Signs You’re Afraid of Commitment—And How to Overcome Them

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A professional matchmaker and dating coach breaks down everything you need to know.

or some, the idea of being in a serious, long-term relationship is comforting, and for others, it’s terrifying. Not everyone dreams of a big white wedding and having children with their spouse (and that’s okay!), but if an open relationship or being single long-term doesn’t sound appealing either, the problem might not be with a partner—it might be with your feelings surrounding commitment in general.

It takes a lot of honest self-reflection to figure out your phobias, and, the truth is, there are plenty of reasons why the idea of settling down might make you uncomfortable. But, actually spotting the signs you’re afraid of commitment (or that your partner is) can be somewhat tricky. That’s because, according to professional matchmaker and dating coach Thalia Ouimet, there are a lot of explanations for why someone might get anxious about the idea of monogamy. For example: “Someone who has zero relationship history might be afraid of commitment; Someone who has divorced parents and experienced trauma from it might be afraid of commitment; Someone who didn’t seek professional help after a bad relationship might be afraid of commitment,” she explains.

While getting married isn’t for everyone, some folks want to find their forever partner, but the fear of commitment is holding them back. If this sounds familiar, don’t panic! It absolutely does not mean you’re incapable of loving someone or being in a long-term union. That said, the first step to overcoming this emotional hurdle is acknowledging that you do have some sort of fear, which we further break down below.

Signs You’re Afraid of Commitment
If you suspect that you’re afraid to settle down, but aren’t entirely sure, keep reading for 16 signs to look out for when dating or in a relationship.

You Don’t Consider Your Partner When Making Plans
In case you missed it, checking in with your significant other when making plans is basically Relationship 101. “Someone who doesn’t think about their partner when making plans is a telltale sign that they might have a fear of commitment (or their level of interest for their partner is low),” explains Ouimet. While it might feel like you’re “asking for permission,” checking in shows respect and that you value your time together.

“When you’re in love with your partner, you want to include them when making plans,” Ouimet says. “If you find yourself not committing to plans with your partner in hopes that someone suggests a better plan, that’s a key indicator that you aren’t interested enough to be in a relationship with your partner.” If that’s the case, you need to figure out if it’s an issue with your chosen partner or with committing in general.

Or When Planning for the Future
It’s not just hesitation to make Friday night plans that points toward fear of commitment, but hesitation to include your partner in long-term plans as well. “Someone who doesn’t consider their partner when making future plans might be afraid of long-term commitment, which could indicate an ‘avoidant’ attachment style,” Ouimet explains.

As you might have guessed, someone with this attachment style doesn’t place a high value or trust in relationships. They’re much more likely to avoid including others in long-term plans because they don’t necessarily believe they’ll stick around. If you don’t even think about your partner (or any partner, for that matter) when dreaming about the future, commitment might make you feel uneasy or vulnerable to an uncomfortable degree.

You’re Known to Cancel Plans
When you do get around to making plans, you’re not always the best at keeping them. ”Flaking is a sign of someone who could have a fear of commitment,” Ouimet says. “Someone who constantly demonstrates flaking is maybe an avoidant in all aspects of their life,”

While it might not seem like such a big deal to send a text saying you can’t make a movie or have to cancel a date, Ouimet says staying true to your word is vital for forming and maintaining connections, both romantic and platonic. “I would recommend committing only to the things you know for certain you can do,” she advises. Simply put, if you make a plan? Stick to it. Or it won’t be long before people stop making plans with you at all.

You’re Guilty of Ghosting
Speaking of canceling plans, folks who fear commitment might have problems with keeping up communication in the first place. “Someone who decides to ghost is not considering how that would make their partner feel,” Ouimet explains. “They might be trying to take steps back to create space between them which is another indicator that this person might be afraid of commitment.”

Obviously, a relationship not working out doesn’t necessarily mean you have commitment issues. But if you’re prone to pulling a disappearing act when things get serious, it’s likely more than just incompatibility at play.

You’re Bad at Answering Your Phone and Texts
Though you might not outright ghost, do you ever just casually forget to text your partner back for an extended period of time? It might not seem like a major issue if you eventually text back, but not prioritizing communication (or withholding it) can actually be a form of stonewalling or manipulation in a relationship. According to Ouimet, it might also indicate an avoidant attachment style. “This person might be afraid of commitment and wants to keep a distance to prevent the relationship from getting too serious,” she explains. “At the end of the day, effort equals interest.”

You Feel Trapped When in a Relationship
If the concept of committing to a partner (or multiple people if you’re non-monogamous) makes you feel trapped instead of secure, Ouimet says it’s worth doing a little investigative work as to why. “There is nothing worse than feeling unhappy and trapped, but this is an easy fix if all parties involved want to help make the relationship work,” she says. Her recommendation? Simply start with an open conversation and go from there. You might be surprised at how freeing just expressing your feelings can be.

You Get Uncomfortable When Your Partner Expresses Their Needs and Expectations
Does the idea of talking about your feelings make you feel uneasy? If yes, that’s another sign you might have a fear of commitment. “When you love someone full-heartedly, and you are thinking long term, then you consider their needs first, and you want to make sure that their needs are met,” Ouimet explains. Someone who doesn’t put their partner’s needs and wants first—or people who get uncomfortable or upset when their partner expresses those needs—might actually not feel comfortable with long-term commitment.

