Afraid to Commit?

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Do you find it hard to stick things through? Jump from not just one relationship to the next, but also jobs, friendships, and opportunities?

Fear of commitment might be controlling your life.

What is fear of commitment?

Fear of commitment means that when life asks us to make a long-term decision, we feel uncomfortable.

The idea of sticking something out, particularly a romantic relationship, leaves you feeling trapped.

You might blame it on the other person or the situation at first. They aren’t the ‘right’ partner, your friend did this and that wrong. Or it’s your manager's fault you are quitting yet another job. And it was the wrong idea, that’s why you are stopping your new creative project. Or perhaps you joke that you just need more excitement.

But eventually, you start to realise it’s a pattern. Perhaps other people even say something. That it’s time you ‘settle down’ or ‘finally finish something’. If such casual comments make you feel angry? Then there’s a good chance somewhere, deep down, you know they are right.

Why am I afraid to commit?

You might try to blame your fear of commiting on a recent bad experience. 'He was horrible, he gave me commitment issues’. But a mentally healthy person would be resilient, and not have issues based on one breach of trust. And they would have been less likely to be attracted to a partner that was dishonest in the first place.

Commitment issues often stem from the past, and from difficult childhood experiences and environments.

Childhood neglect or trauma is an example. They lower self-worth, leaving you with limiting beliefs that you don't deserve good things. In adulthood, these unconscious beliefs drive sabotaging behaviours, such as pushing others away even if you want to be liked or in love, or only attracting people who treat you so poorly you eventually have to walk away.

Another common belief that stems from difficult childhood experiences is that ‘the world is a dangerous place’. This belief sees you again push away anything your unconscious deems as ‘dangerous’, even the very success and love you consciously are trying to go after.

Fear of commitment and bad parenting

Had what seemed a reasonably good childhood? So confused as to why you have commitment issues?

Being afraid to commit can also result from the way you were parented. Some parents, even if they meant well, were unable to offer the unconditional love and safety their child needed.

If your parent was an alcoholic, mentally unwell, or unable to handle being a parent, they might have been inconsistent in offering you love and safety. Or perhaps you were only loved if you met certain conditions, such as being ‘good’ or ‘quiet’.

The result of these types of scenarios is growing up to be an adult with what is called ‘anxious attachment’. If you have anxious attachment, relationships and love will trigger a feeling of being out of control and panicky. To escape this anxiety, you leave the relationship, even though you want it.

Can therapy help my fear of commitment?

Therapy is recommended. Given that fear of commitment tends to be a complicated pattern based on coping mechanisms from childhood, it can simply be too overwhelming or difficult to unravel alone.

Therapy can also rule out any other mental disorders that could be behind your inability to not stick out relationships and jobs, such as adult ADHD or a personality disorder.

What types of therapy help with commitment issues?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term option and a good starting point if you haven’t tried therapy before. It will help you recognise your negative thoughts, and learn to see yourself and situations is more balanced ways.

Any form of counselling or psychotherapy can help you with relating. But there are also some types of therapy that focus just on this issue. These include:

Time to stop running and start commiting? Book a therapist you like now and get talking.

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