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Commitment issues: 9 signs and what you can do about it

Image credit: Shutterstock - By Dmytro Zinkevych

Do you struggle to commit to a relationship?

Do you find it hard to make decisions and stick with them?

Then you might have commitment issues, which is more common than you might think.

I’ve had commitment issues in the past and the good news is that I’ve successfully moved past them by working on myself.

I’ve now been in a 2-year relationship with a girl I dearly love and it’s more fulfilling than I ever thought it would be.

While you might think that relationships can make you feel boxed in and suffocated, the truth is, they can also make you feel loved, cared for, and protected.

How your relationships turn out has more to do with the way you see the world than you might think.

If you’ve had a string of short-term relationships with perfectly nice people, but things don’t work out, it might be time to consider if you have commitment issues.

In my experience, I was always doing subtle things that sabotaged an otherwise wonderful relationship.

So if you think have commitment issues, you might identify with these signs. After that, I’ll talk about what you can do to get over your commitment issues.

1) You struggle with the idea of losing your freedom.

First of all, the idea of being in a relationship should not make you shudder.

If you find a person you are attracted to and want to get to know better, but find yourself holding off on introductions because you worry that they will try to control you, hold up!

Why is that your first thought?

You might be washing the entire population with the same cloth because of a one-time relationship where someone had some control over you.

But that was then and this is now. It’s time to take some responsibility for how you are keeping yourself from love and affection.

According to Linda and Charlie Bloom, it’s common for people to believe that freedom and commitment are mutually exclusive, that you can’t have it both ways.

But the truth is, if you’re in a healthy relationship, you do have both. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary.

If you’re in a relationship and you feel like your freedom to act is determined by someone else, then, of course, that’s a relationship you don’t want to be in.

In the best relationships, you feel trusted, respected, loved and free. Love and freedom aren’t mutually exclusive. They must work together if a relationship is to be successful.

I always thought that the idea of losing my freedom was the reason I didn’t want to be in a relationship, but that was just a cop-out.

Once I gave a relationship a shot, I quickly realized that my freedom wasn’t really hindered at all. Sure, I couldn’t go out and date other girls, but when you meet the right person, you don’t really want to anyway.

2) You don’t want to give up friends and social life.

Are most of your friends single? According to a study by the University of Southern California, peer pressure may be hard-wired into our brains, so that’s why you might be afraid of swaying from the lifestyle of your social circle.

I know I was. Every Saturday night I’d go out with my mates trying to meet girls. If I got involved in a relationship, I’d be “pussy-whipped” and ostracized from the group.

The truth is, I wasn’t, but that shouldn’t matter anyway. If someone could make you happy, you shouldn’t worry so much about how they might be received by your inner circle.

Second, to that, you shouldn’t worry that there will be a divide created between you all so that you have to pick one side or the other.

Clearly, if this is a thought you had, your friends and family are important to you. But don’t use them as the excuse to not find love in your life. Who knows what will happen.

3) You suddenly find your partner unattractive or different than you saw them before.

If you’ve been with someone for a period of time and find yourself getting bored or looking over their shoulder at whoever is walking down the street toward you, you might need to check your commitment radar.

Boredom is often a sign of commitment issues.

This is because you are finding easy ways to dismiss whatever chances you have at being happy and look for ways to sabotage your efforts.

I used excuses like lack of freedom, or that I enjoy dating many people superficially. In reality, I was just scared of commitment.

If your partner is not doing anything different, but you feel differently about them fairly quickly after dating them, you’ll need to take responsibility for that and ask yourself what you are doing.

It’s hard to admit you might be the problem, but the sooner you do, the sooner you can move on and deal with these issues.

4) You worry that you’ll miss out on other opportunities.

According to Rebekah Montgomery, a licensed clinical psychologist, committing for some people can seem so risky because you fear that you might be missing out on something “better” or being stuck in a relationship that isn’t quite right.

Now the grass may look greener on the other side, but it’s not always true. You may be suffering from a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) on other great suitors if you stick with just one partner.

And that may be true: there are lots of great guys and gals out there that would be perfect for you.

But if the person on your radar right now could also be good for you, don’t you owe it to yourself – and them – to find out before you go getting a wandering eye?

I’d be kicking myself if I never gave someone a chance for a relationship.

Seeing things through for a little longer will give you more information with which to make that decision.

And sure, if it turns out that you are really missing being on the dating scene and don’t want to be tied down to one particular person, then so be it.

But at least you’ll arrive at that conclusion honestly.

5) You keep telling yourself you need more time to figure out who you are.

One cop-out that you might employ is to tell yourself, and perhaps those around you, that you are taking time to explore your options and find out who you are as a person.

It’s a perfectly acceptable answer in most cases, but if you are stringing along with partners with no regard for where those relationships might go, and you aren’t actually making any progress on decisions related to what you want in life, there’s a good chance this kind of cycle will go on forever.

