We’re always told that relationships are forged organically, that is, easily. When you find the one, you just know it. If you are someone who struggles with a fear of commitment, or commitment issues as they’re commonly referred to, you’d contend that such a sweeping statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
After all, for you, the experience of being in a relationship has been exactly the opposite. While you do get attracted to people and have no trouble dating casually, the minute your feelings begin to get intense or your partner gets invested in the relationship, you feel like you’re drowning in anxiety.
As the relationship progresses, this anxiety snowballs out of control. You get so scared of commitment that you bolt at the first opportunity you get. Sounds familiar? Let’s help you get to the root of this fear of commitment and learn to cope with it better with the help of clinical psychologist and certified CBT practitioner, Kranti Sihotra Momin, who specializes in handling relationship-centric conflicts and issues. We will support you in overcoming your fear of commitment.
What Is The Fear Of Commitment?
Kranti says, “Fear of commitment or commitment issues can be defined as having serious trouble maintaining long-term relationships. This fear can often become all-pervasive and affect a person’s professional, personal, and social life as well. However, it is seen most commonly in the case of romantic relationships. Or at least, that’s where it manifests most strongly.
“In its most extreme form, this tendency can lead to commitment phobia or gamophobia – literally meaning fear of marriage. However, fear of commitment and gamophobia aren’t the same thing. A person who is scared of commitment may still be able to be in romantic partnerships. A commitment-phobe, on the other hand, suffers from a morbid fear of committing to another person for life.”
People with commitment issues do experience love, but for them, the feelings are so overwhelmingly intense that they can result in a near-paralyzing fear. Even if they want to build long-term, meaningful relations, anxiety prevents them from staying with a partner for too long. They might even realize that their choice of partner was deliberately unsuitable. So, they may commit to their partners only to backtrack later out of fear of commitment or the wrong person.
Related Reading: 12 Signs You Have Found Your Soulmate
What makes people scared of commitment?
Like any other psychological issue, a fear of commitment doesn’t take hold or thrive in isolation. There are always underlying triggers for this tendency. Kranti lays out some of the key causes behind the fear of commitment:
- Poor relationships: Having experienced or been around poor romantic relationships. An intense heartbreak or parents’ divorce can make a person scared of commitment
- Bad breakup: A person who has been dumped unceremoniously is likely to develop a fear of commitment
- Indecisiveness: The constant quest for the “right person” or the fear of ending up with the wrong person is also a trigger for this tendency
- Unfulfilling intimate relationships: Having experienced abandonment, abuse, or infidelity in intimate relationships, especially during childhood or formative years leading up to adolescence
- Trust issues: Trust issues are a common underlying cause for commitment issues
- Childhood abuse: A commitment-phobe may have suffered trauma or abuse as a child
- Unmet emotional needs: Attachment issues or unmet emotional needs during childhood can also make a person scared of commitment
- Growing up in a dysfunctional family: People coming from broken homes or dysfunctional families are likely to be wary of long-term relationships
One needs to look into past experiences to overcome the fear of commitment, as well as to locate the source of it. Aaron, a 28-year-old entrepreneur explains why it was important for him to get to the bottom of where his fear of commitment stemmed from: “I am scared of commitment, and that’s why I could never stick to one partner, even if I knew I really liked being around them. When the problems in my current relationship got a little too much to bear, instead of calling it quits again, I tried taking a therapy session.
“It was during those sessions that I realized that I was scared to be in a relationship because I always assumed that opening up to someone meant they’d leave. It all ties down to the dysfunctional family dynamics I grew up with, and once I realized that, I understood what I needed to change as well.”
Can fear of commitment be overcome? Though you can start your journey just like Aaron did, it’s not really a stroll in the park, especially if you don’t even know you have a fear of commitment. Let’s take a look at a few telltale signs, and a few questions you can ask yourself.
