10 Signs of Commitment Issues & How to Cope

What is the root of commitment issues?
on September 29, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

In the modern dating world, commitment issues have become the new epidemic. 

With a generation of daters avoiding labels and dodging conversations about the future, it can feel like a fear of commitment is haunting your hopes of finding your true love. However, before you give up, it’s important to understand why people struggle to commit and what lies behind this throwaway phrase. 

To save yourself some time, it’s important to know how to spot signs of commitment issues and how to cope if you’ve found them lurking in your own psyche! 

What are commitment issues? 

We may all have heard the term thrown around, but what does this term really mean? 

Commitment issues describe an individual's hesitation or anxiety about making long-term decisions, usually pertaining to romantic relationships. Commitment-phobes are usually easily identifiable, highlighted by their refusal to put a ‘label’ on your relationship, or a reluctance to chat about the future. 

If your partner has a fear of commitment, it’s very difficult to navigate a healthy relationship. For example, if you try and discuss your long-term goals with your partner, or raise the subject of relationship commitment, this may trigger a knee-jerk reaction. Due to their fear of long-term relationships, or inbuilt trust issues, they may run for the hills as a form of self-sabotage — rather than dealing with their fears head-on. 

Within the online dating sphere, it’s common to get stuck in a situationship where your partner feigns ‘commitment issues’ in order to retain the ability to play the field. According to research, this has been dubbed as ‘Relationshopping’ and is not usually aligned with an actual commitment phobia. 

If someone has genuine commitment fears, it’s important to consider the root cause of these issues, and hopefully be able to work towards open communication rather than avoidance. 

What does it mean to be committed?

Depending on your relationship dynamic, commitment can take on a lot of different meanings. However, according to various theorists, commitment is defined as the intention to maintain a relationship over time, which is rooted in further theories of interdependence and social exchange. 

To put it simply, being committed to one person means that you’re solely focused on your intimate relationship, and they’re included in all your future plans.  

This choice affects your day-to-day relationship behaviors, with decisions being made to preserve the best interests of your couple, rather than just yourself. These relationship theories correlate with how we all make sacrifices in order to maintain a romantic relationship, even if it isn’t always in our best interest at the time. 

If you have a fear of commitment, you’re likely not willing to make these sacrifices. This could be because your attachment style prevents you from doing so, or you may not have found the right partner, or maybe you’re just not ready to settle down. 

5 causes of commitment issues 

There are many different causes behind a fear of commitment, with most of these rooted in attachment issues — with early experiences affecting your ability to form healthy emotional attachments. 

However, there are lots of other reasons why you or your partner are unable to commit wholeheartedly to the relationship. 

1. Anxiety disorders 

Relationship anxiety is a huge factor in whether committed relationships are sustainable, with research showing a significant correlation between anxiety disorders and relationship distress. 

For example, if one partner has an anxious attachment style it can be more difficult to overcome their insecurities in order to fully commit to their partner. This dynamic can be difficult to attain, especially if one partner is more securely attached and is unable to provide the kind of support or reassurance required. 

2. Fear of abandonment 

Some people may refuse to engage in a serious relationship because they’re afraid if they expose themselves in this way, their partner may simply change their mind and abandon them. 

These tendencies are commonly seen in those with an avoidant attachment style, with this fear of intimacy stemming from a mode of self-preservation. In this case, the refusal to take things to the next level is really a defense mechanism — if they don’t get too involved, they can’t get hurt. 

3. Emotional vulnerability 

In order to fully commit to a romantic partner, you need to be wholly vulnerable and authentic with them. 

These requirements could be seen as too much for some people, especially if they have a disorganized attachment style. This kind of fear can be particularly debilitating if you have been hurt in past relationships, with your ability to establish an emotional connection significantly tainted. 

For example, if you have dealt with infidelity in the past, it’s normal to experience qualms about trusting others again. However, while bad relationships are incredibly impactful, it’s possible to work through these issues with the right partner — who would never hurt you in the same way. 

