What to do when he (or she) is scared of commitment

You're likely to be a woman landing on this page, but I could be wrong of course! Why? Few (straight) men seem to do searches about women being scared of commitment!

You probably have a non-committal partner and want to know how to 'make' him commit.

In this article you'll learn why he won't commit if he's really a commitment-phobe. I'll speed through the wider context to get to the personal. I'll finish with what you can do to get him to commit (it may surprise you!).

I'm going to address this page therefore to you - as a woman, but I realise that this is a huge generalisation. Please forgive me, if you're of a different gender.

Why men won't commit

Times have changed!

  • There are fewer societal expectations
  • There is plenty opportunity to have their sexual needs met
  • Many men see no advantages to marriage over cohabitation

However, knowing all that isn't going to help you in your situation. So let's have a look at the landscape as seen from the men's rights movement and talk about men's fears in particular...

General fears about commitment

It is said that men, in general, are far less likely to commit than they might have been in the past because they feel vulnerable.

Here's what the men's rights movement has to say about it:

  • Men too suffer domestic abuse, but find it harder to report for fear of ridicule and disbelief (there is a lack of services for men too)
  • They fear the loss their financial security, their children, their home, their partner if there was to be a break-up or divorce (more women than men file for divorce too)
  • Many - particularly young - men are so overwhelmed by the consequences of and their feelings after a relationship breakdown that they see suicide as the only way out
  • They fear losing their independence with the inevitable changes and compromises that come with commitment
  • They fear being used for reproduction, then discarded and having to fight for the right to spend time with their children

I hope though that this quick overview is useful in so far you it can help you understand the background.

Is there anything in this list that might contribute to your partner's commitment phobia?

FEAR and ladder out of a pitFear of commitment is a symptom of an underlying problem

Personal reasons your man might not want to commit

Now let's try to figure out why your partner doesn't seem to want to commit. Is he (or she - yes, women can be 'commitment phobes' too!) really scared of commitment or is there something else going on?

11 Reasons he won't commit

  1. Childhood adversity - poverty, abuse, insecure relationships, neglect, etc will have taken a toll. He may find it harder to trust and to respond helpfully to stressful situations (and we all know how stressful a relationship can be!)
  2. Fear of Failure - your 'commitment-phobe' may worry about his capacity to be a good partner or parent (possibly also on account of a difficult childhood). He may have experienced disappointments and has come to see himself as a 'failure' in general. This may lead to fear of commitment in other areas too.
  3. Fear of another divorce - he may have bad memories of a previous relationship or marriage ending, or perhaps his parents' divorce
  4. Fear of rejection - even though he may be well aware of your present wish for him to commit, you may have had relationships that have failed. Also, if he's grown up with parents who were perhaps indifferent to his needs, threatening and punishing, he would fear being rejected again at any time.
  5. Generalised anxiety - with lack of self-esteem and low self-confidence. He is likely to find it difficult to make decisions in general. Stress takes its toll on our brain and the more stressed we are the harder it is to think clearly.
  6. Wanting the perfect partner - comparing with a previous idealised partner. Women on the whole are thought to be much more selective in their partner choice. Nevertheless, much depends on his view of himself, his relationship history and his relationship skills.
  7. Fear of losing touch with his friends - particularly if he already finds it hard to make attachements
  8. Fear of losing his identity - fearing more changes than he sees himself able to cope with
  9. Fear of being on his own - the relationship isn't right, but he doesn't want to be on his own and can't imagine himself in another relationship
  10. Fear of becoming trapped
  11. Feeling unworthy of being loved and cherished, because of some perceived flaw(s)

All of the above are more or less linked!

So, if you want to know how you can make him commit - here's the answer: start by becoming (even) more compassionate, whilst remaining true to your own values and beliefs. The latter is important particularly if your man may have difficulties with boundaries around behaviour.

Also, you want to be sure that neither of you is using the other!

You'll find my Breakup Prevention Kit full of ideas, strategies and fun quizzes for you both to discover how you can communicate at a more intimate level.

