So you found the One, but cannot commit?

People with a fear of commitment may desire to give themselves fully to a relationship, but, perhaps due to past trauma, are afraid of being hurt.

They pull away instead. If you are looking for help with your fear of commitment, it is recommended that you talk to a mental health professional who can help you make sense of your feelings.

While you are working through the issues that created your commitment phobia, consider learning some ways to help navigate the dating world. Or, if you are already in a relationship, you could learn some ways to help work through some of your fears with your significant other.

Discovering the Reasons Behind Your Behavior

Find a therapist. Look for a counselor or social worker who can work with you on exploring your commitment issues. You may want to look for someone who specializes in relationship issues and attachment theory. Make sure they are licensed by a state or national governing body that oversees mental health care professionals.

* Attachment theory focuses on a child’s early connections with their primary caregiver. This is important to consider in pursuing your own therapeutic work, because your early connections with your caregivers may have influenced your commitment phobia and/or how you navigate adult relationships.
* Ask your doctor, check with your insurance company for a list of in-network providers, or contact your local community health agency, for suggestions on how you can find a therapist near you. You could also type “find a therapist” into a search engine and you will find websites that can help you locate one.

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Examine your life history. A fear of commitment is likely the result of past experiences. Consider what events in your life may have contributed to your fear. A therapist or close friend may be able to help you with this by being there to listen to you. You may also consider talking with family members you consider “safe” to get more information on what took place during your childhood. Keep in mind that trauma and your age at the time of the experience may affect your memory.

* You may have had a previous relationship you thought was going well end suddenly without warning.
* You may have been in a previous abusive relationship.
* You may have suffered child abuse or other trauma while growing up.
* You may have experienced your parents divorcing while growing up.
* You may have unmet needs or attachment issues stemming from childhood.

Name your fears. Figure out what it is about commitment that scares you. Different people may find different aspects of commitment frightening. Generally, most people are afraid of intimacy and genuine emotional connection, but there is often another aspect that is holding them back to pursuing a committed relationship.

* You may be afraid that you are making the wrong choice. You may be with someone and think, “But what if there is someone better out there for me?”
* You may be afraid that you are losing your freedom. You may no longer have wide-open weekends or the opportunity to do whatever you want, when you want. You will have another person’s needs and wants to consider.
* You may be afraid of the monotony. By being in a relationship, you will be forced to do the work of a relationship, which is not all fireworks and butterflies. Authentic relationships take a lot of maintenance to thrive.
* You may be afraid because of negative experiences in past relationships. Consider when you first started to feel anxious or uncomfortable in committed relationships. This may shed some light on the cause.

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Journal. Spend some time writing in a journal about your commitment fears. Journaling helps you clarify your feelings and understand yourself better. Your written record also serves to show you a track of your progress, which can help you feel better about yourself.

* Try to turn off your inner censor and write quickly, without worrying about spelling or punctuation.
* Try to get into the habit of regular journaling. Many people find twenty minutes or so, first thing in the morning, to be mind-clearing and focusing.
* Be sure to revisit what you wrote to see if you hit on any clarifying points. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen all the time. Journaling is a process.

Examine other areas of your life for possible commitment phobia. Note any areas in your life that cause you frequent stress or anxiety, and consider whether commitment issues could be to blame. Does your fear of commitment in relationships also show up in other parts of your life? If you see a pattern, you may wish to consider talking to a counselor about how to break the cycle.

* For example, you may be renting an apartment in an area in which you have lived for years, because the idea of owning property and being “stuck” somewhere is terrifying. Or you may have dropped out of a training program for a job you wanted because you were afraid that would narrow your options down the road.
* You may struggle with staying in one job for a long period of time. Not having a track record of consistent employment may result in career difficulties or stagnation down the road. Speaking to a career counselor to help you figure out your professional goals and develop a plan of action may be useful in this situation.
* Figure out what might make non-relationship commitment phobia easier for you to manage. For example, you may feel more comfortable about buying a big-ticket item after doing lots of research on it. Or you may find rewarding yourself for sticking to a plan is the key to your consistency. For example, if you stay in a job for two years, you will reward yourself with a cruise.

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Committing to a Long-Term Relationship

Have realistic expectations and stop making comparisons. Understand there is no such thing as a “perfect” relationship. Every relationship has its stumbling blocks, but every relationship also has its unique, wonderful aspects as well. If you are comparing your relationship to someone else’s or to a relationship on a TV show or movie, then it is important to stop doing this.

* All couples will argue. Not airing conflict is not healthy to a relationship, after all. Differences of opinion are to be expected between two people from time to time.
* All couples have something they do not like about their partner (whether they are willing to admit it or not!). Mature couples understand that, as long as their partner’s behavior is not a violation of their values, there will always be something unpleasant or annoying about their partner they have to accept.

