Understanding the Fear of Commitment in a Relationship (And How to Deal)
It happens to the best of us — you meet someone great, have an amazing first date (and second, and third), and things seem to be progressing at an exciting pace. You’re ready to have “the talk” about defining the relationship when you realize the person you want to commit to has absolutely zero interest in doing the same.
Unfortunately, a fear of commitment is very real, and it makes it incredibly difficult to maintain a successful romantic relationship. This type of phobia can take on a variety of forms. True commitment phobia can cause someone to completely alter their life out of fear of committing to, well… pretty much anything.
When it comes to relationships, a fear of commitment is typically referred to as gamophobia, or the fear of marriage and commitment. If you consider yourself as having a fear of commitment or are dating someone who does, it can spell disaster for your relationship.
It can be tough to work through commitment issues on your own, but Relish is here to help. You and your partner will receive real expert advice, specially tailored to your needs as a couple. Download the app and try your first week for free.
Reasons for Having a Fear of Commitment
There are a variety of potential reasons someone might have a fear of commitment. Some of them include:
If someone witnessed their parents' difficult relationship or divorce, it could have caused them to shift their beliefs when it comes to commitment. They may have grown up with the impression that conflict and rough patches are not able to be worked out, and they don’t want to make the same mistakes.
Along these lines, if someone goes through a particularly toxic or abusive relationship, it can cause them to shun the idea of being romantically involved with anyone else.
Both borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia can involve a fear of intimacy and bonding with other people, which could lead to a fear of commitment.
Personality disorders do not necessarily mean you will end up fearing commitment, but those who have them may be more prone to avoiding it.
The theory of attachment styles is a way to categorize how adults in emotionally intimate relationships attach to one another. There are four different types of attachment styles: secure, anxious, disorganized, and avoidant attachment.
Those with an avoidant attachment style tend to need a lot of independence and are hesitant to connect emotionally with other people. Your attachment style is usually developed earlier in life, and those who are avoidantly attached may have seen their parents interacting with little emotional closeness, or they might not have had their emotional needs tended to.
Learn more about the different attachment styles with Relish! You and your partner will be communicating more effectively in no time. Download the app and try us free for a week — no strings attached.
If someone has an unhealthy self-esteem level, it can be tough to accept that they are worthy of a happy, loving relationship. Having such a negative self-image can lead someone to avoid commitment in an attempt to avoid getting hurt.
Signs That Someone Has a Fear of Commitment
The signs that someone has a fear of commitment may not always be glaring, but there are certain telltale behaviors that may indicate a phobia:
- There is never any talk of future plans together
- They bring up the future but leave you out of it
- They may unexpectedly drop off the radar for a few days (also known as “ghosting”)
- They don’t like talking about labels, such as “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” or “partner”
- They have a history of short relationships
- They get defensive, frustrated, or annoyed when you try to get them to open up emotionally
- They end a relationship when things start to become more serious
- Your conversations are always more casual, even if you’ve been dating for months
If you, not your partner, are the one potentially struggling with a fear of commitment, these could be the signs:
- You are happy with your partner but still question your relationship
- You avoid making plans
- You may have physical reactions to the thought of commitment, including sweating, shortness of breath, flushing, nausea, or rapid heartbeat
- You've experienced a traumatic event in the past that you believe is affecting your ability to commit
- You don’t feel emotionally connected
- The idea of being vulnerable makes you extremely uncomfortable
- You are unable to provide clarity about where you stand in the relationship
If you are dating someone who has a fear of commitment, you likely feel as though you’re rearranging your life to accommodate it. You may even stay in the relationship against your better judgement, hoping that they will eventually come around to the idea of committing. Unfortunately, if they are exhibiting some or all of the above signs, it might be best to move on and save yourself from unnecessary heartache.
How To Deal With a Fear of Commitment
The most important step for dealing with a fear of commitment is acknowledging that there is one. You cannot address the issue if both partners are not on the same page about how it’s affecting your relationship.
Once you’ve addressed that a fear of commitment is definitely causing problems, here are a few ways to work through it:
Talk About It
Honest and open communication is a key aspect in healthy relationships. You need to be able to talk it out! It can be difficult to get someone to open up when they are reluctant to get emotionally invested, but full transparency is necessary for determining how you want to move forward. (Whether it’s together or apart.)
Speak to a Professional
It can be tough to get to the root of commitment phobia, so sometimes it’s helpful to talk to a mental health expert. They can assist in pinpointing where the fear of commitment stems from and how you can move forward.
If you’re dating someone who has a fear of commitment, acknowledging progress can make a world of difference. Express your admiration for any efforts they take to move past their fear and let them know how much you support them.
Encouragement is especially helpful for those with an avoidant attachment style. They may be afraid of being abandoned or rejected, but if you continue to provide patience and positive reassurance, they may be less likely to pull away.
Constantly pressuring someone to commit before they are ready is a quick way to end the relationship. It’s important to show understanding and respect for any boundaries they set. Of course, that goes both ways — you should not be compromising any of your own needs or core values in an attempt to keep them around.
Try Relationship Coaching or Couples Therapy
If you and your partner are struggling with issues from commitment phobia but want to work it out, meeting with a relationship coach or counselor can get you on the right track. They are able to offer expert advice and guidance based on your specific needs as a couple.
With the Relish relationship coaching app, you and your partner can get access to personalized lessons and advice from a real relationship expert. Learn more about how to navigate commitment issues together at your own pace! Download the app to start your 7-day free trial.
Accept That It’s Not Going to Work Out
Unfortunately, there are times when a fear of commitment is just too much for a couple to handle. If you and are ready to take things to the next level but your partner is fighting it every step of the way, it might be time to move on. At some point, you need to consider whether it’s worth staying in the relationship, especially if it’s taking a toll on your mental and emotional well-being.
Fear of committment can be devastating to romantic relationships. If you are the one struggling with it, your internal tug of war can cause incredible stress, worry, or anxiety. You may even feel constant guilt over the fact that you can’t provide what your partner is looking for.
On the other side, if you are the one dating a person who is afraid to commit, you likely feel frustrated, confused, angry, or even embarrassed. In the worst-case scenario, the person who does not want to commit will find ways to sabotage the relationship by purposely distancing themselves, picking fights, finding ways to escape, or even cheating as a way to end things.
As difficult as it can be, fear of commitment does not have to destroy a relationship. Talking to a therapist or using a relationship coaching app like Relish can help you gain insight into each other’s worlds and determine whether your relationship is worth the effort or simply not meant to be.
If you’re dealing with a fear of commitment, remember that you’re not alone. Getting to the root cause, communicating openly and honestly with your partner, and seeking professional help if needed are the best ways to create a happy, healthy, and fulfilling relationship.
Relish is an award-winning relationship coaching app dedicated to helping couples improve their connection, no matter what issues they’re struggling with. Download the app and see how you and your partner can benefit from customized lessons, advice, quizzes, games, and more. Your first week is free!