How a Fear of Commitment Can Impact Your Relationship

Photos showing a young couple experiencing difficulties in their relationship

Lerexis / Getty Images

If you find yourself wanting to continue a relationship but are struggling to be vulnerable or take steps forward, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a fear of commitment.

This fear can stem from many issues ranging from worrying about rejection, feeling insecure about what you can offer a partner, or being fearful of relationships in general based on your own personal experiences. 

We're outlining common signs that demonstrate a fear of commitment and explaining how failing to work past commitment issues can ultimately be the demise of a relationship you treasure. 

Signs You Have a Fear of Commitment

A fear of commitment becomes obvious over time, but there are some early signs you can watch for, as well. 

Self-Sabotage 

“A person who has a fear of commitment has usually experienced a familial pattern or loss that has created a sense of safety with being alone or not emotionally invested,” explains Christina Hathaway, MAS, MFT, founder and CEO of Ignite Ambition.

When someone afraid of commitment feels that their potential partner is gaining strong feelings, they will either sabotage the relationship in a way that will make it end or they may prematurely end the relationship even if it is going well.  

You Struggle to Make and Keep Plans

Someone with only one foot in the door is likely reticent to make plans too far into the future. Small examples might include not saying yes to a wedding three months away or avoiding making holiday plans. 

Your Emotions Cause Extreme Discomfort

Some conversations are more complicated than others, and it’s OK to feel uncomfortable at times. However, experiencing discomfort to the point of avoiding emotional conversations or not displaying your own emotion can be a sign of commitment issues. 

If you suspect you might have a fear of commitment, ask yourself if any of the following apply: 

  • You’re happy with the relationship but still spend a lot of time questioning it
  • You struggle to think about the future of the relationship
  • You’re hesitant to make plans
  • Talking about progressing the relationship makes you feel uneasy 
  • You struggle to be vulnerable even if your partner is trying to engage emotionally
  • Your partner often asks you where you’re at in the relationship and what you want moving forward (they are seeking clarity because you have been unable to provide it)
  • You don’t feel emotionally engaged or connected 

How Fear of Commitment Damages Relationships

Ultimately, a fear of commitment can lead to the demise of a relationship. In some cases, this demise might be drawn out and painful—especially if one person is trying to make the relationship work while the other isn’t contributing emotionally.

Along the way, the person who is trying to commit will likely experience deep hurt, frustration, confusion, anger, embarrassment, and eventually apathy as they give up on the relationship

The person who is fearful of commitment may experience feelings of fear, worry, and stress. They may feel frustrated with themselves for being unable to progress the relationship, and experience guilt because they can see they are hurting another person. In some cases, a person who has a fear of commitment might feel frustrated at the other person for trying to progress the relationship instead of maintaining the status quo.

In the most destructive and hurtful situations, a person with commitment issues may sabotage the relationship by completely distancing themselves, going through waves of hot and cold, threatening breakups, cheating, or creating unnecessary conflict as a means to escape. 

How to Overcome Fear of Commitment 

“First and foremost, it is important to recognize the patterns that created this behavior,” says Hathaway. “You must understand why you are fearful of committing.”

She says this is important because, in many cases, the ‘why’ is no longer relevant in your life. Maybe you’ve yet to recover from a past hurt or you’re worried about repeating a toxic relationship you witnessed. Exploring the 'why' on your own can be helpful, but don’t rule out the benefits of speaking with a therapist

Another way to help work through a fear of commitment is to talk about it openly with your partner. Hathaway says, “Help them understand your thoughts and feelings. Work together and create supportive patterns that can help you manage the thoughts and feelings around your fear.” 

A Word From Verywell 

The very fact that you’re here means that you’re either hopeful about ceasing a pattern of failing to commit yourself, or you’re trying to navigate a relationship with someone who is fearful of commitment. In either case, you’re not alone. Understanding the root cause of the fear and open communication can create a path toward a deeply fulfilling relationship. 




Was this page helpful?