As Marianne Williamson says, you don’t have to ‘figure yourself out’ before you can love someone else.

Healthy relationships are about growth anyway. They grow together, so there’s no reason you can’t “figure yourself out” in a relationship.

I can vouch for that. I’ve grown and matured a hell of a lot since I’ve been in a long-term relationship.

And if you’re always focused on yourself, you’re not focusing on what’s important in life: giving.

At some point, you need to lock down your direction and be open to what might come your way in the form of a partner instead of keeping everyone at bay.

The thing people don’t tell you about having commitment issues is that it’s generally not your fault.

There are lots of reasons that you might be trying to wreck a relationship, but you might not know why.

These are signs that you can use as triggers to warn you that something might be amiss, but they aren’t going to help you get at the heart of the problem.

It’s a good idea to think about why you are doing the things you are doing, without judging yourself, and give yourself permission to explore these issues in a way that helps you feel better about yourself.

6) This feels like a pitstop on a longer journey.

When you are with a guy or a girl, you don’t really see yourself spending the rest of your life with them, let alone the rest of the week.

You are already moving on to the next thing before this thing gets off the ground.

You find things to be picky about and loathe certain things about a person way sooner than most would say is normal.

According to psychiatrist Gail Saltz, setting such high standards that you’re ruling almost everyone out can be commitment phobia in disguise.

You are looking for things to ruin the relationship from the outset and that is no way to start a relationship.

She says that it’s important to suss out where this anxiety comes from.

Did your parents have a traumatic divorce when you were a kid? Have you ever had a slow and painful breakup?

Next, you need to write down what you think you risk by committing to someone, as well what you miss out on by never going all in.

This will help you get to the root issues of why you fear commitment and put things in better perspective.

7) You don’t want to be someone’s “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”

So besides the obvious fact that you might not actually want to be in a relationship, you also struggle with the labels associated with being in a relationship.

You might be happy to be Tommy’s friend who happens to be a girl, but you don’t want him running around town telling everyone you are his girlfriend.

There’s a big difference in your mind and a lot of it has to do with your inability to let go of the control surrounding the relationship.

After all, labels tend to make the relationship extra serious. I used to shudder at the thought of someone I was casually dating calling me their boyfriend.

This is all about the idea that you believe that you’re losing “freedom”.

If they are out there telling people they are your boyfriend or girlfriend, well that closes so many other doors for you, doesn’t it?

But while you might think your “freedom” will be hindered in a relationship, the truth is, as we’ve mentioned above, it won’t. A healthy relationship is built on trust, respect, and freedom, and has nothing to do with control.

8) Getting your calendars to sync is a nightmare.

When your crush is after you to commit to an event or a special dinner, you just can’t seem to find the time.

It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s with him or her and you need to show up on their arm, you don’t want to go.

Is it that you don’t want people to see you together? Will it make you seem weak? Will it make you seem needy? Would you rather just be alone for the rest of your life? Probably not.

Most people prefer to spend their time with someone else at least some of the time, but you can’t nail down a date and time for the two of you to even enjoy lunch together.

As Berit Brogaard points out in Psychology Today, making plans is a major cause of fear for someone with commitment phobia.

If you have commitment phobia, you probably prefer to make same-day plans or a few days at most in advance.

If you find these things happening over and over again, it’s a good sign that you might have commitment issues.

9) You have a three-month rule.

The common knowledge swirling around the Internet is that the three-month mark in a relationship is usually when you take the relationship to the next level.

This is why you’ve probably put a three-month mark on it.

And if you start a relationship thinking about the day you are going to end it, there’s something wrong.

You aren’t giving your partner or yourself a chance to find the happiness you are both, no doubt, seeking.

If you are perpetually single, it’s probably because you have silly boundaries you put on your own life and think they somehow protect you from getting hurt.

There’s no rule that says you need to get up and walk away from a relationship after a few months.

You are allowed to take as much time as you need to decide if this person is the right person for you.

Let yourself, experience love, as it comes to you instead of trying to push it away before it even shows up.

Confront Your Commitment Issues to Live Your Best Life

While the best things in life might well be free, they are certainly not obtained without a great deal of time, energy, and sometimes struggle.

Relationships, for example, bring us to life, make us feel whole, provide us with a great deal of satisfaction and well-being.

Relationships are also time-consuming, difficult at times, hard to manage, stressful, and exhausting in some cases.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to have great relationships. They are, after all, what makes the world go round.

As I said above, I’m incredibly happy I put in the time and effort to make a relationship work after years of commitment issues.

But if you have commitment issues, you may find yourself struggling in many areas of your life, not just your love life. That’s what I found.

People with commitment issues often have tell-tale signs that slip through the cracks of their lives in many ways that reveal they are struggling with the notion of connecting to one thing, person or place for a long period of time.