4. Plenty of fish 

With the new modern dating landscape, it’s easy to engage in short-term relationships with a variety of people. This kind of dynamics means that you don’t have to commit or settle with anyone if you don’t want to. 

For example, if one tiny thing goes wrong in the beginning stages, it’s easier to throw in the towel — as someone else is just a swipe away. 

“Getting clear on what are real deal breakers for you and what is a subject that just needs better communication around is an important part of relationships, especially early on in the relationship,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

This kind of approach can be a huge blow to your self-esteem if you’re the one cast aside. However, your person would never bypass you in such a cruel way — commitment issues or not! 

5. Societal pressures 

We all want our fairytale ending. 

However, the societal pressure associated with finding the ‘one’ can lead to a refusal to commit because someone doesn’t fit your idea of a ‘perfect partner’. 

Although it’s not a crime to be picky, perfect relationships aren’t found, they’re made. Real relationships don’t exist without sacrifices and consistent effort, but unfortunately, these kinds of commitment issues cloud this realization — to their own detriment. 

10 signs of commitment issues

Refusal to talk about the future: Whether it’s planning a holiday, or where you’re going to be for Christmas, they simply don’t want to hear it! Even if you’re just trying to schedule in a date, they might be reluctant to commit to a plan. Instead, they might prefer last-minute meet-ups over concrete plans, favoring the casual nature of these interactions.
Avoiding labels: No matter how many times you try to bring it up, they refuse to have the ‘What are we?’ conversation. While they may use various tactics to squirm out of it at first, this is a telltale sign that they’re not ready to commit or have no intention of doing so.
Track record of short relationships: If your partner has never been in a long-term relationship and prefers shorter-term or more casual interactions, their history could speak to their future plans.
Struggle to open up: Committed relationships require vulnerability and honesty in order to foster emotional intimacy. If they choose to stick to surface-level conversation, it could be a sign they don’t want to form a deeper bond.
Solo future plans: Instead of avoiding the topic of the future, they’re very happy to chat about their traveling plans or where they’re planning on studying abroad. The key thing missing from the itinerary? You.
Keeping a distance: No matter how hard you try and wiggle in, they insist on keeping a distance from you — both emotionally and physically. A common way to implement this distance is by waiting days to reply to texts, or only calling when they want to hang out — rather than keeping in touch throughout the day.
No introductions: While they might tell you stories about their friendship group, or what’s happening in their work life, they don’t want to involve you beyond that. If you’re only meeting up solo, and are kept away from all their friends, it could be a sign they don’t intend to forge a long-term commitment.
Sabotaging tendencies: Just when you seem to have settled into a routine, they may throw all the toys out of the pram out of nowhere. These self-sabotaging tendencies are orchestrated in order to avoid creating a deeper connection.
“Not yet”: When you raise the topic of commitment, they always make excuses about how it’s just not the right time, or they’re not ready quite yet. It’s important to take heed of these warnings to avoid being strung along, with this pattern negatively impacting your mental health and overall well-being.
Seeking flaws: If you feel like your partner is constantly picking you apart over the small things, it could be that they’re looking for reasons to show that you’re the wrong person for them. However, try not to take these pursuits personally, as they are likely looking for these details to find a valid reason not to commit to you, and that sounds like a ‘them’ problem.

Can you be with someone with commitment issues? 

Being in a relationship with someone who has commitment issues isn’t always plain sailing, but if they’re willing to work on overcoming their fears — there’s no reason things can’t work out! 

“You need to understand your own reasons for being attracted to someone who is going through this, as well as your own boundaries,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Otherwise, you may find yourself in an imbalanced relationship, where you are constantly chasing or pursuing them. Leaving you feeling rejected and lonely. This can have a negative impact on your mental health.” 

“However, if your partner is open, honest, and actively working on personal growth in this area, it may be worth exploring whether this relationship is a good and healthy fit for both of you,” says Seeger DeGeare.  

