Today I want to save you from the heartbreaking experience of dating someone who will be tremendously difficult to ever get a satisfying committed relationship from.
In bizarre dating and relationship behavior-land, there is the commitment-phobe. I know this mess of a behavior pattern well since it used to be me.
I’m not proud to admit it, but 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 even want to bring someone home to see my couch, let alone make the journey to meet my Mom.
One 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 signs that your new love is allergic to any form of shared future before you fall hard for them and it’s too late.
Here are the signs that your partner is commitment phobic.
1. They are hard to nail down for even normal plans.
You’re might just be trying to get a date with them for Friday night, but they hem and haw like you’ve just proposed marriage.
They are pros at dodging when you try to get normal answers about what you’re going to do, whether or not you can go to the movies or anything else. This leads me to the next point…
2. Unbridled spontaneity.
“Spontaneity” can be genuine and fun or it can be 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 to be spontaneous,” consider whether there are other deeper factors at work.
To tease out the difference between real spontaneity and commitment phobic spontaneity, try mentioning gently 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 after all. The commitment-phobic is more likely to shy away from giving you a set time and date, preferring to do everything at the last minute— and conveniently giving them a convenient reason to pull away if it doesn’t work out.
3. Even though you feel like you have a connection and/or have been together for awhile, 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 have a history of being perpetually single or have lots of short relationships.
This looks like a ton of “failures to launch.” They might be the dumper and bolt quickly, or they might 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 are untrusting.
Often because of being broken hearted or deeper seated issues in the past, the commitment shy generally feel like the only person they can truly trust are themselves. Love has taken on a “this is scary” dimension because of the potential that the other shoe could drop at any second. They might not just be untrusting of lovers, it might bleed over to other parts of their life. Watch for general paranoia and suspiciousness of other people’s motives.
7. Hot and cold.
One minute you’re having the time of your life and the next they have 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. That unhinged feeling is another red flag, namely:
8. Your relationship makes you feel unsettled and unhinged.
If you feel driven to make them define things or like you can’t get comfortable, consider why this might be.
It’s easy to be 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 very well could be your own insecurities, or it could be 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 driven to get answers on what’s up with them. This needy, afraid feeling is a sign of trouble, so learn to listen to it. It’s usually not all inside your head.
9. They have perfectionistic tendencies.
Perfectionism can be another way to self sabotage a relationship. If someone is always looking for “that one thing” that is 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. Be aware of that any mention of “why this won’t work” between the two of you, said idly in a way that sounds like they want reassurance. This is actually a big glaring red flag— because they are actually 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 really going to be 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— then 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 choose people to date who have ISSUES.
Commitment-phobic daters often pick out 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 because 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. Issues with meeting your peeps, and/or reluctance to introduce you to theirs.
In an effort to avoid “getting too serious,” they compartmentalize their life. Meeting someone’s friends and family should be a natural process as you get closer. If they are resistant to this after a reasonable amount of time or freak out when you mention bringing them home to Mom, consider why this is.
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.