Do I have Commitment Issues?
Updated: Jan 18
The "C" word! It comes up in almost every session. This article will mostly address the issue of commitment within a relationship. But keep in mind that commitment is something we face as individuals every day. Can we commit to working out, to speak kindly to ourselves, to pursue our goals, etc.? In other words, the "C" word is a very comprehensive indicator of clarity, stability and of purpose.
For now, I'd like to give you a few hints to help you identify if you or someone you're interested in might be struggling with "romantic commitment". You might think that people who have commitment issues know that they do. But it still surprises me how many don't. I believe the main reason why is because they want a relationship as much or more than someone who doesn't have a commitment issue. However, their hearts have been wounded and they're still in the process of healing.
Here are some of the signs:
Exposure to unhealthy relationships growing up
Yup! It starts way before puberty... If when you think of your parents' relationship, you cringe and say "I definitely don't want what they had", you already have work to do. It, unfortunately, marks us. Even if you're able to identify that you'd like something different, you missed out on 18+ years of teachings on how to have a healthy mature relationship. You didn't get as many lessons on forgiveness, compromise, loving acts, understanding, acceptance, effective communication, patience, healthy boundaries, etc. Instead, you might still be dealing with the aftermath of yelling, rigidity, unrealistic expectations, splitting, impositions, betrayal, etc. So the work is actually double.
History of short or toxic relationships
Then, when it's time for you to enter relationships, there's typically promiscuity or avoidance. And as you age, there might be a combination of the two. The relationships you do have, are either short-lived or what we would describe as toxic. What happens is that you end up tangled up in a "re-enactment" of all your emotional trauma. Hoping that now as an adult you figure out the right formula to have your partner love you the way you deserve. However, you spend years and the relationship takes one step forward and three backwards. In the process, you confirm your theory of how difficult relationships could be, chip away at your self-esteem and are encouraged to remain single.
Inability to recognize, appreciate and accept healthy relationships.
Most people can recognize a healthy relationship but they can't appreciate it and accept it. They feel bored, like three's something missing, and there is! What's missing is DRAMA, short-lived passion, emotional rollercoasters, etc. They might go through the list in their heads and their partners check off all the major requirements yet they can't compromise on minor details or silence the voice that says that they can do better. That critical voice that sucks so much joy out of every other area of their lives is pretty strong here as well.
So what can you do about it?
There is a lot at stake, studies find time and time again that our relationship status and satisfaction correlates with our overall emotional wellbeing and even with our life expectancy. It's about how long and how well do we want to live. The answer is simple but not easy: do the work.
The work usually entails, admitting that you do have a commitment issue, getting in touch with the painful experiences that have let you here, if necessary have therapy and get an understanding of how those experiences show up in your life today. And ultimately, commit! You only learn by doing. I believe having the help of a professional in all this process completely changes the experience. It will allow you to gain a deep understanding of the way your mind works, the tricks it plays on you and most importantly, it will help you work through the anxiety that being in a relationship brings up without sabotaging it or hurting your partner. It can give you a real chance to connect, grow and experience the many faces of love.