What a Fear of Commitment Does to Your Relationship

Relationship Rules
17 Nov 2023
6 min read
Fear of Commitment: Sings, Causes and Effects

Fear of commitment could be stopping you from getting into healthy romantic relationships. Not only that, your commitment issues could be causing you issues even if you are in a long-term relationship. Sounds like you? If so, here are the signs of commitment troubles, ways in which your commitment phobia is causing harm, why you or your partner may struggle with fear of commitment, and what you can do about it.

3 Tell-Tale Signs of a Fear of Commitment

Maybe you don’t think you have a fear of commitment at all. That could be true. However, if your committed relationship always seems to be in a state of conflict, you should consider that you have an attachment style that demonstrates otherwise. There are a few signs that you or your partner are genuinely afraid to commit. Learn what these are to avoid the hurt that occurs when people are unable to maintain strong connections to friends, family members, or lovers.

Do any of the following signs seem familiar to you? If so, you probably have a fear of commitment based on your traumas or specific attachment styles.

1. You Avoid Making Plans (Not Just in Long-Term Relationships)

If making plans causes you to struggle with your mental health, then that underlying fear of commitment could be there.

Fear of commitment includes the big things. When we think about a person having commitment issues, we often think of somebody who will avoid marriage. It can be the plague or refusal to commit to being exclusive, even if they’ve dated just one person for months. But, the little things can also show you have commitment issues.

Do people struggle to get you to agree on plans more than a week or so away? Do you feel uneasy about sticking to plans when you do make them? 

Have people in your life complained that you are unable to follow through on plans or expressed hurt that their relationship with you feels one-sided? These are all signs that you avoid future obligations at any cost.

2. Self-Sabotage in Your Committed Relationship

“Do not sabotage your new relationship with your last relationship’s poison.”

Steve Maraboli, a life-changing speaker

Often, people who are commitment-phobic have learned to expect negative things from long-term relationships. So, they do things, often subconsciously, to ruin things and drive their romantic partner away. This may include:

  • Picking arguments, especially around relationship events or milestones
  • Cheating
  • Weaponizing past relationships
  • Lying or breaking promises
  • Refusing to communicate/talk things out
  • Engaging in what they know is dealbreaker behavior

This often leads to the other partner ending the relationship or redefining the scope of the relationship.

3. Holding Emotions That Cause Extreme Discomfort to Others Around You

Have you ever been accused of being aloof, cold, or just odd? You may have even been told you act in ways that make people uncomfortable. For some people, this comes out as a tendency to blurt out things without thinking or sharing opinions that may be offensive to others. This tendency to cause others to be uncomfortable around you isn’t you “just being honest” or “keeping it real.” It’s offensive and drives people away. It also stops people from having deeper connections with you. People who have commitment-avoidant attachment styles often engage in this behavior as a defense mechanism to keep others at bay.

There’s also a flip side to this for people who are allergic to commitment. These are the folks who always keep things light and surface-level. They avoid deep conversations or anything that may lead to a difficult convo or conflict. A strong relationship happens because two people have tough talks, get to know one another, and overcome difficult disagreements. If you avoid things altogether, you don’t have to deal with conflict. You also avoid the commitments that go along with that.

Related reading: Disorganized Attachment Style & Romantic Relationships

If Someone Wants to Avoid Commitment – Why Start Relationships at All?

Yes, it would be easier for everyone involved if a person with commitment fears just avoided relationships they weren’t ready for. Sadly, it isn’t that simple.

First, just because you feel anxious about this kind of romantic attachment doesn’t mean you don’t fall in love or want the relationship to succeed. Commitment fears are more about what a person is afraid of and less about what they want. So, people get involved and develop strong feelings in hopes that they can beat their commitment avoidance.

There’s also another side of this to consider. It takes commitment to overcome fear and enter a romantic relationship. It also takes commitment to engage in honest communication, state your feelings, and end a relationship. If you sabotage a relationship, you can get your partner to break up with you. Then, you can claim you tried to make the relationship work, but your partner refused to commit.

