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People often crave interpersonal connections to help them feel whole and fulfilled. Different people go about this in different ways.
Commitment issues are but one of several hurdles that can keep people from forging quality, long-term relationships with others.
They can be the result of anything ranging from mental illness or being a trauma survivor to a plain and simple choice to maintain distance.
Whatever the reason may be, these signs may point to someone with commitment issues who may not be ready, willing, or able to forge such a connection.
1. They rarely make or set up plans weeks or months in advance.
Commitment issues often run deeper than not being interested or avoiding long-term relationships.
They tend not to think too far ahead in the context of their interpersonal friendships and relationships because they know that people tend to come and go from their life regularly.
That can be glimpsed in the way the person schedules their free time or future arrangements – or lack thereof. It can be exceedingly frustrating to try to formulate any concrete plans with this person for the future.
2. They may have a large group of casual friends, but no close friends.
Building a close friendship is an investment in time, effort, and energy.
A person with commitment issues may shy away from making that kind of time and energy investment because they feel it won’t last. They may be social butterflies, but their social relationships are often superficial with a large number of people rather than deep connections with a chosen few.
They may also be afraid of what they are potentially missing out on, instead of having the ability to celebrate what they already have.
3. They often have several short relationships rather than a few long ones.
Maintaining a long-term romantic relationship requires effort and sacrifice. Though some would describe it as hard work, it can be joyous if you are mutually working toward a healthy, loving relationship with someone who respects and values you.
People with commitment issues often dwell in that lustful honeymoon phase of dating or a relationship, jumping out of it when the shine starts to wear off to pursue something new. That may leave behind a trail of short, passionate relationships.
Another warning sign is an inability to accept any blame or responsibility for a friendship or relationship dissolving. It’s always the fault or shortcomings of someone else, never their responsibility.
4. They tend to dislike or avoid language involving commitment.
A person with commitment issues often wants to treat everything in a casual way and the language they use to describe their relationship, or previous relationships, often reflects it.
They may not want to think of a long-time partner as a boyfriend or girlfriend, may have no interest in advancing a relationship past casual dating, seek only friends with benefits type relationships with no strings attached, or may ghost their partner if they feel things are getting too heavy. That lets them avoid the conversation altogether.
5. They often avoid personal commitments, appearing flaky or inconsistent.
Active self-sabotage can be an indicator that a person has commitment issues. They may have poor time management skills, often showing up late or not at all to agreed upon activities.
This gives the person the option to absolve themselves of the responsibility of maintaining long-term friendships and relationships by pointing to lack of time management skills or unreasonable expectations of their partner.
They will often have different excuses for this behavior that they will use over and over instead of working to correct the issue.
6. They are often attracted to unavailable romantic interests.
There are some people out there who claim to only experience attraction to people who are otherwise unavailable.
Unavailable can mean a person who is in another relationship, currently swamped under academic or work-related loads, is not emotionally or mentally healthy enough for a relationship, or has just been through a breakup where they haven’t healed from that relationship ending.
The person may jump from unavailable crush to unavailable crush, fleeing when it looks like that person may want to give them more time or have a deeper relationship.
7. They are overly picky in their tastes, both in friends and romantically.
High expectations can serve as an excellent shield for a person with commitment issues.
The reality that we live with is that every person is going to have positive and negative qualities about them. Long-term happiness in relationships and friendships comes down to working to find common ground and practicing forgiveness when things go poorly.
A person who is overly picky in their taste in people may be using it as a defensive mechanism, because it’s easy to keep other people from getting too close if no one can ever live up to their wild expectations.
8. They often string along their partner, never quite being ready for anything serious.
Emotions often cloud our perspective and judgment, particularly in the initial stages of a relationship. We may look at the other person through rose-colored glasses, rendering the red flags invisible.
Optimally, we should strive to look at a new friendship or relationship objectively. Does the person want to hang out or go out on dates? Does the person make time for you? Or do they constantly have a reason and excuse as to why they can’t get together or even reschedule?
A person who is interested in getting to know you better and wanting to be around you will actually do these things – but so many people spend their time wringing their hands, trying to figure out what the other person wants or doesn’t want. If they wanted to be there, they would be.
9. They are often poor communicators who are difficult to get in touch with.
There can be several reasons for poor communication. In the context of commitment issues, it’s another deflection and defensive mechanism that helps the person maintain a comfortable distance. That can be in either romantic or platonic sense.
They may do things like not answer messages fully, not answer at all, let their phone go to voice mail and never pick up, or never call unless they need something from you.
