Commitment Phobia: 13 Potential Causes
Fear of Commitment (or Commitment Phobia) is characterized as an intense fear of becoming involved in or remaining involved in a relationship. Those with a genuine phobia surrounding relationships, typically, engage in multiple, brief, or superficial relationships. It might not come as much of a surprise but commitment phobia is one of the most common phobias for people to have when it pertains to interpersonal relationships. Contrary to belief commitment phobia is not just a “male” phobia, it is a real phobia for both males and females. It's not uncommon for either sex to develop a fear of commitment as past negative experiences can be incredibly hard to move past or emotionally reconcile. Growing up in an environment that includes adults that are dishonest, deceitful, manipulative, and unfaithful can also contribute to one’s fear of commitment.
It should be noted most commitment phobic people do not develop phobic symptoms just because they are in a romantic relationship. Symptoms typically develop once a demand or expectation has been expressed to take the relationship to another level, get married, move in with each other, or commit to being in a relationship with just their partner. Someone who suffers a fear of commitment will often exhibit feelings of anxiety surrounding the relationship, such as, waiting for the other shoe to drop, anticipating infidelity, anticipating a change in the quality of the relationship, etc. Fear and anxiety will often cause problems in the relationship leading to its premature extinction. The premature extinction of a relationship often seems to validate those with commitment phobia’s belief that all relationships will eventually sour.
Sometimes a person may be unaware they hold a fear of commitment until they are prompted to take the relationship to the “next level”. Fears and anxiety will soon follow just at the thought of “increased” demands and expectations. Unfortunately, even unsubstantiated fears will serve as motivation for the commitment phobic to identify ways to escape the relationship.
13 Potential Causes of Commitment Phobia:
Past negative relationship experiences
Fear of losing personal freedom
Unable or unwilling to be in a relationship with one person
Inability or difficulty trusting others
Unwilling or unable to commit to a compromise for the sake of the relationship
Fears or uncertainty about being in the right relationship or with the right person
Failure to identify or understand personal needs in a relationship
Smothering or all-consuming past relationships
History of childhood abuse/trauma
Dating and relationships are hard enough. However, dating someone with a phobia of commitment can be extremely exhausting and frustrating. It is important to identify and accept our own personal needs before we can even contemplate establishing a relationship with someone else. It is essential to be open and honest with the person you are seeing, letting them know what you are looking for in a relationship, and what type of relationship you are looking for. People with a fear of commitment do not fear relationships in general but fear what they assume the commitment will mean for the relationship and for them. Those with commitment phobia often want a long-term connection with another person, but their overwhelming anxiety prevents them from staying in any relationship for too long. If pressed for a commitment, they are far more likely to leave the relationship than to make the commitment. Or they may initially agree to the commitment, then back down days or weeks later, because of their overwhelming anxiety and fears.
Counseling can help commitment phobic people understand there is no “perfect” relationship exists. Therapy can help people struggling with commitment improve communication with his or her partner, discuss issues that may be contributing to fears and anxiety, and developing strategies to manage those fears.