See also: The best techniques for overcoming commitment phobia

Home > Symptoms of Anxiety > Phobias > Commitment Phobia > Symptoms of Commitment Phobia

Symptoms of Commitment Phobia

The symptoms of commitment phobia are wide and varied, and are only really limited by the imagination of the commitment phobic person themselves.

Some of the most typical symptoms of commitment phobia involve the commitment to relationships.

Where someone has a fear of committing to relationships, this may happen at the very start of the relationship (or even before), or may develop once the relationship is established

Commitment phobia symptoms often appear as a sudden feeling of uncertainty, and sometimes the feeling of being trapped in the relationship.

In this situation (where the commitment phobic feels the emotional feelings of fear and entrapment), it is often as the result of the partner in the relationship saying that they want to progress the relationship to the next level…  “Let’s move in together”, “let’s get engaged”, “why don’t we try for a baby?”

As already mentioned, there are many, many different ways that commitment phobia can manifest itself, so when we talk about symptoms of commitment phobia, do bear in mind that these are only an indication of the most typical symptoms.

"Put simply, commitment phobia is caused by the way we think about things... things like getting engaged or married, moving in together, getting a mortgage, buying a dog... all the sorts of life-steps that mean that things are progressing further, and you're falling deeper and deeper into the relationship.

These can all bring huge 'out-of-control' type feelings. Other times, it can feel like you're just not sure if you've found the right person yet or not.

All this can cause a lot of anxiety, stress and worry. You can feel very overwhelmed by it all. On the one hand you might want to make the relationship work, and yet on the other hand, you just want to run a mile!"

If you are looking for help with commitment phobia, would like to help someone else who has commitment phobia, or would simply like to understand more about how commitment phobia works and where it often comes from, be sure to read about the LifeShaping Commitment Phobia Programme.

Criticism of a Partner

The person with commitment phobia may be extremely critical of their partner, the environment the relationship is in, or of the relationship itself. 

“We couldn’t possibly have a baby, you chose this house... the house is far too small”

“Why do you always have to bring up marriage now… you know I’m stressed at work? - I get more stress because of you constantly pressuring me... it's all your fault ”

Using criticism like this is an unconscious attempt by the person with the commitment phobia to deflect the ‘blame’ off of themselves onto their partner. 

“I want to get married one day, but you keep pressuring me too much”.

Taking this one stage further, the person with commitment phobia may end up hurting their partner’s feelings even when no ‘pressure’ is being put on them…

Hurting Their Partner

Often, this happens when there isn’t any ‘pressure’ on the commitment phobic…   they are just attempting to keep the relationship ‘at arms length’, even if this means their partner getting hurt.

It can seem like the person with commitment phobia is attempting to sabotage the relationship, even if the relationship itself seems to be perfectly ok.

An example of this would be turning up consistently late for dates or regularly coming home late from work, without offering any reason. 

“Well, you know I have to work… don’t keep asking me every time I’m 5 minutes late… just accept it”.

Of course, sometimes commitment phobia can affect the person’s behavior even before they enter into a relationship…

Scared of Getting Noticed

Someone with commitment phobia may exhibit behavior very similar to that of someone with ‘social phobia’, and appear scared to be noticed.

This can mean that the person doesn’t go out much, avoids social situations, avoids eye contact, or simply appears ‘shy’.

The unconscious motivation behind this of course, is that if the person doesn’t meet many people, and then doesn’t ‘engage’ with the people that they do meet, then they are much less likely to fall into the dreaded ‘relationship’ scenario.

If approached, the person with commitment phobia will often just reject the advances of the other person, so that any potential relationship never really has much of a chance to get going in the first place.

They just protect themselves from others getting too close.

Unrealistic Ideals

The ‘distancing themselves from others’ technique that we just mentioned however, sometimes isn’t enough on its own.  It occasionally needs some help from other ‘reasons’ for the person with commitment phobia to avoid a particular situation.

For example, sometimes the person with commitment phobia will inadvertently find themselves getting closer and closer to someone they’ve met, without even really noticing it themselves. 

Sometimes it’s only when the other person seems to want to progress the relationship to the next level that the person with commitment phobia feels the need to ‘escape’ from the situation.

This is where the commitment phobic person may need to employ other techniques of escape.  One such method is the ‘unrealistic ideal’.

They may recognize all sorts of positive aspects in their potential partner, but will still find some standard that the person doesn’t match up to…

“yes I know she’s a lovely person, and that she’d be a great wife, and that she loves me, and that she does all that charity work, and….(etc, etc)…   but she’s a Sagittarius isn’t she…  I couldn’t possibly marry a Sagittarius!”

“I need a wife who’s earning a lot more than she does”

“If only she was half-an-inch taller I’d marry her in an instant”

When friends and relatives tell the person with commitment phobia that they’re being “too picky” and that ‘Mr Right’ or ‘Miss Right’ doesn’t exist, the commitment phobic will insist that they do, and they’ll find them one day.

