Commitment anxiety: signs and triggers

Carola Felchner is a freelance writer for the NetDoktor medical editorial team and a certified training and nutrition consultant. She worked at various trade magazines and online portals before starting her own business as a journalist in 2015. Before her traineeship, she studied translation and interpreting in Kempten and Munich.

From Commitment anxiety is when people are afraid to get involved in a deeper relationship. Read here why some people are afraid of relationships, whether commitment anxiety causes different symptoms in men than in women, and what to do as a partner of a relationship avoider.

How to recognize commitment anxiety?

The symptoms of commitment phobia are varied. In some cases, the person avoids committed relationships, stays alone or has only superficial affairs. In other cases, the love phobic enters into a relationship, but changes over time due to his fear of commitment.

Signs are typically:

  • Withdrawal (throws himself into work, hobbies, etc.).)
  • Refusal of physical closeness (no kissing, no sexual intercourse)
  • lack of a sense of responsibility (simply leaving without telling)
  • Groundless accusations (picking fights)
  • Refusal to set common goals (vacations, building a house, etc).)
  • separate surprisingly

Often, such behaviors are justified by the fact that one is "not yet ready for a new relationship". Basically, however, such mechanisms serve the sole purpose of not feeling dependent on another person and thus becoming vulnerable.

In addition, attachment phobia also manifests itself physically in some sufferers: through heart palpitations, sweating, feelings of anxiety, tension or panic attacks.

What is bonding anxiety?

That things don’t always go smoothly in relationship matters is normal. There is probably hardly anyone who has not wondered at some point whether their partner is right for them or whether they will ever find "the one". However, if one has a fundamental need to keep the other person at a distance, even before the relationship has really begun, this relationship anxiety can become a problem. For both parties involved.

How many people are affected by such a commitment phobia can hardly be proven by studies, among other things because those affected are often not aware of their commitment phobia or do not want to acknowledge it. You only feel a diffuse anxiety and/or feel constricted by your partner.

Science suggests that people who have relationship anxiety are incapable of building trust with another person. Attachment phobia often develops in childhood, because the first attachment is to the parents, especially to the mother. If this first attachment figure behaves coolly or is absent, the feeling arises of not being adequate, of being a disappointment. This can lead to a fear of closeness later in life: attachment anxiety.

Reasons for commitment anxiety

Fear of closeness therefore arises in an early phase of life. Therefore, attachment anxiety is very complex. Once you have learned that love is not something you get, but something you have to earn, you will always fear failure and try to avoid this situation.

Experts assume that 20 percent of people are such "anxious attachment types". Another 20 percent belong to the "avoidant types" who fear having to give up their independence in a relationship.

In both cases, sufferers may avoid close attachments completely to avoid being hurt and having to cope with the loss of affection again.

The closeness-distance dilemma

People by nature have a need for closeness. If it is not fulfilled, the psyche suppresses the pain about it as self-protection. This can lead to the point where the need for closeness is completely disconnected in order to retain the feeling of control.

The problem with this is that people with attachment anxiety want closeness, and some even marry. But they do not succeed in opening up to the other person. They can enjoy beautiful moments, but suffer at the same time because they don’t want to let the other person mean something to them.

Therefore, they keep the (potential) partner at a distance in order not to feel dependent or to have to fulfill expectations, which they believe commitment phobics can only disappoint and then abandon

Commitment anxiety in men

For men, relationship anxiety is often triggered by a fear of being constricted or abandoned in a partnership. They want to take responsibility only for themselves, not to disappear in the "partner we" and "not to miss anything". Or they would rather be moderately happy at a non-committal partnership level than risk being really hurt (again).

Accordingly, they resort to open relationship models and affairs. Many men with commitment anxiety are not aware of it, but believe that they have simply not yet found the woman of their dreams.

Commitment anxiety in women

Commitment anxiety is not a male domain. Experts assume that the desire for a perfect relationship is growing among women due to increasing self-determination. Expectations of closeness, intimacy, and interactions are increasing, and so is the suffering when those expectations are not met.

While many women who avoid close relationships claim to want to form a partnership, they subconsciously do everything they can to avoid forming a serious commitment. Be it by being extremely choosy in their choice of partner, insisting on separate apartments permanently, abruptly ending the relationship only to come back again, or choosing basically unattainable partners (married/forgiven, in another country, extremely busy at work, etc.), or by being in a relationship with a partner who is not available to them.), with whom a classical relationship is not possible at all.

What to do about commitment anxiety?

Overcoming commitment anxiety is possible. However, the affected person must first become aware of them and want to take responsibility for his or her behavior.

The next step is to search for the reasons for the fear of commitment. Therapy is a good way to do that and also to check right away if these fears are really a threat. Maybe it is not a disappointment for the partner if you don’t do everything together or if the dishes are left out for an extra day.

Overcoming attachment anxiety without going to therapy and seeking professional help is also possible, but much more difficult. Basically, however, it is always about building self-confidence and strengthening the self-esteem of the person concerned.

If a partner is present, it can be helpful to include them in the process.

Commitment anxiety – what the partner can do

Correct behavior in the case of commitment anxiety can look very different. The goal is to relieve the (potential) partner’s fears, for example, by letting him experience that the relationship will not work out the way he fears.

Having to deal with your partner’s commitment anxiety is exhausting, the chances of success are quite uncertain, and far too often the other person chafes in trying to "save" the one they love. Because fear of commitment cannot be explained away. Rather, positive experiences are necessary again and again, which help the relationship phobic to overcome his fears and to gain trust. For years.

Without expert support, one quickly gets into a vicious circle: the "saving partner" tries to get close to the "avoiding partner", who withdraws, the other moves up, the phobic person separates out of attachment anxiety, the partner wants to win him back and thus eventually gets into a dependency, which in the worst case can end in depression.


Once a love phobe has realized they have a problem and want to work on it, the chance of healing and having a normal relationship is good. But if he doesn’t admit to himself that he’s afraid of closeness, the partner has only two options: break up or understand that the relationship will only work if he lets go and accepts that a partner with commitment anxiety will always "love differently".

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