Communicate with your partner. Keep lines of communication open with your partner to avoid surprises/trust issues on both sides. Be honest about your fears so that your significant other can help you work through them.

* Be specific about problems that you need to address and how they make you feel. You could say, “Last night you asked me when we could get engaged. It made me feel very pressured.” This is better than, “You always pressure me about marriage!”
* Show empathy to your significant other by actively listening to them and paraphrasing back what you hear. For example, if your partner says, “I don’t know if you’ll ever want to get married,” you could say, “You’re worried that I don’t want to marry you.” This will help you better understand where your partner is coming from.
* Apologize if you’ve made a mistake or hurt their feelings. Take responsibility for your behavior causing their pain. For example, “I’m so sorry I didn’t call you last night. I realize now that I had you worried.” Remember that there is no weakness in apologizing. Apologizing demonstrates humility, warmth, and trust.
* If you need help better communicating as a couple, couples counseling may help you learn how to better communicate with each other. Look for a counselor who is trained in couples therapy to help you.

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Explain your fears to your partner. While it may upset your partner to know that you are afraid of committing to them, it is better than keeping them in the dark. Keep in mind that you are not doing anything wrong by staying in the relationship as long as you are honest about your fears of commitment. The other person has the ability to leave the relationship any time they wish. Hopefully, you have been doing some of your own inner work and have an understanding around why you are afraid to commit.

* You could say, “I really care about you, but I have noticed that the closer we get, and the more in love with you I am, the more I feel like I want to push you away. This isn’t because you are doing anything wrong. It is because I am afraid.”
* Try asking for understanding. You could say, “I know this is probably upsetting for you, but I hope you can understand where I think this is coming from. I am afraid to rush into things after my previous relationship. Do you think you could help support me and help me feel less afraid?”

Think about your personal goals for the future. Consider what you would like your life to look like five or ten years down the road. Does this vision include a committed, long-term relationship (married or not)? Would you like to have a family? Discuss your ideas with your significant other.

* If you and your significant other are discussing a deeper commitment to each other (such as moving in together or marriage), and you feel like it is moving too fast, talk to them. You could say, “I know you are ready to take this step, but I am feeling anxious about it. Would you be willing to wait to help me get comfortable with this idea?” Ask your significant other what amount of time would be appropriate.
* Keep in mind that it is also important to work on your commitment issues during this time and think about whether or not this is the person you really want to be with. Do not just remain in the relationship and hope for a sign.

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Remember why you are with your significant other. Remember what compelled you to choose them and why you remain interested. It may be helpful to create a list of things you love about them.

* Keep the list in a safe place that you can easily access in times you are feeling anxious or ready to run. Your words about how much you value this person may help keep you grounded and centered.
* Share your list with your significant other. They will find it very touching to know how much you value them.

Dealing with Dating

Make concrete plans and don’t cancel. Commitment phobes are notorious for being hard to pin down for invitations and plans. Challenge yourself to agree to dates planned a week out in advance — or whatever is outside your comfort zone — and do not cancel.

* Don’t say, “I’ll try to stop by” or “I might be able to make it.” Say, “Yes, I’d love to come,” and keep your word.

Stop promiscuous behavior. If you have a tendency to sleep around, understand that your behavior may be the result of a search for an intimate connection with someone. The next time you have a desire to reach out to a friend with benefits, try connecting with a friend for a real conversation instead.

* Call a friend you trust and suggest meeting for coffee, for a drink, or for another activity where you can talk.

Stop getting numbers of people you won’t call. Don’t set other people up for disappointment. If you have no intention in pursuing a relationship with the other person, do not lead them on.

* Say you are talking to someone at a party. They say, “Hey, maybe we can get together sometime!” You know that you are not really attracted to the person and are not interested in pursuing a relationship. You could say, “I’m not really interested in dating right now, but thank you,” or “That’s so nice of you to offer, but I am working on some personal stuff right now.”

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Pursue the person you are truly interested in. Often, people with commitment issues do not pursue people they really like because they are afraid of the rejection, as well as the potential for a relationship. Instead, commitment phobes often find themselves having flings with people with whom they share few common interests, or people with whom they do not see a future.

* Pursue a person with whom you share common values. If you want to develop a genuine relationship with someone, you need to make sure you share some common foundations upon which to build your relationship. These may be things like a shared culture or faith, the value you place on your careers or family, or character traits you both value in others.
* Take a risk and put yourself out there for the person you really like. While a “no” can be painful and feel like a setback, you will learn it is not the end of the world. See the setback as a chance to make yourself braver.
* If the person you are interested in is also interested in you, great! Have courage and move slowly, and let the person know you want to move slowly. You could say, “I really like you and want to get to know you better, but I have had some difficult times in the past. I hope you can respect that I want to take this slow for right now.”

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