15 Warning Signs That Your Partner Has Commitment Issues

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Being in a relationship can make you feel protected, loved, cared for, and supported. But there’s also the other side of the coin where even just thinking about relationships (and being in one, no matter how amazing and special your partner-to-be) can make you break out in a cold sweat

People with commitment issues feel trapped, stuck, and suffocated when they enter committed relationships. 

My best friend’s partner had a fear of commitment, and the relationship didn’t last longer than two or three months. Looking back, there were clear signs of commitment issues – warning signs or red flags that should have told her that her boyfriend wasn’t ready to commit (and probably would never have been ready – no matter what). 

It didn’t matter that she fell head over heels for the guy, or that he seemed to utterly adore her. Relationships weren’t for him

Are you worried that your partner may have issues committing to you and not being the partner you are worthy of? 

Here’s everything you need to know about commitment issues, what causes it, the main warning signs, and what you could do if your partner isn’t ready to commit to you and your relationship.

What Are Commitment Issues? 

Commitment issues are also known as having a fear of commitment, a commitment phobia, or relationship anxiety.

Essentially, having commitment issues is a complex topic. Here are three broad categories of commitment issues: 

Under-committed

When a person under-commits, they are scared to commit to a relationship, cause, person, or activity, and they find it challenging to fully dedicate themself to a long-term goal.

They don’t put a lot of energy into a relationship, workplace, or at school. The relationship may appear to be disposable and of less value to them. 

Over-committed

Those who over-commit put in way too much time and energy than what’s healthy, and they become unbalanced and sacrifice other areas of their lives to make a relationship or situation work.

They may try anything and everything to make their partner happy because they don’t think they are worthy of love or that there won’t be another person interested in them. 

Have differences in commitment

In this instance, for example, partners aren’t committed equally to their relationship. In an unbalanced relationship, one person may be over-committed or committed to a healthy extent, while the other partner commits less. This usually leads to conflict.

In general, however, most of us associate commitment issues with one person being under-committed. People can have a fear of commitment in romantic or intimate relationships, friendships, the workplace, or at school or college.

They face emotional difficulties or mental distress when confronted with situations that require commitment and dedication from them. 

Commitment issues take on various forms depending on the situation. For example: 

  • In a longer-term relationship, a partner may be scared to invest more in the relationship and will be reluctant to propose, accept a proposal, move in together, go through with the wedding, buy a house together, or have kids. 
  • In the dating phase, relationship anxiety can present itself as one partner not ready to move to the next phase or taking the relationship seriously. Or, when a person uses a dating app, they may invest more in “relationshopping”– chatting up many, but never settling on one person to form a true connection. 
  • In a workplace, an employee may not stay long in one job, may reject a promotion or more responsibility, or avoid (or reject) longer-term assignments and projects. 
  • At college or school, the student with commitment issues may not invest their time and energy to succeed or complete homework or assignments. A student may also not even apply to college because it is a three to four-year commitment (at minimum).

Commitment Issues vs Commitment Phobia 

I must also mention that a fear of commitment isn’t quite the same as having a commitment phobia (a type of anxiety disorder). It goes way beyond just being anxious about committing to something long-term. 

Commitment phobia, also called gamophobia, is an intense, persistent, and irrational fear of committing.

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A clear sign of having a partner who’s scared of commitment is that they don’t have many or any close friends.

A person with gamophobia will experience panic attacks and high anxiety when they just think about committing, and that’s not even being in an actual situation, which may intensify their reaction. 

If your partner is suffering from gamophobia, it’s best that they talk to a mental health practitioner to help them deal with their extreme fear of commitment and to help them develop coping mechanisms

Causes of Having Commitment Issues 

No one is scared of committing just because. There is always a reason, even though that reason or cause of having a fear of commitment (or even gamophobia) may not be clear-cut. 

Here are the most common causes of commitment issues

  • Early childhood stress because of childhood neglect, family modeling (where one parent was under or over-committed), helicopter parents who were overly controlling and involved, or the parents having marital issues or a non-amicable divorce 
  • Being exposed to too much media (TV shows, movies, and more) that depicts how terrible it is being in a committed relationship (and how relationships don’t work out) 
  • A fear of being in an unhealthy and unsatisfying relationship
  • Damaging past relationships where there was abuse, abandonment, and infidelity
  • Trust issues
  • Unhealthy attachment styles   
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder

15 Signs of Commitment Issues 

There are many tell-tale signs that your partner won’t commit or is scared of being all in. It’s like they keep one foot out the door, or no foot ever makes it inside the door – not really. 