Related Reading: 17 Unwritten Rules Of Dating We All Should Follow
Take This Fear Of Commitment Quiz
Is it a fear of commitment, or the wrong person to be with that’s got you all riled up? Do you really showcase a pattern of struggling with longevity in relationships or have you just been dealt a rough hand in all of them? How do you know you have commitment issues or not? Take this quiz to understand better:
- Are you always finding fault with the person you are dating? Yes/No
- Do you often find yourself breaking up with your partner, or ghosting them toward the end, and not the other way round? Yes/No
- When you break up with your partner, are they often surprised because according to them, “things were going well”? Yes/No
- Do you like casual hookups? Yes/No
- Do you feel neglected by friends who are in serious relationships? Yes/No
- Can you express your feelings to family and friends? Yes/No
- Do you feel that you always get attracted to the wrong person? Yes/No
- Are you committed to your career, family, and friends? Yes/No
- Do you like keeping yourself busy so that you can avoid a relationship? Yes/No
- Do you feel claustrophobic in a relationship? Yes/No
If you have said “yes” to even five of these questions, then you may have serious commitment issues. You might find yourself scared to be in a relationship, and when you do manage to get into one, you’ll notice that all you’re doing is finding flaws in your partner, while your relationship anxiety gets too much to bear. Let’s talk about this in a bit more detail and take a look at a few other signs of a fear of commitment that might give it away.
What Are Signs Of Commitment Issues?
Identifying your own issues is often the hardest. Even if you have been caught in a string of short-term relationships, it may be hard to tell bad dating luck apart from a pattern of fear of commitment.
If you have been introspecting about whether your lack of success on the romantic front points to something more significant, it helps to know the signs of commitment issues. These telltale indicators will offer you some clarity:
1. No inclination to date seriously indicates a fear of commitment
This is not to suggest that anyone who wants to date casually has commitment issues. There can be many reasons for that choice. Perhaps you’ve just got out of a long-term relationship, or you’re concentrating on your career right now, or you’ve made an informed choice to continue dating casually and it is not regulated by a fear of commitment.
However, if it has been a pattern in all your romantic relationships, you need to pay heed. Kranti says, “This tendency can be considered as one of the ‘scared of commitment’ signs, especially if you’ve consistently ended relationships when things begin to get serious. Even though you may like the person you’re with or might even be in love with them, the thought of moving past the casual stage fills you up with anxiety.”
2. You don’t plan for the future in any relationship
“When two people are in a relationship or dating, the thought of a future with their current partner comes naturally. This happens long before they discuss long-term possibilities with each other,” says Kranti.
So, how do you know if you have a fear of commitment? Pay attention to this: If you’ve never envisaged a future with a person you’re romantically involved with, it is an indication that you struggle with a fear of commitment. You may tell yourself that this is because you want to live in the present. Or because this person doesn’t seem like the right fit.
But if this unwillingness to even entertain the thoughts of the next stages of a relationship has been a pattern, you’re operating from a place of fear and anxiety. These emotions are often triggered by a fear of commitment or the wrong person.
Related Reading: 10 Tips to Date When You Have Social Anxiety
3. A commitment-phobe always questions their relationships
A fear of commitment must not be confused with an inability to love. On the contrary, your fear may be a result of intense feelings for your partner. You may love them but are scared to commit. You care for your partner, feel connected to them, enjoy their company, and yet, you cannot stop questioning your relationship.
“What if they don’t love me?”
“Are things moving ahead too fast?”
“Will this work out in the long run?”
“Am I ready to settle down?”
If these questions weigh on your mind so much that they begin to interfere with your relationship, there are definitely commitment issues at play. In fact, this tendency to second-guess a relationship at every step of the way is one of the characteristics of commitment issues in women and men.
4. Plans scare you
No, we’re not talking long-term plans. Even immediate plans fill you up with a sense of nervousness. Your partner wants to spend the weekend together or go to the movies on a Friday night, but you just cannot bring yourself to say yes.
Instead, you dodge till the last minute with non-committal responses such as “let’s decide closer to the date” or “I’ll let you know” or “let me think about it.” Even if you do say yes, the thought of keeping up with the commitment makes you anxious and stressed out.
Take, for example, the case of Riley, a 26-year-old lawyer. Though she likes spending time with her partner, Jacob, she always wonders if things are going too fast even if they just meet up for a movie. She’s always scared about Jacob getting too invested in her, or her not being able to live up to his expectations. These are the signs she is afraid of commitment, and they keep her from truly enjoying her relationship. But there’s not much she can do about it unless she finds the source of her anxiety.
At times, you may wonder, “Why do I have commitment issues with everything?”, but cannot pin down a reason. If you like the person you’re with and still hesitate in making even short-term plans with them, you’re undoubtedly scared of commitment.
5. If you lack emotional connect, you’re scared of commitment
You don’t feel emotionally attached to a partner, even if you like them. This lack of emotional connect is the mind’s way of “protecting” you from getting hurt or suffering a heartbreak, in case things don’t work out.
“Since an emotional connection is lacking in your relationships, you find it easy to let go of them. You have a good time when you’re together but their absence doesn’t bother you. This enables you to move on from relationships without batting an eyelid. Instead of getting over commitment anxiety, you prefer to move on,” explains Kranti.
