To some, commitment might as well be the “cold, clammy hands of death” (thank you Hyde from That 70s Show for that lovely description). Being tied down means literally being tied down. To an alter. With a cable. By a very large, scary father-in-law. Named Earl.
I mean, when you put it that way, it kind of makes sense to run from relationships (or from Earl, at the very least). While people with commitment issues want to experience love, their unbearable fear about the potential failure of this connection, coupled sometimes with general anxiety, prevents them from ever staying for too long.
A previously-unrealized or failed relationship might leave such a lasting scar on a person that, he or she, as a form of self-preservation, might refuse to enter into another one. The prospect of being with a new person triggers fears of rejection or loss that, to the commitment-fearer, are substantiated by the previous rejection and loss.
In other cases, resistance to commitment can be a result of attachment insecurity. The kind of relationship someone had with his or her parents as a child can be incredibly telling of the kinds of relationships that person will have with others in their adult lives. Three of the most common attachment insecurities are:
- Fearful-avoidant: They would like to be in a relationship but fear getting hurt
- Dismissive-avoidant: They deny a need to be dependent and/or to be depended on
- Anxious-preoccupied: They fear a one-sided relationship
Although these kinds of psychological blocks are difficult to overcome, reversing them or at least assuaging them is possible. To develop healthy attachments, a person will generally need to make sense of their childhood relationships. Journaling about the fears, communication patterns, coping mechanisms, and lessons learned from these early years can be pivotal to both understanding and overcoming trauma. Seeking professional help is often necessary, particularly if self-help is ineffective.
Aside from insecure-attachment induced fear, feelings of excitement (yes, excitement) can sometimes scare a person away from a potential relationship. Because this emotion induces the same physiological response as anxiety (epinephrine is released in response to both exciting and threatening things), it can often be interpreted as a negative feeling.
For example, what might feel like enthusiastic anticipation to one person might actually feel like panic or general anxiousness to someone else. This can be incredibly frustrating to someone who wants to experience love, but can’t help reacting negatively to the thoughts they have about it.
In yet another form of relationship anxiety, someone might like to have a partner, but be unable to balance that desire with their desire for independence. They might ultimately choose to be single instead of always internally grappling over finding this stability.
Commitment issues are incredibly complex and fluid. They can exist independently or in tandem with one another, and everyone’s experience with them is unique.
Although these problems are difficult to manage, they can certainly be dealt with productively. Seek help if you or someone you know is dealing with something like this, and just know that there are plenty of people going through the same thing.