You may dream of a committed relationship, but not everyone does. Some people view potential partners like the Sirens in Greek mythology that lured sailors to their deaths with their enchanting voices. These people fear intimacy and avoid truly committed relationships at all costs.
Commitment-phobes feel a strong need to remain emotionally self-sufficient and distant. If you are in a relationship with such a person, you can see signs of this early on. And it will become clearer as your partner’s feelings for you fail to deepen even after spending more time together. But, for many people, by the time they realize their partner avoids commitment, they find that they’re already emotionally invested, leaving them with the painful choice of either staying in the stunted relationship or leaving the person who they’ve grown to care about. So, rather than staying in the relationship until long after its expiration date – when it has gone so bad that it makes you emotionally sick – learn to recognize the signs of commitment-phobic people early on, enabling you to get out sooner.
They often express their fear in the following ways:
1. They basically tell you that they avoid commitment. They may say it outright with statements, such as, “I don’t want to be in a committed relationship now.” Or, they may share their personal history, which is littered with one-night stands or brief relationships. If you want a committed relationship, this is your cue to get out fast! If you choose to stay based on the hope of them changing, you do this at your own peril.
2. They are stingy with their time. They may limit time together by keeping dates short or not getting together often. Some will not meet during the week. Also, they may be hard to pin down for definite plans, especially if the plans are not in the immediate future.
3. They are vague or noncommittal in expressions of caring. They may avoid saying, “I love you,” or they may only express it in a joking or off-handed way, such as distractedly saying, “I love you, too, babe.” People who are fearful of commitment tend to be promiscuous or just not feel a greater emotional connection with a sexual relationship.
4. They remain vague about the importance of your relationship. They do not clearly refer to you as their boyfriend/girlfriend or significant other. They also fail to prioritize your relationship, too frequently preferring to hang out with friends or to work. This is clearly a judgment call, but if you don’t have a history of being needy or others are confirming that you aren’t asking for too much, then you need to assess your partner’s level of investment in your relationship.
5. They don’t share much emotionally. Yes, there are some people who are just naturally less inclined to share – but even these people usually show you their need for support in some way, whether in words or actions. Commitment-phobes, on the other hand, tend to be excessively self-reliant in working through their emotional struggles. Failing to open up at all emotionally does not bode well for having a healthy interdependent relationship in which you both are strong within yourselves, but also rely on each other for support and caring.
Ultimately, it is your choice as to whether someone is offering enough of themselves in your relationship. Maybe you are okay with a casual relationship, or you are comfortable with limited time spent together. But if you are hanging in, waiting for your partner to realize that they love you and want to commit themselves to you, you may have a very, very long wait. Instead, if your partner shows the signs of a commitment-phobe, it may be time to end the relationship, freeing yourself to find a truly loving and committed partner.
Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.