“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”
~ Sammy Davis Jr.
Chances are over the course of a long relationship, you will get hurt.
Relationships are complicated and involve balancing the needs of at least two people; if kids come along it gets even more complex. We commit for the same reason that we drive. If we don’t, we’ll miss out on one of the deepest human emotional experiences.
There are ways to make the commitment safer.
- Don’t commit until you really get to know someone.
- Don’t ease over problem areas.
- Don’t pretend things are OK if they’re not.
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can change someone; you can’t.
Understand yourself especially in the context of your family of origin.
That is where we learn how to be in relationships. If your family was warm, loving and supportive, you will be a step ahead in the committed relationship department.
If not, understand the family dynamics and your own role so that you don’t recreate the past with your chosen partner. The same criteria apply to your partner’s history. Does this person have a history that could be problematic? Difficult pasts are not insurmountable obstacles, but they do need to be dealt with.
Premarital counseling is an excellent way to evaluate the relationship potential.
You will look at your histories as well as your current dynamics.
- Is there respect for each other’s ideas?
- Do you enjoy some of the same activities?
- Do you share common life goals?
- Can you freely communicate your thoughts and feelings?
- Is there a tolerance for differences?
Once you can honestly answer these questions, you will have some idea of what the future will hold for you with your partner.
Obviously, these questions take some time to answer. Taking a relationship slowly enough to find out about yourself and your partner is a good way to bring down the anxiety about commitment.
One last thing.
The better you feel about yourself, the more confident you are that you can make it on your own, the less scary it becomes to commit.
Nobody knows for sure what the future holds. Your loved one could be perfect but still get hit by a bus. If losing your partner would be the end of you, you’ll always be afraid to really commit. Having a strong sense of self is the best insurance you have that it’s safe (enough) to make that commitment.
Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
From the media and perhaps in our own life we are likely familiar with the phrase “fear of commitment”. It refers to people who are reluctant to be in an ongoing relationship for any number of reasons.
Perhaps they are afraid of feeling trapped or tied down. Or maybe they want to keep their options open ‘just in case’. Another reason could be that they are just not sure their partner is Mr./Mrs. Right. This is not the same thing as having occasional doubts about your partner.
How do you know if you have a fear of commitment?
Step back and look at your dating history.
Honestly assess it. Is there is a thread of commitment fear? Without judgment, notice if there is a pattern of bailing on the relationship when it reaches a certain point.
That point may have to do with passage of time (e.g. one year), reaching a certain level of closeness (e.g. meeting the parents or the request to keep a toothbrush at your partner’s place), or some other marker.
There are countless reasons men and women have fear of commitment.
Most of the reasons have to do with the concern that something familiar and therefore comfortable will end, and/or that options will diminish.
What can men and women do if they want to be in a healthy committed relationship but have never been in one due to ongoing fear of commitment?
Consider the following suggestions:
1. Recognize that life is all about starts and stops, beginnings and endings.
Every single decision any of us makes about anything means we are choosing. And choosing means eliminating other options. Healthy relationships enhance our life….and help us discover parts of ourselves we may not otherwise know.
2. Fear of commitment may have to do with worrying about making the wrong choice.
If we spend life worried about making the wrong decision, we will live a very limited life. Or, life will perpetually be in limbo.
If you are worrying ‘what if this is the wrong choice?’ spend at least as much time wondering, “what if this is the right choice?” For some people, considering the plus’ and minus’ of staying in a relationship can be illuminating. Spending too much time looking at the pro’s and con’s, though, can backfire by perpetuating indecision.
3. Sometimes the fear of commitment is due to extreme feelings of want and desire, and the associated dread of rejection.
A healthy long term relationship offers intimacy in a way that uncommitted relationships tend not to provide. If a person is worried about breakup, rejection, or being hurt, it may seem easier to avoid committed relationships. This is especially true for people who have been ‘burned before’.
4. Talk with a professional about your fear.
REALLY get to the nitty gritty of what you fear and why. Only then can you truly address your fear, head-on.
