Phobias are a common type of anxiety disorder characterized by an extreme, persistent, irrational fear about a situation or thing that isn’t actually harmful, and that you consequently go to great lengths to avoid.

Commitment phobia is the fear of making a long-term commitment. Typically it is associated with fear of committing to a lifelong personal relationship such as marriage, but it can also refer to life decisions such as signing a lease, purchasing a home, choosing a college to attend, or making a career or job choice.

If you wait to make a commitment when you are free of doubts, it will never happen. – Terry Gaspard, LCSW

Commitment phobes are subject to inner turmoil. They want to feel loved, secure, and emotionally connected, yet their fear of getting hurt is even stronger. They are so afraid of feeling trapped or missing out on a better option down the road if they make a wrong choice and wind up settling for someone or something less than, that they tend to run away from the people they love or what might have been a great opportunity.

Signs you might have commitment phobia.

  • You change jobs frequently, and/or move a lot.
  • You change your life goals regularly.
  • You like to keep your options open and look for the next best thing rather than settle in any one place for long.
  • You are vague about your plans for the future.
  • You feel terrified by the word forever.
  • You feel torn between wanting an intimate relationship and wanting freedom and space.
  • If you are in a relationship, you tend to become distant if the other person tries to get close.
  • You prefer to keep things casual in your friendships and relationships.
  • You avoid thinking about the future of your romantic relationships.
  • Your romantic relationships tend to be short-lived.
  • You believe you can’t get hurt if you don’t allow yourself to commit to a long-term relationship.
  • You’re afraid your relationships won’t last, so you self-sabotage them to avoid getting hurt and do something to make them fail.
  • You are afraid of intimacy and find it difficult to share your feelings with others.
  • You look for faults in your partner so you can convince yourself the relationship won’t work out.
  • You avoid letting a relationship get too deep.
  • You have a fear of losing control.
  • You fear failure, rejection, and/or being hurt by relationships ending without warning.
  • You fear being trapped by making a wrong choice.
  • You feel powerless to control your commitment phobia even though you know it is irrational.
  • You spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself and questioning whether or not you are making the right choice.
  • You spin stories to justify your contradictory behavior.
  • You feel suffocated by the idea of being in a forever relationship or even making long-term plans.
  • You have low self-esteem.
  • You tend to let your past predict your future.

Possible causes.

Studies have been unable to pinpoint one specific cause for commitment phobia, but the following issues can be contributing factors.

  • Intense childhood trauma such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment
  • Attachment problems resulting from unmet needs in early childhood
  • Complicated family dynamics during childhood
  • Trust issues resulting from past hurts caused by people close to you, especially your primary caregiver when you were a young child.
  • Prior personal experience with a bad relationship involving infidelity or abuse
  • Witnessing bad relationships of other people, such as your parents who were constantly fighting, or a hostile parental divorce.

Overcoming commitment phobia.

Given the proper motivation, commitment phobia can be overcome. You do, however, have to have a strong desire to change, and it has to be an intentional process.

One of the first steps to overcoming commitment phobia is to grasp the fact that you can’t numb the negatives without also numbing the positives. As with overcoming any fear, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Push yourself slowly out of your comfort zone and focus on the rewards rather than the risks. – Adina Mahalli, MSW

Change your focus.

Be honest with yourself about what you want, and what you are afraid of. Change your focus from what you think you might lose to what you will potentially gain. Remember that putting up walls to protect yourself will work against you by keeping out the potential for happiness or success.

Face your fear.

Acknowledge your fear and ask yourself why you feel unable to commit. What does commitment represent to you? Sometimes just putting a name to a fear can help make you feel better about it. Explore all possible reasons behind your commitment phobia. Discovering what’s at the root of it will help you develop strategies to overcome it and modify your thinking so you become less anxious about making a wrong decision.

Recognize that you’re always committing to something.

Whenever you don’t commit to one thing, you are committing to something else. When you choose not to commit to a relationship, for example, you are choosing to non-commit. Recognize that any commitment is a risk – including the commitment to non-commit. Think of the opportunities you have lost by living in a state of avoidance and what it’s costing you.

Let go of the idea of “perfect.”

There is no perfect partner, job, or career. Shift your focus from what is wrong about what you have to what is right. While you are waiting for an opportunity that may never come, you could be missing out on something great right under your nose.

Talk about it.

Talk to your friends, family, partner, and/or loved ones about your feelings and concerns. Be specific about what’s causing your anxiety and why you are so afraid of committing.


Make a list of your relationships and write down details of how you met, why you chose to pursue the relationship, how you felt when you were together – both the positives and the negatives – why and how the relationship ended, and whether or not you are still in touch. Look for common themes and patterns.

Reflect on past experiences.

Think of the positive and negative aspects of your relationship with your parents or primary caregiver in early childhood. Does there seem to be any correlation between them and the people you date now? Reflect on how past childhood experiences may have contributed to your commitment phobia and try to understand how they have shaped your beliefs and behavior.


Start making and keeping small commitments, and then gradually move up to larger ones. Take small steps such as holding hands with your partner in public, talking about things you’d like to do together, and/or making plans for something that’s a week or a month ahead and keeping them.

Seek professional help.

Counseling can help you understand and address the underlying causes of your commitment phobia, as well as develop strategies for dealing with it. These strategies can include identifying and challenging the negative thoughts and beliefs that fuel your phobia, and replacing them with positive, more realistic ones.

If you have any questions about this article on commitment phobia or would like to set up an appointment to meet with one of the faith-based counselors in our online directory, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

References:Kate Bettino and Sandra Silva Casablanca. “Fear of Commitment or Commitment Phobia?” PsychCentral. May 27, 2021.

WebMD Editorial Contributors. “Commitment Phobia: Symptoms and Signs.” WebMD Medically reviewed December 3, 2022.

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