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Why Do Some People Shy Away from Commitment?

Jared has a lot of experience with relationships.  If there is a problem, it is that he has had lots and lots of relationships, none of which has lasted very long.  He moves from one relationship to the next, with any one relationship rarely lasting longer than a few months.  Although he has not given the matter serious thought, if he had, he would find that his relationships mostly end for the same reason—as soon as he gets the slightest whiff that his partner is interested in any kind of longer-term commitment, he is gone.  As a result, his relationships rarely “get off the ground,” so to speak!

There are a lot of people like Jared—they are commitment-shy and even the slightest inkling of a partner’s wanting long-term commitment sends them running.  Why?  What are their reasons?  There are several reasons, some better, some worse, and some truly awful!

1. They are at a period of life in which they believe they cannot make long-term commitments.

  • College students, for example, may be reluctant to commit because they do not know where their plans will bring them next, and they are afraid that being tied down to a relationship will greatly narrow their options.
  • People who are unemployed, under-employed, or employed in low-wage jobs may be afraid to commit because they do not believe they have the financial resources to make a go of things.
  • People who have a chronic health condition may be afraid to commit because they are afraid of the burden they may place on a future partner.

You want to know early in a relationship if an individual is in circumstances that make commitment feel impossible for them.  You then can decide whether that is a problem for you, or perhaps, instead, a relief!


2. They recently have been or have gotten out of a bad relationship and feel that the last thing they need is another commitment.

This, too, is something you want to find out quickly.  They might feel that

  • their last relationship was a bust and they are not ready to commit again, if ever.
  • they are still not totally out of a relationship and feel they cannot commit to a new one unless they’re out of the old one.
  • they are experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome from the last relationship and do not have the inner resources to commit again.


3. They grew up in an unhappy household and after seeing the relationship of their parents (or others close to them), do not want to end up like their parents did.

This is a surprisingly common phenomenon.  And it is hard to argue that they should commit if they feel that any commitment is likely to fail for them, as it did, perhaps, for their parents.


4. They want to feel free.

For some people, commitment is the opposite of freedom.  They cannot truly commit themselves without feeling caged.


5. They feel too preoccupied with other things to take on a relationship at a given time.

They are absorbed in their work; or in caring for an aging parent; or they have children who are consuming much of their time.  The upshot, though, is that they just do not have time for a committed relationship.


6. They currently are in another relationship and so cannot commit to a relationship with you.

Of course, the question is whether they bothered to tell you about the other relationship.


Take your relationship one step further

So here is what you have to ask yourself:

  • Is your partner’s commitment shyness a state (temporary) or a trait (pretty much permanent)? If it is a trait, can you live with that?
  • Will your relationship lead you to a place you want to go in your relationship, or will it lead you to a dead end?
  • Are you willing to change the level of commitment you feel you want, and if you are able to change it, should you?

In everyday interactions in a relationship, intimacy and passion tend to take the front seats.  But in the long run, if you are with a Jared, you need to face up to the fact that the relationship is not going anywhere, and if you want it to, you need to move on, even before your “Jared” does!  You cannot make a person truly desire commitment by pressuring them into it. It has to come from them. And if it’s not, consider the possibility it never will.



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