Why he (or she) is scared of commitment and what to do about it

Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 07-04-2014 | Modified: 06-05-2019

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Are your relationship problems due to his fear of commitment?

You're likely to be a woman landing on this page (but I could be wrong, of course!).

Why?

Because few (straight) men seem to do searches about women being scared of commitment.

You may have a non-committal partner and want to know how to 'make' him commit. Or you've landed here because you yourself have a fear of commitment.

In this article, you'll learn why someone may be scared of commitment. I'll speed through the wider context to get to the personal. And I'll finish with what you can do if your partner doesn't want to commit.

I'm going to address this article to you as a woman, but I realise that this is a huge generalisation. So, please forgive me if you're of a different gender.

Watch the video for some quick tips for starters, then read on for a complete guide on fear of commitment...

Why men (and women) are afraid of commitment

Times have changed!

  • There are fewer societal expectations.
  • There are plenty of opportunities to have their sexual needs met.
  • Many men are less likely to see the advantages of marriage over those of 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...

We assume others show love the same way as we do and if they don't - we worry it's not there.Fear of commitment is a symptom of an underlying problem

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 support 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).
  • 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 worry about losing their independence with the inevitable changes and compromises that come with commitment.
  • They are scared of being used for reproduction, then discarded and having to fight for the right to spend time with their children.

I hope this quick overview is useful in helping you to understand the possible underlying reasons why your partner may be reluctant to commit.

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

Personal reasons your man has a fear of commitment

Now let's try to figure out why your partner doesn't seem to want to commit. Is he really scared of commitment, or is there something else going on?

13 potential 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 have come to see himself as a failure in general. This may lead to fear of commitment in other areas too.

3. Afraid of another breakup/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. In other words - if you have instigated a breakup with someone else, you could do it again.

Also, if he's grown up with parents who were perhaps indifferent to his needs and/or threatening and punishing, he probably fears being rejected again at any time. No wonder then that he's afraid of committing himself.

5. Generalised anxiety
This can go hand-in-hand 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
He may be comparing you 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 attachments. He may worry that all his time will be taken up by/with you, and that he won't be as free to spend time with his own friends without upsetting you.

8. Fear of losing his identity
He may be anxious about the prospect of more changes than he thinks he's able to cope with. He may be unwilling to make compromises, or worry how many compromises he might have to make in order to keep the relationship balanced.

9. Afraid 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. Despite his fears, he'll hang on in this relationship... but he'll never truly commit because he knows it's not working (for him, or for you).

10. Fear of becoming trapped
He may equate a relationship with a loss of independence, and may worry that committing will curb his preferred lifestyle choices and way of living. He might also equate committing to the relationship with never being able to leave it, which in itself can cause all kinds of feelings of anxiety and fear. 

11. Feeling unworthy of being loved
Perhaps he only sees his flaws (real or imagined) and can't possibly understand how anyone could truly love him. 

12. Fear of having to become a father (again)
He may have had a terrible time as a child and fears not being able to be a good enough parent himself. Or he already has children and doesn't want more.

13. Fear of his addiction(s) being found out 
There's little room to hide an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gaming, porn, sex, etc in a fully committed intimate relationship.

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 has difficulties with boundaries around behaviour.

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

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

Could it be that 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 for your partner. You may simply be on different time-scales. You're ready or perhaps even desperate to move your relationship to the next stage, but he's taking his time and still enjoying some freedom.

What are the other reasons he might be stalling?

My list here contains things he'd find difficult to say (so he probably won't say them at all!). Or if he has plucked up the courage to talk about any of the below, have you truly listened to what he's said, without becoming angry or defensive?

Photo: Girl. Text: 8 ways you may prevent your partner from wanting to commit

8 ways you may prevent him wanting to commit

1. Are you (still) the best version of yourself?
You won't, of course, need to go through the same beautification ritual every day as you might have done when you first met.

However, he'll want you to still value and take good care of yourself - it's 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. Are you committed to his children (if he has kids)?
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. Have you become too serious?
Do you take time for fun, love and laughter? Or might you have become too serious for him? Not that you necessarily need to adapt to his needs, of course. Just mull it over and decide for yourself if it's an issue.

5. Do you treat him the way you'd want to be treated yourself?
Do you respect him as you would, hopefully, any human being? See my article Signs of a toxic relationship. He won't want to commit if he feels undermined or humiliated in any way, and neither should you!

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 on his back a bit too much?
Could you be guilty of nagging? If so, then learning to communicate in a more helpful way can definitely help.

8. Have you been wanting too much too soon?
If so, know that this is definitely a big turn-off!

My article How to make him or her love you has tons of advice on what you can do to deal with all of the above.

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

All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. - J R R Tolkien

The reasons he won't commit if he's 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 a potentially unattainable man. He is married - he can't (and most likely won't) fully commit, neither to you or his wife.

If the two of you ever stand a chance of making it work, he has to come clean and take the time to break up compassionately with his wife (see: Dealing with infidelity). 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.

If you're having doubts and you're not at all sure if this relationship is right for you anymore, I highly recommend you take my relationship test.

How to 'make' him commit

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

(It could be hugely helpful for you to discuss this with a relationship expert and you can chat with an online counsellor in complete confidence right now.) 

But, here's what will help to engage him more. He may then discover for himself that the future is brighter together, rather than alone:

  • Remember to regularly tell  him what you value in him and all the positives he brings to the relationship.
  • Listen to him really attentively. Leave sufficient time for silences. Don't interrupt, and try to see things from his point of view without judgement 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 because you said he should be! Accept him as he is with all his faults, as he will have to accept you with yours. 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 article: Secrets of happy relationships.
  • Take responsibility for your part in any relationship problems.
  • Take my Relationship Compatibility 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  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 intact.

Finally

Take the pressure of yourself and your partner by remembering that none of us can ever make another person do anything they don't want to do. Use the advice in this article (and in the rest of my site) to do what you can to build a positive and healthy relationship. Talk openly and honestly with your partner, without anger or resentment.

But know that there's only so much you can (and should) do. You're both equal halves of this relationship.

I do understand though how frustrating and disappointing it must be for you if your partner doesn't appear to want to commit. You have invested in this relationship and you are no doubt convinced the two of you can make it work.

If after time and gentle encouragement your partner's showing no signs of wanting to commit, take some time to think what this means for you. Are you okay with it? Or is it time to end your relationship?

That's your decision, and a decision you're perfectly entitled to make. And I'm rooting for your happiness. :-)

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Further Reading

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

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