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The idea of dedicating yourself to one person and forsaking all other possibilities can seem daunting to some. "Are they the one?” “Will it last?” "What if I get bored?" All natural questions and fears -- unless they paralyze you and prevent you from ever making a commitment. In that case, you may have commitment issues.
Committing yourself to someone is a big step and comes with a number of unknowns. So, having issues with commitment isn’t unusual – it can feel scary for both men and women. At Guy Stuff we often counsel men on the struggles they have with commitment. Below you’ll see a question from just such a man.
What Issues With Commitment Can Look Like
Alex wrote to us looking for help with the commitment issues he’s having in his current relationship. He’s pretty typical of what commitment issues can look like. Take a look at his question and my advice following.
I'm looking for someone to talk about relationships and commitment issues. I'm having trouble taking my relationship with my girlfriend to the next step of marriage. I'm trying to figure out if she's just not the right woman, or if it's a commitment issue on my part. I told her I'd seek counseling rather than just give up on our relationship. Does this sound like something you could counsel or coach me on?" -Alex P.
The good news is that Alex decided to look for help rather than give up on his relationship. That puts him a step ahead of a lot men.
Yes, this is something I can counsel you on. A lot of us guys have had commitment issues at some time in our relationship lives, so you're far from alone. In fact, it's one of the top complaints women make about us.
It's great that you're asking yourself the question – ‘Is it me or is it her?’ And that you're willing to get help to find the answer. Too many of us men stick our heads in the sand and lose a valuable relationship, or get into a into a marriage we shouldn't be in, because we won't do what you're doing.
Your inability to commit could be happening for a number of reasons, and not all of them are bad.
- Many of us men struggle with committing for reasons of our own. We don't want to lose the option to be with someone else, we're scared by other married men's stories, we've experienced divorce in our families, or we aren't financially stable. These are just a few of the possible reasons.
- There could be legitimate problems in your relationship that are causing you to hesitate. Guys who feel they have to get permission from her to do things, feel attacked about everything they do, or feel every talk turns into a fight, typically have reservations and for good reason.
- She just may not be the right woman for you. This doesn't have to mean that there's anything wrong with either of you. It just may not be the right relationship for you. I've worked with a lot of guys who've sadly come to this realization after they've gotten married or had kids with her.
Counseling men who are stuck is a regular part of my work, so I'll be able to help you sort through these possibilities and discover the true reasons. If it's fixable, we'll work together on putting some solutions in place. If it's not without her help, then we can try couples counseling or we'll come up with a plan to end the relationship in the best way possible.
Do You Need Help Overcoming Commitment Issues?
Alex took the big and very appropriate step of seeking counseling. Not everyone is ready for that, however.
If you feel stuck and unable to commit, but aren’t sure you need professional help, here are a few suggestions to help you begin sorting things out.
- Think about your life 10 years from now. If you had to fast forward several years, what does that look like? Can you see your current partner in it, or do you each have different plans for where you will be? Commitment is about more than what you want now, it’s really about what you want for the future. If your ideas are too different or you can’t see this person as part of your life in the future, this is likely part of why you hesitate.
- Consider other aspects of your life. Commitment issues often affect more than just one area of life, so you might need to look more broadly at things. Do your commitment challenges pertain to just romantic relationships, or are there other areas affected too? If you have a hard time investing in long-term aspects of your future or committing to other endeavors, you may have commitment issues.
- What about your past? Problems committing may not be an organic part of who you are – they may be a product of other past experiences. Have you seen and experienced successful, long-term relationships, or have they been broken, unhealthy, unhappy, or abusive? Were you ever abandoned or broken-up with when your heart was fully invested and vulnerable? These types of experiences lead to being overly cautious regarding commitment.
The roots of commitment issues can run very deep, or they can be an internal sign that things aren’t right. The challenge is being able to accurately discern the difference. Considering the points above can begin to help you with that.
If, upon reflection, you realize that the issues are really yours to sort through, consider Alex and the steps he took. Sometimes the objectivity and expertise of a professional is what it takes to bridge the gap between wanting to commit and being able to so.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published December 31, 2009 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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