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What are commitment issues? Signs, root causes, and therapeutic solutions

What are commitment issues? Signs, root causes, and therapeutic solutions

Navigating commitment issues in a relationship — sometimes referred to as gamophobia — can be challenging, and recognizing the signs is the first step toward resolving them. The root causes of these issues can vary, but often, they stem from a fear of vulnerability, fear of abandonment, lack of trust, and past relationship patterns, among others. 

This article delves into the complexities of commitment issues and their origins. You’ll find guidance on the importance of seeking therapy, fostering self-awareness, taking gradual steps to build intimacy, and slowly building better communication in relationships.

What Are Signs of Commitment Issues?

Signs of commitment issues can vary from person to person as commitment issues relate back to their prior interactions with others, but common indications can include: 

  • Avoiding conversations about the future of the relationship
  • Self-sabotaging 
  • Avoiding emotional intimacy
  • Criticizing your partner over small things
  • Serial dating (also known as monkey branching)
  • Not wanting to move to the next level in a relationship 
  • Searching for red flags in a partner even when they are not there

Remember that although addressing commitment issues is a choice that can foster healthy personal growth, it may take time and patience. The most crucial step is acknowledging these issues and seeking the necessary support and resources to work through them effectively.

What Is the Psychology Behind A Fear of Commitment?

Usually, folks who have a fear of commitment want to have some sort of connection to others. However, their thinking patterns tend to block which can stem from thoughts about perfectionism to awfulizing about the experience (“they really don’t want me, I’m unworthy of being loved”) to Heaven’s fallacy (“why can’t I get a relationship? I do everything right”). 

Furthermore, different mental health challenges can aggravate a person’s ability to navigate their relationships successfully. Anxiety can cause a person to awfulize about what is going on and can trick a person into thinking that things are actually worse than they really are in reality. Depression can do the same thing by making it difficult to identify exactly what the sources of one’s symptoms are.

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What Childhood Trauma Causes Commitment Issues?

Childhood traumas that can cause commitment issues might include: 

Children who survived these experiences may not know how to respond or cope with their memories, which can affect how they interact as adults. This may cause them anxiety as they may not know or how to respond appropriately to others in intimate or otherwise close knit relationships.

How Do You Deal with a Fear of Commitment?

You can deal with a fear of commitment by first addressing and changing your style of attachment – changing one’s style of attachment will often entail: 

  • Acknowledging the bodily sensations that you’re experiencing, your feelings, as well as your thoughts. 
  • Sitting with unpleasant thoughts and feelings to understand your patterns of interaction.
  • Doing a “social autopsy” of past situations and figuring out what parts went well, what parts didn’t—and how you could’ve done things differently to still get what you wanted. 
  • Utilizing problem-solving skills to work toward win-win scenarios for both partners, which typically includes setting stronger boundaries.  

Dialectical behavior therapy skills can also be very helpful as they can teach individuals to be comfortable or at least better tolerate situations that challenge the person. Learning how to better read body language can be helpful as it’ll teach you to recognize how your behaviors affect the other person. 

Ultimately, learning to be patient with oneself is paramount. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can because it takes at least 30 days to change one’s behaviors.

Parents who wish to nourish their relationship with their child benefit from using the PRIDE skills, being:

  • Praise 
  • Reflection 
  • Imitation 
  • Description of the child’s behavior
  • Enjoyment of their time with their child

A therapist who is knowledgeable or trained in PCIT can help teach these skills to parents, family, and/or legal guardians.  

What Is the Root of Fear of Commitment?

The root cause or fear driving someone’s commitment issues can vary from person to person, but common causes include:

  • A fear of vulnerability: Some people may have experienced emotional or physical trauma in the past, which makes it challenging for them to fully trust or open up to someone in a committed relationship. 
  • A fear of abandonment: People who have been hurt or abandoned in previous relationships may develop a fear of being left or being rejected again, as they may have been in other relationships. This fear can make them hesitant to commit to a long-term relationship. Lack of trust is another factor to consider here. 
  • A fear of trusting another person: Trust is a fundamental element of any relationship. If someone has been betrayed or has experienced a breach of trust, this can make someone hesitant to fully commit. Fear of intimacy is another factor that can make it hard for someone to fully commit to a relationship. 
  • A fear of intimacy. For some people, intimacy can feel overwhelming or even intimidating. It can feel like a lot of pressure to meet another person’s relationship standards. People may struggle with emotional closeness and building deep connections out of fear of not being enough. 
  • Past relationship patterns: Previous experiences can lead to commitment issues or fear of commitment. People who have experienced multiple failed or toxic relationships may develop commitment issues as a defense mechanism or to avoid future hurt. They may fear repeating the same patterns and getting hurt again.

