Do you know of someone who struggles with commitment in relationships or in life? It seems that younger adults have an especially difficult time making commitments. The Pew Research Center reported that while today 50% of people marry, back in 1960, 72% married. And the average age at which people marry today is at its highest with brides being 26.5 years old and grooms 28.7 years old. Today’s society is geared more towards individualism and the acceptance of co-habitation is greater than ever before. The scientific name for fear of commitment or marriage is gamophobia.
So why do people struggle with commitment? Some have a tremendous fear of relationship failure and anticipate and/or create ways it could fail. The high divorce rate and high levels of infidelity can certainly contribute to this fear. In some cases, individuals have experienced earlier trauma and have unresolved pain that prevents them from getting close. Others have a fear of being responsible for another person and tend to avoid deep and intimate attachments. Lack of trust and prior abusive/unhealthy relationships can also contribute to the decision to stay disconnected. Commitment phobes may love the chase, but not the capture.
The commitment phobe is constantly on the move, plans last minute, works/travels a lot, compartmentalizes life, and denies their issues, but instead blames others or circumstances. The commitment phobe misses out on the fullness of love, relationships, and life. Just like goldfish, people grow according to the size of the bowl.
So what can those with commitment issues do to change? For starters, accept that this issue exists and recognize that no relationship is perfect or without conflict. You may need to evaluate your view of your current relationship and modify expectations. Facing fear and embracing uncertainty can be difficult, but the alternative is remaining stuck in limbo. To move a potential romantic relationship forward, build on the friendship, making sure your values match, and trusting your judgement. Committed relationships require risk taking and vulnerability but can come with great joy and happiness. Or as Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, ” ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”