Commitment issues can cause havoc in our day-to-day lives, but it can also be fixed with some honest introspection and a little hard work.
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash
by: E.B. Johnson
For most of us, relationships are an enjoyable part of life that fall quickly into a steady and secure pace. This is not the case for everyone, however, as is evidenced by any number of the ?why won?t he commit to me? articles you can find online in any relationship journal.
Fear of commitment is a real phobia and anxiety that can cause major disruptions in the lives of those who suffer from it. Stemming from issues and traumas suffered both in early childhood and in our most recent relationships, for many us, one of the biggest lessons we can learn in this life is to let someone else in for the long-run. Committing to someone for the longterm can be daunting, but it can be rewarding too. That only happens, however, when we radically accept ourselves and look our shadows in the eye for what they are.
The true definition of commitment.
When we hear the word ?commitment? we most often think of long-term romantic relationships and elaborate marriage ceremonies followed quickly by children and picket fences. The true definition of commitment can look a little different, however, depending on who you are ? and this foundational definition can have a lasting impact on how we see relationships overall.
True and lasting commitment is far more than the grandiose behaviors and proposed outcomes we usually associate it with. Marriage alone is not a commitment, and just saying ?I?m committed to you? are not it either. When we really commit to someone, we combine words, emotion and action to create a partnership that is both symbiotic and assuring in nature. That can be hard to see, however, when you suffer from a major fear of settling down.
What is commitment phobia?
Though we often think of commitment-phobias as being an affliction of flighty men, they are an anxiety that can affect many of is ? and, indeed, it does. You could hardly throw a stone without hitting someone who would label themselves as being ?insecure? with the idea of committing to one person forever. And a lot of that comes down to our modern, throwaway culture. But what is commitment phobia, really, when we break it down?
At a basic level, those who have true fear of commitment are those who want to be in a longterm relationship, but can?t. They crave a deep and meaningful connection, but ? for one reason or the other ? they struggle staying in a relationship for more than a few weeks, months or years. For them, the idea of being with one person forever is one that is filled with both anxiety and dread. Because it?s such an intensely complex experience, they often bail out before they can really dig in; which is what makes finding yourself struggling with commitment issues so devastatingly hard.
Where our commitment issues stem from
There are a number of reasons that you (or a partner) might find yourself struggling from a fear of settling down. Whether it?s the lessons we learn from our parents, or the lessons we learn from our past partners, the experiences we have throughout our lives inform the flow of our closest and most intimate relationships forever.
Our past relationships are often the biggest informers of our current partnership patterns. If you come from a background of infidelities or frequently-broken hearts, it might be hard to trust that any other partner will be there to have your back when you fall. This self-defeating belief often leads not only to deep-rooted relationship anxieties, but a failure to commit to anyone beyond the superficial (or physical) as well.
There are a number of personal fears that can get in the way of what we want when it comes to our intimate partnerships. These fears and insecurities can manifest in the form of superficial fears, or completely irrational ones like the fear of not being in the ?right? relationship. The best way to prevent the destruction of your relationship is to address these insecurities up-front, but that is something that be difficult enough to manage on its own.
Childhood trauma plays a major part in how we both form relationships, and how we carry ourselves (and often the other person) within those relationships. If you grew up in a household in which love and violence were held against you, it might lead to the subconscious beliefs that honest partnerships either don?t exist, or that you aren?t good enough for one. This, in turn, can lead from bouncing to one relationship to the next, never fully committing to anything or anyone.
The ways in which we attach are important, and knowing ? intimately, inside and out ? our attachment style is a piece of the thrive-puzzle that requires a lot of attention. Not all attachment styles are created equal. Some, like those who hold anxious-preoccupied and fearful-avoidant attachment styles, deal with negative patterns and effects, resulting in often-turbulent relationships and spiraling self-esteem.
