Are you dating someone with commitment issues? I’ve coached plenty of women who have told me all kinds of stories about men they’re dating or past relationships where the guy in question is a commitment-phobe. Other times, they’re blissfully unaware and have missed all the red flags pointing to his commitment issues. The trouble is, if one person in the relationship is struggling with commitment, you’re guaranteed a rocky ride, and the relationship will eventually break down—unless something changes.
So, is it time to leave him? Can you work things out?
Here’s what you need to know.
What does it mean to have commitment issues?
A man committed to you and your relationship will be fully dedicated and willing to progress through the natural phases of a romantic relationship. On the other hand, when a man has commitment issues, it essentially means that he has a fear of committing and dedicating himself to a long-term relationship.
In the dating phase, this can show up as a guy reluctant to move to the next step and make things exclusive (Little Love Step #6). If the guy is already in a relationship, he might reject further investment in it, such as moving in together or getting married.
BACP counselor and psychotherapist Katerina Georgiou explains that it might not necessarily mean that he doesn’t want to be in the relationship, but nevertheless, he has difficulty fully committing to it. Perhaps a part of him does want that future, and another part is fearful of it. There may also be a question of, is this person really the one for me? Is there someone better out there?
Are commitment issues a disorder?
Having a fear of commitment is NOT the same as having a commitment phobia or disorder.
When you were little, did you or any of your friends ever say you were allergic to a type of food you just didn’t like?
“I’m allergic to ALL green vegetables…”
“Well, I’m allergic to anything that doesn’t have ice cream in it…”
When we grow up, we realize we can eat whatever the hell we want, so we stop telling lies like this. But then we start telling other lies like, “I have a phobia of being in the office on Monday mornings.”
A phobia is very different from a fear.
Commitment phobia is when you have an intense or irrational fear of commitment which causes high levels of anxiety and even panic attacks.
What causes fear of commitment?
Many different factors can influence the way we behave in relationships. This includes early childhood trauma and family dynamics, and past relationships or events. Here are some of the most common causes of commitment issues in later life.
Fear of the relationship ending unexpectedly
Has the guy in question been in a past relationship that ended out of the blue? Maybe he came home one Friday night buzzed for the weekend, only to find his girlfriend’s suitcases at the front door. Events like this can lead people to be far more cautious in future relationships because they’re worried the same thing will happen again and don’t want to get hurt.
Fear of being in the wrong relationship
Sometimes commitment issues can stem from doubts about the person you’re dating. Many people get into relationships for the wrong reasons (i.e., convenience, or because they don’t want to be alone) and stay in relationships for equally wrong reasons like sex, money, or kids, which often results in the relationship turning toxic.
When a guy knows in his heart that he’s not with the right person, he will be resistant to committing to the relationship on a higher level.
Trust issues because of past hurts
Being lied to, cheated on, or mistreated in any relationship (not necessarily a romantic one) can lead to trust issues in all future relationships. A person can struggle to let go and make peace with what happened and project that experience onto their new relationship.
Childhood trauma or abuse
The thing about childhood trauma is it comes in varying shapes and sizes. When we think about trauma, we immediately think of the extremes like being abused, but trauma can happen in much more subtle ways. For example, when your dad has had a particularly tough day at work, comes home, and ends up shouting at you and saying something he later regrets. Or when you move to a new school where you don’t know anyone, and you have to eat lunch on your own.
When traumas like this are left unresolved, they will keep cropping up and triggering us in the present.
Unmet childhood needs or attachment issues
The people who take care of us when we’re little (usually our mum and dad) are the people we rely on to meet our basic needs. We have no alternative because we’re unable to look after ourselves. Sadly, a lot of children don’t get the affection or protection they need as children. This can leave them with unmet needs as adults, which they project in their future romantic relationships.
Complicated family dynamics
If a child witnesses their parents getting a divorce, relationship hopping, or staying together but constantly fighting and mistreating each other, this can leave emotional scars. As adults, they may fear commitment out of fear of the same dynamics repeating in their relationship.
What are signs of commitment issues?
1. He doesn’t talk about the future (like, EVER)
Whenever you suggest booking a vacation or attending an event together in the future, does he seem to be enthusiastic or always have an excuse ready to go?
Or does he continually talk about trips he’s going on, either solo or with friends? Or about the new apartment he’s moving into, yep, you guessed it, on his own?
The only problem is, none of these things involve you.
Maybe he just hasn’t thought that far ahead in your relationship. Maybe he doesn’t want to assume that you’ll still be together by then. But maybe he isn’t ready to commit.
2. He has told you he’s “not looking for anything serious”
One of the most prominent signs a guy has commitment issues is when he is vocal about keeping things casual.
Maybe he talks about how he loathes labels like “girlfriend” and “boyfriend,” says things like, “let’s just have fun and see what happens,” or maybe he has explicitly told you he’s not looking or anything serious right now, and you secretly hoped he’d change his mind (he won’t).
All of these responses suggest that this man is not ready or willing to commit to a long-term relationship.
