How to Deal with a Commitment Phobic Significant Other

Three Parts:Preparing to Talk with Your Significant OtherTalking with Your Significant OtherMoving On with Your Life

It can be difficult being with someone who doesn’t want to commit, and this can cause many problems within the relationship. If you and your significant other have different views on commitment, it’s important to realize that these problems won’t go away on their own. Talk with your significant other to find out why he or she is afraid of commitment and decide how to proceed in the relationship.

Part 1
Preparing to Talk with Your Significant Other

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    Recognize that avoidance won’t solve commitment problems. It’s easier to pretend that problems do not exist. However, don’t keep putting the issue on “pause” indefinitely.[1] This can lead to feelings of resentment building up. If this is an issue that bothers you, then it’s important enough to deal with it together.
    • If the issue of commitment seems to come up then go away frequently, set aside time to definitely talk about it and reach a conclusion together.
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    Be honest with yourself. Take a step back and ask yourself, “What is it that I want?”[2] Think about what motivates you to be in this relationship and why you’ve chosen this person. What brings you happiness? What things make you think twice about this person?
    • Some people enjoy the feelings of being in a back-and-forth relationship. Ask yourself if you enjoy the uncertainty or the tension this creates.
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    Prepare what you want to say. Having an idea of what you want to say can help you stay focused and not let emotions take over during the discussion. Think about the main thing you want to discuss, and aim to keep this the focus of the conversation.[3] Resolve not to let the conversation get off track or distracted.
    • Your key point may be, “I want this to be a committed, monogamous relationship.”
    • One way to prepare is by starting at the end of the discussion. How would you like this discussion to end? Start there and find ways to prepare what to say to get to that point.
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    Decide what outcome you want from talking to your partner. Prior to having the discussion, plan what outcome you would like to see occur as a result of the conversation. Are you wanting your significant other to give you a verbal commitment? Or are you planning to give an ultimatum of “commit or the relationship is over.” Think through how you want to approach the discussion and what goals you have in mind. Be willing to commit to your plan.
    • Prior to going into the discussion, think about your timeframe. Are you unwilling to continue in the relationship unless your significant other proposes within a certain time limit, like one year? Will you cut off the relationship right away if your significant other refuses to call you girlfriend/boyfriend?
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    Let go of knowing the outcome. Don’t assume you know how the conversation will end. Instead, approach the situation with curiosity and be willing to accept that anything can happen.[4] Don’t assume you know how your significant other will react or what he or she may say. You may be surprised at what your significant other says or learn something new about him or her.

Part 2
Talking with Your Significant Other

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    Open the conversation. It can be difficult to start an emotional conversation. When starting a conversation, share what you want for your significant other.[5] Share what’s important to you and how it relates to your significant other.
    • You can start by saying, “I enjoy our relationship and I hope you do, too. I hope you feel as happy being with me as I feel with you. One thing that causes me to feel unhappy is our differences on commitment. Can we talk about that?”
    • For more information, check out How to Handle Difficult Conversations.
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    Talk about what each of you wants. Be honest and encourage your partner to be honest as well, as it’s in both your best interests to communicate your thoughts and feelings.[6]
    • Communicate what you want from your significant other and from the relationship. Say, “I want to be in a relationship with you. I want this relationship to be exclusive.”
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    Ask questions. Ask your significant other about what matters to you. Listen closely to hear if there are any unmet expectations from your significant other. Does your significant other fear rejection or disappointment? If anything is unclear, ask a question.[7]
    • Some questions you can ask include, “What are you getting from this relationship? What makes you want to stay in this relationship? Are there things that make you unhappy? What fears do you have about being in a relationship?”
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    Listen intently. Listen closely to what your significant other says. Don’t think up things to say while your significant other talks. Instead, do your best to appreciate your significant other’s perspective and understand it more fully.[8]
    • If you don’t fully understand your significant other’s perspective, ask about it. Say, “What experiences have made you feel fearful?”
    • For more information, check out How to Listen.
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    Avoid blaming. Choose your words carefully, as your significant other may feel like he or she is being blamed. Avoid saying things like, “you never….” or, “you always….” Don’t put all the responsibility onto your significant other. Take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, and recognize that blaming won’t help you move forward in this relationship.[9]
    • Take ownership of your feelings. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements, which can help remove blame. For example, instead of saying, “Why won’t you commit to me?” say, “I feel hurt by the fact that I want a committed relationship and it seems less important to you.”
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    Agree on common goals. Be willing to end the conversation with each of you willing to compromise. This may be more difficult if one person wants to break up and the other person does not, however, you may make your goals to treat each other with respect, or to prioritize any children involved.[10]
    • One goal you can have is to stay monogamous or to give the relationship one full month of commitment.
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    Attend therapy. Your significant other may have abandonment issues or other challenges that interfere with the inability to commit to you and the relationship. He or she may be dealing with some problems from past relationships (like cheating) or from childhood that impede the ability to commit now.[11] Individual or couple’s therapy may be beneficial for working through these problems with a therapist.

Part 3
Moving On with Your Life

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    Avoid waiting around. If you have a discussion and it doesn’t end with a solid conclusion, you may feel more confused than ever. You may decide to put your life on hold while your significant other decides whether he or she wants to be with you, yet think about how this is helping or hurting you.[12] Don’t allow your wants, desires, and needs to be pushed aside while your significant other figures out what he or she wants.
    • Ask yourself, “Will I regret these actions if the relationship doesn’t work out?”
    • Ask, “Am I letting this person dictate my life or giving control over to this person?”
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    Practice radical acceptance. You may choose to stay with this person despite the differences of opinion on commitment. If this is the case, you may need to give up any feelings of negativity, hurt, blame, or judgment. Radical acceptance means choosing to accept life as it is without forcing your own desires or wants on top of what is. It means accepting things that may feel unfair or hard without resisting what you cannot or choose to not change.[13]
    • If you stay in a relationship that does not meet your needs 100%, then it is up to you to accept the situation. If your significant other has made it clear to you that he or she does not plan on changing, then it’s up to you how to respond. If you stay, you cannot express resentment or negativity for this choice. Instead, recognize you have made a choice and will handle the consequences.
    • Say to yourself, “This is the choice I have made and I accept the feelings and consequences that result from it.”
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    Pursue your own interests. Don’t allow yourself to get completely wrapped up in fears about the relationship. Put your energy into pursuing things that encourage you to grow and become a better person. Follow up on your own hopes and dreams and remind yourself that you can accomplish your goals outside of your relationship.[14]
    • Start a meditation practice, yoga, or relaxation. Join a gym or start an activity you enjoy, such as sewing or painting.
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    Follow through on any agreements. If you made goals or agreements during your discussion, follow through on them. Ask your significant other to also follow through on any agreements he or she made. While having the discussion was important, it’s equally important to follow through on anything discussed.
    • For example, you may have agreed to a monogamous relationship for 1 month, or you agreed to stay together as long as you move in together in 2 months. If your significant other agreed to propose to you within 3 months, make sure these agreements are kept.
    • If your significant other refuses or is unwilling to follow through on agreed upon items, this is a red flag.
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    Break it off. If you feel like you are not getting your needs met, it’s not worth staying in the relationship. You might feel like you put in more work and effort than your significant other yet feel unfulfilled. If there isn’t a balanced give-and-take in the relationship, think about leaving. You may feel like this issue is a “deal breaker”, and if so, break the deal.[15]


  • Do not stay with an abusive partner. Abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual. For more information, check out How to Break the Cycle of Abuse.

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Categories: Relationship Issues