Complex family dynamics
Our families pay a critical role in how we view and form our relationships, and that doesn?t just stop at childhood. Our caretakers remain important parts of our lives ? in most cases, and in some regard ? for the rest of our lives, and we will often find ourselves running to them for advice or perspective on our romantic life. That?s why complicated family dynamics can often come into play in our relationships, resulting in commitment issues as well as an array of other difficulties that are hard to navigate.
Signs you don?t have what it takes to commit (right now).
Having a fear of commitment doesn?t just come down to having a lot of relationships. When we?re truly scared of going all in on a partnership, there are a number of telling signs that often manifest. Among these can be a feeling of impermanence, but also a lot of self-focus or a fear of missing out. If these signs sound like you, it might be a sign that you aren?t ready to settle down or say ?I do? forever.
Constantly feeling ?in transit?
Feeling as though you are constantly ?in transit? might be a sign that you either don?t have the ability to settle down right now, or the desire to. When we feel as though we?re just drifting through, it?s hard to put down the roots that allow us to bond on a truly intimate level. Feeling stable in our lives ? be that physically, mentally or emotionally ? allows us to be more stable with our partners, which of course leads to happier relationships and less anxiety around the concept of ?settling down?.
Fear of planning
To some the idea of planning is a daunting one, that is filled with anxiety and facing things that potentially don?t want to be faced. That?s especially true for those who fear commitment, who see planning as nails in the coffin and a loss of the freedom they so desperately crave. When you?re scared of settling down, it leads you to be scared of making plans which then prevents any sort of long-term visualization or goal-setting.
Too much self-focus
It?s important to focus on ourselves, but not when it comes the expense of those around us. If you see serious relationships as a loss of freedom, and find yourself constantly worrying about things like how much of your own time you have to spend on another person, it?s most often a sign that commitment is not in your heart at this time.
A big part of the reason that so many find it hard to settle down is simply the ?grass is always greener? mentality. When someone suffers from this, they are constantly searching for the next best thing, often missing out on the great things right in front of them. They are terrified of missing out, and convinced that ? if they just keep looking ? some other even better opportunity will be waiting for them on the other side. The problem there, however, is that it usually comes at the emotional expense of their partners.
The unknown self
When you don?t know who you are, it?s impossible to know what you want?and that includes your intimate relationships. The unknown self is a self that can?t commit, because it is still roaming in search of the things that give its life meaning. Unable to identify itself, it?s unable to effectively identify a match, leading to one ill-fitting relationship after the next (as well as a traril of broken hearts).
No close friends or family
Having no close friends or family is a major sign that someone isn?t ready to put down any kind of roots, or be held any kind of accountable. While our friends and family provide us love and entertainment ? they also hold us responsible by their very natures. We want to live up to their highest expectations of us, but the person with no ties is accountable to no one but themselves; a major red flag when it comes to building partnerships that last.
How to address major commitment issues.
Addressing our commitment issues is not something that has to take a gargantuan amount of effort all at once, and it?s not something that has to be traumatic. While mental health professionals are still the best way to address our more deep-seated commitment phobias, we can also use a number of simple techniques which enable us to better open up and be vulnerable with ourselves and other people.
1. Create relationships based in freedom
Finding and building freedom within our relationships is critical in order to build stable and lasting partnerships that still allow us to breath and retain our independence. We often see our romantic relationships as stifling affairs, that must be filled with obsession and a constant feed of skin-to-skin contact that makes both partners more like 1 person ? rather than two. This, however, is not what truly healthy relationships are all about.
Stop seeing relationships as something which must be built upon a basis of control or obsession. Instead, start looking as relationships that can be both about you and the other person. Focus on creating space, which allows you to have your privacy and do what you need to do in order to feel fulfilled when you?re with your partner. Be honest, and don?t try to push things too fast. After all, there is no one set of hard and fast rules when it comes to intimate partnerships.
Try shifting your perspective and see your relationships in a whole new light. Look at it as a commitment to yourself, rather than just a commitment to the other person, and look at it as a great way to build a future that you want with someone that you trust. The world is crazy place, and it?s only getting crazier by the day. True partnership ? if that?s what you?re seeking as a part of your happiness ? won?t wait forever. Get proactive about finding someone to commit to if that?s what you need.
