6 Keys to Overcoming Commitment Phobia
A guest post by Kevin Paterson
What are the symptoms of commitment phobia or a commitment issue?
First, you’ll see a lifestyle of lack of commitment, even in your small or micro-commitments to others. Perhaps it’s not committing to church community or serving wholeheartedly, or a tendency to arrive late to events or not follow through with appointments or agreements.
This phobia often comes in the form of preferring isolation, like living on your own rather than dealing with roommates. Or it may show itself as a tendency to spend many evenings or weekends alone rather than taking the risk and making the effort to pursue friendships.
You could be dealing with commitment phobia when you often let phone calls go to voicemail for no good reason or if you take a long time to reply to friends’ emails or texts or forget to do so altogether.
Commitment phobes often have few relationships with people who really know them, love them, and are close enough that they can have tough conversations with them. They don’t like to talk about relational or personal challenges and avoid them like the plague…which means that close relationships are impossible.
Commitment phobia can show itself in a cycle of getting into relationships, and then, when things start to get intimate or more committed and fears arise, you find yourself backing out…even if you were “all in” earlier on. Perhaps you consistently wait till the last minute to commit to events or gatherings, because you’re waiting to see whether something better will come along.
Freedom from Commitment Phobia
Recognizing one or more of these traits in your life could be a warning sign that you may have a case of “commitment jitters.” You will need to pay attention and prayerfully work to overcome your phobia if you desire to eventually marry. God prioritizes covenants (agreements between different parties who commit to laying down their lives for one another) as illustrated in the friendships of David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi.
Of course, in Scripture our covenant relationship with God is first, followed by the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, which is portrayed as the greatest of human covenants.
Now you may be wondering, “If I want to grow as a covenant person but have commitment-phobic tendencies, how can I deal with them?” Here are 6 keys:
Commit to making loving relationships and friendships (with God and others) the most important parts of your life. The seeds you sow now will give you an eventual harvest. If you commit to friendships and loving relationships, you will reap a harvest of friendships and loving relationships. That may mean rearranging your schedule to make connecting with friends a priority, regularly calling people “to catch up,” answering the phone more when it rings, committing to doing coffee or dinner with others more, organizing get-togethers with others, or sending notes and cards to affirm or appreciate others.
Really get to know other people, whether they seem to have anything to give you in return or not. All of us are called to sow seeds of care and love. We can do so by “treasure hunting,” or finding the amazing qualities in people, and by doing what we can to find out what other people’s dreams are and make them come true.
Pursue covenant friendships with the same sex (get some good buddies or girlfriends). Get people in your life who will pray for you and challenge you when you’re in a commitment-phobia freak-out. And then get friends to pray for you and help you embrace the occasional discomfort of selfless love, just as Jesus did.
Live in community, not by yourself. Don’t isolate. Learn to work out conflicts with roommates and others—talk through the tough stuff. If you can’t do that successfully before marriage, it will be that much harder to make it into and through marriage, which is the most challenging of relationships over the long haul.
Make decisions to commit every day. You prepare for the big commitment of marriage by making smaller commitments in your daily life. In church community, ministry, work, and friendships, follow through with what you say you’re going to do—be on time, committed, and consistent. In the case of events and activities, don’t wait to see whether something better will come along. We’re called to make decisions in faith, not in fear of missing out or making the wrong decision. So decide what you want or are being led to do, then like Jesus said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes.’” Yes does not mean maybe!
Pray and ask God to help you become a covenant friend and prepare you to be a future covenant marriage partner. Also, ask Him to show you where you are relationally strong, where your weaknesses are, and where you need to amp up your commitment quotient.
Remember, a marriage commitment doesn’t start at the altar; it starts in your everyday life as you prepare by becoming a loving, respectful, committed Christian. It starts by living your life by faith and by making wise decisions, confronting fears, and walking into relationships with other relatively healthy folks, within the boundaries of Scripture and good community.
I bless you today with the courage to pursue commitment and community God’s way!
To watch my full talk on commitment phobia, click here.
For more information on sex, marriage, and finding the person who is right for you, get a copy of Becoming the One by Salomé Roat. Click here to learn more.