared to be seen. This person may reject worthy romantic partners without giving them a chance. This is done to protect oneself from allowing anyone to get too close.
A person who has these fears may be shy, avoid eye contact, preferring to stay at home, and avoiding other people.
"I can't go out right now - I'm tired."
"I don't need to meet anyone new."
Read more about social isolation.
Unrealistic Beliefs and Expectations:
Sometimes a person who is afraid of commitment will become close to someone without noticing it. It's only when the relationship hits the "next level," that the person who is afraid of commitment decides that he or she needs to escape the relationship. One way of doing this is by having unrealistic expectations of his or her partner.
"I need a partner who cooks more."
"He's great and all, but he doesn't make much money."
Unavailable Lovers - Long-Distance Romance:
Falling in love with people who don't (or can't) have an intimate relationship with you. This is deliberate - if another can't or won't form a lasting relationship then he or she is "safe."
This happens occasionally by falling in love with someone who is very far away (geographically), which keeps their partner at a distance. An actual distance, not just emotionally.
Read more about long-distance relationships.
Unavailable Lovers - An Affair:
Falling in love with people who have to be kept at arms-length is the hallmark of safety for someone with commitment issues. This happens when a person who has issues with commitment falls for someone who is unavailable to them. Sometimes his or her partner may already be in a romantic relationship with someone else - which will naturally halt the progression of the relationship to the "next level."
Problems may arise if the otherwise attached partner decides to leave his or her partner for the person who is afraid of commitment.
Read more on infidelity.
Entering in and out and in and out of the same relationship over and over again, which often happens when suddenly, the person with fears of commitments feels pressured or trapped, and in order to escape, runs away from the relationship. He or she may deliberately end the relationship.
Once single, this person may feel empty and realize that he or she was in love with his or her partner. When (if) the couple gets back together, the relationship may, once again, trigger the person into feeling trapped.
Fear of All Types of Commitment:
Many people are afraid of any type of commitment - job tasks, record-keeping, and friendships. Anything that may resemble a commitment, such as going after a new job or starting school can send them into a panic, leaving them feeling overwhelmed, trapped, insecure, and pressured.
"I can't possibly come to your party - I'm swamped by work."
"I don't want to bother trying to go after the job - too much work, and what if I don't like it?"
Overcoming Fear Of Commitment and Breaking the Cycle:
It's clear that the cycle of worrying, anxiety, build-up, and inevitable explosion are not healthy ways to handle a fear of commitment. There are some steps to breaking the cycle of commitment fears and regaining control over your love life.
Step One: Acceptance - first, we must accept that this unusual fear of commitment doesn't resolve itself overnight or by itself. You will have to be the one to make the change about commitment and stick with it. Do not waver from your course (many people who have issues committing have similar difficulties with executing their plans of any kind) and continue to work even when it becomes hard.
Step Two: Give Yourself A Break. Anxiety disorders like fear of commitment can often appear to be a far bigger problem than it is. It's important to take some time, gain some perspective so that you can see that fear of commitment is a much smaller, more manageable problem.
Step Three: Understand The Problem. Understanding fears of commitment is key to overcoming fear of commitment.
Step Four: Understand Thyself. Until you understand what's causing you to fear commitment, you cannot fix it. When YOU understand the cause for your commitment fears, you can then begin to work on fixing it.
Step Five: Get Help. There is a lot of information out there available for people who have problems with commitment. Don't be afraid to seek it out, but also use it.
Step Six: Make The Decision To Change. If you're ready and willing to take back control of your life, to stop allowing fear sneak into your relationships, make - and resolve - that you can - and will - change.
Dating Someone Who Is Afraid of Commitment:
Dating is hard enough - dating a commitment phobe can be exhausting and hurtful. Be open and honest about your feelings with the person who is scared of commitment. If you cannot handle the fears and anxieties of someone so fearful of commitment, break it off. If you would like to continue the relationship, here are some tips for dating commitment phobes:
- Discuss your partner's problems with commitment with your partner. Be open and accepting of these issues.
- Even as your partner works toward becoming more accepting and less fearful of commitment, it will take time to unlearn those behaviors. Those behaviors are likely engrained deeply - time and energy will be needed to work them out.
- If your partner does not see fit to change his or her behaviors and fears of commitment, evaluate whether or not YOU can live with that.
- Find out the triggers that may cause a commitment phobe to run away (like asking after marriage or moving in together) and respect them by not bringing them up. Your partner will have to work toward these bigger commitments by him or herself.
- Be supportive, not smothering.
- Don't make a big show of relying upon the commitment phobic person - it may scare your partner and make you look needy.