Overcome Commitment Phobia

Ever since I can remember, I have had this preoccupation with freedom. I saw myself with no possessions covered in dirt in Africa somewhere, or traveling somewhere far away with nothing but a bag and a little bit of food. While other people wanted nice cars and homes, I wanted to see the world. I was never much for settling down and found myself wanting to move on after being anywhere for too long. I sabotaged relationships that I knew could go somewhere and gravitated towards relationships that I knew would fail. Knowing I was stuck somewhere or with someone felt like death by suffocation to me and I found myself doing a lot of running away or getting the other person to do it for me.

In retrospect, I know that when I was young, I saw some unhappiness which I came to associate with family and settling down. I remember promising myself that I would never let that happen to me-that I would never settle down to become an unhappy person. The promises that children make to themselves are very powerful-the small seeds that become very large manifestations later in life. Every time I drove in the car, I would imagine myself flying outside the window. I would be an astronaut, a missionary, a bum or a wandering minstrel-anything but stuck. When I closed my eyes, the fantasy was the same. I was always running as far as I could away from everything and everyone. No ties, nothing but freedom.

It is difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced commitment phobia how intense the fear reaction becomes at times, or how fantastic the fantasy of escape can feel. I would go on a date, but when the relationship progressed, the person literally began to look repulsively ugly to me. One very handsome person I dated smiled just like a toothy dinosaur. Another one was so repulsive I could barely stand being in the same room. All I could think about was “Where’s the nearest exit?” It felt a bit like someone was putting a pillow over my face, cutting off my air supply and crushing my chest. If I stayed at a job too long, people got to know me, or had hope of advancement to a higher position, I would begin to look for another job in another city. It was like the world started turning in the wrong direction, kind of that woozy feeling I got the only time I gave blood, just before I took a nose dive and fainted. On the other hand, I easily committed myself to relationships that were wrong for me and would inevitably end as they never triggered my fear of permanence.

The truth is, the journey to overcome commitment phobia is not an easy one. Because the decision is often so deeply embedded in the subconscious, understanding needs to happen on an emotional level as well as an intellectual level. Trauma tends to be encoded differently in our minds than different kinds of memories. Like a bubble, the mind/body/emotion memory tends to remain disconnected until it is triggered by something that reminds us of the trauma. The memory comes back vividly and powerfully, sometimes only with the body or emotions. We may not remember the trauma explicitly (being able to recall the memory) but we often remember the trauma implicitly (with our bodies and emotions). Luckily, there are therapeutic techniques that can effectively help to resolve these pockets of traumatic memories.

Here are a couple approaches to overcoming commitment phobia…

1.) I have found hypnotherapy as an excellent source to help identify the source of the fear and fantasy as a coping mechanism. This is a great resource for people who are having a hard time identifying where things went wrong and/or want the quickest results. Other therapies that I have found to be effective in resolving phobias and trauma are EMDR and Lifespan Integration.