You need to know what the signs of commitment issues are and then identify them

Once you are sure your partner has a fear of commitment, you need to decide what’s next for you. Do you stay and fight for the relationship, or do you leave, let go, and move on

But first, here are the signs that your partner has commitment issues:   

1. Are a Serial Dater

A clear sign of commitment issues is when your partner has dated multiple partners, often moving on to the next without even fully ending the previous relationship. Far from being a player, they head out the door as soon as things get serious

Your partner won’t change his spots (or stripes), so don’t expect him to commit when he hasn’t been able to do so up till now with other partners. 

Infidelity is also a red flag. If he can do it with you, he can do it to you

2. Don’t Want to Label the Relationship 

Ever been out to meet your partner’s parents, colleagues, or friends, only to have them introduce you as their “friend” to the people in their life? If your partner isn’t comfortable owning up to your status as their partner, you are heading for disaster. 

Of course, they won’t “own” your partnership with them in a few weeks of starting to date, but eventually, your partner needs to step up and be your partner in public. 

Labels often make people uncomfortable, but it’s also important to have a partner who is proud to be yours and have you be his on the relationship front. 

3. Constantly Tell White Lies 

People use white lies to get out of trouble. They don’t use them to spare other people’s feelings, despite what your partner may tell you. If you start to see more and more white lies crop up, you can be assured your partner is evading their responsibility and duty to you.  

If your partner has learned to lie in their parental home, they will have become such habitual liars that they can’t commit to the truth, much less commit to you. If you let the lies slide, you are creating an environment where your partner will lie to you all the time

Confront them about lies you catch them in and insist on truthful behavior, or you are in a relationship with someone whom you won’t be able to trust at all. 

4. Use Many Modifiers to Not Commit

Language has power, and if your partner tends to use modifiers such as “maybe,” “perhaps,” “eventually,” or “probably” when speaking to you and to others, they are prone to changing their mind

Their language already indicates they are leaving the door open to run from problems and run from you. 

Be careful of partners who don’t commit, even on a literary level, to what they decide. When someone is constantly using these “negotiation” words, they are not dependable, and they will find ways to get out of their promises

You deserve better than this, so insist on action words that indicate commitment. 

5. Don’t Commit to Date Nights in Advance 

Life is busy, but your partner should be able and willing to set aside time to meet with you and have date nights. If they are reluctant to set dates in advance it means they are keeping space for “something better” to come along that they’d rather spend time on. 

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Unpredictable behavior may be a sign that your loved one is scared to commit.

You aren’t a priority to them if they can’t even promise to keep a Friday open for you to go out to dinner and a movie.

Of course, if your partner is a doctor and has to attend to emergencies, you may need to accept they can be called away for work. However, this should be the exception to the rule, not the constant norm.  

6. Won’t Let You Know Whether They Are Attending an Event 

Commitment issues aren’t always just about you. Your partner may also be unwilling or unable to commit to other important events or dates in their lives. 

Perhaps they have to book an appointment to see a specialist, but they keep on changing the dates. Maybe they keep postponing their weekend with their parents, or they even change the date of their car service. 

Fixing on a date and sticking to it is absolute torture to them, but it also shows a lack of respect for the people affected by their change in bookings. You are one of those people, and your partner will constantly change and “rain-check” dates with you. 

7. Don’t Use the L-Word 

Does your partner say they like you? Adore you? Are they fond of you? Enjoy having you around? 

Notice anything missing

Your partner may not say they love you when you’ve just started dating, but after a while they should know whether they love you or not, right? 

You may have started using the L-word with your partner, but you get a kiss, hug, thank you, or a sexy night in return. That ain’t love. 

Your partner has commitment issues because they can’t express their feelings, and perhaps, they are afraid of having such strong feelings for you. And if your partner says “love you” flippantly and uncomfortably (every time in response to your “I love you”), they probably don’t mean it.  

8. Don’t Have Many (or Any) Close Friends

A clear sign of having a partner who’s scared of commitment is that they don’t have many or any close friends.

They may be the life of the party and have 2,000+ friends on Facebook, but who do they call if they need help (besides you) and who do they meet up for drinks or coffee? 

If there’s no one they are close to, chances are they just haven’t met healthy people to invite into their inner circle, but if they don’t have best friends and you recognize other warning signs on my list, they won’t commit to you because they can’t even commit to a friendship.  

9. Are Unpredictable 

Is your partner unpredictable? You never know what mood they will be in when you meet up or when they arrive at home, and you never know how they will react to good or bad news.

They may be sweet and kind in the morning, and it’ll be thunder and lightning that afternoon.  

Unpredictable behavior may be a sign that your loved one is scared to commit, and when your partner is that unpredictable, it may be a sign you are in a toxic relationship, especially when you are walking on eggshells around them. 

10. Have a 3-Month Rule 

Not every relationship is the same, and you and your partner may have decided to take your time moving your relationship forward. But it is common knowledge that the three-month anniversary of a couple being together marks a point where they take it to the next level

Except you and your loved one haven’t talked about your future relationship expectations and it’s month three now.

