Fear of…Commitment

Do you know people who have problems committing to anything much less a relationship?  Nothing in their life is permanent.  They have lots of associates, but no close friends, they don’t own much, they work temporary jobs,  and they don’t make plans until the last minute.  Maybe they are just impulsive or get bored easily.  When it comes to committing to a lease for an apartment or having a pet you can forget about it.   I can understand why this type of person would also not commit to a relationship.  If this is you or you know someone like this you know that a relationship isn’t really a priority.  They don’t really have fear of commitment, they just don’t seem to care or want to have a commitment to anything.  They are the ultimate free spirits in the world.

Then there is the person that always make plans, does the same job forever, has had a best friend since pre-school, saves money like they’re going to live until their 100 years old, but when it comes to a romantic relationship just can’t quite commit.  Why is that?   Usually its because of fear.  Which almost always comes from the past.

I’m not a counselor that likes to psychoanalyze a person’s past history to death.  There are many reasons people do what they do, but sometimes looking at the past can provide important information to help someone move forward in their life.  Dwelling on the past or avoiding it altogether aren’t healthy choices.

When someone has a fear of commitment I usually start with their personality type and see if they are a more impulsive person who gets bored easily like the person described above.  If I rule out a person’s personality, then with fear it usually comes down to and issue from the past.  I can often find relationship issues within the family that can explain a lot.  Fear is a hard thing to admit, much less address.  It is hard to admit that your family has screwed you up a little bit.  My theory is if you can name it, you can tame it.  So if you know why something is happening you have a better chance of fixing it.

Some people are born into a family of chaos.  They moved around a lot.  Their parents may not have had steady jobs.  Their parents could have remarried several times or had several live-in partners.  This can cause a child to feel lost in the shuffle and never feel important or loved.   Some people go on to always need others and will be with anyone who will give them attention.  Other people cope by avoiding commitment in relationships all together.    If this is the case you can learn how to face the risk of making a commitment and then how to stick through the hard times when they happen.  There is no guarantee in that a relationship will last, but you can learn to find people who are good with commitment in other areas of their life.  This may help you to feel more confident that they will stick around to be with you.

If someone’s parents had an okay relationship then I figure out if it is an abuse issue that has caused the fear.  If someone has been emotionally, physically or sexually abused by anyone, not just family members it alters that person’s ability to trust others.  Abuse crushes self-esteem and can make you feel like if anyone really knew you they would either leave or abuse you as well.  You could be afraid to commit because you don’t feel good enough to be in an intimate relationship.  You can work through past abuse and regain your self-confidence.  It is worth the effort to be able to commit to someone who would love you and not abuse you.

If I figure out that none of the above is relevant then I ask about previous romantic relationships.  It may not be your family past that is the issue.  It could be that someone you dated in the past cheated on you, abused you, or left you.  It is healthy to remain single for a period of time after a bad break up.  Everyone needs a little time to heal.  It isn’t healthy to avoid relationships because you are afraid it will happen again.  It’s like letting that person continue to hurt you even though they are no longer in your life.   Ask yourself if you are alone because it’s what you need or if you feel afraid to try again.  It is fine to choose to be single or to be waiting for the right person to come around.  If you do have fear of committing again, find someone who can help you face it.  You can learn how to believe in yourself again.  You also need to believe that there are good people out there to be in a relationship with.  Past experiences can be hurtful but they can also make you smarter.  You can decide which path you want to continue to go down.  If fear is stopping you then I encourage you to face that fear so you can commit to a great relationship in the future.

3 comments on “Fear of…Commitment

  1. When I see articles on “Fear of Commitment” I always wonder is it fear we’re talking about? Could it come down to personal preference – ie, some people simply don’t want to commit. I am a person who does not like or value life-long commitment. I am not afraid of it, and I am insulted by those who insist that I am. I have always prefered change, variety and freedom to commitment and security. Why pathologize it? Why not pathologize the other side and ask clients who want all that normal stuff (long-term, committed relationships) why they are so afraid of freedom and change? Why not dig around in their backgrounds to find the wound that makes them so invested in traditional relationships? You know what I mean…

    • I agree. I do think a lot of people have personalities that are happy to not commit. It doesn’t have anything to do with fear. This post is for people who are afraid. I don’t think it refers to everyone. I was single for a long time and it wasn’t because of fear. I think its great that you are choosing to stay commitment free. Everyone has to do what is best for themselves. However, I do challenge people to face fears if that is what is holding them back and this post was to challenge those with fears of commitment. Thanks for your comment though, I think its right on.

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