2.) You can also try this self-help approach…
a.) First you need to identify whether overcoming this fear is worth it to you. Deciding to do this means facing your fears head on-it’s certainly not the wimp’s way out. It also means letting go of your fantasy of a perfect person, a perfect place or a perfect situation. It is very difficult to come back to the ground after a beautiful dream. One reason you may want to consider overcoming this fear is that dabbling with hearts and varying situations is often hollow, stressful, lonely and hurtful to others (and especially to you). People with commitment phobia, just like everyone else, long for a deep connection. Because of this, they are always looking for love or stability only to run away from it at full speed.
b.) Write down the word “commitment” and place a series of dashes around the word connecting to words that you associate with commitment. It may be “boredom” or “suffocation” or “danger”…whatever comes to mind, don’t judge it, just keep writing until you have written out every word or phrase that comes to your mind. This is called free association.
c.) Once you have all of the words written out, circle the one/ones that have the strongest emotion attached to them. See if you can’t identify the word or phrase that describes your feelings about commitment the most powerfully. You have just identified your true fears about what commitment means.
d.) Decide to accept yourself exactly as you are and understand that your feelings are not “crazy”, they come from a wounded place. Focus on one of the phrases for a while undisturbed until the feelings come to you. When you feel the feelings of the repulsion, fear or disgust while thinking of that fear, see if a memory comes to you. Hold the memory and the feeling in your mind’s eye (if it is not too traumatic to deal with in which case you may do better working with a professional) and see if you made a decision at that point in your life. See if the older you has a better decision to offer the younger you, one that may serve you better. Open your eyes and write out the situation, and your new decision.
e.) Focus on the other words or phrases, one at a time using the process above until you begin to feel less and less fearful and repulsed by the idea of commitment. Please note, the more deeply relaxed you are during this exercise and the more you stay focused on the task at hand, the more you will benefit from this exercise. Remember to approach yourself with kindness and full acceptance, as this is your gateway to growth.
f.) Do some research on what types of healthy mates to look for. You may not be ready for a relationship, but at least you can know what kind of people you really SHOULD avoid. Be honest with the people that you date about what your intentions are and don’t let attraction alone guide you to your next mate.
g.) Do some research on setting healthy boundaries especially if you are afraid of being taken over or suffocated.
h.) Let yourself feel revulsion, disgust or fear without reacting to it. It will fade if you don’t give it power. I have found that it comes in waves after a landmark in a relationship or after certain accomplishments. If I embrace the feeling without letting it impact my behavior, the feeling goes away until I reach a new summit. Growth is uncomfortable, facing your fears is uncomfortable.
i.) Remember that love is a choice, not a feeling-therefore you do have the power to behave lovingly, despite your fears. It is best if you can find someone with whom you can be honest about your fears, who can accept you, listen to you, and hold you accountable. Most importantly, make the decision to love yourself unconditionally, no matter how many mistakes you have made, how ashamed you may be, or in how many ways you fall short of perfection.

I have found that the process is a little bit like growing up. It’s about looking at the monsters in the closet and telling them to take a hike. It’s about learning how to protect and nurture yourself, while learning to honor the feelings of others. It’s a journey to a remarkable and lovely summit of true love and dedication to life.

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32 Responses to Overcome Commitment Phobia

  1. anydaysaf says:

    Part of life is to live it, and enjoy it, and seize the moments that you find particularly pleasing.

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  2. Rachel says:

    Thanks for writing this. I did a little search on commitment phobia, and the only results were directed toward women, telling them what to do if they ended up with a guy who had commitment issues. So I searched “overcoming commitment phobia,” but I got angry with that because it was only directed toward men, as if they’re the only ones who have trouble settling down. Then I found this post, and I’m happy I have!

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  3. jack says:

    Loved the post! First google result on over coming commitment phobia

    🙂

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  4. Chianti says:

    This is an excellent blog. It offers me hope and tools to address why I have never been married at the age of 46.

    Thanks!!

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  5. Frankie says:

    I realised that maybe the reason that relationships scare me so much may be down to my parents divorce, after they split up I have never gone out with anyone. I didn’t think that it affected me that much, but it obviously has done and it makes me feel suffocated whenever I grow close to someone. If the boy is nice then I automatically distance myself from him, especially if he wants to meet up or talk about something deep and meaningful. If the boy is a player who will break my heart, I always make such a big effort to talk to them. Just thinking about relationships now makes me feel trapped. I always thought that I hated being single but I don’t want it to be any other way. My sisters have both been in incredibly long relationships and sometimes I envy them, but then I can never imagine having that connection myself. Thank you so much for the inspirational blog.

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  6. Key says:

    Thanks for the information, it helps me a lot, very helpful. When I read the first line, it much reminds me of myself. What I really need is freedom.
    I know I have some trauma but I can’t recall clearly or explicitly.
    “Trauma tends to be encoded differently in our minds than different kinds of memories. Like a bubble, the mind/body/emotion memory tends to remain disconnected until it is triggered by something that reminds us of the trauma.”
    I always had this fear that would getting me run from my relationship, so it was never last long enough.
    Thank you once more.

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  7. sabi says:

    i keep running from committed relationships as far as i remember; and i have been asking my self why. This blog gave me a lot to process. People with the same experience please share as how you overcome your commitment phobia.

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  8. Michelle says:

    I have finally realised I’m so scared of commitment I think it was when my dad was taken away from me when I was really young he never came back to live with us I think that could be the root of my being able to commit, I really want to be happy one day I hope I will let myself.

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  9. Desiree says:

    Thank you. I have just realized that I am a commitment phob. your ideas are refreshing and helpful

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  10. Jenine says:

    I just broke off an engagement to a really loving man. I continue to quit jobs when people get too close, I change cities frequently. Yet, deep down, I want to be in a loving long term marriage, but I’m terrified. I feel trapped, stuck, and smothered when I don’t keep moving. I’m a commitmentphobe.

