In an ideal scenario, the person you really like and see a future with will feel the same about you. But it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a situation with someone who acts like a loving partner, but isn’t into commitment. The reality is, you can’t make someone want a serious relationship if they really don’t want one. But according to experts, there are some things you can do to help a partner with commitment issues be more open to the idea of having a relationship.
“A true commitment-phobe is generally someone with an avoidant attachment style,” Channa Bromley, matchmaker and dating coach, tells Bustle. “It’s a form of putting on armor. It’s a defense mechanism to protect them from potential pain.”
You learn your attachment style during childhood. How your parents interacted with you can affect how you are in relationships as an adult. “Our attachment style influences how each of us reacts to our needs and how we go about getting them met,” Bromley says. For those with avoidant attachment, this typically means avoiding commitment and getting emotionally close to others.
There are other things that can make someone scared of a comittment. For instance, a bad relationship can put someone off from wanting to get serious again. A person can also just be scared of losing their sense of freedom.
While you can’t force someone to change their mind, you can help them see relationships in a more positive way if they are open to it. So here are some things you can do to help a commitment-phobe have a serious relationship if it’s something they want, according to experts.
1. Have A Fulfilling Life Outside Of The Relationship
The one thing you never want to do when you’re dating someone who’s scared of commitment is chase them. According to Bromley, that is like kryptonite for them. So instead of investing all of your energy into making a relationship happen, put that energy into yourself. “Understand it’s not personal and fill your own cup up with activities you love and are passionate about,” she says. “The sexiest trait in anyone is living a passionate and curious life.” If you’re someone who has abandonment issues, this type of dynamic may be triggering. If this is the case, Bromley says you can use this opportunity to heal your own fears and insecurities.
2. Take The Time To Understand Them On A Deeper Level
“At the root of commitment phobia is often a subconscious and deep fear of trusting others,” Bromley says. Your partner may have limiting beliefs about themselves, so they’ll have a hard time trusting that you really want to be with them. Instead of working through those insecurities, they’d rather avoid a serious relationship altogether. This is tough to deal with if you want to be with them long-term. One thing you can do is talk to them. Get to know them on a deeper level so you can slowly break down their walls. “Take the time to learn about them without asking for anything in return,” Bromley says. “Offer reassurance in a consistent, patient, and reliable manner. This will also prove your trustworthiness and that you do accept them.”
3. Be Sensitive To The Situation And Don’t Push For Anything That Would Make Them Uncomfortable
In order to get your partner to trust you completely, it’s important to be mindful of things that may make them uncomfortable. For instance, a person who’s scared to commit may not appreciate it if you push them to do “relationship things” like meeting your family or attending holiday gatherings. “It’s either you don’t initiate these things and wait for the idea to come from them, or at least ask them first and don’t feel bad when they decline,” Celia Schweyer, dating and relationship expert with Dating Scout, tells Bustle. The last thing either of you wants is to have an awkward conversation with nosy relatives about why you’re attending family functions together when you’re not technically together. There’s nothing wrong with asking. But if they say no, don’t push.
4. Let Them Have Space To Figure Things Out On Their Own
A common misconception about people with commitment issues is they lack the ability to fall in love or get emotionally attached. That’s not necessarily true. “They definitely experience feelings the same as the rest of us do,” Kelsey M. Latimer, PhD, CEDS-S, a psychologist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle. “The key difference is they tend to question those emotions instead of following through.” So as hard as it is to understand, someone can be in love with you but not want anything serious. The best thing to do in this situation is to just give them space to figure things out. Sometimes a little bit of time can make all the difference. “If that person wants to be with you, they will do the things necessary to work out their own stuff so they’re ready for a relationship,” Latimer says.
5. Give Them Small Things To Commit To And Work Your Way Up From There
“In an attempt to make a commitment-phobe change their ways, show them that they’re able to commit through exposure,” Adina Mahalli, certified relationship expert, tells Bustle. For instance, start by regularly scheduling dates for the weekend. If they have no problem committing to your regular plans, then plan something bigger for next month. “Whether it’s a dinner date or hanging out with friends, try encouraging your partner to commit to small plans so that when bigger commitments come up, they won’t be as intimidated,” Mahalli says.
6. Respect Their Need For Freedom
If your partner avoids being tied down because they’re scared of losing their freedom, then let them have their freedom. Practicing acceptance is key. “If you’re ready to accept this part about them, and respect their need for space and freedom, then they might just fall in love with you,” Schweyer says. This is also a great opportunity for you two to learn how to compromise. Maybe you won’t be spending every weekend together. That’s OK. The important thing is to talk about a plan that works for you both.
7. Be Supportive If They Choose To Go To Therapy
If your partner’s commitment issues are deeply rooted, therapy may be helpful for them. According to Bromley, “Once they understand that they’re choosing to defend themselves with this emotional armor, they can choose to take it off, and allow themselves to get close and emotionally connected.” Working with a therapist can help them form an “earned secure attachment.” If your partner chooses to go to therapy, be supportive. They’ve already taken a big step forward.
The most important thing to remember here is you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. So if your partner is serious about not wanting a relationship, then you either have to accept that or move on. These are just some things that can help someone be more open to the idea of commitment.