2. Be open and honest
Honesty is a major part of any partnership, and that applies whether we find ourselves in a longterm or a short term relationship. When we are honest with both ourselves and our partners, it makes it easier to open up and it makes it easier to become comfortable with one another. More than that, it helps us to avoid things like misunderstandings and disappointed expectations, which can lead to conflicts and breakdowns in a number of ways.
If you find that you?re struggling with a fear of getting serious, you owe it to your partners to share that truth. We are conditioned to want the Hollywood romance and ? while that?s not everyone?s dream ? it is the dream of many others. Rather than keeping someone on a string that?s about to snap, it?s important to share our hesitations and attempt to work through them with anyone we believe might be a good longterm fit.
Sit down and have a blunt and honest conversation with someone that you trust, or your spouse or partner. Keep it simple, but be clear about what you need from your relationship in order to be happy (even if that?s space). Leave room for the other person?s point of view, but let them know that it?s important to find a middle ground that allows you both to thrive independently. Often, one of the best ways to get over your fear of committing is just channels of honest dialogue and a willingness to spread out.
3. Get emotionally savvy
Getting in touch with (and in charge of) our emotions is a great way to face up to our fear and insecurities and ? by effect ? our commitment phobias. Our emotions are complexed and nuanced things, whose roots run deep into the shadows of our childhoods and darkest secrets. By learning more about our emotions and regularly checking in on them, we allow ourselves to get more in touch with who we are and what we really want from this life.
Learn how to master your emotions by learning how to differentiate between your emotions and the things that trigger them. Take your emotional temperature regularly, and figure out what it is that makes you happy, sad, or otherwise frustrated and overwhelmed. Look at your decision-making and see how it?s impacted by your emotions ? both positively and negatively by your more emotional states of being, and strive to keep a record of your upsets and your reactions to them.
Emotional differentiation is powerful, and it helps to stop negative emtions from getting worse by building up our confidence in facing them. It allows us to identify what we?re feeling and (eventually) why we?re feeling that way, which leads to true resolution and clarity and, thus, higher levels of happiness and contentment. When we learn how to see our emotions for what they are ? and where they come from ? we can accept them and then get better at managing them. It?s like being a manager in a restaurant. If you really want to be effective, you have to get to know your staff and figure out what works best for everyone.
4. Drop the lies
One of the biggest reasons we find ourselves struggling with the idea of commitment is the lies that we tell ourselves. These lies aren?t just about relationships. They?re lies we tell about ourselves, and they?re also lies we tell about life in general. When we fear commitment or serious relationships, it?s often because we?ve invested so much time in the lies and delusions that keep us scared. Getting past that requires dropping those lies and the warped reality they leave us in.
Drop the lies and get real about who you are, what you want and what you?re capable of. There?s no such thing as the ?perfect relationship? just as there?s no such thing as the ?perfect partner? all we can do ? when it comes to our relationships ? is the same thing we do for everything else: the best we can. Teach yourself to trust in the journey of life and the up?s and down?s that are naturally a part of the process.
Step back and spend time investing in mindful activities that allow you to really analyze not only what you want, but what you deserve. Stop telling yourself that you?re better off alone, or that you don?t need someone if you really want someone. No person is an island on their own and every person is capable of changing their destiny when they learn how to step up to the plate. Realize that a longterm partnership can be done if that?s what you want to do. The only person clinging to those commitment issues is you. Drop the lies and let them go.
5. Learn new ways to boost yourself
The committment-phobe is one who often finds themselves dealing with infidelity. More often than not, that?s because they have a hard time turning down attention, or any little boost to their self-esteem like the promise of flirtation. Whether this need-to-feed insecurity comes from childhood, or it comes from your recent experiences ? it needs to be dealt with in order to be resolved.
