Commitment Issues: What They Look Like

Commitment is one of the crucial characteristics that separate children from adults. We start learning about commitment and responsibility at an early age. Some parents ask their children to clean their rooms, take care of their pets or do various household chores to instill the concepts of responsibility, accountability, and commitment. 

Why are these concepts so important that we begin teaching them to our children?  For example, learning to pick up toys teaches about making an effort, investing time into something, and getting something valuable in return, whether it’s a sense of achievement and self-worth, approval of others, or being accountable to helping contribute to the family system. 

Commitment means making a promise to dedicate yourself to something or someone. So what’s the meaning of commitment issues, and where do they come from? What if we’re scared of not being able to keep that promise? We might think we’re not capable enough or that we’ll lose interest and stop caring. Or maybe we’ll care too much and open ourselves to disappointment and pain. What do all these examples have in common? 

Fear. We’re scared to commit because if we do, we invest ourselves into something, give ourselves to someone, and open ourselves to the possibility of being hurt. We’re also making a choice without knowing if it’s the right one. When we say “yes” to certain things, we’re also saying “no” to many others.

What Do Commitment Issues Look Like?

Let’s forget typical stereotypes of eternal bachelors that value freedom and fun above anything else and can’t imagine a worse punishment than living the life of a family man. Instead, we’ll discover that fear of commitment takes many different forms and has various underlying causes. Of course, there’s some truth to the stereotypes, as usual, and commitment issues do come up more frequently in romantic relationships, or at least that’s the context that makes them more noticeable.

They commonly manifest as an inability to take the next step in a relationship, plan ahead, and set common goals with a partner, like moving in together, getting married, buying real estate, or having children. One person’s noticeable hesitation can feel quite alarming to the other partner, and rightfully so. They might feel like their partner doesn’t love them and doesn’t want to tie themselves to that relationship in any permanent way.

Whether it’s your partner having commitment issues or you, recognizing them is not easy and figuring out what some of these behaviors mean is even more challenging. Here are some pointers that might help you determine if you’re the one struggling with hesitance:

  1. You avoid thinking about the future of your relationship with your partner.
  2. You purposely choose partners who prefer keeping things casual (self-sabotaging).
  3. You don’t make plans, not even short-term ones.
  4. If your partner begins showing signs of being ready for more serious steps in your relationship, you feel uneasy or trapped.
  5. You feel emotionally detached from your partner.
  6. You’re avoiding conversations about the future and avoiding addressing fundamental issues.
  7. Being honest about your thoughts or feelings doesn’t come naturally to you.
  8. When you do make plans, they don’t involve your partner.
  9. You’re not too bothered about returning calls or answering text messages, sometimes even for days.
  10. You question the relationship, unsure if you’re ready for it, and whether you really want it to work.
commitment issues meaning

Why Do I Have Commitment Issues?

Like most emotional issues, commitment problems can have various underlying causes. If you want to understand your behavior and begin overcoming this commitment fear, it’s important to  recognize and understand these “issues.”  The root cause of commitment issues is fear: of being hurt, choosing the wrong person, missing better opportunities, etc. However, in some cases, the fear is much deeper and stems from childhood trauma, unwholesome family life, bad breakups, and traumatic or abusive previous relationships.

These negative experiences can affect one’s self-worth, ultimately preventing them from trusting their choices. They can also make people vulnerable and scared of being hurt, abandoned, ending up with the wrong person, and feeling severe anxiety about romantic relationships. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether someone has severe mental health and emotional issues or simply doesn’t want to commit to a specific relationship.

When it comes to recognizing these traits in yourself, you might be having commitment issues for any of the following reasons:

  1. Being afraid of change.
  2. Not wanting to miss other opportunities.
  3. Thinking you might be in a relationship that’s wrong for you.
  4. Assuming you’ll lose your freedom and get stuck.
  5. Not wanting to repeat the past.
  6. Fear of losing your identity.
  7. Being afraid that things won’t work out.
  8. Having attachment issues.
  9. Having low self-esteem.
  10. Being indecisive.

How Do You Cure Commitment Issues?

Since commitment issues are generally caused by fear, the way to overcome them is to understand the origin of that fear and identify events or circumstances that caused it. The depth and complexity of emotional issues that underpin commitment anxiety can significantly vary in severity from person to person. This is why more severe cases require expert guidance. Identifying and addressing these fears usually leads to uncovering a wide range of suppressed emotions.

You might need to allow yourself to feel those emotions fully, even the very unpleasant ones, so you can normalize them, rationally explore them, and change your thought and behavior patterns. This can lead to healthier coping mechanisms, modified behavior, and deeper connections with your partner and people in general. Remember that being afraid of commitment doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner. This fear is often about you, not them. People can deeply care about their partners and still be afraid of commitment.

Take it one step at a time:

  • Admit and confront your fears.
  • Ask yourself, do you really want a partner at this stage in your life?  Is it a good time for you to be in a committed relationship? 
  • Overcome the misconception that committing to someone means losing your independence.
  • Empower your partner by revealing your weaknesses and vulnerabilities and communicating openly.
  • Practice making plans for the future; start with short-term ones and slowly work your way up to more important ones if you feel your partner’s the one you want to be with in a serious, committed relationship.
  • Consider individual or couples coaching so an expert can evaluate your issues and attachment styles and guide you toward the solution.
commitment issues

Overcome Your Commitment issues And Form Healthy Relationships With Help From PIVOT

Getting to the bottom of your fear of commitment can require a deep dive into your childhood and family dynamics to try and recognize thought and behavior patterns or circumstances that made you respond to fear by avoiding attachment and commitment altogether. This challenging work might take some time. 

However, proper guidance from experienced experts can help show you the way. In addition, you can schedule individual sessions with PIVOT’s relationship coaches, who will make the process run smoothly, and help you incorporate your new insight into your life and relationships as you go.

Sharing this self-discovery journey with other people with similar issues might make you feel less alone and provide a more optimistic outlook on your circumstances. Glass House retreats are a perfect little escape from the pressures of everyday life that can offer you a safe space to explore your feelings and understand your behavior patterns. The guidance of our knowledgeable coaches will help you make the most of it and return to your life with a new perspective and determination to change the things that have been holding you back.

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