Common causes of a fear of commitment

4 Reasons Why You or Your Partner May Have a Fear of Commitment

Many factors contribute to commitment issues. If you or a partner have a fear of commitment, it may be rooted in one of these things that impact your daily life. Read through these to get an idea of the root of your issue.

1. A Social Phobia

At its root, social phobia is a fear of being rejected and ridiculed. It’s fairly easy to see how someone who suffers from social anxiety would dread commitment. So, they avoid any relationship that avoids a significant commitment or sabotages it.

There’s even a word for fear of commitment: gamophobia! Many people deal with this fear by refusing to put themselves at risk. 

This often extends beyond romantic entanglements to other areas. Social phobia means that commitment feels scary in friendships, family connections, and even work. People who struggle with this may even struggle with the idea of a long-term future with another person.

2. An Inability to Get Over Trauma

Trauma can be rooted in family history, past romances, friendships that ended badly, or even things that may not seem to be directly related to any relationship at all. If a person has suffered a trauma and has not been able to do the mental health work to deal with that in a healthy way, it may impact every relationship they have. No matter what happens or how good they have things, they simply never feel secure.

3. Lack of Trust

Your partner sends you a heartfelt text. They really care about you and want this to be an exclusive relationship. Your first thought is that they must be lying or have some angle. So, you ghost them for a few days. Naturally, they feel frustrated. Maybe they break things off. Your lack of trust led you to assume the worst about your partner.

On some level, you know your feelings are unfair. Otherwise, you would engage in open communication. Instead, you let yourself be driven by feelings of mistrust and drive another person away.

Related reading: How to Build Trust in a Relationship: 15 Tips

4. A Desire for Independence

Not every person who is unwilling to commit has experienced trauma or been through a bad breakup. Some people simply aren’t interested in marriage or even having an exclusive partner. They want to maintain their freedom to go out with friends, see other people, or simply make decisions without worrying that they will hurt their partner.

In this case, the issue isn’t mental health issues or trauma. It’s simply a lack of desire for commitment. This is fine as long as the other person in the relationship receives the honesty and respect they deserve. Who knows, you may be perfectly open to changing your views on this in the future!

3 Negative Effects of a Fear of Commitment

When you can’t handle commitment, that may impact every relationship you have. Here is what being unable to commit can do to the quality of your life.

1. Inability to Form Lasting Relationships

When you fear commitment, you convince yourself that every person is somehow the wrong person for you. So, you never develop the ability to avoid lasting relationships. While this frees you from obligations, it’s also a lonely existence.

2. Extreme Anxiety When in a Relationship

People who fear commitment often struggle with anxiety when they are in a relationship. It’s as if they are constantly hypervigilant and looking for signs that any partners are going to leave or betray them. That constant state of worry is often impossible for both people to deal with.

3. Inability to Find Security and Trust in a Relationship

Most people experience a sense of relief and safety when they are with their partners. That isn’t the case when a person is dealing with some sort of attachment anxiety. They may be perfectly fine while they are dating casually, but the moment the possibility of commitment is on the table, they are never able to experience those benefits.

Handling commitment issues in your relationship

2 Things You Can Do to Help a Fear of Commitment

Whether you are dating or not, you can do a few things to navigate your fears and be happier in your connections with others.

1. Speak with a Professional Through Individual or Couples Therapy

If you are currently in a relationship consider couples therapy. A qualified relationship expert will help both of you work through your commitment issues.

However, you don’t need to wait until you are part of a couple to talk to someone. If you are afraid of making a meaningful connection with another person, you can talk through your feelings with a therapist or counselor. You will be glad you did when your future relationships are healthier.

2. Pace Your Relationship

Don’t force yourself to reach relationship milestones too fast. Instead, communicate with your partner and agree on moving forward at a pace that suits you. This will give you time to deal with your fears as they come. Remember not to compare your relationship progress with your friends or family members. Instead, just recognize that you will make the best progress at your own pace. Besides, there is nothing wrong with dating for a while before moving on to something more intense.

Final Thoughts: Communication And Self-Work

There is no instant cure for this. However, you can get over commitment issues if you are willing to examine your feelings, engage in honest conversation with your partners, and take things slowly. Meanwhile, it’s also possible to enjoy dating without long-term partnerships being your end goal.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!

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