Their investment into the friendship or relationship is typically shallow and self-serving, and their communication modes reflect it.
10. They tend to love the chase of a romantic pursuit more than the destination.
The perpetual romantic who bounces aimlessly from relationship to relationship may be afraid of commitment. They may even get involved in a relationship for a brief while, sometimes not even weeks, and then drop it immediately.
They may be the type to constantly want to hit the club or the bars, looking for a temporary good time on a regular basis. That may not even come from a harmful place; they could just want to have a good time instead of dealing with all of the responsibility that a long-term commitment carries.
And that is an important point. Just because someone has commitment issues, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad or a negative thing.
Some people just don’t want to be tied down or in any kind of long-term arrangement with anyone. And that’s okay. People should be free to live their life how they so choose.
The problem comes when a second party tries to impose their own perspectives on how that person should be living their life, often because they want a relationship or a commitment.
That’s a bad choice and is only going to lead to heartbreak and frustration because both parties are not on the same page with what they want out of the interaction.
Do not expect to tame or heal a person that you perceive to have commitment issues; because they may not actually have any issues at all. That simply may be their choice on how they want to live their life.
How To Overcome Commitment Issues
If you think you might have commitment issues – or you want to help someone who does – what can you do to deal with them and eventually overcome them?
As with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some ways that you might be able to ease the feelings you experience.
Ask why you have them.
It will often help if you can identify one or more of the root causes for your fear of commitment.
Perhaps your parents separated when you were a child and this has convinced you that long term relationships are destined to fail.
Maybe you have had a past relationship end suddenly and this gave you such an emotional jolt that you don’t want to risk similar hurt again.
Or do you have issues surrounding perfectionism and this is causing you to find fault with every relationship and partner you’ve ever had?
By knowing what might have caused your commitment phobia, you might find it possible to work through your emotions surrounding those things.
If you don’t know what has caused your particular issues or you are not ready to face those things, fear not. You can still work to improve your situation and change how you think about commitment.
Be honest with yourself.
Have you convinced yourself and others that you are happier by yourself?
Whilst this may be true for some people some of the time, it is worth questioning this idea.
Are you being totally honest with yourself or are you lying to yourself about how you really feel?
Even if you are a happy and content person much of the time, are there moments where you long for a partner?
Are you kidding yourself into thinking that you don’t need anyone else? That you and your life are complete as they are…
Whilst this is true in one sense, there is another way to look at it.
Yes, you do not need anyone else to complete you or your life, but your life can be enriched in the company of another.
You experience life in a different way when in a relationship. Everything is more vivid and more vibrant when you are sharing it with another person.
And relationships often provide opportunities to grow as a person. They reveal things about you that you might not otherwise have discovered.
So, think long and hard and ask whether you really don’t want a relationship, or if you have simply convinced yourself that you don’t.
Understand your anxieties surrounding commitment.
Whenever you push back against commitment, you are partly driven by your anxieties.
If you can see them at work and understand why they make you think and act the way you do, it can help you to calm them and hold off doing anything rash.
Anxiety is largely a feeling that arises when we face an unknown and uncertain future.
In terms of a relationship, this means confronting the very real possibility that it may not be forever.
And that, if it is not forever, what will come after?
You also have to deal with the unknowns of what a relationship will be like. Will you live together, get a dog, have children, buy a house?
Will you argue? What expectations will be put firmly on your shoulders?
And, perhaps most importantly, will you find more happiness in the relationship than out of it?
You simply can’t know these things until you are in a relationship with someone.
But look at the alternative: a life without commitment.
What will that look like?
You may think that it has more certainty in it because you have greater control.
But it doesn’t.
It just has different kinds of uncertainty.
And when you keep yourself out of relationships, you have no one with which to share the burden of this uncertainty.
This is worth reminding yourself of regularly: if you never commit, you will always have to face the unknown future by yourself.
You will always have to carry the weight of events by yourself.
You will not be able to rely on another person for input or to take something off your plate entirely.
This isn’t meant to scare you into a relationship by any means.
It’s meant to show you that the unknown you think you are guarding against is merely replaced with other unknowns.
And that by not committing to one thing, you are, by default, committing to another.
Learn how to make a decision confidently.
Tying in with the previous point, your anxiety around commitment may stem from your inability to make a decision.
If you get so worked up when faced with the decision of who to commit to and when to commit, you may just avoid making those decisions altogether.
