In terms of romantic relationships, commitment can be defined as a dedication to a particular person, action, or cause. Commitments may be made willingly or unwillingly, and a fear of commitment can affect an individual’s life in a variety of ways. Commitment is a broad term, but it generally comes down to dedicating one’s self to something for a long time, whether it’s a job, a goal, activity, or a relationship. Although, the term “commitment issues” can be used to refer to things other than relationships, such as work, school, activities, etc., for this article we will be using the term “commitment” as it relates to romantic relationships.
People that are in a lengthy dating relationship, often wonder if they are casually dating or dating with the intent of achieving something more significant, long-term, or committed. However, if you are consistently dating and feel the need to end things once the relationship starts to move beyond the casual stage, even though you like the person you’re dating, you may have some unresolved fears surrounding commitment.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people who are fearful of commitment to avoid long-term relationships, drift in and out of relationships, or consciously/unconsciously begin a dead-end dating relationship. In a romantic relationship, commitment issues may prompt one or both partners to reject the opportunity to pursue a more stable, intimate arrangement, such as moving in together or getting married. Many people use the term “commitment phobia” or “commitment phobic” casually, but in reality, commitment (and the fear of it) is often quite complex. Fear or avoidance of committed relationships typically comes from something that occurred in one’s past, something that was witnessed, or underlying abandonment issues.
Upbringing, family history, or other factors can influence how someone views themselves as well as how he or she behaves in a committed relationship. It can be difficult to recognize the difference between someone who does not want to commit and someone that is fearful of committing as the individual may be struggling with things that have nothing to do with commitment or relationships in general.
Needless to say, the term “committed relationship” is not synonymous with love. It is entirely possible to love your romantic partner and still have trouble with commitment. Wanting to date casually and avoid serious relationships doesn’t automatically mean you’re afraid of commitment. Sometimes, people avoid committed relationships because they may not have the time, energy, or dedication needed to ensure maintenance of the relationship.
Signs You May Be Fearful of a Committed Relationship Include:
• You don’t think or plan for the future of the relationship
• You spend a lot of time questioning the relationship
• You drift in and out of relationships when you suspect it may be headed inn the direction of something serious
• You don’t want to date seriously
• You date people that you know you may not have a lot in common, someone that you don’t take seriously, or has not desire to settle down with one person
• You do not think the person you are dating would be a good love match
• You fear becoming emotionally and physically attached
• You constantly leave a relation because of your fear of being left/abandoned
• Your partner is urging or asking you for something more and you insist you want things to stay the way they are, “no strings attached”, e.g. “let’s have fun without labels”.
• You have a hard time opening up, expressing deep feelings, or thoughts.
• You have marked difficulty being or expressing vulnerability
• You take a long time or continually fail to respond to your partners calls or texts
Not everyone that avoids committed relationships have a fear of commitment, some people prefer to dedicate their time and attention to other things, such as, their career, friends, children, etc. Also, some people prefer dating new people without having to choose one person to settle down with. There is nothing wrong with wanting a committed relationship, however, a true inability or unwillingness to think about the next stage of a relationship could suggest a fear of commitment, especially if this is a pattern in your relationships. Some people who avoid commitment in romantic relationships have a hard time making commitments in other areas of life.
Long-term, monogamous relationships aren’t for everyone, some people function better in casual dating situations. Plenty of people live their lives, happy to stay single or date different partners, without ever getting married or settling down. Not surprisingly, other people are fully ready to commit to long-term involvement, just not with one person only. Therefore, if you want to deepen your commitment or feel like there is an element of fear that’s holding you back, consider the following:
• Individual psychotherapy (explore past and identify attachment style)
• Relationship/couples therapy (if you truly love the person you are dating and want to make it work)
• Tap into your feelings, try to isolate and identify specific fears
• Practice commitment (not just with relationships but other areas in your life)
• Try communicating your thoughts and feelings with your partner
• Consider your priorities
• You and your partner are moving at different speeds (one partner may see the relationship as just starting while the other sees it as fully formed)
Fear of commitment may exist in dating, and even in marriage, when one or both partners are reluctant to fully invest emotionally in the relationship anxiety, fear, and resentment can develop leading to hurt feelings and missed opportunities. The best way to avoid negative feelings or contributing those feelings to a partner is to identify any potential fears or barriers you have in regard to committed relationships. It is also important to be transparent about what you are looking for, open to, and your thoughts/feelings about committed relationships.