Do you know someone with a fear of commitment?
Commitment may be the most critical component of successful long-term relationships. After all, says Lawrence Josephs, PhD, a professor at the Derner School of Psychology at Adelphi University, New York: The more committed you are, the more stable, successful relationship you’ll have.
Commitment is a decision, Dr Josephs says. It moves you and your partner beyond the initial chemistry that propelled you into the relationship in the first place to stay bonded after the initial period of bliss diffuses.
John Lydon, PhD, a professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal, explains: “Commitment is the general motivation to maintain one’s relationship.”
Know somebody who seems like they could be lacking that motivation? Here are some tell-tell ways to recognise a fear of commitment – even in yourself.
Why does someone fear commitment?
Jessy Levin, PhD, a psychologist, says the reasons an individual is averse to commitment can vary, and some commitment-avoidant people may have more than just one of these reasons. Dr Levin adds that some people just don’t want to be in a long-term monogamous relationship ever.
But how come? Well, says Dr Josephs, some people fear commitment because it implies responsibilities. Those may be financial: Maybe they’re not so keen on the idea of paying for two at dinner, the thought of buying gifts for holidays or birthdays, or they’re not interested in the thought of one day raising children (which typically demands financial stability and investment). Maybe they just loathe the idea of having to be somewhere on time for plans you’ve made.
Other times, it may be a question of becoming more mature; more willing to shift one’s time and focus away from solely their own interests.
You may have also had a brush with a case when an individual’s unwillingness to commit has been rooted in their childhood. Early family dynamics and previous trauma can play a role, says Matt Cohen, PhD, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. “We are driven by a such a rich tapestry of our own histories,” Dr Cohen observes. “So many things impact how we show up in a relationship.”
Our experts offer a list of potential clues that you or someone you’re with has trouble with commitment:
Inability to compromise
Relationships, especially long-term ones, require give and take. Your partner hates musicals. You counted down weeks to the premiere of tick, tick…BOOM! In a healthy, balanced relationship, they’d need to be willing to subject themselves, at least sometimes, to your interests that they don’t particularly share.
But what signifies actual commitment phobia? “A commitment is a willingness to sacrifice for the team,” says Dr Josephs. “Pay attention to how your partner deals with not getting his or her own way.” Put simply: If someone is consistently unwilling to compromise, that’s a sign they might not be prime long-term partner material.
In that case, you might be called to decide: Is an inability to compromise one of your relationship deal breakers?