This pattern sums up fear of commitment to a partner or relationships in general to the T. By shutting down yourself to any emotional commitment, you’re now a part of the relationship with not much to lose since you never invested much in the beginning. This behavior may be common in, say, a divorced man who is afraid of a relationship because of how his marriage ended. In all his subsequent romances, he may shut himself off from any possibility of emotional intimacy.
Related Reading: How Long Does It Take To Fall Out Of Love?
6. Commitment makes you feel trapped
When you’re scared of commitment, it doesn’t matter whether that commitment is your own or someone else’s. That’s why if a partner displays signs of getting invested in the relationship, it makes you feel trapped. For instance, if your partner says, “I love you”, instead of saying it back, you begin overthinking what it means.
“Are they getting too attached?”
“Do they want to settle down with me?”
“Where is the relationship going?”
“What next? Marriage, kids, family?”
“These thoughts make you uneasy, anxious, and fill you up with a desire to run away. You may or may not want to end a relationship just because your partner said “I love you”, but at that moment, you need nothing more than to get away from them,” says Kranti.
Sure, being worried about the future of your relationship or feeling trapped in it can be caused by both, a fear of commitment or the wrong person. But if you can relate to most of the points listed above, you display traits of a commitment-phobe and probably have a lot of issues with sustaining any romantic endeavors. The question then becomes, can fear of commitment be overcome? Let’s take a look at what you can do.
Scared Of Commitment – 7 Tips To Cope
If you identify with these ‘scared of commitment’ signs, you may find yourself asking – “Is it alright to have fear of commitment?”, “How will this impact my life?”, and “How do I stop being scared of commitment?” You might have heard that when the right person comes along, you won’t experience any of these issues, but that isn’t really true.
Unless you start addressing your fear of commitment and do something about it, the anxiety and relationship insecurities are always going to be present in one form or another. When it all gets too much, the outbreak might spell doom for your dynamic. These 7 effective tips will put you on the path to overcoming the fear of commitment:
1. Get to the root of the fear of commitment
Kranti advises, “The journey to overcome the fear of commitment begins with identifying the triggers for this behavior pattern. If there has been a traumatic or emotionally distressing event in your past such as a tough breakup or parents’ separation, you can easily narrow down your commitment issues to these occurrences.
“However, if there are no such obvious underlying causes at play, an inherent inability to let your guard down might be the reason. This can be harder to identify. If you cannot understand why you struggle with this fear of commitment, consider working with a counselor to get insights into your mind or to seek commitment phobia treatment.”
Unless a person understands exactly what causes them to think the way they do, they won’t really know what they need to mend. You’ll end up feeling trapped, you’ll want to run away from your romantic relationships at the first sight of commitment, and you won’t even know why you got so anxious about it.
You might end up blaming the situation or your partners, but after a point, all the signs of a fear of commitment will be glaring right back at you. Take some time to be by yourself, and get started on some introspection. Facing the fear while acknowledging it is a scary thing to do, is the most vital step you can take.
2. Face your fear by getting over commitment anxiety
Facing your fears is often the best way to conquer them. We have all been taught that lesson growing up. Our parents coaxed and pushed us to look for monsters under our beds when we were too scared to sleep alone. Or walk through an unlit room to beat the fear of the dark. Or stand up to that bully at school.
Your fear of commitment is no different. “To get over commitment anxiety, you have to step outside your comfort zone and stop letting your fear govern the course of your life. If you’re in a relationship, start with small steps such as taking the initiative to make short-term plans like dates or a weekend getaway. Or try to think about being with that person for the long haul and sit with the anxiety for a bit. These simple exercises for commitment phobia can be immensely helpful in breaking problematic behavior patterns,” says Kranti.
So, once you’re able to acknowledge your problem and you can say, “I am scared of commitment”, it’s time to follow it up with “but I’m trying my best to face it and fight it”.
Related Reading: 23 Signs Of An Unhealthy Relationship
3. Make room for a partner in your life
Commitment-phobes tend to have extremely busy lives. This serves a dual purpose for them – being occupied with work and other activities doesn’t let them feel the need for a long-term partnership and it gives them an easy out when things begin to get too intense in a relationship.
If you’ve convinced yourself that you cannot be in a serious relationship because you are a workaholic and have no time or energy for it, ask yourself honestly if that’s truly the case. Or are you just using your circumstances as an excuse to steer clear of commitment?