You may think you are moving in together or whatever the next big step is (saying “I love you?”) but your partner breaks things off – because they don’t do the next step in a relationship. 

For them, month three marks the “get out of Dodge” stage, and if they do that with all their relationships (and there’s no reason for them to dump you now), they have a fear of commitment

11. Don’t Open Up 

Anyone who’s scared of commitment won’t open up and share. They come across as standoffish, emotionally detached, or cold, even though they care about you. 

Vulnerability is an important element of a successful relationship, but your partner shies away from that. When you talk, it’s surface level stuff, and conversations are casual and lighthearted. There’s no emotional depth, intimacy, or really getting to know each other. 

12. Don’t Take Initiative 

Do you feel like all the arrangements and doing stuff always falls on your shoulders? If you don’t take initiative, nothing gets done, you and your partner don’t go on dates, and you always reach out first. 

A commitment phobe won’t act first; they’ll want you to take the lead – all the time. So while you may be dating exclusively, your partner isn’t committed to you because your relationship isn’t balanced with give and take, lead and follow. 

13. Talk About the Future, But Those Plans Don’t Include You

Some people with commitment issues won’t talk about the future at all, or if they do, it’s pie in the sky kinda stuff. But if your partner does reference their future and you don’t feature somewhere in those future plans, you’ve got a problem. 

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A commitment phobe won’t regularly reply to texts, messages, or calls because you aren’t a priority to them and they aren’t committed to you.

They are planning to break up with you at some stage because they aren’t committing to a long-term relationship with you. They may feel trapped, boxed in, or tied down thinking about a future with anyone.  

14. Don’t Regularly Reply to Messages, Calls, or Texts 

In a serious, committed, and healthy relationship, both partners reach out to each other regularly, so there are frequent messages and calls AND replies.

It’s one thing if your partner doesn’t text you back or take your call because they are in a meeting, have been in an accident, or got busy at work. But this shouldn’t happen all the time – unless they are an emergency worker or something. 

A commitment phobe won’t regularly reply to texts, messages, or calls because you aren’t a priority to them and they aren’t committed to you. The same goes for half-replies …    

15. Are Secretive

It probably feels like you are dating a spy on a top-secret mission because that’s how secretive your partner is. You might be attracted to this air of mystery and appeal when you first start going out, but let’s be honest, it gets old real quick, especially if you want something real and lasting. 

A partner with commitment issues will be emotionally distant or unavailable, and you’ll never get a clear answer out of them.

Getting to know them is near impossible, and so is learning about their past relationships (though they might just say these were casual encounters – a clear red flag) or their work. 

What to Do When Your Partner Has Commitment Issues: Fight or Flight? 

A partner may be afraid of committing, and they may fight against the idea of settling down, or they may flee from commitment because it scares them.

Knowing whether your partner falls in the flight or fight category of commitment issues is important to deciding on a course of action. 

Fleeing is often such an overpowering fear that your partner may not be willing to work on their issues. Likewise, someone who fights against commitment, opposing it on a conscious level, may also not be willing to change or even consider working on their commitment issues. 

Before you decide whether you should move on, or if there’s some room to work on your commitment issues, you should consider whether your partner is also willing to at least try and work at the issues in your relationship.

And if ever you decide that enough is enough, and leave your partner, then you watch this video on the ways on how you can be happy again after a setback:

If your partner is not willing to try and resolve their issues, you won’t change their mind, no matter the intervention strategy you try. 

Fear and reluctance to commit can stem from an earlier trauma or failed relationship, which could be why you are struggling with a partner who won’t commit. Don’t pay for someone else’s sins.

If your partner won’t try therapy or simply goes through the motions, you are being bled on by wounds someone else inflicted on them. It’s then time to move on and place your happiness first.  

Final Thoughts About the Signs of Commitment Issues 

It’s essential to know what signs to look out for when you worry that your partner is scared to commit to you and your relationship. A partner with commitment issues won’t use the L-word, open up and share with you, or commit to a date or appointment.

They also use value expressions and modal verbs (or modifiers) or break up with you after three months. 

It’s heartbreaking to realize that your partner has commitment issues but remember a fear of commitment isn’t because of you. Your partner may want to commit to you and the life you share, but they may be totally, completely, 100% unable to. 

Thinking about the future (with anyone) or dedicating themselves to something for the long-term is scary as hell and enough to send their heartbeats running wild and minds spinning out of control. 

Wondering if your relationship is healthy or unhealthy? If any of these 13 red flags pop up early on in your relationship, it’s a toxic one. And these are warning signs you shouldn’t ignore.

And if you're looking for more articles about relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:

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