Feeling our partner has commitment issues can be stressful and isolating – and can make us doubt the future of our relationship.
We may hope our partner will come round to the idea of a long-term relationship. We may believe, sometimes justifiably, that our partner wants to be committed to our relationship. But it never quite works out that way.
How do commitment issues develop?
Sometimes, early life experiences have a bearing on how much someone wants to share themselves and their lives with a partner. Feeling rejected as a child might encourage someone to feel they’re not worthwhile, and that if they commit to a relationship, eventually their partner might see this and reject them. So, it seems easier to have short-term relationships where no one gets the chance to see the ’truth’.
Feeling unable to provide the emotional support that a partner would like is another reason for shying away from commitment.
Low self-esteem, and feeling you don’t have much to offer, can be real reasons why someone might be reluctant to stay with the same person long-term.
Often, experiences such as having been dumped by a previous partner, or having been betrayed, can make it very difficult to trust that a new relationship could work out differently. Then it can feel the best way to protect ourselves is to avoid getting into a position where such a painful thing can happen again. Making sure a current relationship never gets past the starting-post feels the right thing to do.
What do we mean by commitment?
Commitment issues are real and affect many couples.
But, the term can also be misapplied – as a way of avoiding more difficult or complicated truths.
For some people, ‘commitment’ isn’t the end goal – or, at least, not now, at their stage in life.
You and your partner may have different ideas and priorities. It can be really difficult coming to realise this – and even more difficult to accept it – so it’s important to talk with your partner about what you both want before making any decisions about your relationship.
You and your partner may have different ideas on when commitment should be expressed.
For some people, the feeling of being ‘committed’ is something that emerges slowly, over a long period of time, and may be something they’re able to do only after they’ve become well and truly settled in a relationship.
If you’re looking for an expression of commitment quite early on, you may need to talk about your different expectations, and see whether there’s a way to meet in the middle – or, at least, to better understand where each other is coming from.
It may not be something you want to hear, but your partner’s reluctance to pursue a relationship might mean that they aren’t as keen on you as you are on them.
If this isn’t likely to change any time soon, it’s important that you’re able to be honest with each other so that no more unnecessary pain is caused.
What can we do about it?
People with commitment issues usually aren’t acting malevolently, or trying to hurt their partner – often, they’re just looking to avoid something that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable.
Moreover, your partner may not be aware that he or she is doing it. Many behaviours are based in subconscious thoughts or emotions and have roots in experiences that occurred a long time ago. It can be difficult and complicated for someone with commitment issues to figure out why they might be feeling this way.
We may have to spend a long time thinking about, and trying to understand, the impulses that make it hard for us to be in a committed relationship. We may prefer to address the problem quickly, so our relationship can get back on track, but things are unlikely to be this straightforward. Your partner may need space, time, and possibly outside help, before you’re both able to address the situation.
Some people are tempted to profess total commitment to a partner as a way of trying to convince their partner to do the same. They feel that if they can show how committed they are, they’ll finally get through to their partner, who’ll finally understand why they should be together. But this can be a painful and disappointing path.
What’s important – and often forgotten – is that we try to consider our own well-being and what the relationship might be doing to ourselves. It can be really hard trying to develop a long-term partnership with someone who isn’t willing to do so – frustrating, tiring and upsetting. When you look for a way forward, it’s crucial you take into account what’s best for you.
It’s possible that you and your partner may be able to weather what’s happening and emerge on the other side even stronger – many couples have done so. But it may also be hard – to the point where it becomes impossible to continue as you are.
Sometimes, taking a break from the relationship can help, giving both of you the chance to think about what you want to do next. That might be about looking at what’s possible together. Or, it might be acknowledging that the relationship is not doing what either of you want. Although finding the courage to acknowledge this can feel challenging, ultimately it may be the be most positive way forward.
You’re not alone in all this. If you’d like to talk in confidence with one of our counsellors, why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.