It’s fairly common for people to have a fear of commitment when it comes to relationships. You may be worried that the relationship is doomed to fail or that it’s too good to be true. Maybe you have anxiety about the future of the relationship and all the unknowns that will come along. Or perhaps you were in a traumatic relationship and bringing those fears with you into your current relationship.
“Is my partner going to change?”
“Are they being honest with me?”
“Am I going to change my mind?”
“Will things fall apart when we move in together?”
“What if things change once we become exclusive?”
“Will I scare them off if I say I want to be monogamous?”
These are all normal fears and uncertainties, but that shouldn’t prevent you from starting a new relationship and committing to one. But before we get to talking about overcoming that fear of commitment, it’s important to understand what commitment means.
What is commitment?
A common misunderstanding of commitment is that it means you have to stick together no matter what. Or the promise you make to each other means that even if you’re miserable, you still have to stick it out. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Healthy commitment looks like:
- Working on the relationship.
- Open and honest communication.
- Staying true to your own self and values.
- Being committed to yourself – giving your genuine self to your partner.
- Genuine interest in your partner’s needs, values, and interests and sharing in them.
- Committed to growing yourself. You can still be independent and can have your own independent life based on your own priorities (family, work, friends, etc.). Just be clear on your priorities for yourself and to your partner.
- Being open to going to therapy.
- Not walking away without trying.
- Respecting the other person’s needs, but not to the point of self-sacrifice.
- Both parties being committed (not just one person doing all the work).
- Being a team and working together to solve problems and when things aren’t going right.
- Telling your partner when you’re anxious, sad, or dissatisfied in the relationship.
It’s important to have conversations about what commitment means to you. Explicitly state what commitment is and what you expect from your partner.
Commitment is NOT:
- Self-sacrifice to the point of prolonged toxicity.
- Not honoring your own needs and desires.
- Only one person in the relationship being committed.
- Being together forever no matter what.
- Being dishonest or disingenuous.
- Refusing to work on the relationship.
Tips to Having Healthy and Long-Lasting Relationships
SETTING BOUNDARIES & OPEN COMMUNICATION
When you’re in a new or a long-term relationship, write down your values and priorities for yourself and non-negotiables. Then have an open conversation with your partner and ask your partner for theirs, and see if they are balanced and overlapping. Is there a way to meet both your needs without overstepping boundaries? No? If there are red flags, overstepped boundaries, unmatching priorities and values, they all need to be addressed. If you fail to address these, problems will arise and the relationship will be unstable. Find that foundation now – common goals and common interests, building trust and friendship, and being vulnerable with each other. Not being vulnerable and always being guarded leads to a lack of trust and fear. However, good (open, honest, and regular) communication and talking about both your needs, values, and priorities regularly will likely lead to a healthier, longer lasting relationship.
Embrace the now. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong in the future, reflect on the relationship as it is now. What is good right now? What’s uncomfortable right now? Mindfulness skills can help you be in tune with how you feel about your relationship in this moment. How do you feel in your body, mind, emotionally when you are with your partner? Do you feel safe? Happy? Pressured? Relaxed? When you spend time with your partner, are you doing activities or hobbies you enjoy? Do your shared hobbies/interests help you grow or feel closer to each other? Or are you only partying/drinking together? When you grow up and stop doing that, what is your relationship based on?
THINGS WILL CHANGE
Future fears are not relevant right now. Life is always full of changes. Nothing is permanent. There will always be growth, change, and transition in a relationship, but that’s not a bad thing. Have realistic expectations that things will change, and be prepared to be flexible by staying present. Does your relationship align with your current values? Your values and priorities will shift and change over time, as will your relationship, so it’s important to focus on the present and not on the “what ifs” of the future.
DON’T COMPARE YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO OTHERS’
Don’t compare yourself to other people’s relationships. When you start doing social comparisons, you end up comparing yourself to things that are outside of the present and focus on the negatives that bring the relationship down. Instead of giving you goals to aspire to, it leads to low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, and an unhappy relationship. If you catch yourself doing this, go back to staying present and being mindful. Focus on your relationship and what it adds to your life.
IT’S OK TO WALK AWAY
No matter how long you’ve been in a relationship, you have the ability to walk away if you need to for your own help. You can let go and walk away if you need to. If you are in an abusive or toxic situation, you have to leave for your own sake. That’s the healthiest choice to make (with good support around you so you aren’t leaving if you’re alone or it’s not safe).
Don’t feel pressured into taking the next step. Don’t compromise your own boundaries, values, and priorities for the sake of the relationship. You get to decide if you are in the relationship or not, and can walk away at any moment. If you are committed to the relationship, that still doesn’t mean you can’t walk away. It just means that you’ve put in an effort to have the best relationship you can, and if it didn’t work out anyway, that’s no fault of yours. Not every relationship (romantic or otherwise) has to last forever.
Individual Therapy Can Help You Overcome a Fear of Commitment and Have Healthy Relationships
If you are anxious about your relationship, unable to be honest with your partner, or afraid to commit to relationships, talking to a therapist can help. One-on-one therapy can help you understand and minimize your anxiety, figure out your values and priorities, set boundaries, and improve your communication skills so you can have healthy, long-lasting relationships. Contact Dr. Heather Violante online or call (754) 333-1484 to learn more about how individual therapy – even by video – can help you overcome your fear of commitment.