This Is What Your Fear of Commitment Really Means

Being too scared to fall in love is very real.

Couple on a beach after a breakup fear of commitment
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The way we view relationships is constantly changing, and the entire concept of commitment is being reevaluated. There's evidence to suggest that, in comparison to previous generations, today's young people are skittish when it comes to committing to relationships in the traditional sense. In the 1950s, for example, it was common to get engaged after just a few dates; today, couples between the ages of 25 and 34 date for an average of six and a half years before marrying. Actually, according to 2014 Pew Research Center data, 25 percent of millennials will never get married.

Only time will tell what this apparent widespread reticence toward commitment really means. But if you are looking to be in a healthy relationship and just can't seem to make it work, it's worth asking yourself: Are you simply selective, or do you have a fear of commitment? And there's no time like the present to figure that out.

What does it mean to be commitment-phobic?

Commitment-phobia comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are people who don't commit by never getting into relationships in the first place; there are people who are known as "avoidant attachers," who get into relationships but keep their partners at an arms-length; and there are people who consider themselves to be vulnerable and honest, but bail as soon as things get too serious.

At their core, all of these people have one thing in common: a fear of being hurt.

"The key piece is fear—fear of intimacy and deep emotional connection," writes relationship expert Victoria Lorient-Faibish on her website, Visualization Works. "People who are commitment-phobic feel they need to cut off their feelings after a certain point of knowing someone as a means of feeling in control and feeling emotionally protected. This is often not conscious and is going on at the deepest level of the subconsciousness."

When you think about it, humans are social creatures by design. We crave love and emotional attachment, the dopamine rush of sex, the oxytocin deluge of intimacy. We are not born commitment-phobes. We are made into them by romantic experiences. And the defining feature of a commitment-phobe is someone who leaves a relationship not because they don't have feelings, but because they do.

"[Commitment-phobia] is another name for relationship anxiety," psychologist and dating coach Melanie Schilling wrote for the dating website eHarmony. "People with a commitment-phobia generally want a deep, meaningful connection with another person, but their overwhelming anxiety prevents them from staying in any relationship for too long. If pressured for a commitment, they are far more likely to leave the relationship than to make the commitment. Or, they may initially agree to the commitment, then back down days or weeks later, because of their overwhelming anxiety and fears."

What can you do if you have a fear of commitment?

Outside of therapy, there is only one real way to treat commitment-phobia, which is to accept the fact that you cannot experience the euphoria of love without also experiencing the anxiety of the possible pain it may cause. In many ways, treating commitment-phobia is similar to treating OCD or other anxiety disorders; you would think that rationalizing yourself out of it would be the best way to go, but that only makes things worse.

The best way to treat it is to accept that the worst can happen (yes, your relationship may end painfully), and just free-fall. Don't let anxiety rule your life. Choose to dive in heart first. And for more tips on a bright future, here are 23 Things To Let Go of to Be Happy in 2019.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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