While we might recognise it, commitment phobia is not a technical term as such, it’s certainly not a medical term. It’s not something, as of yet anyway, that is ‘diagnosed’. But it does exist, ‘the struggle for someone to commit to a long-term monogamous romantic and intimate relationship with another person’. It’s a term that describes a behaviour in a particular circumstance, we otherwise don’t have a word for. Many people will agree whether they have it. And one can have it in varying degrees, for example ‘the phobia’ might not make its appearance until you walk down the wedding aisle.
As a dating coach and psychologist, I come across many people who display signs of commitment phobia.
I see two types of people who struggle with committing to a romantic relationship.
One is easy to spot, they openly acknowledge and tell you they are commitment phobes. And if they don’t like to admit it, these are the sorts of behaviours you will see:
struggle to keep to their word when dating (ie cancel dates often, arrive late etc) ghost their dates when things get too serious lose romantic interest in their date the moment their date shows more interest in them cringe when someone uses the “L” word hates public displays of affection feel discomfort when someone tries to label the relationship pride themselves of their independence
The other type of commitment phobes are the ones who don’t realise they struggle to have intimate relationships. Many of my clients fall in this category. These are the friends you have, who always complain they are single, and don’t understand why (and to be fair you don’t understand why). Typical signs are:
complain they can never meet anyone decent keep getting ghosted by others date people they know are not right for them date people who they hope will change for the better, but never do struggle to ask the person they are dating whether they are in an exclusive relationship or stubble to ask for exclusivity spend too much time working (or always seem to be ‘too busy’)
The result is a lot of lonely and frustrated singles or ‘serial monogamists’. It’s not that people don’t want to commit, its more that they somehow can’t. Indeed, studies show that people who pride themselves on being single and independent, still at a neurological level crave closeness and intimacy. As much as I’d like to say how to fix this, it’s difficult to give a generic solution. There are many reasons why someone would ‘suffer’ from commitment phobia. But if I were to give some direction, it would be notice your pattern, be honest with yourself about what is going on, and embrace your fears.
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