You get lost in the “what-ifs” and you spend so long analyzing a situation that you never get anywhere in terms of reaching a sound conclusion.
It is worth reminding yourself that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship or a perfect match in terms of a partner.
Yes, you should look at the facts to see whether you share similar interests, values, and goals.
Yes, you should feel attracted to this person, enjoy their company, and see the good qualities they have.
Yes, you can guard against potentially manipulative or abusive partners by watching for the red flags.
But, at the end of the day, if almost everything is looking positive, and there are only minor things holding you back, you must ignore these things and take a leap of faith.
If they really are small details, they will not matter much in the bigger picture.
Making a decision to commit requires you to be brave. It requires you to accept the reality of the situation and of relationships in general.
You’ll probably find that in making the decision, you feel a sense of relief and calm from knowing that you are in it for the long haul.
Jumping into the stream of new love, not knowing where it might take you is exhilarating.
Don’t focus on the forever.
Do you hold back from committing to someone because you feel that it has to be a decision you stick with forever?
You can be in a committed relationship and still be free to change your mind if circumstances arise that genuinely justify it.
This by no means gives you an excuse to flee commitment the moment you hit a bump in the road.
But it does mean you are not tied to this decision forever.
So don’t focus on forever when you want to commit to a partner.
Focus on the here and now. Focus on the short term. Yes, even focus on the long term to some degree.
Just don’t convince yourself that you cannot escape the situation should things become unhealthy.
Lower your expectations of what the “right” relationship should be like.
Are your commitment issues a result of some highly unrealistic expectations of what a normal and healthy relationship should look like?
If you have never been in a serious relationship, it can be difficult to picture what it is really like.
You may live with some idealized vision of a perfect partnership between two individuals where harmony and peace exist at all times.
But this is not what relationships are like by and large.
If you flee at any sign of trouble, you will never find lasting love.
A relationship will not solve all your problems.
Hollywood romance rarely exists in the real world.
You will have to make sacrifices at times.
This is just how it is.
You may feel a little disappointed to hear this, but don’t allow yourself to swing too much the other way either.
Healthy relationships do contain plenty of good times, love, and fun.
They will make you feel exceptionally happy from time to time.
Just remember that, most of the time, life happens.
Relationships are merely a part of life and have to make space for all of the other parts.
Sometimes your partner may experience work stress.
Sometimes you may get sick.
Sometimes the passion and romance has to take a back seat to more pressing and practical matters.
This does not signal the breakdown of a relationship.
Far from it.
This signals that life is taking place and the relationship is along for the ride. It just takes a back seat now and then.
So if you keep jumping out of relationships because you are not constantly kissing or holding hands or experiencing pure bliss, know that you have unrealistic expectations and work on addressing those.
Stick at the relationship when the magic fades.
If you enter a relationship, only to feel like you want to get out of it again soon after, try to stick at it for as long as possible.
Relationships are something that you grow into. You adapt to them. But you won’t always feel comfortable straight away.
You might experience growing pains.
These are often the moments when you probably feel the urge to run.
Try to keep saying to yourself, “Just one more week.”
And then when that week comes to and end, say it again.
With every passing week, you will feel more assured that the relationship is something you want to persist with.
You will feel more comfortable and the desire to end things will fade.
One day, you’ll find that you no longer need to tell yourself to stay another week.
You’ll want to stay another week… and beyond.
Act committed until you feel committed.
Following on from the previous point about giving a relationship time, you can also try to act in a way that you might act if you felt fully committed.
Whilst sometimes your thoughts and feelings guide your actions, the reverse can also be the case.
Your actions can change how you think and feel.
So if you don’t yet feel committed to someone, try to act in a way that suggests you are.
Make romantic gestures, see the other person as often as you can, talk about something you might want to do together in a months’ time.
Heck, even make some solid plans for that thing if you can.
Make your partner – or potential partner – a priority in your life and encourage them to do the same.
Eventually, the very act of being a couple and treating each other as if you are one will convince you of your true feelings for this person and make it easier to commit fully.
Discuss your fear of commitment with your partner.
Relationships of all kinds work better for everyone involved when there is clear, open, and honest communication.
And while it may seem like talking about your commitment issues with a new partner is the last thing you should do, it will often help.
Your aversion to settling down is something that they may well notice anyway, so by discussing it with them, you can get things in place to deal with the possible consequences.
For one, it can increase their understanding and empathy toward you and change the way they might choose to react to something you do.
If you “disappear” for a little while, for example, it may help them to see this for what it is and not think that you don’t care.