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  11. Julio says:

    I have never been able to sustain a relationship past a few months. As soon as love is reciprocated back to me, and commitment and growth are on the horizon, I freak out and leave. I just broke up with the most remarkable women I have ever met because of my fear of commitment. I’m tired of this hurtful, painful cycle of self sabotage. I’m sick, I need help…I’m going to get healthy.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi your article is amazing and I’m trying to find help for my bf.
    We were just about to move in together after 6 years together and he is running scared. He says he loves me. He told me he was scared and was happy the way things were. Now he can’t sleep and eating pattern has changed. He is 50 and been in and out of relationships – one with marriage and bolted. At the moment he is distancing me. And says I’m better of without him, that he will hurt me later – and that why he was hurting me now. He says it over.
    What kind of help could you recommend for him? Self help or other?

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    Anna Reply:

    I feel for you, I really do. That’s a tough question. Assuming he knows that he has a problem with commitment phobia -and- is dedicated to healing himself, there are plenty of avenues he could take. Hypnotherapy, EMDR, Lifespan Integration are some of my favorites and I do offer a self-hypnosis album on Commitment Phobia.

    What is the best way you can help him to realize he has a problem? Let him go, create a happy life for yourself, and love yourself. That will give him the space he desperately desires and the time to think things over. Then, when you are in a position of strength, he will probably feel a ripple in the ether and call you “out of nowhere”. At that point, knowing how worthy of love, protection and loyalty you are, you can make a good decision about whether he is good match for you.

    Take good care of yourself.

    Sincerely,

    Anna

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  13. Lacey says:

    I have known I am a commitment phob for a long time. I have finally found someone I can be honest about it with. I was doing fine, everything was going great. I decided I was ready for a title of being a “girl friend” boy was I wrong. I was ok at first as the thought settled in and we are moving to the next steps of meeting one anothers friends, family, and such I am in melt down mode. I find myself wanting to do destructive behaviors that will sabotage the relationship. Going back to the old ways of dead end encounters. I am happy that I finally recognize the pattern, but it does not make it any easier. I did the exercise above and wrote down words that I associate, all are extremely negative as one would suspect. I am lucky that I have open communication with the guy I am involved with however, I find it really hard to tell him what is going on. I know where my fears come from between an abusive childhood, mother committing suicide, and a bad marriage I am fully aware. I am just not sure what to do with it. I have been through therapy for PTSD and other issues. I am finally able to recognize the signs that I am about to run. Facing these fears head on is harder than I can even begin to process. Thank you for the information….

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  14. Evelyne says:

    the blog is very insightful. I’ve been involved with a commitment phobic man for about a year and half. Every time it seems we take 2 steps forward – it all of a sudden goes 5 steps backwards. He runs from me. It’s heartbreaking because I know deep in my heart he cares for me. I need more and do not believe he will change after reading online over the past few days about this destructive phobia. I’m sad, but I’m ready to move on and find happiness – maybe one day he will wake up and want more. Only time will tell. All my love to Dave.

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  15. Anonymous 2 says:

    After my parents divorce as a teen and my dad abandoning and having affairs I have drawn needy, dependent and weak hearted men into my life. Any man that was “normal” created a threatening arena for me to play in as I could not be in control of “fleeing”. The final nail in my coffin of Commitment Phobia was the night my ex-husband put a gun to my head and was going to pull the trigger if I didn’t give him my house. I’m quite sure after reading this blog that my case probably needs professional help as the depth of my phobic wounds are a black hole in my life. I have been single now for 11 years and just met a new man. I am trying to face my fears regarding my past, however, now my biggest fear is how and when I will flee and leave quite possibly the best relationship I’ve ever had. A tormenting and unwelcome thought. Thank you for the blog.

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  16. Sheldon says:

    I’ve been researching this phobia and my symptoms are clear. Ive realized were my phobia stems from and I sound like the character described in the article. As soon as I could I wanted to run from my town and start a new life anywhere, having relationships with new women along the way. That didn’t happen as I met a women whom I married and had a child with. The feeling of loss and my dreams being dashed killed me for the five years I was married. She eventually left me and moved back to her home. I know that my behavior did this.
    I developed a pattern of starting a new relationship with unavailable women while in a current relationship and that has caused me to hurt people. I currently was in this pattern and decided to leave my girlfriend for a fling I started and now that is over because of my phobia. I love both women but didn’t want to hurt anyone. I promised my old girlfriend to move in and start all kinds of life plans with her with no intention of moving forward. It was all lip service. I’ve finally decided to tell her that I’m not attracted to her anymore and that it’s not going to work but I know that once she leaves I will try to pull her back. She is perfect for me as my life would be great with her but I find excuses to flee.
    I need help to get me past this because I still want to be with the new girl but I know it’s for the wrong reasons. I want my old girl but for the wrong reasons.

