Every type of relationship comes with its ups and downs, from being in “the honeymoon phase” to realizing that your partner loads the dishwasher the wrong way. But part of those highs and lows is whether or not you and your partner can commit—in the near future and the long term. It can be jarring to be asked to take the relationship to the next level if you or your loved one have a fear of commitment.
You might be wondering how to combat these issues and how to have a healthy approach to dating and relationships in general. Overcoming commitment issues is possible by understanding what they are, why people develop them, and how to work through them. It just takes dedication to bettering yourself and your future partnerships.
What Are Commitment Issues?
When someone has commitment issues, they have anxiety about something that could be long term, like a job, a life change, or a romantic partner. Typically, the term is referred to as relationship anxiety or ambivalence within a relationship. In this article, we’ll be talking about commitment issues in the realm of romantic relationships.
People with commitment issues have difficulty sticking to long-term relationships. Although they might crave intimacy with a partner, people with commitment issues have trouble attaching themselves mentally and emotionally to one person, unable to allow a relationship to progress to the next level. The term “marriage material” might make them uneasy. This explains why someone might suddenly experience anxiety when their partner alludes to a commitment at a higher level (like “making it official,” moving in together, getting engaged, and so on).
While you might think that commitment issues only happen in long-term relationships, they can also creep up during dating and getting to know someone. Due to relationship anxiety, people with commitment issues might not feel comfortable trusting someone or letting their guard down, making it hard to truly get to know them. Fear of the future, fear of trust, and fear of losing independence might cause them to jump from one relationship to the next.
Why Do People Have Commitment Issues?
People often experience commitment issues as a result of attachment insecurity, which manifests itself through different patterns and behaviors. Here are the types of insecure attachment styles that might play a role in someone’s fear of commitment:
- Disorganized/fearful-avoidant: People who desire a relationship are afraid of being hurt and avoid becoming too emotionally attached.
- Avoidant/dismissive: People keep their distance by convincing themselves that they don’t need anyone.
- Anxious/preoccupied: People who desire intimacy convince themselves that their partner does not want them.
It’s worth noting here that attachment styles are not cut and dry; these are general overviews of the reasons why someone might have trouble overcoming commitment issues. Every person and situation is unique, and everyone’s background and romantic history can play a role in how they perceive relationships.
Signs of Commitment Issues
Commitment issues can present themselves in various ways, but here are some common signs:
- Avoiding thinking about the future. One or both partners avoid talking or thinking about the future, like renting an apartment together, getting married, or having kids.
- Never making concrete plans. Individuals have relationship anxiety and are uncomfortable planning a vacation together or making their current partner a plus-one at a wedding three months away.
- Only maintaining short-lived relationships. Short relationships are in no way less ideal than long-term ones; they’re just part of casual dating and getting to know various people. But sometimes a long string of short-term relationships might signify something deeper going on, like avoiding or not being ready for a relationship.
- Behaving inconsistently. One or both partners exhibit unpredictable or illogical behavior. One person might communicate a certain standard, yet violate their own rule with their actions.
- Being emotionally unattached. People might not be emotionally invested, meaning that feelings of closeness and affection needed to sustain a meaningful and long-lasting relationship are not present.
- Communicating poorly. One partner might ignore the other’s attempts to connect emotionally, or they might consistently make unresolvable cyclical arguments.
Commitment issues can transcend the relational space and affect a person’s ability to achieve emotional safety and security. There’s more of a likelihood that relationships will be less satisfying and fulfilling and that the other partner will experience frustration and hurt. That’s why overcoming commitment issues is so important.
How To Overcome Commitment Issues in Relationships
Overcoming commitment issues isn’t easy, but just take it one step at a time. Throughout the process, remind yourself that you’re doing this for you, so that you can have healthier and more intimate relationships and a brighter perspective on life. The benefits will also help any current relationship that you’re in, which is a win-win.
Read on for tangible ways to overcome your fear of commitment.
The first step in overcoming commitment issues is acknowledging the problem. Take some time to think about your current or past relationships, how you or your partner behaved, any fears and anxieties you might have had, and why the partnership ended. Did commitment issues play a role?
If you can pinpoint the issues or your feelings about certain aspects of commitment, that’s a solid step forward in the journey to overcoming those fears and your relationship anxiety.
2. Learn About Attachment Styles
Everyone has an attachment style; it is unconscious and develops through childhood experiences and past relationships (not just romantic ones). Whether anxious/preoccupied, disorganized/fearful-avoidant, avoidant/dismissive, or secure, a person’s attachment style is a blueprint for understanding their behaviors in any kind of relationship.
Working on a problem isn’t as helpful when you don’t know where it stems from, so discovering how you act in and perceive romantic relationships is the best way to start. If you’re unsure of what type of attachment style you have, try taking an online test, reading more about them, or talking with a therapist.
3. Talk About Your Fears and Anxieties
You know how writing something down or speaking it out loud can help reduce your mental burden? The same goes for overcoming commitment issues. Write down your anxieties, speak with your partner about why you’re fearful of the future or of their love, talk to friends and family members who you feel safe sharing your feelings with, and seek out a professional who is trained to help people with this common struggle. Individual or couples’ therapists can work wonders in helping people get to the bottom of and overcome their commitment issues.
4. Put Commitment into Practice
Overcoming commitment issues doesn’t work if you don’t put healthy habits into practice.
- First, practice self love and remind yourself that you are worthy of being loved.
- Remember that relationships can be fulfilling! They don’t necessarily mean losing your independence.
- Try being vulnerable with someone that you’re dating. You don’t have to share your whole life story, but try sharing one intimate detail and see how you feel and how they respond.
- Set one future plan at a time. Plan a weekend getaway with your partner two months down the road. Even something as simple as sharing the cost of a streaming subscription can be an act of commitment.
- Practice trust (only if you’re in a safe relationship). If feelings of fear start cropping up, remember that you need to give your partner a chance to prove that they’re trustworthy, and they can only do that if you give them the space to do so.
Overcoming commitment issues might be difficult initially, but the benefits of doing so will last a lifetime. It takes time to unlearn negative thinking and safety mechanisms. However, the reward of finally being able to see a future with a loved one makes it all worth it.