“To get over this fear of commitment or the wrong person, you need to take the blinders off and at least give another person a fair opportunity to become a part of your life. Maybe try not to schedule any work-related meetings on weekends and spend that time either with your partner or going on a date. Or if it’s a ritual for you to go club-hopping with your friends on Saturday night, take a break and spend the weekend at home with your partner,” advises Kranti.
See how it works for you and take stock of possibilities in your relationship with an open mind. To treat fear of commitment, you have to step out of your comfort zone.
4. Set goals to beat the ‘scared of commitment’ signs
Once you have an insight into your behavior patterns and what triggers them, it is time to take concrete, albeit small, steps to correct the course. In case you’ve been wondering, “How do I stop being scared of commitment?”, this is the way forward.
These goals can be big or small, ranging from changing your outlook toward dating, to being open to dating people who you’re compatible with, or taking an existing relationship to the next level. No, we’re not suggesting that you decided to move in with your partner overnight. But taking a trip or inviting them to stay the night at your place are good starting points to get over commitment issues.
Kelly, a 32-year-old architect, did just that when she noticed signs she is afraid of commitment. She started saying yes to a lot more dates. Once a relationship blossomed, she didn’t anxiously avoid the honeymoon phase like she used to, fearing that it was all going too fast. Similarly, for you, these goals should be aligned in a manner that bolsters your ability to build healthy and lasting relationships.
If you’re a divorced man who’s afraid of relationships, try to take baby steps while reintroducing yourself to the world of dating. Try out new things like dating apps or speed dating, and you might just see yourself at least embracing the idea of being in a new relationship.
5. Free yourself from the ‘right person’ mirage
“In monogamy, committing to one partner means choosing them from among all the options available to you in the dating world. However, when a person is caught in the ‘is it fear of commitment or the wrong person’ dilemma, they just cannot bring themselves to make that choice. “There is a lot of fish in the sea. What if there is someone better for me out there?” These thoughts often become their torments,” says Kranti.
But this search for the “right person” or the “perfect partner” can prove to be a mirage that leaves you exhausted and lonely. Of course, choosing your life partner isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. So, before you take this leap, think about what you want and how to chose a life partner.
“If you’re in a relationship, assess whether your partner checks these boxes. If you’re dating, focus on picking people whose outlook and goals align with yours. Once you find the person who is really close to your idea of an ideal partner, give commitment a chance,” she adds.
6. Socialize with people in healthy relationships
Have you ever found yourself thinking: Is it alright to have fear of commitment? Or, so what if I’m scared of commitment? If you’ve had bad relationship experiences in the past, you may think that being alone is not half as bad as being in a messy relationship.
“One way to change this outlook is to surround yourself with people who are in healthy relationships. Your friends, siblings, co-workers. This is especially critical for people who’ve developed a fear of commitment because of seeing bad relationships, either firsthand or around them.
“Seeing people who are happy with their spouses and couples who complement each other can give you a new perspective on relationships. It’ll help you see what a holistic partnership looks like. Maybe you’d realize that you want that in your life,” says Kranti.
7. Talk about your fear of commitment
Let’s say you’re in a relationship where you feel that you love her but are scared to commit. Or you enjoy being with him but don’t know if he’s the best choice for you. Perhaps, your friends or family have been giving you grief about a string of broken relationships.
“Don’t evade the conversation or find excuses for why you feel things aren’t working out. If you’re in a relationship, talk to your partner about the fear and anxiety you feel. When other loved ones express their concern, share your inhibitions with them openly. Laying your fear bare to others is one of the best ways of getting over commitment anxiety,” says Kranti.
Do you know that you have commitment issues, but still struggle with questions such as ‘is it alright to have fear of commitment?’ and ‘how do I stop being scared of commitment?’ Consider seeking professional help. A counselor can help you make sense of it and find a way out.
There could be a number of reasons for which you have a fear of commitment. Past relationships not working out, toxic childhood, or the inability to focus on the fact that you have finally found “the one” could lead to fear of commitment.
You might like someone, you might even be in love with them, but when the relationship starts moving from casual dating to something more serious, you start feeling trapped. You have no space for a partner in your life and you feel if you commit, you will hand over the reins of your life to someone else. If you feel this way, you are scared of commitment.
The first thing you should do is delve into the root of your commitment issues. Look into why you feel this way. Then try to face your fears and slowly make space for a partner in your life. If not living together, try to spend a night or two with them to build a bond. Socialize more often, be around people who are in healthy relationships, and talk about your fears with a counselor.