Fear of commitment: symptoms and causes

Fear of commitment now affects many people in our society. Individual symptoms can even occur in normal interpersonal contact. A few facts should help to identify the signs and underlying causes.

Symptoms of a fear of commitment – ​​how it manifests itself

Humans long for closeness and security. At the same time, however, they also want to be seen as an independent individual who is allowed to make their own decisions. Restrictions are only tolerated to a limited extent. This happens when a partnership requires compromises. Ideally, there is a balance between the need for closeness and individual freedom. However, for some it is not so easy to realize this.

  • People who are afraid of commitment have a strong urge for freedom. They are careful not to get involved in a relationship that is too close. In order for this to succeed, they usually look for a partner who suffers from fear of loss. This allows a certain distance on both sides.
  • Both fears can also go hand in hand. People with a fear of commitment often show ambivalent behavior here. When intimacy arises, they react with distance. If this is no longer demanded by the partner, a fear of loss arises. Every effort is being made to restore closeness.
  • It is not uncommon for the wrong partner to be chosen. When such people find themselves in a long-term relationship or marriage, they are often deeply unhappy. You either feel cramped or completely alone.
  • Some try to avoid attachment by having affair after affair. Others, on the other hand, prefer a single life on the grounds that they would rather enjoy freedom.
  • The well-known authors Steven Carter and Julia Sokol made a distinction between active and passive attachment anxiety. According to her description, people with active attachment anxiety avoid relationships or flee. Those with passive attachment anxiety struggle to maintain distance in the relationship.
  • Those affected often suffer from fear of commitment because they have had negative experiences with loss and jealousy in the past . The fear of separation accompanies them, so that a healthy relationship is hardly possible anymore.
  • However, it is also possible that the causes of attachment anxiety are subconscious, since they are based on events from earliest childhood.

Causes of fear of commitment: Reasons for the distance

The behavior in the case of fear of commitment consists in maintaining a certain distance from other people. Such people strive to be independent even though there is a hidden need for love and intimacy. The reasons for such behavior can often be found in childhood. John Bowlby, the founder of the attachment theory, has dealt with the aspects of the fear of attachment and has come to remarkable results. He has recognized that the causes can be traced back to early childhood trauma.

  • One of the causes of attachment anxiety is the close-distance experience an infant has with their primary caregiver. In most cases this is the mother. If she doesn’t respond to his needs, then he tries to suppress his closeness to her.
  • Many children need their mother’s closeness. However, if she was not nurtured in her childhood, she does not understand her infant’s needs. Due to the lack of reaction from the mother, the child experiences neither security nor safety.
  • However , the bonding experiences in the family are not the only reason why people develop a fear of bonding. It turns out that genetic factors also play a role.
  • There are children who absolutely need security and closeness. Others are born and only bring this desire with them to a limited extent. It is crucial for them to respect the boundaries of their need for distance. If these are exceeded, a fear of commitment can also arise.
  • The experiences that are made in the further course of life also have an influence on whether a fear of commitment becomes more entrenched or not.
  • Experiences of loss, traumatic experiences and the separation of the parents encourage behavior that is fearful of commitment. If a child experiences neglect, physical and/or psychological abuse in its own family , then the risk of allowing interpersonal closeness increases.

Reducing the fear of commitment – ​​which really helps

The fears of attachment can already be reduced in childhood if friendships and trustworthy reference persons are available. A mindful environment is required for this. If no trusting relationships were possible in childhood, then it is up to the adults themselves to get help.

  • Children should feel part of a group. They must not be excluded. Friendships strengthen self-confidence and mutual respect. A child’s self-esteem increases.
  • Caregivers play a key role in building healthy relationships with oneself and others. If there are no suitable members of the family, this role can sometimes be filled by an adult from the neighborhood. The teaching staff in the school is also conceivable.
  • If a person did not have trusting relationships in his childhood, it is necessary to use therapeutic support. The adult must learn to behave authentically and to understand his feelings.
  • A confrontation with the inner child is essential so that negative approaches can be recognized and replaced. The aim of therapy is to develop healthy self-protection. The person concerned must respect their own wishes and needs.

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