How to spot a commitment phobe (and what to do if you’re already in love with one)

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Ever been with someone who seemed totally in love with you and then did a runner at the last moment?

Chances are you’d hooked up with a commitment phobe: someone who has a fear of intimacy and commitment.

Commitment phobes find it difficult, if not impossible, to take relationships onto that ‘sign here’ stage.

Which is why no sane person wants to end up falling in love with one – and YOU need to know how to spot one.

It’s already too late? Skip to the final section for what to do next.


They’ve had a bad experience in the past.

Commitment phobics are terrified of being hurt – look at their past and you’ll usually find the reason why they’ve ended up that way.

They’ve been married or in a long-term relationship that ended badly. One parent died or their parents divorced and they saw the fall-out. Even worse, their parents are together but utterly miserable or venomous.

Inevitably, their experience of relationships isn’t ideal.

If all you’d seen was people hurting each other, you wouldn’t be too keen to put yourself in that situation either.

They’ve had lots of short-term relationships.

Running away around the three month or three year point is quite common (the time when most couples make small or big commitments).

Also look at who they’ve dated: are they ‘unavailable’ people (married people, workaholics, live in another country)? It’s easy to commit to someone who can’t commit to you.

They like to be in control.

If your partner hates being told what to do, watch out. Commitment phobes often become really defensive and argumentative if you take control of a situation because they like being the ones in control.

If they’re in control, they can control their emotions and they can’t get hurt.

They blow hot and cold

Commitment phobes are usually ultra charming to begin with, then, once they’ve won you over, fade away.

They love the chase but not the capture: the more serious it gets, the less interested they are.

You haven’t met each other’s close friends, family or co-workers

Commitment phobes compartmentalise their lives.

The more people you know that are close to them, the closer you will be to them – and that’s dangerous!

They’re irresponsible.

Commitment phobes have problems committing to anything, not just relationships.

They’re the people who are always late because they resent having to be somewhere at a certain time.

It’s the same with money. They don’t pay bills until they’re sent threatening letters.

If their life seems chaotic, this could be why.

They don’t like making any plans.

Whether it’s taking out a mortgage or contributing to the deposit for a group holiday with friends, they just can’t bring themselves to say, ‘I do.’

Like most things, there’s a sliding scale with commitment phobia.

Some people can’t commit to seeing you tomorrow, others are fine right up until the crucial last minute.

They don’t share intimate details about themselves.

Be on high alert if they cover up their feelings and don’t show affection.

If they tell you intimate things about themselves, they’ve given you the power to hurt them.

Commitment phobes don’t like showing vulnerability: the more you see under the surface, they more power you have over them.

Their needs come first

They’re so busy protecting themselves, they ignore your emotional needs.

They panic when you mention the ‘c’ word.


Spell it out nice and slow for them as you mention the other two no-nos – the ‘l’ word and the ‘m’ word (living together or marriage) – and watch their reaction.

Or simply say something like ‘My best friend’s getting married this weekend. Would you like to come to the wedding with me?’

The true commitment phobe will find this threatening on so many levels, they’ll instantly invent an excuse, change the topic or disappear.


Check you’re not pushing too soon

People who simply need time to make big decisions aren’t commitment phobes. They’re sensible.

Is your request for commitment timely? Check with a trusted friend.

Be realistic.

You can’t get someone to commit to you if they don’t want to.

If they don’t like being a commitment phobe and are willing to get help (either professional or with you gently guiding them), take a punt.

If you’re the only one that sees a problem, walk away.

Point out there is never going to be a 100 per cent guarantee.

We live in a very uncertain world, we’re never 100 per cent sure of anything 100 per cent of the time.

So if your partner’s waiting for some divine being to come down and say, ‘Look. Let me reassure you this person’s definitely the one for you and they won’t hurt you,’ point out it’s not going to happen.

None of us knows what the future holds; all you can do is make a sensible choice and put all you’ve got into making it work.

Let them know anyone who loves, makes themselves vulnerable. You’re both taking a chance.

Point out people they or you know who’ve split up and are now happy again: they will survive.

Don’t change to accommodate them

They either want you or they don’t.

Changing your commitment needs – like deciding you don’t need to move in/get married/have a boyfriend or girlfriend who actually turns up to family do’s – won’t make them stay and will make you unhappy.

Take it slow

A lot of commitment phobes get over their fears once they find someone who gives them time to get used to being part of a couple.

But think twice before you let yourself fall in love with a long-term sufferer.

If they’re over 40 and have never, ever settled down for more than a few months, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to overcome their disil­lusionment.

Personally, I’d cut my losses.

Visit for more of Tracey’s advice on sex, love and relationships and for her product range.

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