Some people can’t even commit to a dinner date. They hem and haw, and pepper their speech with words like “probably” and “maybe.”  They simply don’t want to be on the hook for anything, let alone an important relationship.

If you are a commitment phobic person, you will note very real signs of fear or anxiety when you are talking about taking the next step with your significant other, like moving in together or getting married. You might even avoid having a significant other all together. That way, when you don’t let anyone close to you, you won’t get hurt.

You give up before you even start.

And yes, you are protecting yourself from heartache. But you are also protecting yourself from joy. You are missing the great gift of intimacy and love that can touch you deeply. It is probable that the risk of getting mentally wounded seems too great to you. But every time you refuse to take that risk, you narrow your world and deny yourself the happiness you deserve. And you close your heart just a little more each time.

Get to the crux of the issue.

Perhaps your first girlfriend dumped you in a dramatic and painful way. Perhaps you watched a parent struggle to maintain a marriage in which there was more acrimony than love. The key is to understand what causes your fear of commitment.

For example, Tom grew up in a household where his father was unfaithful to his mother with many women. Tom saw that the issue was complicated. His father married too young, before he understood what love was, but stayed in his marital relationship for the sake of the kids. Stuck by a commitment that Tom didn’t want to repeat.

Another example is Sally. Her father did leave her mother. And abandoned Sally, too, causing the family great financial and emotional hardship. Her mother kept making dubious choices in men in a desperate attempt to provide stability, which had the opposite effect. Sally learned first hand that men will leave you, so she one-upped them. She won’t even let them close enough to have the opportunity to leave her.

Or how about Sam, whose mother was a narcissist. She did not know how to have a loving relationship with her son. Instead, she used him to feed her need to for adulation. His role was to support her in an unhealthy relationship, which is how he learned that his needs were unimportant. He did not deserve to have a loving relationship with someone else. How could he? He was too busy serving his mother.

There are as many causes of commitment phobia as there are people. But if you look into your past, you may see difficult family dynamics, childhood trauma or abuse. Maybe someone broke a trust so severely that you vow not to trust again. And trust is key to a healthy relationship.

You don’t need to suffer further if you want to change. But you have to want it. Counseling is often helpful.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: