If you've ever flip-flopped between nail polish colors or struggled to pick where to go for dinner, you may already know that sometimes it's hard to commit. Whether you struggle to trust your gut or get full blown terrified when making big decisions — issues with commitment come in all shapes and sizes. If you've dated some insensitive dweebs, have dealt with infidelity in past relationships, or have otherwise experienced some form of pain, it's natural to wonder if you have commitment issues because of an ex.
After a breakup, you may still have some of their clothes or books lying around your house — it's not a stretch that some emotional baggage could be lingering around as well. It's completely common for past relationships to majorly impact how you navigate your love life, but understanding the root of your commitment issues can help you to work through them with boos to come.
"'Commitment issues' is an umbrella term — they can range from fear of committing to one partner to fear of being emotionally vulnerable such that the desire for a commitment comes into play," Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Elite Daily. "It can be a triggered response of anxiety or avoidance when a partner tries to progress the relationship further to a more serious, long term, and emotionally intimate position."
While "commitment issues" can sometimes be associated with a desire to dodge monogamy, having issues with commitment can mean fearing emotional vulnerability or hesitating to truly open up to someone. "Commitment-phobic people have relationship anxiety that intensifies as the relationship progresses," Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, tells Elite Daily. "Some that fear commitment may just have a difficult time resolving their past relationship hurt. Others just have a difficult time with craving intimacy while wanting to retain their own identity and freedom."
If you struggle to relax into new relationships or if committing to someone seems a little scary, it's possible that things your past partners said to you have really stuck with you. "Any statements that call trust into question, that show a lack of honor or respect for vulnerability can contribute to commitment issues," Dr. Klapow says. Dr. Klapow gives the examples:
- "'I love you, but you’re not the same person I got together with. I don’t like who you have become and I’m not attracted to this new you.'
- 'I’m not sure I can be faithful to you.'
- 'You can’t understand my needs. I love you but I’m not sure we can stay together because you can’t be there for me.'
- 'You’re insecure and too sensitive, your problems are really not problems- you need to get over feeling this way.'
- 'Yeah — I told my friends about the sex problems we are having — they are my friends, after all.'"
From critiquing your needs to expressing unhappiness with changing and evolving over time — there are many hurtful phrases that exes could have said to you in past relationships that could have harmful effects on your view of commitment. Of course, your needs are always valid, and expressing them takes strength and courage. Additionally, changing and evolving is a healthy and natural part of life. You never need to feel bad about asking for clarification or support in your relationships.
Of course, sometimes actions speak louder than words, and there are many things your ex could have done to impact your fear of commitment as well. "It’s more in what they do than say. They will express intent clearly but do the exact opposite — they will say they want to prioritize you and the relationship, but maintain what they consider a comfortable distance," Silva says. If you've dealt with inconsistent partners or have been dating someone for a while who is reluctant to DTR or validate your relationship, it's natural for some discomfort to form around relationships. If you've been emotionally vulnerable with someone who completely blindsighted you with their words or actions, it's common for your understanding of relationships to shift.
"Fear of or [if you] have had a relationship end without notice or signs, [it] can make someone hesitant to trust again," Silva says. "It is the relationships that you felt a deep connection to that you didn’t anticipate being ghosted that will impact a person the most." No matter how long you were seeing someone, getting ghosted is completely disorienting. If you've worked hard to be vulnerable and create a relationship with someone, suddenly never hearing from them again is incredibly painful and can leave you with a ton of self-doubt. You may fear commitment then, because you fear the uncertainty of falling for someone or feel skeptical that you'll be ghosted again.
Commitment issues can also come from a desire to protect yourself in new relationships. If you've experienced pain in prior relationships, it may feel safer to keep others at a distance, to only date "casually," or to never open up emotionally to new people in your love life. If you dated someone with their own commitment issues, their nerves or discomfort with relationships may have impacted you as well. Of course, noticing that you struggle to commit or to really open up to people doesn't mean you're unable or even unwilling to have healthy and happy relationships. And if you're noticing the person you're seeing is struggling to commit, it's important to remember that their fear or discomfort isn't about you.
"Remind yourself that it had nothing to do with you," Silva says. "The lack of commitment stems from disappointment, pain, and frustration, or unwillingness to invest in a long-term relationship that causes anxiety for the person. But, you can help them by suggesting they explore their issues to address the underlying commitment issues they face." If you or your boo are dealing with some funky commitment stuff, talking about what you're feeling can help to unpack where the issues are rooted. If pain from past relationships has impacted the way you experience love, talking to trusted friends, family, or even mental health professionals can be a wonderful tool in ensuring you're getting all the support and care you deserve.
If your ex said painful or harmful things to you, it's totally common to be impacted by the past. Understanding the root of your fear of commitment can help you combat it. You deserve to be loved, happy, and supported in every relationship you have, and that is something that can't be said enough.