How do you fix commitment issues? 

If you’re struggling with commitment issues yourself, or if you believe your partner is displaying these signs, don’t give up hope for your future. 

With time and patience, it’s possible to work through commitment issues in order to form healthy and fulfilling relationships. However, remember that you can’t make someone want to be in a relationship with you, and you should never feel you have to change to be worthy of someone’s time. 

1. Self-reflection

If you’re struggling to commit to your loved one, it’s important to self-reflect and consider what could be holding you back. 

“One of the key parts of a healthy relationship is your own understanding of your emotions,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“We can not expect our partners to understand us and how we experience the world if we don’t even have that understanding ourselves.”

Do you want to date other people? Are you afraid to open up to them? Are you worried that they might leave you in the future? Do you feel that they don’t tick all your boxes? 

2. Understand the causes

After reflecting on your relationship circumstances, it’s important to try and understand the root cause behind your commitment fears. 

It could be helpful to understand your attachment style, in order to trace back why you’re unable to form this kind of connection in committed relationships. 

3. Open communication 

Once you have gained a better understanding of why you may be behaving this way, it’s important to verbalize this with your prospective partner. 

If you don’t talk openly and honestly to your significant other, they could misunderstand your intentions and think that you’re just not interested — when that’s not the case. Take the time to explain your reservations and why you might struggle with commitment while emphasizing that you want to try and work through these issues with them. 

4. Professional help

You don’t want to tackle these issues all by yourself!

If you’re struggling with commitment issues, it could be helpful to try couples therapy or couples counseling in order to find a way to move forward as a team. If you aren’t ready to involve your partner in your healing process, it could also be helpful to try individual therapy to get to the bottom of everything in your own time. 

5. Baby steps

If you’re dealing with commitment issues, rushing through the healing process is one of the worst things you could do! 

Try and take baby steps in your new relationship, being patient with yourself so as not to trigger a negative knee-jerk reaction to this kind of commitment. 

6. Practice intimacy 

Surface-level conversations will only get you so far in a relationship. When you’re ready, try and dive a little deeper, becoming more vulnerable with your partner at your own pace. 

If you’re struggling to start the conversation, these deep questions should put you on the right track. 

7. Set boundaries 

Every healthy relationship relies on boundaries to ensure the dynamic is comfortable for both partners. 

If you have a hard time with commitment and intimacy, it can be helpful to put boundaries in place to ensure things don’t become too overwhelming or constrictive. Chat with your partner about how you would like to approach the relationship, whether that involves boundaries around personal time or how you want to see each other. 

8. Be patient 

Since commitment issues often stem from early childhood experiences or past bad relationships, it would be silly to assume they can be resolved overnight. 

Be patient with yourself and your partner as you navigate a committed relationship. Even if there are some speed bumps along the way, it doesn’t mean it can’t work out! Practice patience, and you might be surprised by what you’re able to achieve. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are commitment issues a red flag?

    Commitment issues can be a red flag in certain contexts, especially if they’re being used as an excuse rather than a genuine reasoning behind why a relationship can’t work. Before you write your prospective partner off as a red flag, it’s important to take the time to try and understand the motivations and reasonings behind this term.
  • How does the person with commitment issues feel?

    On the surface, individuals who struggle with commitment issues may experience a sense of disconnection from their partners or even their peers. The fear of forming close relationships can make them hesitant to fully engage, but deep down, they still crave closeness and connection. As a result, they may experience conflicting emotions, as fear and desire create a state of cognitive dissonance. Physically, fear can manifest itself as a gripping pain in the stomach or as a heaviness in the chest when separating from a partner. In addition, commitment issues can lead to anxiety about depending on someone, which may result in tingling sensations throughout the body or occasional moments of feeling disconnected during intimate moments. These physical sensations further contribute to the complexity of the emotional struggle that individuals with commitment issues face.
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