A commitment phobia is a fear and subsequent avoidance of having to commit to anything — especially a relationship. Being involved with someone afraid of commitments can be both frustrating and perplexing. In addition, being afraid of any commitment is no picnic either; life is pretty lonely. While there may be many reasons for this fear, it often begins when a child has a loss of an important person in their life. When a child experiences losing a parent to divorce or if a child’s parent dies; the loss can be so traumatic that the child may always fear losing a loved one. This fear of loss and rejection keeps the commitment-phobe from risking getting attached to anyone. Being a witness to spousal abuse may also induce a fear, a fear of getting hurt or being a hurter and cause the child witness to grow into an adult who never wants to get married.
If you have ever dated someone who says they want to be with you desperately and seems to chase you with incredible zeal till they catch you — and then suddenly turns cool and critical? You may have stumbled onto a commitment-phobe.
There are several typical behaviors for the start of a relationship:
1. At first, they have aggressive interest, give lots of compliments and professions of love. Once they know you’re hooked, they suddenly create distance, act trapped, “need space”, criticize you and almost seem to search for a good reason to break up.
2. When a relationship is working well, they annoy or hurt you in an attempt to blow the relationship up.
3. They get very involved and then break up, only to come back to you and break up again and again.
4. They cannot discuss marriage or even living together.
5. They have unrealistic ideas of how perfect someone has to be for them.
6. They pick “unavailable” partners so they don’t have to worry about commitment.
If you know you have a fear of commitments, getting psychotherapy to understand the roots of your fear and resolve them can really help.
If you are in a relationship with someone that you think has a fear of commitment, try to discuss it with them. Be empathetic rather than critical, which will only drive them away. Tell them you understand that it is scary for them but that in order for you to stay with them, they have to get help. If, however, you can see the signs in someone before you are in too deep, you might want to move along to a partner without this issue. Working out intimacy with someone afraid of it is no easy task. There could be a lot of heartache in store, with no certainty of a possible happy ending. It could be time to go looking for a more stable possibility and hope for satisfaction.