If you?re someone who avoids committing or settling down because you constantly find yourself getting your head turned, take some time on your own to try and address the root of those insecurities. Look for new activities and pastimes that let you cultivate new skills, and work on building up your own pride in yourself, rather than looking for that validation in other people. When we learn how to love ourselves from within, it makes it easier to love people without. Boost your own self-esteem and don?t rely on others to do it for you.
Self-esteem is delicate, but it feeds directly into the way we see our relationships and the ways in which we interact with those around us. By focusing on your own self-confidence, you can also boost the security you feel in partnerships that require you to open up, compromise or otherwise lean into another person. The more time you spend getting to know yourself, the more you?ll start to see what a worthy and deserving person that you are. Stop the comparisons and switch up the story. If you want to find your ?forever person? you need to be that person yourself first.
6. Invest in self-care
Life is hard and can often disrupt us from the things that we truly want. This, unfortunately, does nothing more than make us feel even worse; and it also causes us to lose sight of the completely amazing strengths and beauties we possess on our own. By learning how to stop being hyper focused on all the bad things that might go wrong (while spending a little more time with ourselves) we can learn how to be more open and connected with our partners.
Facing up to your commitment issues is the perfect time to get back in touch with the authentic you; rediscovering your true needs. The things we need from our lives and relationships changes over time, and that?s okay. Having the space to focus on ourselves can reveal some surprising new truths and when we start to take care of ourselves, these truths can quickly become gratitude points that transform our lives and the way we see our partnerships.
Stop denying yourself happiness and start saying yes to the things you really want in your heart. Open up. Find the courage you need to create a longterm relationship by starting to take care of yourself. Get to know the person you are on the inside and do all those things you?ve been doubting or putting off. Partnerships aren?t the end of your life; they?re a time to bloom and get back in touch with your passions. They?re time to take care of the person you?ve worked hard to become.
7. Practice self-acceptance
Only when we learn how to accept ourselves and the way we feel and react to the environment around us can we truly unlock the power of our authentic self. We all have our baggage and the experiences that define who we are in the moment, but that person is always changing. If you want to change the way you view relationships, you have to change the way you view yourself and learn how to accept yourself as you are.
Let go of all the judgements and preconceived notions you have about yourself, others and relationships. Remind yourself that the only behavior within the realm of your control is your own, and own up to that behavior and the things that drove you to those points. Not everything is destined for failire. Embrace who you are, embrace your strengths, and embrace the journey. You are as worthy of everlasting love as anyone else in this universe.
If you?re ready to get rid of your commitment issues ? make a plan to change it ? but only after looking it boldly in the face and accepting those fears (and your relationships) for what they are. Acceptance is the key to all change and understanding, but it is often the hardest hurdle to overcome. Only when we accept something that is within our nature can we dig into the meat of it and come up with a plan to change or transform it. Spend a few minutes each day practicing this radical self-acceptance, and look to build it into your regular routine.
Putting it all together?
Fear of commitment is a real thing, and it can seriously undermine our happiness when we don?t work to address it effectively. By getting to the root of our fears and insecurities, while getting real about what we really want in this life, it?s possible to overcome our serious-relationship-phobias. This takes a lot of introspection, however, as well as a the courage to look past the things that keep us stuck, scared and otherwise chained to the things that don?t really serve the purpose we?re ultimately looking for. If we want longterm relationships in our lives, we have to work to make them and we can do that by incorporating some basic techniques every day.
Create relationships with freedom, and focus on using honest and open communication to get the space you need in a partnership to thrive. Spending some time getting in touch with your emotions is another a great way to start releasing those fears of commitment, and it?s a great way to resolve those roots that cause you to fear longterm partnerships. Take you emotional temperature regularly and drop all those lies that keep you from pursuing the deep and long-lasting connections you truly desire. Find new ways to boost your self esteem, and invest in some self-care that can help you get back in touch with who you really are and what you really want. Lasting relationships aren?t for everyone, but they are for many of us. Let go of those fears that are keeping you back from a meaningful partnership and accept yourself for the strong and capable person that you are. Even if this relationship doesn?t last, the next one might. Don?t be afraid to invest yourself.