Understanding and Overcoming a Fear of Commitment
It’s natural to feel apprehensive about committing to something new, including a relationship, opportunity, request or event, especially if that commitment requires a significant amount of time, effort and energy. But when it comes to our personal relationships, a fear of commitment can cause us to miss out on fulfilling opportunities and reinforce negative core beliefs about our abilities to maintain a long term commitment.
A fear of commitment can be crippling and can prevent you from having healthy relationships as well as fulfilling work and personal commitments.
Why Do We Fear Commitment?
There is no one answer to this question, as every individual’s experience with commitment is unique. There are many different reasons why someone might fear commitment based on the perceived risks of maintaining a long term commitment. Some people may have had negative experiences in past relationships where they were hurt or let down. Others may have had a parent who struggled to provide adequate attention or responsiveness, which can create a sustained fear of abandonment.
If you’re struggling with a fear of commitment, don’t worry – you’re not alone. But understanding and overcoming this fear is essential to creating the life you want. A fear of commitment can manifest in different ways, but all stem from the same basic problem: a fear of being hurt or disappointed.
When it comes to relationships, there are two things that we need: trust and commitment. Trust is what allows us to open up and be vulnerable with another person. Commitment is what allows us to stay in the relationship.
What Is a Fear of Commitment?
A fear of commitment is a psychological term used to describe the feeling of discomfort or anxiety that arises when we are faced with the prospect of making a commitment. This fear can manifest in different ways – for example, some people may be afraid of commitment to a relationship, while others may be afraid of committing to a project or goal.
It’s normal to feel a fear of commitment. But you can overcome it if you take some important steps.
Step 1: Accept the fear and its origins
Mental health professionals often agree that a person’s fear of commitment is rooted in self-protection strategies that are created following periods of relational trauma that is experienced or witnessed. During periods where we feel vulnerable- sharing emotions, acknowledging that an attachment with another person is forming- we may sense this as a risk or ‘threat’ and rely on our self-protective defenses.
Step 2: Identify the emotions and thoughts that feed the fear
Some emotions that connect with a fear of commitment include shame, guilt, anxiousness, hurt, confusion, anger, frustration and/or apathy. If we experience embarrassment or the emotion of shame, we may then believe that we are ‘not good enough’ or that another person is not good enough. Thoughts that feed our fear of commitment might include, “I don’t want to be stuck in the relationship”, “If I commit then I won’t be able to change my mind later”, or “What’s the point of investing time and energy into something if it could potentially not work out in the long run anyway.”
Step 3: Learn about and accept your vulnerabilities
It can be difficult to acknowledge that while we may fear becoming attached or committed to another individual, job or social event, we also want to know that we are worthy of love, being seen and heard. It is important to understand that there is nothing shameful about wanting to be loved, cared for, nurtured, understood and accepted. Allow yourself to be open to expressing how you feel in the relationship and what you may need from the other person or group to feel more secure.
Step 4: Recognize your fears as just that – fears
Far too often, we make the mistake of making our fears into facts. If you’re afraid to commit, your fear is probably based on a past experience. But if you don’t understand why you’re afraid, you’re not likely to let it go.
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