Dr. Elayne Daniels – www.drelaynedaniels.com
The fear of commitment can take many forms.
It can be anything from not committing to relationships to not committing to plans and even having difficulty making decisions. Any or all of which can leave us feeling stuck because it is hard to move forward in life.
Overcoming the fear of commitment starts with recognizing it is happening.
If you are sure about the person you want to commit to, meaning there are no red flags that are being overlooked, then acknowledge the fear.
Then discuss it and use it as a bonding moment with your prospective mate.
If you are overlooking or excusing red flags then take the fear for what it is, your body is signaling to you that there is danger ahead.
The basis for fear of commitment is not trusting yourself: Fear of making a wrong choice.
Lots of times we do make “wrong” choices by settling, or by not listening to what our gut says. How many times have we all been in a relationship that when all was said and done we acknowledge, “I knew it wasn’t right but I did it anyway?”
Listen to your self, acknowledge red flags even though you love them, this is how we learn to start trusting ourselves and trust that no matter what happens we will handle it.
With respect to difficulties making plans, decisions or committing to relationships, it is important to remember that nothing is written in stone.
If we commit to anything and are not happy with the outcome, we can change it. Whether committing to a golf game, a new job, or a relationship.
Remember, outside of death everything is changeable so don’t be afraid to experiment and try.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com
The cliche tale goes a little something like this…people date and it starts to go well, until the inevitable crash point where one or both partners simply can’t take the leap and make a full commitment.
Many believe that the core of the issue stems from not wanting to give up the plethora of options available to us in the dating world.
While this may be true for some, more often, the real roadblock tends to develop around fear of the past rearing its ugly head.
Flashbacks of those painful losses flood our minds and render us unable to move forward in a new partnership.
Follow the steps below to start developing healthy habits that will lead you to relationship success:
1. Re-build your belief system
When we are convinced that the past will repeat itself, we have no opportunity to focus on the beauty that can lie ahead. Just as your negative beliefs were developed, more realistic beliefs can over-write them.
Do so by creating a mantra about your future reminding you that the your old experiences don’t dictate the new ones and then repeat it…often.
2. Develop an appreciation for the ugly
There can be no light without dark.
Try to develop gratitude for your struggles by reminding yourself that you did in fact, gain some critical lessons from them – the understanding of what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as a greater ability to appreciate when someone truly is the right fit.
3. Commit to giving up the ghost and bury the shovel
Practice leaving the past in the past. Easier said than done, of course, but when you actively think about and remind yourself of those old wounds there is no space to heal them.
By “burying the shovel” you actively make a commitment to experiencing new, potential mates without comparing them to the your exes.
Additionally it prevents you from “digging up” examples of how this new situation will end in the same tragic manner as it has in prior relationships.
When you free yourself from the burdens created by the “ghosts of relationships past,” your are reborn with fewer fears of commitment.
This alone will create a warm environment for a new partner to step into and the opportunity for a strong dialogue that can further assuage your fears.
Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT – www.lifeissuespsychotherapy.com
I am not a swimmer. As a matter of fact, I almost drowned as a child. With this in mind, the concept of “just diving in,” never really made sense to me….even in relationships!
Relationships can be scary because outside of the exhilarating date nights, stimulating conversation and romance, there is often an underlying (and sometimes evident) fear of commitment.
We fear what is different and take comfort in what is known, even if what is known is loneliness. I have met with countless men and women throughout the years, all proclaiming that being alone (and even lonely) can be preferred to “just diving in.” I say to them, “grab a life jacket!”
Relationships take time and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking things slow and steady when getting to know a potential mate.
When we give ourselves time to get to know a potential partner and even get to know ourselves more in the process, we lessen the tendency to give in to fear.
During the initial dating stage, it is important to communicate about expectations, values, hopes and dreams.
It’s like testing the water and getting comfortable in it. While it is not advisable to share every intimate detail of one’s life at this stage, strong communication leads to meaningful decisions about the potential relationship.
When we give ourselves permission to simply get to know another human being without the soundtrack of wedding bells in our ears, we set the stage for healthy friendships and relationships.
I call this “no pressure dating” because the moment pressure is introduced, it is quickly overtaken by fear. Healthy relationships are not born of fear; they exist because men and women make deliberate efforts to open themselves up to the possibility of being a duo.
If I have learned anything at all about swimming, I have learned that I will never become a swimmer if I don’t ever get in the water!
Sure, there is the possibility that I may fall under, but with practice there is an even stronger possibility that I will actually swim and have a good time. That’ll happen if I leave my fear at the shore!
Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey – www.linkedin.com/in/kirsten-ramey
“Fear of commitment” may be one of the most overused terms I hear in my work. So much so that I am no longer sure what it means.
If you believe that a fear of commitment is keeping you from a healthy relationship, first really sit down and consider what that means to you.
- How do you experience the fear?
- When does it arise?
- Can you locate it in your body?
- Are there certain times when you feel more afraid than others?
- Have you had a relationship where you didn’t feel afraid?
Really harness the truth of this story that you’ve been telling yourself. That’s the first step; understanding the truth (or myth) of your belief.
Next, it’s important to remember that history is always being rewritten.
You are not beholden to a pattern. You can always change it. The changing, however, requires work. That’s the next step.
In Sanskrit, the word “samskara” translates roughly as “impression”.
It is something-most often negative-that has left it’s mark on us. You may recognize a samskara when you notice yourself abruptly avoiding or tightening up around certain subjects or in certain situations.
When repeated, samskaras create a conditioned pattern, or an emotional, mental groove in our being.
Not unlike a marked and well-trod path where the grass has stopped growing, it’s easy to forget the myriad alternate routes still available. What it takes to get past a samskara is the bravery to try another path, even if the outcome is uncertain.
In telling ourselves that we have “commitment issues”, it gives us a free pass to avoid our samskaras.
Even if we are not happy being single, it may feel safer than having to walk down the unmarked path (“I don’t know the terrain! What if I get lost?”), or try a route where the outcome is unclear (“What if this actually leads somewhere? Then what? I won’t know what to do!”).
The challenge is to endure this potent yet passing, ever-changing discomfort.
An attitude of “let’s see” will be your friend as you traverse new ground. Remember that you are never stuck, never beholden to anyone, and won’t discover if you don’t allow yourself to get lost.
So go get lost, and make room for a new and exciting fear: the fear of committing to yourself.
Elizabeth Baum, M.A., MFT – www.elizabethbaumintegral.com
How do you know if you have a fear of commitment, are afraid of settling down and being a responsible partner to your long-term love interest?
The answer is… you’ll know how you feel after a few months.
You’ll notice that the conversations become more intimate, personal and uncomfortable for you.
The plans, level of sharing and degree of family/friend interactions increases and you begin feeling “trapped,” “controlled,” or “overwhelmed” with your situation. You prefer to run away, since it is scary to be so vulnerable and exposed.
But why does this happen? You may need to identify your “issues”.
- Are you having trust concerns because your previous partner cheated on you?
- Were you a victim of physical or emotional abuse from a controlling partner?
- Are you so insecure that you can’t let another person in to share your dreams and wishes?
It helps to pinpoint what areas are bothering you and identify your underlying concern. Notice any patterns you keep repeating and be responsible for changing what you can about yourself.
A committed relationship is based on trust, surrender, respect, safety, responsibility and maturity.
People with high self-esteem usually prefer the emotional fulfillment of a committed relationship because it enhances who they already are.
It makes the sexual, physical part of the relationship more satisfying and meaningful. It allows each partner to plan for the future and include one another in their dreams and decisions.
Naturally, the sooner you let your partner know your fears, the better it is for you both.
You do not want to waste your time with someone whose long-term goal is out of sync with yours.
At some point, you need to stop their second-guessing and let your partner know you are in this relationship for only fun, companionship or just plain distraction.
Otherwise, one or both of you will be disappointed, perpetuating your fear of commitment yet again.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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