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Commitment phobia - why some people fear commitment

Most couples realise that relationships can only work in the long term when both partners make some form of commitment. Why then do some people who love their partners continue to fear the ‘C’ word?

Loss of independence

Some people see commitment and compromise as a loss of independence. However, a committed relationship doesn’t need to mean a total loss of self. While you might spend most of your time together in the early days, most people in long-term relationships go through a phase of ‘finding themselves’, where each partner wonders, “Who am I? What do I want? What do I need?”

This may not happen at the same time for both partners but, with good communication, most couples find they reach a stage of ‘reconciliation in their relationship, where they have a good balance between feeling part of a twosome and feeling like two individuals who enjoy time together and apart.

Avoiding past hurt

People who’ve been hurt in the past might worry about future relationships ending in pain or failure. If your partner has experienced a painful breakup or bitter divorce, they may worry about history repeating itself. Likewise, someone who had a bad experience loss at a young age, through bereavement or a parental separation, may find it difficult to form strong bonds as an adult. For many people this is unintentional, and they may not even be aware of the issue.

The timing isn’t right

Some people have a mental checklist of things to achieve before they settle down. This could be anything from getting a degree, to travelling the world, or earning a salary that can support a family. Some people prefer to postpone making a relationship commitment until the feel like they have something to offer.

Uncertainty of feelings

People have different levels of emotional awareness. Some people avoid the difficult feelings sometimes associated with relationships by throwing themselves into other activities like work and sports to feel busy and successful. Understanding your own thoughts and feelings is important when considering making a commitment. Thoughts and feelings inform and guide the big decisions in life. People may be less willing to make commitments when they’re struggling to understand their own feelings.

Keeping one's options open

Some people shy away from commitment due to a quest for perfection. Many of us are taught to seek the ‘perfect partner’ – someone who is good-looking, intelligent, funny, charming, successful, and who likes the same things we do and has plenty of money. These people might be facing an impossible task but, until they learn that for themselves, commitment might just not be on the cards.

Wanting to move on

If one partner is unhappy or no longer in love, they may start to avoid commitment because they lack the communication skills to address the issue or are unsure of how to tell you they want to exit the relationship. 

It can be helpful to start a conversation about what you both want from the relationship and what your hopes are for the future – you don’t need to take any drastic steps or leap to immediate action, but you’ll both be better equipped to make decisions about the future of your relationship when you each know where the other stands.

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