For many people, marriage and monogamy sound like an ideal state. These lucky people often couple up and ride off into a beautiful sunset…until, of course, life stressors get in the way and interrupt the honeymoon phase.
Other people, however, see commitment in less idealized terms. It is common to say that there is something wrong with people who have “commitment issues,” but that’s reductive and a little simplistic in most cases. In actuality, there are many factors contributing to what we call commitment issues, and they run the gamut from psychological to evolutionary.
1. Attachment Issues
People with avoidant attachment find it difficult to connect to others in an interdependent way. Avoidant attachment comes from learning in childhood that a parent cannot be counted upon to provide reliably for your emotional needs.
In adulthood, these individuals focus mainly on being self-reliant, and merging their life with that of a partner feels scary and uncomfortable. Even when they are in love, they often are hesitant to jump into commitment with both feet.
2. You’re Not 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 with that person.
The desire for safety and security outweighs their suspicion that they will never feel entirely fulfilled with their partner. Fear of change prevents them from moving on, but their partner often perceives their ambivalence as fear of commitment.
3. Your Partner Refuses to Work on Key Issues That Bother You
Long term, you may fear that certain issues will preclude a happy marriage with your partner.
For example, if your partner has untreated depression, you may fear that you will be attaching yourself to someone who cannot truly enjoy life with you. If your partner refuses to get treatment, you may well feel ambivalence about commitment to them.
4. You Tend to Self-Sabotage
There are many people who subconsciously tend to sabotage anything good that may come their way. Often, this is due to a childhood where good things never happened, or where good things ended too quickly.
For example, growing up with a depressed or alcoholic parent, you often learn that most interactions are unpredictable and don’t end well. In adulthood, you may shy away from a relationship that feels too good, because you fear the other shoe may drop.
5. Monogamy is Difficult
Evolutionarily speaking, people were never supposed to mate forever, especially now that our lifespans have dramatically increased.
People in long term relationships may feel a lessening of their sexual desire for their partner over time. Many people who are scared of commitment are also scared of the idea of their, and their partner’s, desire waning significantly over time.
Does This Sound Familiar?
If any, or many, of these issues resonate with you, you may find it beneficial to speak with a therapist. It is essential to figure out which part of your “commitment issues” are due to you, and which parts are due to other factors, like the relationship as a whole or overall differences in personality.
Also, couples counseling can be useful for those who believe they would commit if key issues were worked through and resolved. Individually or as a couple, discussing your feelings, your relationship history, and your family background can often illuminate what relationship direction you should choose.