Commitment Issues: 11 Signs & How to Deal With Them

Published on: 10 Dec 2018
Clinically Reviewed by Amy Cirbus Ph.D, LMHC, LPC

Knowing you have commitment issues in your relationship is one thing. Knowing what to do about the commitment phobes is entirely different. If you’re in a relationship and you feel like you’re ready to take the next step, but your romantic partner seems hesitant, or if it’s you who’s hesitant, it might be time to start asking, what are commitment issues really about? 

More importantly, how can you fix them to ensure future committed relationships? 

Commitment issues can cause incredible stress in a relationship. Understanding the signs and knowing more about what causes a fear to commit can be the first step towards overcoming them in your relationship. If you want to learn more about commitment issues, read on. We’re walking you through everything you need to know about them and how you can deal with commitment issues with several tips and relationship counseling online.  

What Are Commitment Issues?

Commitment issues can also be referred to as relationship anxiety, commitment phobia, or even fear of commitment. These labels can be used to explain why someone may have a difficult time committing to a long-term relationship or a long-term goal inside a relationship. 

Commitment issues can affect people already in long-term intimate romantic relationships. They can also apply to previously-single people just starting to date someone. 

At the most basic level, commitment issues mean one person is hesitant or afraid to take a relationship to the next level. Often commitment issues may show up when one person’s ready to commit on a higher level — for example, deciding to become monogamous, getting engaged, moving in together, planning a vacation together, or otherwise planning anything in the future together. The core root of “commitment issues” is an unwillingness to allow a relationship to progress to the next level.

11 Signs of Commitment Issues

What are commitment issues that you should look for if you’re concerned you or your partner might be afraid to take things to a deeper level? The fear of commitment can be complex and difficult to understand, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Knowing the signs can be helpful in determining if a fear to commit is affecting your relationship. 

Recognizing signs of commitment issues in yourself can be a challenge. You need to really look at yourself and your habits and patterns in an open and honest way, and that can be hard. It can also pay off if you’re looking to change your life and find a deeper, more meaningful, lasting connection with your romantic partner. 

“Signs of commitment issues include the inability to make meaningful connections, difficulty reading emotions and making adjustments for your partner, difficulty compromising, it is ultimately the inability to see yourself in a relationship.”

Talkspace therapist Dr. Reshawan Chapple, PhD, LCSW.

The following may be signs that your commitment anxiety and issues are interfering in your relationship.