You might have had a string of unsuccessful job runs, failed relationships with loved ones, distanced yourself from family members, and maybe even run dry on friends – all because you are afraid of settling into a routine or letting people into your life in a meaningful way.

The good news is that if you are someone who is struggling with commitment – in any form – there are ways to move past them and get on with living your best life! I can vouch for that.

Here’s how you can confront those issues and get on with it already.

1) Recognize the Value of the Work

As mentioned above, anything of value in your life is going to come at a price. You’ll either have to give up time, money, energy, or effort to get the thing you want.

If improving your commitment in life is on your to-do list, the first thing you need to do is recognize that it is worth the effort you will exert.

Say you want to start a business but worry that you won’t be able to make any money.

You might justify not even trying because you’ll say that it will be a waste of time if you don’t make money.

But how can you know you won’t make money? You can’t until you try. Is it worth trying to find out what might happen if you actually start that business?

It might not be worth it to you, but if it is, then you know you need to get to work.

It helps to consider that anything you do that brings you joy or happiness, even in the pursuit of something that feels out of reach, will never be a waste of time.

There’a reason so many people get into serious relationships. As Brad McMurrey says, author of The Love Ladder, human beings tend to have a natural desire to form committed relationships.

It gives people meaning, purpose and a feeling that life is bigger than themselves.

You’ll take something away from that experience, and you can move forward with what you’ve learned.

I always thought that I was happy just having casual relationships and never really committing, but the best decision I ever made was actually making an effort with a relationship. Life has become more fulfilling and I’ve actually built something special with someone else.

2) Recognize the Power You Have

Sometimes, people don’t put the work in because they feel powerless to control a situation.

While it’s true that there are many factors that you cannot control, especially when talking about other people, it is true that you can control your expectations and assumptions about those people.

If you’ve been hurt by a lover in the past, you may be lumping your new partner in the same category of cheaters or liars with no real evidence that they will turn out to be like that.

So, what can you do? Spend time with people who are in healthy and positive relationships. Work to change your view of what a healthy relationship entails.

According to psychiatrist Gail Saltz, it’s important to work out where this fear of commitment truly comes from.

Did your parents have a traumatic divorce when you were a kid? Have you ever had a slow and painful breakup?

Are your friends all in toxic relationships?

Next, you need to write down what you think you risk by committing to someone, as well what you miss out on by never going all in.

This will help you get to the root issues of why you fear commitment and put things in better perspective.

Rather than an approach that situation feeling helpless, it’s helpful to approach new relationships by curbing your enthusiasm to pick apart a person before you even get to know them.

It’s also very helpful to not make assumptions about someone. It’s easier to just always ask questions and decide what to do with that information once you’ve had time to process.

3) Recognize the Resistance

You might find yourself at a crossroads at certain points in your life where things will feel very uncomfortable.

This may come in the form of a fight with a family member, an argument with your partner, or profit-loss in your business.

All of these are trying situations, but they are just neutral circumstances that your brain is trying to apply meaning to.

A relationship may seem daunting because the fear of being responsible for another person is overwhelming.

But as Barton Goldsmith Ph.D. points out, just like goldfish, people grow according to the size of their bowl.

If you keep your life in a small box and don’t make room for others, you could be missing out on what might make life infinitely better: love.

Rather than let your brain win the game, it’s better to take a step back, name what is happening to you, and try to stay with the discomfort as a means to find out what might happen if you just keep going.

Human beings are experts at walking away from pain and discomfort. We have, in many ways, developed a sense of entitlement where we think we shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable.

If you’ve ever rolled your eyes while your boss walked away and thought “I shouldn’t have to put up with this”, you’ve got some entitlement issues – they may be causing commitment issues.

According to Noam Shpancer Ph.D. in Psychology Today, avoiding a negative emotion buys you short term gain at the price of long term pain.

Here’s why:

“When you avoid the short term discomfort of a negative emotion, you resemble the person who under stress decides to drink. It “works,” and the next day, when bad feelings come, he drinks again. So far so good, in the short term. In the long run, however, that person will develop a bigger problem (addiction), in addition to the unresolved issues he had avoided by drinking.”

By not accepting a little bit of discomfort, you may be sacrificing the delight of true love and a satisfying relationship in the future.

Confront those feelings by asking yourself, “why not?” What’s wrong with a little discomfort?

Commitment issues can keep you from enjoying every facet of your life – and you might not even know it.

You might be too busy blaming other people, things, money, time, circumstances, location, your car!

It’s time to bring it in and look at how you are perpetuating these issues in your life and start facing the solutions to reduce the friction.

If you want to be happy, let yourself be happy. Maybe it’s with a partner, or maybe it’s not.

But if you want to be someone who can commit, start by committing to yourself to do the work needed to overcome these issues.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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