3. He seems emotionally unavailable
A man with commitment issues is likely to be resistant when it comes to opening up to you, sharing intimate details of his life, and being vulnerable. A telltale sign is when your conversations always remain casual, even after you’ve been dating for months. Long-term relationships require vulnerability from both people and that deeper emotional connection. Over time, you should get to know about each other’s childhood experiences, fears, values, and goals for the future.
4. He’s inconsistent
Sometimes he texts you back instantly; other times, he takes a week. Sometimes he’s all over you, and other times he feels so distant. Maybe he plans romantic dates and getaways for you that make you feel like a Queen, but other times he bails on plans at the last minute.
Usually, there’s a noticeable pattern when you get to know someone. And maybe this kind of thing has gone on for so long that you’ve started to accept it as normal—but it’s not. This is known as flaky or inconsistent behavior.
Unless a guy is going to a remote location where there’s no cellphone reception (are there even places like that anymore?!), he should be texting or calling you back within a day.
5. He is a poor communicator
Another sign of a man with commitment issues is when he struggles to communicate with you regarding the little things and big things.
For example, he often makes plans or goes out without telling you where he will be or what he’s doing. And when he returns, and you ask him about it, he’s very vague.
Or you find yourself having disagreements about small, silly things that could easily be avoided if the two of you talked more.
Many people are poor communicators, so this doesn’t automatically mean he has commitment issues. But unless you’re both willing to work on it, your relationship is destined to fail.
6. He has a history of short-term relationships or casual flings
Has the guy you’re dating ever had a long-term relationship? By the time a man hits his thirties, it’s pretty standard for him to have experienced at least one long-term relationship unless he has been militantly laser-focused on something else, like his career.
If casual flings and hookups are all this man has experience with, it’s usually a strong indication that he struggles to or doesn’t want to commit to anything more.
How to deal with a man with commitment issues
Okay, so now that you have a solid idea of what causes commitment issues and how this manifests itself in dating and relationships, let’s explore overcoming commitment issues. Is it possible for a man who’s fearful of commitment to work past this and have a healthy, long-term relationship?
It all depends on how much he wants to change and whether he’s willing to put in the work.
If you’ve found yourself dating a man with commitment issues, here’s how I recommend approaching it.
Have a conversation early on about what you want
Sometimes women avoid having direct conversations about what they want from a relationship out of fear of scaring a man off. But if you’re not clear from the get-go, months or even years can pass, and you’re still no closer to the relationship you want. But breaking up becomes so much more challenging than if you’d moved on earlier because you’re now heavily invested in this person.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries early on and be explicitly clear about the kind of commitment you’re looking for. The right man will not be scared off.
See if he’s willing to acknowledge his commitment issues
Once you’ve got a solid feeling that you are dating a man with commitment issues, see if he’s willing to open up to you about where those fears come from, and try and empathize.
If he recognizes that he has some issues around commitment and is honest with you, this is a great sign because it’s the first necessary step to overcoming them.
Don’t ignore red flags
The next step is to be honest with yourself and decide whether this man and relationship are for you. The longer you’ve been in the relationship, the harder this will be.
You might love and care about this man deeply; I get that. But you’ve got needs too. What about what you want and need from your relationship? Don’t compromise or sacrifice on the big things you want or ignore major red flags because you love someone. Love on its own is not enough.
Practice commitment together
If you’re both prepared to do what it takes to make your relationship work, there are specific steps you can take to overcome commitment issues together.
For example, hold hands or kiss in public. Spend the night together or a weekend together if this is something you never do. Have a deep, intimate conversation where you are both vulnerable. Make plans together, first a week in advance, then a month, and then something even further in the future. If you’re ready to take the next step in your relationship and live together, perhaps you could go view apartments in a town you like and imagine what it would be like to share that space.
Watch for improvements
Stay alert in your relationship and look out for any visible signs of improvement over time, no matter how small it might be. If you can see that he’s trying and making a considerable effort to overcome his issues, then acknowledge them and give him some encouragement.
However, if you’ve been patient and still not seen any signs of him wanting to change or being on the same page about your future together, it’s time to end things before you get more hurt.
Don’t wait around forever
If you’re not yet in an exclusive relationship with this guy, my advice would be to keep your options wide open and keep dating other people (Little Love Step #4).
If you’re looking for commitment and this man clearly isn’t on the same page, then he doesn’t meet your love vision (regardless of whether he ticks every other box), and it’s time to say NEXT and move on.
There are two types of men in this world:
- The men who have commitment issues then meet an amazing woman and want to work through those issues.
- The men who have commitment issues then meet an amazing woman but are not ready or willing to change their ways.
If you’re dealing with guy number one, there’s potential for your relationship to thrive. But if you’re dealing with guy number two, chances are slim to none that you’re going to get the happy ending you want. That might sound harsh, but you DESERVE that happy ending with the man and relationship of your dreams.
Have you ever dated a man with commitment issues? When did you finally realize that this man wasn’t going to be able to give you what you wanted in a relationship?
Tell me all in the comments below.
PS. If you’re ready to start making men pursue you for love, then join me on this free webinar to discover the 3 steps to building emotional attraction – Register here to get started (it’s 100% free).