Why he doesn't want to commit because of you!

Your biological clock may be ticking away. For you the sense of urgency may be much greater than that of your partner. You may simply be on a different time-scale. You're ready, perhaps even desperate to move on and he's taking his time - still enjoying some freedom.

However, what else could possibly the reason he isn't committing?

My list here contains items he'll find difficult to say. Or, if he has said anything at all, you've been defensive and haven't heeded it:

7 Ways you might prevent him wanting to commit

  1. Have you let yourself go a bit? He doesn't need you to look like Miss World. Neither will you have to go through the same ritual everyday like you might have done when you met. However, he'll want you to value yourself and take good care of yourself - it' hard-wired into men's brain and linked to your reproductive health.
  2. Have you been overdoing it? Taking more time to care for your own needs, with little real attention for him and his essential emotional needs? In other words: could he be feeling neglected?
  3. If he has children, are you working hard to be the best step-parent you can be (not meaning: to do whatever his children demand of course)?
  4. Do you take time for fun, love and laughter or might your relationship have become too serious for him?
  5. Do you respect him as you would, hopefully, any human being? Or do you all too often use any of the communication spoilers mentioned on this page?
  6. Are you being responsible with money? Do the two of you have common short, medium and long-term goals or are they really only your goals?
  7. Are you constantly on his back? Are you nagging him?
  8. Have you been wanting too much too soon?

Ready to power up your relationship skills? Sign up for this 3-part video course with tons of value for free.

You're having an affair!

So, he said he would leave his wife - you're all he ever wanted. You have been seduced (and so has he!) and now you can't let go. You're holding on, hoping, believing and waiting.

I suspect you're finding that you're playing second fiddle all the while and increasingly becoming sad and depressed as well as angry and resentful.

I can imagine how hard this is. However, you're dating an unattainable man. He is married - of course he can't - and most likely won't - commit, not to you and he isn't to his wife either.

If the two of you ever stand a chance of making it work, he has to come clean and take the time to do a good ending with his wife. If he hasn't after so long, he most likely won't.

In my professional experience men (and women) in this situation tend to end up on their own eventually, as either one of their partners is likely to call it a day. They are left to pick up the pieces on their own.

How to make him (or her) commit

Woman blowing dandelion seedsWishing and hoping?

Well... the fact is that you won't be able to make him commit!

(It could be hugely helpful for you to discuss it with a relationship expert and you can Chat with an Online Counsellor in confidence right now.) 

Here's what will help to engage him more and he may then discover for himself that the future is brighter together, rather than alone:

  • Remember to be explicit about what you value in him and what he brings to the relationship often.
  • Listen to him really attentively. Leave sufficient time for silences, don't interrupt, try to see things from his point of view without judgment or becoming defensive. Aim to learn something new about him! What is he really telling you, even if indirectly.
  • Forget about wanting to change him. Be under no illusion that he'll be any different in time to come because you said he should be! Accept him as he is with all his faults, as he will have to with you. We're all as magnificent as we are flawed. That's okay, we can only try to be the best, most loving, compassionate human being we can and thereby build rewarding relationships.
  • Read my page on the Secrets of Happy Relationships
  • Take responsibility for your part in any relationship problems. I have plenty resources on my site to help you along. I can really recommend Lee Baucom's method for building a happy relationship or marriage.
  • Take my Relationship Test to see where you can make any further changes in your relationship. It will also become apparent if the two of you just aren't compatible.
  • Be the person you once were if you feel you've lost yourself a bit just to fit in with him. If he ultimately won't commit, you have to be able to move on with your self-esteem and confidence in tact.

Related Articles

How to Stop Arguing
Interpreting Body Language
Advice on Online Relationships
Depression Symptoms in Men
Ending Your Relationship
How to Build Your Self-Esteem

Further Reading

Huffington Post - 8 Reasons straight men don't want to get married

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Elly Prior

It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

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Images courtesy of: Vic, Jessicahtam