Q&A with Geoff: Why do some people have commitment issues?Oct 12, 2022
Why do people (men and women both) in relationships typically want what they don’t have, and when they have it, they do not want it anymore?
Is it the hunt? Is it the thrill of the kill? Is it the chase? Or is that just a person who does not know what they really want?
I know that some people have commitment issues and are runners when they get into a relationship, but people fight so hard for something and then at the turn of a switch are willing to throw it all away. This makes no sense to me.
You’re right that it doesn’t make much sense when this happens. It’s terribly painful to be in a relationship you think is going somewhere and then someone disappears on you. While there are probably as many reasons as there are people, I’ve seen a few patterns over the years that might explain why people sabotage what they say they want.
And please recognize that even though there might be explanations, it still doesn’t make it any easier to suddenly lose a relationship.
One pattern I’ve observed over my career involves distorted expectations about how relationships work. We don’t have many healthy examples of long-term stable relationships in our media-saturated culture. Most of the relationship stories told in movies, songs and books focus on starting the relationship but fail to model how to keep a relationship going.
In other words, they show the easy part that doesn’t require much from us.
New relationships are full of excitement, novelty and infatuation. These qualities run on autopilot without much input from us. In fact, it mostly requires us to temper our reactions. There’s nothing wrong with infatuation in the early stages of courtship.
It’s essential for the formation of an attachment bond, but it eventually serves its purpose and gives way to more stable forms of love and commitment. Infatuation is a terrible substitute for the long-term qualities of commitment, sacrifice, compassion and understanding.
For some people, once the newness of the relationship wears off, it’s tempting to seek out a new relationship thinking that something must be wrong if it doesn’t feel amazing all the time. Remember that intensity is not the same as intimacy. I realize that stories about long-term commitment and sacrifice don’t make very good Hollywood blockbusters.
However, I think that only showing panicked lovers chasing departing taxis in the rain doesn’t give us a good sense of what real love and commitment look like.
Some people also have commitment issues because of previous relationship losses, such as betrayal, abuse and other traumas. These are serious and real issues that keep injured people cautious about forming and maintaining new bonds.
If you or someone you love has been deeply injured in a previous relationship, seek the help you need to heal those wounds, so you don’t drag those fears into the next relationship. I once heard someone say that we can’t start a new relationship until we finish the old ones.
Many of us have been hurt in family and romantic relationships, yet we’re hard-wired for connection. If you’re dating someone and they suddenly disappear on you without explanation, see if you can re-engage them to understand what happened. If they avoid the discussion and won’t work toward resolving their hesitations, it’s probably best to let them go.
Commitment is a two-way street and can’t work if one person is doing all the reaching. Healthy relationships are comprised of two people who are actively working to care for the comfort and well-being of the other person.
I hear your frustration and worry about people who can’t commit. Instead of trying to answer that question in the abstract, I encourage you to make sure you don’t have these commitment issues in your own life. Be the person who can commit and build connections. Then, take that committed heart and see if you can build a relationship with someone else.
You care about commitment, and I invite you to act on it. Someone out there needs your committed heart, for sure.
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