It’s not uncommon for people who avoid long-term relationships to hear they have commitment issues or a fear of commitment.
Many people use these phrases without thinking. In reality, commitment is often complex.
It is a broad term, but it is usually related to dedicating yourself to something for a long time.
The concept of commitment issues is most often discussed in romantic relationships. A person with commitment issues will often show fear or reluctance to commit.
This is when a relationship begins to progress but there is no desire to take the next steps. It may be difficult to make the relationship last or go forward.
Do you think you or your partner have a fear of commitment? There are some things to watch for.
There are compatibility quizzes, lists of relationship red flags, and so on. These can be fun, and they can help you notice things about yourself.
Your situation is unique.
“Everything going on in your relationship can’t be taken into account by a list, so take them with a grain of salt.”
If you do recognize some of the following in yourself or your partner, it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.
It is important to keep in mind that commitment is not the same as love. It is possible to love your partner and still have trouble with commitment.
It is not easy to know when a pattern of short-lived relationships is bad dating luck or if it is indicative of something more significant.
Some signs may offer some clarity.
You don’t want to date seriously
“It doesn’t mean you’re afraid of commitment if you want to date casually and avoid serious relationships. You can either have one reason or several.”
“If you feel the need to end things when you like someone but don’t want to commit, you may have some unresolved commitment fears.”
You don’t think about the future of the relationship
Most people in a relationship spend a little time thinking about whether the person they are dating would be a good match.
“They might end the relationship if they can’t see a future. Some people don’t give the future a thought at all.”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy what you have now with a partner. But 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.
You spend a lot of time questioning the relationship
Maybe you do think about the future of your relationship. You have strong feelings for your partner, feel connected and attached, and enjoy spending time together. Even so, you can’t stop asking yourself things like:
- Do they really love me?
- What happens next?
- Is this something I am ready for?
- Do I want this to work?
“It is normal to ask yourself questions like this if you really care about someone and don’t want to lose them.”
Questioning the relationship constantly could suggest commitment fears, as it could interfere with the relationship or cause emotional distress.
You don’t want to make plans
Do you not make plans for a Friday night date until Friday morning?
Do you reply with a vague “Maybe!” I will let you know if the person you are dating tries to make plans.
Does thinking about plans you’ve already made stress you out so much that you end up wanting to cancel them?
“If you don’t want to make plans, you may not be interested in the person you’re dating, especially if you’re holding out for better plans.”
But when you do like that person and enjoy their company but still feel anxious, the issue may be commitment.
You don’t feel emotionally attached
Feelings of commitment can be developed as a response to worry or fear.
If you feel securely attached and want the relationship to continue, you’re more likely to do the work required to make it last.
“If your partner shows the same interest in long-term involvement, this effort can help relieve anxiety about the relationship’s future.”
But if you don’t feel any emotional attachment to your partner, you may not care or even think much about losing them. Sure, you have a great time together, but you shrug off the thought of never seeing them again. You’re perfectly content to keep doing your own thing.
“Sometimes, not connecting emotionally is a sign that the person you are dating isn’t the best match for you. If you know you want a relationship and never feel emotionally invested in your partners, you might consider whether commitment fears are holding you back.”
You feel uneasy or trapped when your partner shows signs of investment
These feelings may not be fully understood.
When your partner says they love you for the first time, you might be happy. When you think about it, you start to feel anxious and wonder what will happen next.
You might feel an urge to get away if you really want to end the relationship.
When you are ready for a serious relationship but your partner seems content with the same things, you might wonder if they want the same things.
“The following signs could be a sign that you are dating someone who is afraid of commitment. It is hard to know if these are signs of commitment issues if you don’t talk to them about the reasons behind their behavior.”
“An open, honest conversation is a good first step if you are concerned about your partner’s commitment.”
There are some signs of commitment fears in a partner.
They don’t seem invested in the relationship or you
This can be seen in many ways. They might know all of your friends but never introduce you to any of them. They might tell great stories but seem less interested in discussing their emotions or daily life.
“There is a lack of interest in making plans that aren’t in the immediate future.”
This disinterest is not always obvious. They might sound enthusiastic if you suggest a trip but have an excuse or schedule conflict when you try to narrow down a specific date.
It is possible that your partner wants to spend time with you. They might be struggling with the commitment.
They don’t want to talk about the future of the relationship
“If you have been seeing someone for a while, you might start to think about a relationship. You enjoy each other’s company, so why not date more seriously?”
A partner who is afraid of commitment may have a hard time talking about it. They might change the subject or give vague answers when you ask how they feel.
They might say, “Let\’s just have fun without defining things.” They might say they aren\’t looking for a commitment.
If you’re looking for commitment, these responses often indicate that the person you’re seeing may not be able to offer what you want and need.
They have a hard time opening up or sharing deep thoughts
Emotional vulnerability typically helps people become closer.
