Due to negative experiences and beliefs (or sometimes a personality disorder), anyone can suffer from commitment issues.
People with commitment issues may be full of fear, experiencing a near constant state of emotional conflict caused by their negative, often irrational beliefs about love and relationships.
In relationships, they may create significant confusion, havoc, pain, and anguish as their behaviors are often insensitive, unpredictable and bizarre.
If you think someone you’re dating has commitment issues, even if that person is you, there are certain behaviors you can watch out for.
28 signs you or someone you’re involved with has commitment issues
1. They have a history of short relationships or have never been married.
There’s often an excuse that they haven’t met The One, or they justify their history by saying they still have plenty of time to settle down, as they can have children at any age. A well-used — if not overused — word is “someday.”
2. If they have been married, it’s likely to have been for a short time.
Or, if they have been in a long-term relationship or marriage, they will usually have a history of infidelity.
3. They want a relationship, but they also want an unreasonable amount of space.
They are often attracted to long-distance relationships and busy, independent individuals for this reason.
5. They blur the lines between being charming and manipulative.
They say and do all the right things, and can be very romantic snake-charmers. They are very good at selling you on the idea that they will live up to all the ideal characteristics and promises you’re looking for in a partner just to get their own needs met.
In reality, they have no intention of holding up their end of the bargain, and have very little concern for your feelings, as they are continually operating from hidden agendas.
6. They play the seduction/rejection game.
They can’t make the decision to give totally to the relationship, but they can’t commit to walking away, either. They feel trapped by both choices. They feel love for their partner when they don’t see them, but they want to run away as soon as they become involved again.
7. They love the chase, but they don’t want the kill.
This may happen after one night, one week, one month, three months or even one year. They may start sabotaging the relationship when it comes time for conversations about big life decisions, such as moving in together.
8. They spin stories to justify their contradictory behavior.
9. They often choose partners who aren’t the type of long-term, “settle down and get married” person they would choose.
For example, they may be much older, much younger, married, or they may have different interests. They use these differences as excuses to end relationships.
10. They have a history of frequent career changes and often work in environments where they have lots of freedom.
They don’t want to connect with coworkers, be tied down to one job for too long, and likely seek positions with plenty of traveling and little to no supervision.
11. They treat requests for respect as demands, then become angry, obnoxious and rebellious.
They don’t see their partner so much as their equal as they do an accessory in their life. Once their partner has expectations or wants more from them (no matter how perfectly reasonable it is), they don’t just feel bound by restrictions — they feel bound to them.
12. They tend to compartmentalize their life and keep their work environment, friends or family off limits.
They can create wonderful excuses for why their partner shouldn’t meet these people, especially because they don’t want any of these people to form connections with each other.
This would make it harder to suddenly detach from someone in any of these groups, because they’ve become incorporated and established into of what could become an overall community of people in this person’s life.
13. When they get the feeling they need to run, their words and actions are full of mixed messages.
They essentially play mind games while trying to find the panic button and eject from the whole situation.
14. They can be moody or aloof and blame the other person for why they’re acting so bizarrely.
Sometimes, they may even feel mixed up internally to some extent and they’d much rather put you at fault than take accountability for their own acts and emotions.
15. They may withdraw sexually and blame it on their partner for being demanding.
They can also blame it on work fatigue, illness or anything else that sounds plausible.
16. They have a pattern of unavailability and inaccessibility.
They can be hard to contact and are often unpredictable when it comes to returning phone calls. They can even avoid answering calls completely.
17. They lie or are evasive and secretive about where they are and what they are doing in order create more distance.
They always want to keep their partner at arm’s length and doing this helps them maintain that barrier of distance. It also keeps their partner from knowing more about them, their whereabouts, and who else they might be spending time with.
18. They hate planning ahead because that means (you guessed it!) commitment.
They’re called “commitments” for a reason!
19. They have very little furniture or don’t own property or a car, as these decisions represent commitment.
To some, buying a car can be as big a decision as deciding to get married. It can be all too much for them, as they don’t want to feel stuck with anything.
20. They often don’t invite dates to their home.
They may even live with their parents or couch-surf at friends’ places so they aren’t tied to a lease in any one specific location, and they may have no desire to change their situation.
Even if have their own home, it exudes the feeling that they want to be alone. It isn’t welcoming to the outside world because it’s a reflection of how they don’t want to welcome anyone into their hearts for very long.
21. They are often unreliable, late and sometimes they don’t turn up at all.
They are like this with family and friends, as well.
22. They can be overly committed to their work or to their children.
In an effort to avoid spending time with a potential (or existing) partner, they have two of the ultimate excuses for obligations they can’t get out of.
