We tend to look to relationships for evidence of commitment-phobia but, according to our dating expert, there are many lifestyle clues that hint you might struggle with settling down.
Of all the dating issues that you can experience, I think fear of commitment is the hardest. It’s stealthy. You won’t realise you're scared of settling down—you’ll just feel like you’re particularly choosy. Or impossible to please. Or simply really unlucky in love.
With counselling, you can successfully overcome a fear of commitment and happily enjoy a permanent relationship. Without it, you will struggle to form genuine connections. But the first step is recognising the problem.
I don’t want you to look through past relationships, as they can be confusing. Instead, let’s look at other areas of your life and see if we can spot the giveaway clues.
Commitment-phobes do settle down into nine-to-five jobs, but it’s rare. It’s much more common for a commitment-phobe to seek out a career that offers freedom and independence by the bucket load, with little responsibility.
Are you self-employed? That’s a clue. If you were drawn to self-employment because you love the freedom it gives you, you might be looking to avoid settling down. Fear of commitment can often be a fear of letting other people down. Inside, you don’t believe you can meet other people’s expectations of you, so you don’t allow anyone to expect much of you at all. Short-term contracts appeal to you because they provide less opportunity to fail. You can do the job and run.
You might commit to working for one company if the job allows you plenty of personal freedom. Either by working remotely (like being a travelling salesman), or having generous amounts of time off. Teaching attracts commitment-phobes, as the working days are relatively short, the holidays are relatively long, and every year they have a fresh new raft of students.
The independence of starting a business appeals to commitment-phobes too—up to a point. The thrill of starting a new business is appealing, but success can cause a commitment-phobe’s feet to itch. They are suddenly faced with all the things they tried to avoid—responsibility, restrictions on their time, and having people, so many people, reliant on them. At the zenith of their success, many commitment-phobes simply hand the running of their company over to a talented and steady CEO, and flee to pastures new.
If you’re scared of commitment, you probably have a large number of wonderful friends, most of whom you see only a few times a year. As in work and love, you enjoy friendships when they don’t carry many expectations. You might even try to manage new friends’ expectations of you by deliberately letting them down, even in just a small way, early on. You’ll duck out of a social event at the last moment, or cancel a meet-up with a vague excuse. It’s not that you want to be rude—it’s not even that you don’t adore the friend—it’s just that being needed gives you the fear.
Looking at your closest friends, do you notice that most of them are single, or usually wrestling with high-drama love lives? That’s another clue. People who fear commitment often flock together. If you do have friends in settled relationships, you probably often find yourself thinking that they’ve compromised more than you ever would. And if they split up, you can’t help feeling a jolt of happiness. Not out of schadenfreude, but just out of a feeling that things are back to being how they should be.
Indecisiveness is a common trait among commitment-phobes. After all, decisions involve commitment.
If your lifestyle seems geared around the short-term and the changeable, you might have commitment issues. Fear of putting down roots is a clue. If you’ve chosen to rent a home rather than buy, that’s a clue. If you’ve chosen to live with your family for longer than absolutely necessary, that’s a clue. If you put off preparing for predictable events—such as buying Christmas presents, or booking holidays—until the last possible moment, that’s a clue.
Do you sometimes struggle with keeping simple commitments to yourself, including following through on a healthier eating plan, or just going to bed on time? Do you suffer from a genuine Fear of Missing Out, to the extent that you often find yourself double- or triple-booked for the same evening? Do you find it hard to say “No” to anyone, preferring to be vague and keep your options open?
Taken individually, none of these factors is a definite sign that you have commitment fears. But look at the overall picture. If you’ve structured your life around escape routes, and avoided cutting off any options at all costs, you could well be scared of settling down.
Further reading on this subject: He’s Scared, She’s Scared: Understanding the Hidden Fears Sabotaging Your Relationships by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol is still the definitive guide commitment-phobia, 22 years on since its first publication. It’s a great next step towards understanding your terror, and worth reading before you consider counselling.
(And if you choose to borrow it from the library instead of buying it, that’s definitely a clue.)
You can read more from Kate on her website
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