Ouimet adds that, while there are times when you have to prioritize yourself, if you habitually get uneasy or upset at the notion of compromising or adapting with your partner, it could indicate shellfish and or non-committal tendencies.

You Often Question Whether You Want to Be With Your Partner
Being with the wrong person, while upsetting, isn’t necessarily a sign of commitment phobia. Constantly questioning if you want to be with anyone, no matter the relationship, might be. If you find yourself wondering whether you want to be in a relationship over and over, even when dating different people, there’s a very strong chance there’s a commitment issue that needs to be addressed.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out if it’s just your choice of partner or an overarching fear of commitment, take inventory of how you’ve felt toward the end of relationships to see if it’s more partner or commitment-based.

The Idea of Finding “The One” Makes You Anxious
Some people believe in the notion that there’s one soulmate for everyone, while others think there are multiple right people out there. Whichever camp you’re a part of, if envisioning a life of wedding anniversaries and growing old together fills you with fear instead of hope, commitment might be the issue.

Ouimet notes that monogamy is not for everyone, but it’s a good idea to figure out if you just like being single or if you’re afraid to get close to someone. “If you are anxious about dating one person and committing to that one person, I would recommend seeing a therapist to see if this is childhood related, if you genuinely don’t like monogamy, or if this is caused by a limited belief system that you’ve created through your past experiences,” she suggests.

You Have a History of Short Relationships
When thinking back over your relationships, Ouimet suggests comparing the timelines. If you always jump ship when things start to get serious, evaluating why is important. While it could be that you’re good at spotting red flags early, it might also be that you don’t want to get close to anyone. It’s important to determine the difference, and therapy is a great place to unpack that. “I highly recommend getting therapy to see if the fear of running away is a byproduct of something that occurred in childhood,” Ouimet suggests.

You Always Want to Keep Things Casual
The keyword here is “always,” as wanting to casually date from time to time doesn’t mean you have a fear of commitment. For instance, if you just moved to a new city and want to focus on making friends and familiarizing yourself with the area, your main focus may not be trying to turn your fling into a serious relationship. However, if you find that you’ve never felt the desire to date someone in a more committed way than going out to dinner every once in a while or never defining the relationship, you may want to consider why that is.
You’re Scared of Getting Hurt
People who have anxiety around commitment may approach relationships from the hot-stove-rule perspective. Before we lose you, let us explain: Psychologist Douglas McGregor developed a theory that if a child (or anyone, for that matter) touches a hot stove, their ensuing painful burn teaches them never to make that same mistake again. In terms of relationships, people who have been metaphorically burned by a former partner may avoid any deep, romantic relationship to avoid being hurt again.

For example, if your ex cheated on you, you may have a paralyzing fear that your new partner is doing the same thing every time they say they have to work late, go on a business trip, or spend time with friends. These fears and concerns that they may be lying are coming from a place of insecurity because your cheating ex broke your heart. Learning how to trust new partners after a devastating heartbreak is definitely hard to achieve, but it is possible.

You Self-Sabotage
An additional indicator is that you tend to be the one who sabotages potential relationships instead of them ending on their own. Some people who do this feel guilty for not only hurting themselves but also for hurting their partner. However, it’s a lot more complicated than simply ruining a good thing for no reason.

For instance, you may be so happy in your relationship that you’re terrified it won’t last much longer, so instead of waiting around for the inevitable, you speed the process up and do something that causes the relationship to implode. That way, you’re at least in control over how and when it ends, even though you were so happy before.

You’ve Convinced Yourself That You Don’t Want to Commit
When you’re trying to figure out if you’re afraid of commitment, it’s important to re-examine how you view commitment in the first place. Many people who tell themselves that they don’t want to commit are often just scared of taking this kind of leap and have convinced themselves that commitment isn’t something they even want.

For instance, if you’re excelling in your career and want to spend the next few months or years focusing on that aspect of your life, that is totally okay. However, if you use your career as an excuse to avoid committing to someone, you may have a serious phobia around commitment.

You Don’t Open Up
Is it difficult or uncomfortable for you to share your feelings with others? If you are a bit standoffish, cold, or emotionally detached towards people who care about you (and whom you care about as well), these feelings may go hand-in-hand with the fear of commitment.

At the end of the day, being vulnerable and open with your partner is a huge part of being in a relationship. If you are afraid of that, you probably aren’t in the right mindset to be in a committed relationship.

You Easily Find Faults in Others
You may be in a relationship with an amazing person who treats you in a way that makes you happy, but you convince yourself it won’t work out because something is wrong with them. Whether it’s not liking their friends or hating the way they hog the covers, individuals with commitment phobias are always able to find enough reasons not to let their relationship get too deep.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Commitment
As previously mentioned, the first step to overcoming your fear of commitment is acknowledging that you have this phobia. It’s difficult to deal with any issue within your life if you can’t be open and honest with yourself about what you’re going through. Once you’ve realized that you’re afraid to settle down, speaking with a professional would be the next best step toward unpacking this fear. While you can try and work through it on your own, there’s a benefit to speaking with someone who has the tools to help you break down what’s happening—especially if your fear stems from a past traumatic experience. What’s more, consider “practicing commitment” by trying to make tangible strides towards strengthening your faith, trust, and confidence in being in a long-term relationship. Lastly, always remember that self-discovery and growth are a journey, so be kind and gracious with yourself as you try to heal this phobia.

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