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  17. Jimmy says:

    I’m reading this book: ‘He’s scared, She’s scared’ by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol. First aid advice for commitphobics seems to be the following: ‘slow down’, ‘don’t rush into a relationship’, ‘don’t give out promises you can’t keep’. Maybe warn in advance your partner that things are not going to be easy. I’m not sure if I should mention the word ‘commitmentphobic’ during my first date with a woman -could scare her away from the beginning… ..Anyone got some advice on this? My childhood was awful: parents screaming at each other, mother with panic attacks who died when I was 12 years old. From an early age I guess I built a wall around me to flee and protect myself from all this verbal hell. This wall must still be there today, somewhere in my subconscience I feel uneasy if someone starts to share my life. It feels as though someone is breaking apart this invisible wall. A 360° circular wall that goes round you and will seperate you from things such as intimacy and commitment. Even if there’s light coming in from above, you’re still surrounded by bricks.

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  18. Catherine says:

    Thank you so much Anna. I was in a relationship with someone who is commitment phobic. It was a constant fight. But i stuck to it until i could take no more. He told me once that he had the condition but i just thought he was making excuses. When i finally did the research on the topic, this outlined most of the things he did. But i can now appreciate the fact that he did tell me and that he was trying to get help. I truly did not understand. So now i have intentions to open back communications with him. Not in the basis of a relationship but as a friend that understands.

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  19. Billy ray says:

    I’m a textbook case but I am going to do it. This week I’ll get a ring. Thanks for your article.

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    Anna Reply:

    🙂

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  20. Sahra says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am only 19 and have for a few years had problems even dating guys. The moment they wanted some sort of commitment i freaked out and disappeared. The though of how the other person felt made me feel even worse but I could not help my self. I always joked about having this problem with commitment but never took it serious but it got to a point and I started google it. Though all the sites i found made it sound like there were no future for one with these kind of problems. But when i found this i though that it could help and I am for sure trying this metod out. Thank you once again, you might have helped me save myself.

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  21. Clay says:

    Thank you for this post. I have come to find out I have suffered from deep commitment issues in most of my relationships. I find that I will pursue someone to the point of a decision, and once the decision has been made, I freak out, analyze my feelings to the death of those feelings, and then I end the relationship because I feel as if I have no interest or feeling for that person; the whole time I am in extreme anxiety and distress. Did you – or anyone else on this blog – experience this? Any insight would be very helpful.

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  22. Ellie says:

    Hi there,
    I met an amazing guy 9 months ago and recognised his CP issue almost immediately as I suffered once too. I can tell you it IS completely fixable. It simply means identifying the root issue or traumas involved, probably stemming from childhood and being brave enough to work with them instead of running from them. In short it means one has to learn to ‘feel’. That doesn’t mean you have to r-traumatise yourself or delve deeply into the wound(s). It means you allow the feelings of fear to arise no matter how intense and feel into them, gently….observe, become a ‘watcher’ of those feelings – not judging them good, bad, wrong or right, simply observe whatever thoughts and feelings arise, as they surface. If you cry, cry, if you feel angry let it out safely but ‘allow’ the feelings to surface and as they do, you will begin to feel lighter, and almost free as the trapped trauma (energy) is released. Emotions are simply energy in motion…everything is a frequency an energetic vibration. Release the feelings (trapped energy) and life will begin to take you on a different trajectory.

    You will start to become ‘aware’ of your deep patterns and unhealthy conditioning- it can almost be exciting as opportunities come up for you to practice feeling into the fear/trust challenges, knowing healing is occurring everytime you move towards the pain instead of away from it.
    There are many different modalities which can help with you with this, hypnotherapy talking therapy, etc. I used meditation and an inward journeying to identify and release. As I said it worked at treat!
    Im not sure whether this amazing man will have the courage to journey inward or not…its his life but I sure hope so!
    Kudos to all of you out there who are willing to face your fears. Good luck!