  1. You avoid thinking about the future of your romantic relationships. If you make a concerted effort not to think about the long-term look of your relationship, you may have a commitment issue problem or commitment anxiety. Being present, in the here and now, has its benefits, but if you’re either unwilling to, or truly just cannot, see a future stage or next steps in your relationship, this might suggest a fear of commitment.
  2. You don’t want to have a serious partner. Casually dating doesn’t necessarily mean you have a commitment phobia. Where it can become a problem is if you find that you feel the need to end things rather than let them progress, for reasons you’re not quite clear on.
  3. You avoid making plans. Does making plans far out in the future feel stressful? Would you rather wait until Friday morning to make plans for Friday night? Do you often find that your responses to invites sound something like “Maybe! I’ll get back to you…”? Do you tend to want to cancel plans immediately after making them? Dread plans leading up to the date you committed to?
    Sometimes when we avoid making plans, it can mean we’re “just not that into“ someone. It’s when you’re feeling like you don’t want to make plans even though you actually do like them, though, that your issue may be more related to a fear of commitment than to your feelings.
  4. You feel trapped or nervous if a partner seems to be ready to take the next steps. If your partner expressing a deepening love or showing you signs of affection makes you feel nervous or uneasy, there may be something more going on. This can be one of the more confusing signs of commitment phobia, because you may not always understand what’s happening.
    You might even feel fleeting moments of excitement or happiness when a partner says something like “I love you” for the first time, but if this ultimately ends up making you feel anxious in the long run, you might have a fear of commitment.
  5. You spend an exorbitant amount of time questioning your relationship. Sometimes you spend time thinking about the future of your relationship and you have strong feelings, yet you continuously question your partner or your partnership. Do you find that you ask yourself if they really care about you, or what’s going to happen next, or do you really want this relationship to work? You might be self-sabotaging. 
    While it can be normal to question a relationship from time to time, doing so to the extent that it’s causing you emotional distress or interfering in your relationship might be a sign of your fear of commitment.
  6. You feel emotionally detached from your partner. Having a lack of emotional attachment to a partner might be a sign that your fear of commitment is holding you back from establishing a solid, trusting, mutual relationship. When you feel attached to a relationship, you’re much more likely to put in the work. Not feeling any sort of emotional connection might mean that you’d be OK if things ended, which can be a sign of a commitment issue.
  7. They’re hesitant to talk about the future. After you’ve been with someone, at some point, it’s natural to begin thinking about the next steps. Especially if the relationship is seemingly solid, and you enjoy being together, the future of your relationship is likely on your mind.
    Maybe you’ve been waiting for that conversation to be had, but there’s just no reciprocation. Maybe your partner is openly resistant to defining things. If any of this describes what’s going on in your partnership, you may be in a relationship with someone who has commitment issues.
  8. They don’t seem invested. If your partner doesn’t seem to want to make long-term plans for things or events that are far out in the future, this can be a telltale sign of a commitment issue.
    Another signal that commitment may be a problem is if your partner knows all your friends, but you don’t know any of theirs. Finally, there’s a less obvious signal, but it’s one you should pay attention to nonetheless. If you’re in a relationship with someone who initially seems excited about things — like taking a trip together, or anything else that could be significant in terms of getting to the next level — but then they come up with excuses or cancel plans, you might want to have a deeper conversation about what may be going on.
  9. They have a hard time sharing or opening up. If you are with someone who seems to have a difficult time with all her ability, that might come from a fear of commitment. When two people are committed to one another, as the relationship progresses, they learn about one another. If you feel like you haven’t really gotten to know your partner’s past, or their experiences as a child, or even their goals for the future, it may be because they have commitment fears that prevent them from truly opening up and trusting you.
  10. They don’t respond to messages, texts, or calls. This one can be tricky because there are certain personalities that just don’t love texting or talking on the phone. Still, if you notice a pattern of your partner going a long time before responding to you, they may be emotionally unavailable and unable to commit in the ways you need. 
  11. They don’t seem to include you in future plans. If you’ve noticed that you’re with someone who talks about their future, but those plans don’t really include you, you may want to think about their motivation for your future relationship.
    They may simply be putting up a wall to protect themselves because they don’t expect that you’ll be dating long-term. Maybe they can’t wrap their arms around the idea of being tied down. Whatever the reason, if your partner seems to see a future and you’re not in it, it might be something to have a conversation about.

Causes of Commitment Issues

Commitment issues can stem from a host of reasons. Understanding the root causes can help in overcoming most, if not all, of the fears that are related to committing — as long as both parties are willing to work together. 

“Commitment issues are caused by fear. Fear of being suffocated, fear of being hurt, fear of settling for the wrong person, fear of missing out, etc. It can also be a result of a trauma from a bad relationship or coming from a family with unhealthy boundaries. This causes the individual to question their relationship choices and always feel vulnerable and unsure of themself.”

Talkspace therapist Dr. Reshawan Chapple, PhD, LCSW.

Attachment issues

People with avoidant attachment find it difficult to connect to others in an interdependent way. Attachment theory explains how avoidant attachment comes from learning in childhood that a parent or other caregiver can’t be counted on to provide reliably for basic and fundamental emotional needs.

In adulthood, an avoidant partner may focus mainly on being self-reliant. Merging their life with someone can feel scary and uncomfortable. Even when they’re in love, they can be hesitant to jump into a commitment with both feet.

Not being with the right partner

Sometimes, people stay in a stable relationship even when they know on a deep level that their partner isn’t a good fit or they’re not in love.

The desire for safety and security can outweigh the suspicion that they’ll never feel entirely fulfilled with their partner. Fear of change might be what’s actually preventing them from moving on, but their partner often perceives their ambivalence as fear of commitment.

Refusing to work on key issues

Long term, you may fear that certain issues will preclude a happy marriage with your partner.

For example, if you are dating someone with anxiety or depression, you may fear that you’ll be attaching yourself to someone who cannot truly enjoy life with you. If your partner refuses to get treatment, you may have serious hesitations about committing to them.

Self-sabotaging

There are many people who subconsciously self-sabotage anything good that comes their way. This can be due to a childhood where good things never happened, or where good things ended too quickly.