The Unavailable Partner – The Affair

One of the most certain ways for the person with commitment phobia to keep a relationship ‘at arms length’ is to get into a ‘safe’ relationship.

One way to do this is for the person with commitment phobia to get into a relationship with someone who, for one reason or another is ‘unavailable’ to them in the long term.

One way of achieving this, is for the commitment phobic to enter into a relationship with a married person, or someone already in a long term relationship.  This makes it very unlikely that the person with commitment phobia will then have to face the prospect of that relationship going any further.

In this situation, they are relying on the fact that it is unlikely that the other person will leave their partner to come to be with them on a permanent basis.

If that person does leave their partner of course, that leaves the commitment phobic with a new problem, which may cause them to resort to some of the other techniques talked about here.

Of course, the ‘unavailable partner’ can be unavailable for different reasons…

The Unavailable Partner – The Long Distance Relationship

The 'long distance relationship' speaks for itself.   The commitment phobic who lives in London and their boyfriend/girlfriend lives in Australia for example. 

The commitment phobic unconsciously ‘knows’ that the chances of that person giving up everything to travel half way around the world to be with them is very remote.

Again, the person with commitment phobia is keeping the relationship at a nice distance.

There are of course, many other ways that the person with commitment phobia can form relationships with people who for one reason or another simply aren’t available to them for a full scale relationship.  The ones we’ve mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg.

They may just form a relationship with someone they ‘know’ won’t be interested in them in the long term, such as…

The Commitment Phobic Partner

For the commitment phobic person, forming a relationship with another person who also has commitment phobia (the commitment phobic partner) is a pretty safe bet.  The chances of those two people getting together in the long term are quite remote… both partners unconsciously ‘know’ this, and actually, this situation can suit both commitment phobic’s. 

As they both suffer from commitment phobia, this meets the needs of both people, at least in the short term.

Commitment Phobia and the Long Term Relationship

Of course, everyone is different.  One person suffering from commitment phobia might react to it in a completely different way to another commitment phobic.

Each person has their own commitment phobia ‘trigger’… the event or stage of relationship that triggers their ‘fear’.

Some commitment phobic’s do get into long term relationships, and after being in that relationship for a long time, it’s only then that the ‘trigger’ happens, and they feel ‘fear’.

At that stage, someone with commitment phobia might describe the feeling of being ‘trapped’ in the relationship, or in some way trapped or ‘pressured’ by the other person.

If this happens, the person with commitment phobia usually has to find a way to distance themselves from their partner.

In a long term relationship, this can, of course, cause a lot of hurt and upset to the partner of the person with commitment phobia.

The ‘Yo-Yo-ing’ Effect in Commitment Phobia

This can happen when a commitment phobic is in a relationship, but suddenly feels trapped or pressured.  Their response is often to ‘run away’…. So they might sabotage or end the relationship, even at the expense of their partner’s feelings.

Once they have ‘run away’ from the relationship, the commitment phobic often starts to feel ‘emptiness’.  They start to realize that they did love their partner after all.  This emptiness… missing the other person, can often cause them to go back to them.

Of course, once back in the relationship again, and after everything has ‘settled down’, the relationship quickly starts to head back towards their ‘trigger’ again. 

“Now, before you left we were talking about getting married weren’t we”.

Before you know it, the commitment phobic is off again.  Then they’re back…. Then they’re off… and so on.

This ‘yo-yo-ing’ effect can go on for some time because the partner of the commitment phobic is often just so glad to get them back, that they’ll put up with all the uncertainty in between.

The Serial Commitment Phobic

Another way for a person with commitment phobia to avoid having to become involved in a long term relationship is to form a series of superficial relationships that are almost certainly never going to lead to anything more long-term.

This may give the commitment phobic the appearance of being promiscuous, or overly flirtatious, perhaps having a series of sexual partners for example. 

The person with serial commitment phobia may be labeled by their friends and family as promiscuous, but would rather have that, than become committed to a relationship.

The Fear of Commitment to Anything

Most of this article has been about the person who has commitment phobia and their personal relationships.   Of course, we mustn’t forget that commitment phobia can affect the person’s commitment to anything.

Someone with commitment phobia might find it difficult to gain job security, being afraid to pursue a career in case they get ‘stuck in a rut’.

A person with commitment phobia can feel their commitment phobia feelings come up at any time where they feel out of control, trapped, insecure, pressured, or ‘swamped’.

Often the commitment phobic will be afraid of losing their independence, or might fear losing sight of who they really are.

Looking for help with commitment phobia?

If you're looking for help with commitment phobia, then we highly recommend a programme called the LifeShaping Commitment Phobia Programme.

The programme has been specifically written to help with commitment phobia, and uses some really powerful techniques that have been very successful in helping people with commitment issues.

How the LifeShaping Commitment Phobia Programme can help...

 

 

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