As you scroll through your Facebook feed, a deep sense of panic sets in. There’s an engagement announcement. There’s a wedding album. There’s baby’s first birthday. That mythical moment has finally come: everyone you know is in serious relationships and starting families.
Meanwhile, you’re still hitting the bars every weekend and adding notches to your bedpost. Or spending nights in with a six pack and Super Mario. The last thing on your mind is flower arrangements, colour schemes, and which diamond cut has the most sparkle.
Congratulations: you officially have commitment issues, and if you don’t get them in check, you could blow your chance at finding the rewarding, fulfilling relationship you secretly want. Here’s what to do about it.
Commitment Issues 101
Commitment phobia comes in many guises, but what’s behind it is always the same. You may fear losing your independence, or fear acknowledging what you really need, or fear being taken for granted, or fear rejection. Whatever your particular issue, the root of the problem every time is a deep-seated (and often unconscious) fear.
That fear manifests in myriad ways. Perhaps you have a history of choosing unavailable partners. Perhaps you constantly judge other people’s relationships, and convince yourself they’re compromising their happiness to be with someone. Perhaps you make excuses (“I’m too busy with work right now”), or scare off potentials with bad behaviour, or are so picky that no one can meet your impossible standards.
You might even be using romantic notions to disguise your commitment issues. You fantacise about life with a perfect partner, and have created a vision reality can never live up to. You would rather daydream than forge a lasting relationship with an actual human being.
Commitment phobes will go to any lengths to rationalise their issues. The first step, if you’ll forgive us for relying on cliché, is to acknowledge there’s a problem in the first place. Your next steps are below.
Know Doubt Is Normal
Perfect relationships only exist on Instagram. There are no flattering filters for real life, so let go of the notion of perfection and accept that, sometimes, things suck. You’ll be annoyed by your partner and they’ll be annoyed by you. You’ll get angry at each other. You’ll be hurt by something they said. You’ll worry that another, better relationship is out there. Doubt is natural. A strong relationship is one that can recognise the doubts and move beyond them.
Name Your Fear
It’s nearly impossible to defeat a foe you can’t identify. Ask yourself what it is you really fear. What does ‘commitment’ mean to you? What do you fear losing? Follow the path the fear leads you down and see where it ends. You may fear the vulnerability it takes to make a relationship work, or fear having your heart broken, or fear surrendering your freedom. Or something else entirely.
In a healthy relationship, you won’t feel unsafe or trapped. In fact, you’ll feel more free, more emotionally adept, and more satisfied with your life. Get to grips with exactly what you’re afraid of, because ‘commitment’ is just a word. The real fear is something else.
Decide To Be Decisive
Someone with commitment issues in relationships may find they have trouble commiting in other ways. You may struggle with making progress in your career, or signing a lease, or even choosing something from your Netflix queue. Those noncommital relationship patterns infiltrate other areas of your life and before you know it, indecisiveness is practically a lifestyle choice. We don’t need to tell you that’s a deeply unproductive way to live.
Any decision is a commitment, and deciding, by definition, means relinquishing other options. Commitment phobes fear making the wrong decision and losing an option that could have been better.
The cold, hard truth is that there will always be another life you could have lived, and you’re far better off making decisions for yourself than letting life make them for you.
Be proactive and decide to be decisive. Don’t waste too much time weighing pros and cons. Don’t procrastinate. Recognise that over-thinking can lead to poorer choices. Practice being more decisive in small ways and work up to the larger ones that really make a difference.
Look At Your Life
Fear doesn’t grow in a vacuum. Your anxieties are likely rooted in past experiences, like poor role models or childhood trauma or a devastating breakup. Understanding where your fears come from will help you name them and eliminate them. Consider seeking help from a professional therapist to help you completely unpack your past.
Envision The Future
Stop dwelling on what’s wrong and start thinking about what could go right. Imagine the fear of commitment has gone. What choices will you make now that you’re free? Picture a scenario in which you’re happily attached. What benefits, both physical and mental, has a relationship brought to your life?
Thought experiments like this might seem silly, but they’re a powerful way to motivate yourself in the direction you’re trying to go. Make it feel as real as possible. Note where you are and how you’re suffering. Get clear on where you want to be and how good it will feel to get there. Then start figuring out how to bridge the gap.
Accept That Greatness Has A Cost
Nothing is achieved without commitment, and commitment is always a risk. Look at the great leaders and innovators in business, in politics, in science, in the arts – do you think they let fear of taking risks hold them back?
Of course not. Acknowledging risks and taking them anyway is the only way to achieve success, whether you’re running a billion dollar company or promising til death do us part. Greatness – even a great relationship – has a cost, but it’s a price you’ll be happy you paid.
Find Freedom In Other Ways
Nurture freedom is all areas of your life. Pursue passions that build your skills and allow for artistic and emotional expression. Surround yourself with friends who value your thoughts and opinions. Find work that’s fulfilling and encourages your growth. Choose a partner who cherishes their own freedom and wants the same for you. Create a life that doesn’t feel stifling in any area.
When you feel free in so many ways – your work, your play, your friendships, your family – freedom is no longer a scare resource, and you won’t fear losing a small amount to a relationship. A freer life is one you’ll love whether or not you ever update your Facebook relationship status.