Growing up with a depressed or alcoholic parent, you learn time and again that most interactions are unpredictable and often don’t end well. In adulthood, you may shy away from a relationship that feels too good, because you fear the other proverbial shoe may drop.

Monogamy is difficult

In some circles of thought, evolutionarily speaking, people weren’t supposed to mate forever, especially now that our lifespans have dramatically increased.

People in serious and healthy relationships may feel their sexual desire for their partner subsides over time. Sometimes, when someone is scared of commitment, they also might be scared of the idea of mutual desire waning significantly in the future.

Conquering Commitment Issues

Knowing that there are commitment issues in a relationship can be scary, and you might begin to feel hopeless about the future. The reality is, with hard work and dedication, overcoming commitment issues is possible.  

Tips for overcoming your own commitment issues

If you’re struggling to overcome your own commitment issues, you can use any of the following techniques. Each can help you conquer your fears and feel strong enough to establish a healthy, committed relationship that’s as rewarding for you as it is for your partner.

  • Individual therapy — A good therapist can help you identify your commitment issues. Beyond that, therapy can also help you identify why you have issues with commitment in the first place. Understanding the root of your fear is key if you want to change your behaviors and thought patterns.
  • Couples therapy — If your partner is willing, couples therapy can be a wonderful way to build a stronger relationship that’s based on trust and communication. Both of these things are instrumental in overcoming commitment issues.
  • Communication — It might sound funny, but communication is a skill that we could all get better at. Especially if you know that you have issues with trust and commitment, learning how to talk to your partner and open up to them, explaining why you’re feeling the way you are, can really allow the both of you to get to a better place. Learning how to effectively communicate can help you do this.
  • Practice — That saying practice makes perfect really isn’t true. What practice can make is progress. If you’re willing to put in the time to make your relationship succeed, you can practice together to develop habits that will reinforce your commitment to one another. Baby steps are fine, and you can build upon them to make progress. Start by spending one night together. Build up to spending a weekend together. Maybe you then feel ready to make plans for next month, and challenge yourself to keep those plans.
  • Learn about your attachment styles Childhood attachment styles are a learned behavior that affects how we navigate healthy relationships in adulthood. Understanding what type of attachment style you have is important in that it can explain why you react or behave in the ways that you do. As noted earlier, an avoidant attachment style can result in commitment issues. 

What to do if your partner has commitment issues

The good news is there are steps you can take to help your relationship survive, even if it’s your partner who has commitment issues. It doesn’t have to be a definitive deal-breaker. This assumes, of course, that your partner is willing to work with you to overcome their fear of commitment. If you’re both willing to make an effort, your relationship has a good chance of surviving. 

The first thing you need to do, however, is really make sure you’re ready to take on the challenge. If the answer to that question is yes, then the following steps can help you both find common ground and a safe place to build upon your relationship.

  • Ask why — Your partner should try to understand why they have a fear of commitment. This will allow them to make strides towards overcoming their fear. It will also allow you to feel compassion along your journey together.
  • Be understanding — Try not to judge or criticize your partner once they open up to you. Make every effort to understand their inability to commit. 

“Be open and willing to discuss the fears associated with commitment. Reassure your partner that you are willing to work through the challenges and struggles in the relationship. Be willing to compromise and be patient. Patience is important because individuals with fear of commitment often scare partners off.”

Talkspace therapist Dr. Reshawan Chapple, PhD, LCSW.

  • Stay in the present — Don’t focus on what you need or want from your partner in 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years from now. Rather, stay where you are. Stay in the present. Work on today and be prepared to begin the work again tomorrow.
  • Acknowledge growth — When you see improvements, acknowledge them.
  • Be patient — Recovery takes time. It won’t happen overnight. That’s OK. Be patient and trust that as long as your partner is putting in the work, you can get to a place where you’re both confident, comfortable, and happy.

All this said, remember: being realistic and staying true to yourself is important in any relationship. Know what you want and need out of any relationship. If the progress is just too slow, or if you aren’t seeing enough growth to be confident in the future, it’s OK to admit that you’re not happy. You need to honor your needs in a relationship, too. 

Sources:

​​1. Stanley S, Rhoades G, Whitton S. Commitment: Functions, Formation, and the Securing of Romantic Attachment. J Fam Theory Rev. 2010;2(4):243-257. doi:10.1111/j.1756-2589.2010.00060.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3039217/. Accessed October 25, 2021.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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