As time goes on, partners learn about each other in equal amounts. You might talk about your pasts, childhood experiences, goals for the future, life philosophy, and feelings for other people or situations.
Someone who is not willing to commit may not open up for months. Your conversations may be casual and lighthearted, but never become more intimate or touching.
It might be difficult to become vulnerable, but your partner needs time. It could also relate to commitment fears.
They talk about the future, but their plans don’t involve you
“Some people who don’t like commitment in romantic relationships have a hard time making commitments in other areas of life. They might not like the idea of being tied down to a future outcome. This isn’t always the case.”
“It is easy to feel hurt if someone you are dating talks about a future that doesn’t seem to include you.”
“They may continue to plan vacations for themselves or their friends. They talk excitedly about the dream studio apartment and can’t wait to put down a deposit.”
“It is possible that they don’t want to assume you will continue dating. Maybe they haven’t thought about the long-term relationship.”
“These signs could mean that this partner isn’t ready to commit.”
They don’t reply to your messages, calls, or texts for days
If you have been dating someone for a while, you might notice a pattern in their responses. They might not reply to you during their working hours or even after 8 p.m. when they are done.
It is reasonable to expect a partner to reply within a day or two most of the time.
“If you don’t get replies when you’re trying to make plans or if you get half-replies that don’t fully answer your question, you might want to bring this up in person.”
It is possible that your partner does not like texting. This can also suggest emotional unavailability.
They may not be able to commit to anything more.
There are a number of factors that can cause issues. Fear of being hurt, fear of being with the wrong person, fear of things not working out, and other relationship-related anxieties are some of the reasons why these causes are often.
If someone has experienced trauma in a past relationship or has had a difficult break up, this can lead to future issues.
Other factors can be traced back to the upbringing and family history. These influences can affect attachment style. Those who are typically avoidant attached may have commitment issues.
The experiences and characteristics of a person can affect how they behave in a relationship. It is difficult to tell the difference between someone who is dealing with other issues and someone who is just not interested in committing.
“There are issues with commitment that aren’t always a problem.”
“monogamous relationships aren’t for everyone. People live their lives without ever getting married or having a baby.”
Other people are ready to commit to long-term involvement, just not with one person.
If you want to deepen your commitment or feel like there is an element of fear that is holding you back, consider these approaches.
Therapy is a great place to start examining possible reasons why commitment might pose a challenge for you.
These reasons could be grounded in past relationships, childhood experiences, or your personal attachment style.
If any of the above signs are present, it is possible to talk to a therapist. They can help you address commitment fears in a way that is compassionate.
If your fear of commitment causes anxiety or other emotional distress, therapy can help there, too.
“One-on-one therapy is one way to support someone if their partner’s behavior is affecting their mental health.”
If you truly love your partner and want to make the relationship work, but something is holding you back and preventing you from taking steps toward commitment, couples therapy can help.
Intimacy and commitment aren’t the same, but they often relate to each other. People who have trouble with one might also have a hard time with the other.
A skilled couples therapist can help you and your partner navigate these challenges and begin working on a stronger partnership.
“When you and your partner share the same goals for the relationship, couples therapy works well. Couples therapy can help you explore what you want, even if you don’t know what you want.”
Talk about it
It can be helpful to put a name to your fear. If you have issues with commitment, try talking to your partner.
Let them know how you feel about them and the relationship and try to tell them exactly what it is you’re afraid of, if possible.
It took me a long time to recover after a bad break up a few years ago. I am afraid of that happening again. I need more time to get used to being in a relationship, and I care about you, but I need more time to get used to it.
If you and your partner both want your relationship to succeed but one of you has commitment fears, it can help to develop committed habits together.
Make it a habit
Try these baby steps.
- We will spend the night together.
- We can spend a weekend together a few miles away.
- You can hold hands in public.
- Talk about things you would like to do in a different season. Maybe you both want to plan camping next summer.
- You should make plans together a week, 2 weeks, and a month in advance. Keep those plans, challenge yourself.
- If you are in a relationship, look at apartments or houses together. It can be done by taking a walk in a neighborhood you like and thinking about what it would be like to share that space with your partner.
If you have feelings of fear or anxiety, talk to your partner.
Look for a partner who respects your needs
“If you know you need time to feel secure in a relationship, it can help to date someone who doesn’t need to spend every free evening together and who won’t press you to commit right away.”
This can depend on what exactly you need from a partner, of course. But someone who leads a busy lifestyle might be a good fit if you know you need a lot of space and alone time.
“If you don’t like being touched a lot, a partner who is more hands-off may be a better fit.”
It is difficult to discuss fear of commitment. A range of factors can contribute to it.
“It doesn’t make intimate, long-term relationships impossible if you have commitment issues. Things might take a bit of extra work and honest communication.”
Crystal Raypole worked as an editor for GoodTherapy. Her interests include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. She is committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.