So much of the world around us is in flux. You can’t always bank on the fact that what is here today will still be present and available tomorrow. Many of us during this pandemic-era existence have found ourselves lost at sea, with many of our familiar moorings in the form of routines and relationships turned upside down.What we once thought and assumed to be immutable fixtures turned out to only be temporary realities. As we sought stability in an ever-changing and anxiety-inducing environment, many found solace in the God who never changes and is an anchor for our souls, as well as in the people around us that we could connect with meaningfully.
When you find yourself in a situation of uncertainty, having firm foundations is a balm for the soul and peace for ruffled emotions. Having constancy in your life in one area or another is a blessing.
In our relationships, the knowledge that the people we have surrounded ourselves with will stick with us through thick and thin gives us much-needed support in daily life, but especially in times of crisis. In other words, knowing that there are people who are committed to us provides us with much-needed security in a sea of revolving possibilities.
“Commitment” can be defined as dedication to something or someone for the long haul. It’s a choice to maintain a posture of investment in a person, place, or thing – that may be a spouse, child, friend; or a city, neighborhood, state; or a sport, job, hobby. Usually, though, when we talk about “commitment” and “commitment issues,” people are referring to relationships of the romantic sort.
What is Commitment Phobia?
Commitment issues (otherwise known as the fear of commitment or commitment phobia), refers to a person’s reluctance or inability to commit themselves to someone else and alter their behavior to reflect that commitment in their words, deeds, and attitude. This can stem from attachment issues that develop in childhood from how one’s parents interacted with them.
Positive attachment allows a person to connect emotionally with others and allows them to get close. Some people develop an avoidant attachment style which leads them to avoid making commitments to other people and getting close to them emotionally.
When speaking about commitment phobia, we need to make a distinction between issues such as attachment which contributes to emotionally avoidant behavior that affects how people behave in relationships, and other factors. In some cases, a bad breakup or painful romantic relationship experience can make someone more circumspect and reluctant to trust easily.
This is different from the issues arising from attachment issues. Other people might be unwilling to lose their sense of freedom and a freewheeling lifestyle if they commit to one person. The result may be the same, but the underlying causes (and the remedies) will differ.
Being in a relationship with someone that doesn’t want to commit can be confusing and hurtful. It may feel like your partner does not care about you. While it is understandable and many partners may feel this way, if you or your loved one struggle with making commitments, note that you can love someone but still struggle with commitment for several reasons. A struggle with commitment does not mean you do not love that person (or that they don’t care about you), but it does make for an uncertain relationship.
Signs of Commitment Phobia
You don’t want to date seriously.
One sign of having issues with commitment is that you have a lot of relationships that don’t ever go beyond a certain point, especially when they start to get serious. Another sign is also having lots of undefined relationships where you avoid labeling things and being clear about where you both stand and where the relationship is headed.
You don’t consider or think about the future of the relationship.Relationships typically progress in depth and one can usually envisage the relationship blooming into engagement, marriage, and so on. If you find yourself not thinking about the future and avoiding thinking about the future and where things might go, that could indicate commitment issues and not wanting to be drawn into the natural course of the relationship.
You are tempted to be unfaithful to your partner or are actively pursuing more than one romantic relationship at a time.
When you have a commitment phobia, it is easier to justify pursuing another person as you aren’t fully invested in the one relationship and you want to keep your options open.
You invest a lot of time questioning the relationship.
It is natural for us to ask ourselves questions to diagnose ourselves and the relationships we find ourselves in. Questions such as, “Is this the right person for me?”, “Do we have a future together?”, “Will I always be as happy as I am right now?”, are reasonable to ask. But when they become regular features of your mental and emotional landscape and prevent you from going deeper into the relationship, that might indicate commitment issues.
You are inconsistent with communication, including replying to texts or calls.
In our day and age of instant messaging, we’ve come to expect quick responses to our attempts at communication with our partners. Typically, unless you generally don’t respond that way across the board, most people tend to expect responses within a few hours.
Sometimes a person will take longer because their phone is off for a meeting or they’ve turned in for the night and they’ve got a routine that they adhere to, but if communication goes without a response for days without any reasonable explanation as to why that is a cause for concern.
You are reluctant to make plans, or you make plans that don’t involve your partner.
When your partner asks you to make plans or when you think about your future, such as where you’re going to live or work, your career path and life goals, either you don’t want to make those plans altogether or you make them, but your partner is absent from your considerations.
You don’t feel emotionally attached, and you struggle to share deep thoughts and emotions with your partner.You don’t let them into your emotional world, and they don’t know your depths. If this is a young relationship that has been growing and has come to the place where it’s natural and appropriate to say “I love you” to the other person, you struggle with the “L” word.
You feel uneasy or trapped when your partner shows signs of investment.
When your partner invests in your relationship by, for example, wanting to meet your folks or being willing to move cities or jobs to allow the relationship to have a better chance at flourishing, you find yourself pulling away.
In other areas of life, signs that you may be struggling with commitment issues include:
- You have lots of unfinished things in your life, which may include jobs, novels, hobbies, and a whole host of other tasks that got started but you were unable to complete.
- You are bad at making decisions and often leave it to the last minute where you’re compelled to go one way or the other, or you procrastinate to the point that the decision is taken out of your hands.
- You give yourself to things that you don’t care about and engage in projects or tasks where failure won’t hit any marks because you’re not emotionally invested. After all, if you aren’t invested in the project or its outcome, then it won’t hurt if it all fails.
Dealing with the Fear of Commitment
Fear of commitment can be addressed in therapy to speak to attachment, relational hurt, and other issues that may underlie the fear or unwillingness to commit. Like any relationship, the therapy itself will require creating emotional space and making time to reap the gains from the process of going for sessions, connecting with the therapist, and trusting the treatment plan.
Another way to start dealing with commitment phobia is through exposure. By starting small and committing to things like dates and regular plans, that can build capacity and create room to commit to bigger things.
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