- Do you ever feel attached to one person, but feel awkward and uncomfortable if they try to define the relationship?
- Ever feel uneasy about ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ and convince yourself that there’s something better out there?
- If so – it could be that you’re commitment-phobic
What are commitment issues?
Commitment issues usually refer to problems arising in relationships where one person struggles with or is afraid of totally committing to the other.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan, counsellor and psychotherapist Katerina Georgiou explains further: “Another word that could describe commitment issues is ‘ambivalence’. It can feel like there’s a part of you that wants to be in the situation, and another part that also wants to flee.”
“There can sometimes be a sense of the grass being greener,” she continues. “You might think, ‘Is this it? Is this the best/happiest I’m going to feel? What if there’s something better?'”
Why do people experience commitment issues?
There are a lot of reasons why people might experience issues with committing to a partner.
Nicole Richardson, a counselor and marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle: “it can come from seeing failed relationships with the adults around you as a child. It can come from being burned in romantic relationships of your own. It can also stem from a deep fear of being vulnerable with another person.”
Speaking to Cosmo, Katerina adds: “We can be influenced by romantic narratives in film and media that show us an all-consuming love, so we hold out for that experience. Or we might see friends in the kinds of relationships we’d like to be in and wonder if we should hold out for that too.”
Commitment-phobes will often foster an idealised idea of what a relationship should look like, and are unwilling to settle for anything less – even if the thing they’re looking for only exists inside their own head.
Signs of commitment issues
Nitpicking, being indecisive, or not trusting your own judgment
A sure sign of commitment-phobia is looking for the tiniest reasons to break things off with your partner.
Perhaps you’re expecting them to be superhuman and are disappointed when they don’t meet your impossibly high standards, or you hone in on their flaws and ignore all their better qualities in order to convince yourself that you don’t really like them. Speaking to Bustle, dating coach Pricilla Martinez says that commitment-phobes often “look for the slightest flaws in others to justify moving on.”
Crystal Raypole, writing for Healthline, makes the point that it’s normal to question things at the beginning of a relationship – but not all the time. “Questioning the relationship constantly, to the point where it interferes with the relationship or causes you emotional distress, could suggest commitment fears,” she writes.
Cancelling plans or never planning for the future
Another sign of commitment phobia is the inability to commit to plans – especially if they’re more than a few weeks away.
It’s normal – and sensible! – in the early stages of a relationship not to book an expensive holiday 18 months in the future. But if you’ve been going steady for a while and you’re still reluctant just to book a table at a restaurant in two weeks’ time, that’s not a good sign.
Writing in Cosmopolitan, journalist Julia Pugachevsky explains that “because [commitment-phobes] don’t want to view dating as “serious”, they don’t stress over or prioritize getting [places] on time and don’t really care if them cancelling screws up their chances with you.”
Raypole elaborates: “Not wanting to make plans sometimes suggests you aren’t really interested in the person you’re dating, especially if you’re holding out for the possibility of better plans. But when you do like that person and enjoy their company, but still feel anxious, the issue may be commitment.”
You’re guilty of ‘benching’
If you’re guilty of ‘benching’ – i.e. continuing to date someone even though you’re ambivalent about them – that’s also another sign of commitment issues.
As this eHarmony blog post puts it: “the bottom line is that benchers see the people they’ve benched as options, not priorities.” While it’s of course acceptable to date around when you’re single, if you find yourself leading one particular person on, it’s time to take stock.
If you’re a serial bencher, ask yourself – why am I struggling to focus all my energy on one person? Do I feel as though the grass could be greener? Do I feel underwhelmed? If so, it could be a sign of deeper commitment issues.
How to address commitment issues
The good news is – just because you’re averse to commitment, doesn’t mean it’s incurable. Recognising that you have a tricky time giving your all to someone is the first step to getting to the root of the problem.
Speaking to Cosmo, Katerina says that it’s important to “notice the common patterns you’re getting into and to try to pinpoint what it is that’s holding you back, whether it’s from your past or from your current fears.”
“Get a trusted friend to play devil’s advocate to any of your arguments and counter arguments,” she suggests. “Sometimes thrashing things out like this can give clarity to what’s going on. If things feel really difficult, seeking a therapist to support you to unpick some of this stuff can be helpful.”
Dating coach Pricilla shares her suggestions with Bustle: “It’s important to take your time and make sure you’re comfortable before moving on to each next step.” She adds that it may also be worth enlisting the help of a professional therapist if you’re serious about conquering your issues.