23. They rarely lower their defenses because they don’t want to get too close to the other person, or vice versa.
If they do, they usually only give little pieces of their soul in well-planned installments, except if they are having an affair. Affairs are perfect for people with commitment issues, as they feel completely safe to disclose, as well as to pursue the chase.
They have the convenient excuse that commitment isn’t an option while they are already in another relationship.
24. If they’re married, they may avoid putting their divorce papers through.
They can use this as an excuse to keep a potential romantic partner at bay. This also helps them to feel safe from the possibility of ever getting married again.
25. Behavioral inconsistencies are very noticeable when they find themselves getting too close.
They become argumentative and perhaps even abusive, or they go to great effort to create distance. A lot of relationship-sabotaging behaviors surface (e.g., working long hours, taking on extra projects, not calling or picking up, being late, finding fault with the other person for no particular reason).
26. The word ‘forever’ terrifies them.
Love doesn’t scare them; rather, it’s what love represents to them that scares them. This is usually due to their negative belief system about love and relationships.
27. They end up behaving worse and worse, and they sabotage more and more.
This is because they want the other person to end the relationship, as they feel too anxious and guilty to do so.
28. They can also suffer from a mental health condition or trauma.
Sometimes, the root of the commitment issues is especially serious and needs to be addressed by a mental health professional.
In their study that was published in 2019, researchers explain that “Perceiving oneself as having more potential alternative partners was associated with increased odds of being the less committed partner in an ACR [asymmetrically committed relationship] compared to not being in an ACR, as was being more attachment avoidant, having more prior relationship partners, and having a history of [sexual infidelity] during the present relationship. Additionally, having parents who never married was associated with being the less committed partner.”
In their article published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, researchers studied several couples where one partner met the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
The National Institute of Mental Health defines BPD as “a mental illness that severely impacts a person’s ability to regulate their emotions,” also characterized by “a pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones.”
In the above-mentioned study on BPD and how it negatively impacts romantic relationships, there was also a control group where neither person met any criteria for BPD. After an 18-month period of collecting data, the researchers noted that the couples in which one person met the criteria for BPD “showed lower marital satisfaction, higher attachment insecurity, more demand/withdraw communication problems, and higher levels of violence.”
When you find yourself in love or falling in love with a commitment-phobic person, there are ways to combat the situation. It all begins with changing how you go about dating and relationships.
How to handle commitment issues
1. Take your time getting to know them.
Listen carefully to your love interest’s history. You don’t need to be a pessimist, but be mindful of any red flags. If you do recognize a pattern of behaviors that reveal they have problems with commitment, think wisely before getting involved. You will likely only get hurt.
2. Set the pace.
Don’t allow them to control the pace, then monopolize it. This gives them the upper hand to time out when you see each other, how often and shape the relationship around their unreasonable boundaries.
3. Beware if they tend to exclude you from other areas of their life.
This is a tell-tale sign that this person doesn’t plan on keeping you in their life for very long. Healthy, committed relationships are supposed to involve sharing your life with one another.
4. Realize that your love and attention won’t change them.
But not needing them and giving them space might.
5. Believe what they do, not what they say.
Actions speak louder than words.
6. Don’t expect a committed relationship; be prepared to take the relationship for what it is.
These types of people are best treated as occasional lovers rather than potential partners. Don’t rely on having a relationship with them. If you do, you will never feel emotionally safe or satisfied. You will only be left confused, bewildered, angry and hurt.
7. Don’t cut yourself off from dating other people.
Keep your options open, as it’s highly likely they aren’t carrying a torch for you and they’ll never be able to truly give you what you want, need and deserve.
8. Don’t find excuses for their behavior.
You’re only fooling yourself and prolonging the inevitable disappointment looming ahead.
9. Evaluate whether they want to change and whether they’re capable of changing.
Some people will fall into this category but most won’t. Also, evaluate how patient you are willing to be. There’s no guarantee they’ll change and it’s a long, arduous journey to get there. Also, remember that they, ultimately, need to be willing to take this step and do the emotional work to face their inner obstacles with commitment.
10. Learn from the experience.
Don’t think it was your fault when a relationship with someone who has a fear of commitment ends, but do learn from it. Make sure you don’t get involved with someone like this all over again. Watch carefully for patterns or instances of familiar, red-flag behaviors.
11. Take care of yourself first.
There’s a high chance this person won’t be there for you when you really need them, despite their sweet words (when they’re in the mood, or trying to woo you back after mistreating you).
12. Seek coaching or therapy to get different results.
Therapy can help uncover why you keep finding yourself with the same type of person and break the cycle once and for all.
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