How Do I Fix Commitment Issues?

Overcoming fear of commitment is often a personal journey for many, but you can begin to fix commitment issues by focusing on: 

  • Self-reflecting: Begin by reflecting on your past experiences, including relationships, traumas, and patterns of behavior. Try to identify when and where these commitment issues may have originated.
  • Attending therapy: Consider seeking the help of a qualified therapist or counselor who specializes in relationship issues, attachment, and commitment concerns. Therapy provides a safe space to explore your fears, work on self-awareness, and develop coping mechanisms.
  • Identifying self-sabotaging thoughts: Recognize any self-sabotaging beliefs or behaviors that may be contributing to your fear of commitment. For example, do you tend to pull away when things start getting serious? Acknowledging these patterns is a crucial step.
  • Taking things slow: Instead of rushing into a relationship and immediately committing, take gradual steps to build intimacy and trust. It’s important to set realistic expectations and communicate openly with your partner about your fears and concerns.
  • Practicing vulnerability: Understand that vulnerability is a fundamental component of any committed relationship. Start by gradually opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Begin with smaller, less intimidating disclosures and progressively work your way toward deeper conversations.
  • Addressing past traumas: If you have experienced past traumas related to relationships or attachment, it’s essential to address these experiences in therapy. Therapy can help you develop coping strategies and learn to trust again.
  • Maintaining healthy boundaries: Set and maintain boundaries with people and situations that may trigger your commitment issues. Learning to say no when necessary is part of self-care and can help you feel more in control.
  • Securing a support system: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and loved ones who can provide emotional support and understanding as you work through your commitment issues.
  • Practicing mindfulness and meditation: Consider practicing mindfulness and meditation techniques to help manage anxiety and stress related to your fears of commitment.
  • Journaling: Keeping a journal can be a therapeutic way to process your thoughts and experiences. Writing can help you identify patterns, triggers, and areas that need attention.

Recognize these patterns and get curious about them. Before you can challenge any limiting or negative beliefs, it is helpful to develop self-awareness and self-compassion, as perhaps you have your fear of commitment for a reason—maybe past experiences that have caused you to feel not emotionally safe or not secure. 

Work on gradually opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings with your person, which can help you progress forward in the relationship. Overcoming trust issues is a transformative journey that can lead to more enriching and authentic relationships. 

By recognizing and addressing the root causes of these challenges, individuals can rebuild trust, enhance their emotional well-being, and foster deeper connections with others.

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  • Editorial writer
  • Clinical reviewer
  • Update history
Evan Csir Profile Picture

Evan Csir is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 9 years of experience. He is passionate about working with people, especially autistic individuals and is experienced in helping clients with depression, anxiety, and ADHD issues.

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Theresa Lupcho, LPCLicensed Professional Counselor
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Theresa Lupcho is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a passion for providing the utmost quality of services to individuals and couples struggling with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, ADHD, stress, family conflict, life transitions, grief, and more.

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Taylor BennettSenior Content Strategist

Taylor Bennett is the Head of Content at Thriveworks. She received her BA in multimedia journalism with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book.”

We update our content on a regular basis to ensure it reflects the most up-to-date, relevant, and valuable information. When we make a significant change, we summarize the updates and list the date on which they occurred. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  • Originally published November 27, 2019

    By: Taylor Bennett

  • Updated October 27th, 2023

    Author: Jason Crosby

    Clinical Author: Evan, Csir, LPC

    Reviewer: Theresa Welsh, LPC

    Changes: With input from a clinician from our contributor program, our editorial team provided additional information about commitment issues, adding insights into the causes of commitment issues, how commitment issues differ from healthy attachment styles, concerns related to commitment issues, and how individuals can cope with relationship challenges.

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