Combating Commitment Phobia and Relationship Anxiety

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Commitment phobia, also known as relationship anxiety, prevents those impacted from it in many different ways. One major and obvious impact is that someone scared of commitment doesn’t remain in relationships for very long. What makes this different from someone who has a desire to be alone and have short-term relationships is that those with this phobia actually want long-term relationships. However, they are so anxious about their relationships that they leave them even when they really don’t want to do so.

Alternatively, this anxiety leads them to refuse to make any stated commitments. Often, someone who has relationship anxiety will leave the relationship if pressed to commit, not because they don’t care for their partner, but because this pressure makes them too anxious to remain.

What Causes Commitment Phobia?

This phobia can result from bad personal experiences or from witnessing a bad relationship. In the latter case, the hostile divorce of parents often plants the seeds of fear. In more detail, sufferers may feel:

• Fear of a relationship ending without warning

• Fears of being in an unhealthy relationship

• Trust issues

Causes of these problems include:

• The aforementioned fears

• Prior experience of having been in an unhealthy relationship

• Unmet childhood needs

• Childhood abuse, trauma, or abandonment

• Childhood attachment problems

• Complicated family dynamics during childhood

Reducing or Eliminating Commitment Phobia and Relationship Anxiety

The most important idea to keep in mind is that the person experiencing commitment phobia has to want to change. Therefore, if you find yourself wanting to commit but can’t, you should first ask yourself if you actually want a long-term relationship. Thanks to what could be called “relationship culture,” there is a lot of external pressure to find and keep a partner. However, if you really don’t want to do this, it’s natural to back away. It’s only a true phobia of commitment if you genuinely want to commit, but can’t bring yourself to do it because of anxiety.

With that said, the key to overcoming relationship anxiety is to want to change. Then, you’ll be willing to work toward the goal of staying in a desired relationship. As with many things concerning the mind and behavior, you are the one who has to actually take the steps to achieve the goal of a long-lasting, stable relationship.

Once you decide that you really want to improve your chances of having a long-term relationship, the next step is to seek counseling. A therapist who is experienced in helping people with commitment issues will have an understanding ear and effective suggestions for improvement. She or he will be able to help you understand the negative things you’ve been telling yourself about relationships and help you create realistic and helpful self-talk.

Psychotherapy can also help you understand the reasons that caused some relationships to unexpectedly end. This help will include training on how to better communicate with a significant other so that you can spot and work on problems before it’s too late.

For those who want a “lighter” form of help, group therapy and self-help books are suggested. These can provide a little boost without the need for ongoing one-on-one sessions.

By taking steps to understand and improve your handling of relationships, you’ll gain self-confidence and lessen your anxiety. Then, you can take steps to start or maintain a relationship that will be rewarding for both you and your partner.

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Dr. Ilene

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