It may help them be more patient with you and more persistent in terms of being the one to push the relationship forward at first.
And there are benefits for you, too. Talking about your problems can feel like a weight is lifted from your shoulders.
Knowing that they are aware and understand the way you sometimes think or feel might make you more open with expressing yourself during these times.
And this can lead to constructive talks that can settle your nerves and get you back into a more positive mindset regarding the relationship.
If you refuse to commit because you fear someone breaking your heart, your partner can reassure you if they are aware that this is a genuine fear for you.
Honesty can go a long way in preventing the kind of tension and doubt that can sometimes creep into your mind.
So, don’t be afraid to speak openly and honestly with your partner and do it relatively early on in a budding relationship – before you’ve had the chance to back out of it without so much as a word.
Dating Someone With Commitment Issues
If you are dating someone and they either exhibit many of the signs above or have simply told you about their issues with commitment, what should you do?
While entering a relationship with a person such as this may not always be easy, don’t think that it’s not worth the effort.
These people are not uncaring and they are not a waste of your time.
They just have their demons like we all have.
Here are some things that you can do to prepare yourself and give the relationship the best chance possible.
Fight for the relationship.
There will be times when the other person may want to quit, to give up, to go their own way.
If you suspect that they are acting upon their deep-seated fear of commitment, you should fight for them.
They may be seeking the easy way out, but they will also seek clarity and certainty.
If they know that you genuinely care for them and that you believe in the relationship and where it might lead, they will trust you.
Sometimes, they just want someone to take charge and tell them that, yes, things are challenging at times, but they will get better if they let you help them.
Show them how committed you are to the relationship.
To help them with their commitment, you have to be crystal clear with yours.
If you’ve had to fight to keep them in the relationship, then you’ve already done a great deal, but there are other things you can do.
Be prepared to be the one who makes plans in the short, medium, and long term.
Tell them that you are going to dinner on a certain day. Tell them where you are going and at what time. Make everything as easy as possible for them. Travel to their home or workplace and pick them up rather than meeting them there.
When the time is right, introduce them to your friends (and eventually family, but that often comes later).
Make it known to them that you see them in your future.
But ease them in and don’t startle them.
People with commitment phobias sometimes find that things move too quickly from dating to a serious relationship.
This puts them on edge and gives them an excuse to flee.
So while you have to be clear in your commitment to them, try not to make them feel rushed to do the same.
Take baby steps in terms of building a relationship. Yes, try to see them often, but give them time and space to breathe and familiarize themselves with how to be in a relationship.
Don’t suddenly suggest a trip away and don’t mention anything too huge such as marriage or kids.
Keep going on dates even when you become an exclusive couple. Keep things fun and light.
Watch for signs that they are finding it a bit too much and then ease back on the throttle.
These signs will usually involve their communication style.
If they start to seem more closed off, with shorter answers to your questions or long gaps in time before they reply to messages, they may be feeling the pressure.
Similarly, if they appear distracted or fidgety after a long period in your company, they might need some time to themselves.
Express your understanding.
If a person has issues with commitment, they may feel as though no one understands them.
And so they hide away their feelings and allow them to bubble deep below the surface until they one day erupt and that person runs from a relationship.
If you can make them feel more understood, you can give them more freedom to discuss their issues with you.
Sometimes they may raise the subject first, in which case you can listen carefully to them and assure them that you’ll do everything you can to ease their anxieties.
If they haven’t openly admitted that they are a commitment-phobe, they may either be too afraid to talk about it or perhaps not even realize they are one.
Either way, raising the subject can be tricky.
One way is to talk about their past relationships (and yours for balance). Ask them why they didn’t work out.
Sympathize with them about the way their relationships ended.
Be honest with them about the ends of your past relationships and how you just didn’t feel that it was the right person or time.
If they can relate to what you are saying, they will feel more comfortable opening up.
Bring commitment forward as a topic and let them know that it even feels hard for you sometimes.
This can disarm their defenses and get them talking about their issues more openly.
But don’t push the subject too much if they don’t appear to want to talk about it.
Be patient with them.
Most of all, you will need patience if you are to successfully deal with the issues someone has with commitment.
They can’t be expected to overcome their fears or anxieties in a short period of time, so you will need to give them some leeway on occasion.
Try to imagine how you would want someone to treat you if you were struggling with similar issues.
This will help you remain resolute in your own commitment to your partner.
Still not sure what to do about yours or your partner’s commitment issues? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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