Today I want to save you from the heartbreaking experience of dating someone who’s tremendously difficult to ever get a satisfying commitment from.
In bizarre dating and relationship behavior-land, there’s the commitment-phobe, and I know this mess of a behavior pattern well since I was once one myself. I’m not proud to admit it, but I used to joke that even though I lived somewhere nice, I would never let anyone see it because they might get too comfortable. I didn’t want to bring someone home to see my couch, let alone make the journey to meet my Mom.
The problem is that commitment-phobia can look a lot like “busy” or “in-demand” when you’re at the beginning of your relationship. That’s why it’s that much more important to catch the early signs that your new love is allergic to any form of shared future before you fall hard for them and it’s too late.
So without further ado, here are the signs that your partner is commitment phobic:
1. They’re Hard To Nail Down, Even For Casual Plans
Maybe you’re just trying to get a date with them for Friday night, but they hem and haw like you’ve just proposed marriage. When you try to get normal answers about what you’re going to do, they’re professional dodgers, which leads me to the next point.
2. They Love Unbridled Spontaneity
“Spontaneity” is sometimes genuine and fun, but sometimes it’s a technique to avoid being tied down and keep the other person off balance. If you make an effort to create a plan with them but they “just want something spontaneous,” consider whether there are other deeper factors at work.
To tease out the difference between real spontaneity and commitment-phobic spontaneity, try gently mentioning that you need to pin down at least the time and date of your hangout so that you can plan for other things.
Usually genuinely spontaneous people will work with that because they still want to see you. The commitment-phobic dater is more likely to shy away from giving you a set time and date, preferring to do everything at the last minute — conveniently giving them a reason to pull away if it doesn’t work out.
3. They Don’t Give You Any Idea That The Relationship Might Progress
Look for abrupt subject changes, diversionary tactics and stalling at the slightest mention of commitment. For example, in one major relationship of mine, I continually needed to “get more education” and stalled like crazy. It was an elaborate way of dodging a deeper commitment, but I truly thought I was just being “thorough with my life.”
4. They’ve Been Perpetually Single Or Have Had Lots Of Short Relationships
This looks like a ton of “failures to launch.” Maybe they’re the dumper and bolt quickly, or maybe they usually stick around and sabotage things — driving the other person to dump them.
5. They’re Broken-Hearted
Usually these waters run deep. Watch out for the dater with the broken wing. If they’ve been hurt badly in the past and still reference it, watch out. It could mean that they will eventually pull away from you to avoid being hurt.
6. They’re Untrusting
Often because of a broken heart or deep-seated issues from the past, the commitment shy generally feel like the only person they can truly trust is themselves. Love has taken on a scary dimension because of the potential that the other shoe could drop at any second. And they’re not just untrusting of lovers — it might bleed over to other parts of their lives too. Watch for general paranoia and suspiciousness of other people’s motives.
7. They’re Hot And Cold
One minute you’re having the time of your life and the next they’ve pulled away to the point where you’re always wondering WTF is going on. It’s enough to make anyone feel unhinged, and, frankly, it’s a sign that you’re dealing with someone who can’t handle the idea of being hurt.
8. They Make You Feel Unsettled And Unhinged
If you need to make them define the relationship or feel like you can’t get comfortable, consider why. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the feelings that come with hot and cold behavior, but allow yourself a second to step back and consider what’s happening in the background to make you feel so crazy. It’s possible that it’s your own insecurities, or maybe it’s that you’re super on edge because of the way the other person pulls the hot and cold routine.
Because it’s so hard to get a straight answer on what’s going on between the two of you, you’re obsessed with getting answers about what’s up. This needy and afraid feeling is a sign of trouble, so learn to listen to it. It’s usually not all inside your head.
9. They Have Perfectionist Tendencies
Perfectionism is sometimes another way to self sabotage one’s relationship. If someone is always looking for “that one thing” that’s wrong with everything, they’re more likely to give up on your bond before giving you a solid answer about the future.
10. They Nitpick Reasons Why Your Relationship Won’t Work
This one goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. Beware any mention of “why this won’t work” between the two of you said in a way that sounds like they want reassurance. This is actually a big, glaring red flag because they’re warning you of what’s to come.
This can look like them saying they’re “not good enough” for you or that some circumstance between you is hard to get past. What they’re really saying is, “I’m feeling resistant to this,” which may or may not ever change. It’s also a post-it note for later when they break up with you. They can say, “Well I told you this would never work out.” It’s a dirty trick, and meant to keep you from getting too comfortable.
11. They Date People Who Have Issues
Commitment-phobic daters often pick people who are more than a little busy with their own problems. That way, they can do the nitpick, doom, discard cycle because they can easily justify the breakup due to of the other person’s “issue.” It’s all a cover for the fact that, if they picked someone less flawed, they would have to admit that their string of failed relationships was actually their own fault.
It also lets them stall by offering a carrot — commitment— IF the other person promises to change. Beware of anyone who wants you to change in some way before giving you what you need in the relationship. It’s a sign of selfishness and larger problems going forward.
12. They Avoid Meeting Your Friends And Family And Introducing You To Theirs
In an effort to avoid “getting too serious,” they compartmentalize their life. Meeting someone’s friends and family is a natural process as you get closer, so if they’re resistant to this after a reasonable amount of time or freak out when you mention bringing them home to Mom, consider why.
The vast majority of commitment-phobes don’t even realize this is the underlying problem — me included. It takes a lot of self-examination to get past being this gun-shy, so it’s not like you can say, “AHA! Your problem is that the idea of being trapped in our shared future fills you with a fever of icky dread! You’re safe! And cured!”
No. You’re better off selecting people who are more interested in the kind of future you want from the start.