    A great book I can recommend is ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. 🙂

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  23. Angel says:

    This by far is the best article I have came across to assist with overcoming commitment phobia in a healthy and positive manner. I am so grateful that these steps helped me realize the true issues but most importantly allowed me to, in a positive manner, address and overcome them. I know this is a journey and to take it day by day but just knowing that by using these positive techniques I can successfully continue in my relationship is a wonderful feeling. Great Job! Thank you so much…the world needs more individuals with positive perspective. You’re awesome!!!

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  24. Sue says:

    This blog describes my attitude completely. And Ellie’s response is particularly helpful. I’m still asking myself whether I really want to get rid of my commitment phobia, though! The idea of not having the phobia is scary! Why should I commit? Why can’t I be a social butterfly? Why can’t I just move on and move on and move on??? I need an incentive to change…

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  25. uAshley says:

    I enjoyed reading your comment. I too, came across this article and found it interesting. Do you feel as though you are making progress? I have felt so hopeless in dealing with this lately, but just started therapy and I am ready to conquer!! Thanks for sharing your struggles. It is so nice to know you are not alone! 🙂

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  26. uAshley says:

    Angel-
    Thanks so much for your honesty and sharing! Do you feel like you are making progress? I too, have made the decision to do everything in my power to overcome, I still have not find the root cause, but know with time and determination that I WILL!! Good luck to you!

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  27. P says:

    I am a chronic CP. I would like to have your “2 cents” on a seemingly weird question. Short context: I met a girl 4 months ago and we really clicked. It is amazing. Everything is GREAT. I was in love. I felt it. Then my ex emailed me telling me she wanted to see me (I left her but i still had feelings for her). Then I started pondering in my head. The girl I am with now is AMAZING in absolutely ALL aspects and we have fun, laugh, sex is good, etc… So what’s the problem? Recently I had anxiety and did not want to see her anymore, etc etc. Does that mean I don’t love her anymore? (or that I never did?). Point “i” above feels very close to home: “Let yourself feel revulsion, disgust or fear without reacting to it”. Do I love her but am having a panic attack… or do I not love her after all? HOW DO YOU KNOW? People who answer “if you were in love you would know” are obviously clueless to what a CP goes through. So please something with more substance. Any non-judgemental comments would be really appreciated.

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    Anna Reply:

    Well, I will give my two cents. It is impossible for me to know if this current girlfriend is “the one” for you. But I do know as someone who has been there, the more potential a partner had to really work out, the more repulsed I became. And sometimes, because of that repulsion, I would start to think of ways to sabotage that relationship. When I hear you say your ex wants to get back in touch, I start to wonder if that is one way you are perhaps considering sabotage (like an escape route).
    My guess is that things going really well in your relationship is triggering your underlying fears and ambivalence, and no it doesn’t mean you don’t love her. It means you are feeling triggered right now. When I first met my (now) husband I felt a deep connection, but the next time I saw him, I couldn’t push him far enough away. That was roughly 12 years ago now, and I can honestly say that each time our relationship got a little closer, I had a little freakout attack about it. Luckily by then, I knew that it was my problem, so I could ride it out, because it does go away once you realize the world hasn’t closed in on you.

    For all of you struggling with commitment phobia, here are a couple of books that really helped me.
    The first one is called “Fear of Intimacy” by Robert W. Firestone and Joyce Catlett. It helps demystify what’s going on and why those patterns persist, and what to do about it.

    The second one is called “Facing Codependency” by Pia Mellody. Sometimes when people are raised in homes that have unhealthy boundaries, they become afraid of relationships because of what they were taught relationships mean.

    I am grateful for everyone’s comments and wish you all well.

    Sincerely,

    Anna

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  28. MichaelVep says:

    The first step is overcoming your fear of commitment is working out what you’re actually afraid of. Because, and you might not realise this, you’re not actually afraid of commitment. Commitment is a logical construct, it’s a mental creation, it’s a future projection you create in your head based on theoretical assumptions, and you’re not afraid of logic. You’re afraid of the experience this logical construct will give you.

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  29. VON says:

    You don t understand commitment phobia. These people are always trying to find the perfect most lovable, best behaved wonderful partner. And they never really exist, or it is always tempting to think that there must be someone better. That s the big part of why they don t commit. The grass is greener syndrome takes over their minds.

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