Why is commitment spooky?

Brianna Halasa, MHC-LP October 6, 2022

For some of us, commitment is pretty scary! Why is that? In this post, we explore the idea of “commitment phobia.”

I did a little sleuthing around with this question, asking family and friends who I knew were commitment averse (to put it lightly), in committed relationships, and in the ultimate commitment of marriage. The first person I asked bluntly responded that commitment means disappointment. Yikes. Well, it can only go up from here, I thought to myself. Yet this person speaks to a very real and valid feeling. When you decide to commit to a relationship with high hopes that it will work out, only to realize that your expectations were not met, it is disappointing. To have this happen multiple times, the cycle can feel unending and hopeless. 

A few people responded that commitment involves fully trusting the other person, despite doubts that may arise. This can be especially challenging for people who have been betrayed in the past or have witnessed other people in their life deceived by a loved one. It also involves trusting yourself and your decision to choose that person wholeheartedly. Believing your intuition can be incredibly difficult, especially when our society provides so many distractions that encourage gazing outward instead of inward. 

Others stated that with commitment comes a fear of stasis. Will the initial months of starry-eyed obsession dissolve into blank stares with monotonous conversations over the dinner table? Predicting the future, unless you are a witch, simply doesn’t work. Believe me, my anxiety has tried. Many of us enter serious relationships with the expectation that it will last a while, especially in marriage with the whole Death Do Us Part bit. There is a legitimate fear that forever is a long time, and sometimes that nagging little question of whether you will evolve with your person or away from them butts its pointy little head into the crevices of your mind. This is a very valid concern though. Half the time I can barely decide what to make for dinner the next day, so I can imagine deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone can be extremely daunting! 

Commitment takes work, and many of us will communicate, compromise, problem-solve, go to couples therapy, and fight to achieve forever. I love that for people. I also love another option. When your relationship is unhealthy for reasons specific and unique to your situation, you’ve tried and are done trying, then you commit to yourself. You put yourself first and leave, dealing with the ramifications as they come. 

I also listened to worries of losing yourself in the process of creating a life with someone. Our independence can be in jeopardy when someone else comes into the mix. Our wants and needs are no longer the only ones that take precedent. Maybe you can’t leave dirty dishes in the sink for days on end, keep the toilet seat up, and spend the day in your boxers watching repeat episodes of The Office. I listened to one person complain that sometimes commitment can feel smothering. You can’t simply do whatever you want when you want, especially if children enter the mix. Someone cares about you and calls to know if you’re safe. Someone asks about your day and what your annoying coworker Susan said. Someone needs to vent about their problematic coworker too. Someone wants to make plans for the weekend with their exasperating parents and won’t you come? They’d really love to see you. Someone wants to yell uncontrollably at an inanimate object (the TV) about a hockey game that happens to be on at the exact same time as your favorite weekly show, which you’re missing due to said hockey game. Someone may ask for an occasional foot rub with their weird, callused feet that could benefit from a pumice stone. You get the point. Relationships can be a lot. Boundaries are a godsend. Another point of trepidation about entering relationships is that they can cause you to disappoint someone else if your wants and needs no longer align with theirs. Also, there’s the worry that you may be passing up a relationship with someone better and settling for less. There are 7.753 billion people in the world, so how can you really be sure this person is the one for you? Refer to my point about trusting your intuition above. 

All of this is to say that commitment is scary as hell. Writing this blog post as a single person has me wanting to delete all my dating apps and never make eye contact with a man again! Perhaps the scariest thing about commitment is that it involves change, and the only certainty that comes with change is that it will most definitely be uncertain. Yet change is inevitable, whether you’re committed to someone or not. If commitment isn’t for you, more power to you, you free spirit! If you’re dipping your toes into the sea of commitment, think about your values and goals. Committing to anything takes grit and a hell of a lot of work. Yes, there’s uncertainty, but it can also lead to untold joy and surprises. For people on either side of the commitment line, talking about some of these fears with a therapist could certainly help.  

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