Fear Of Commitment? Here's Why Monogamy Freaks You the Hell Out

Commit to ending your fear of commitment with this expert-approved advice.
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Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
The Knot Contributor
  • Hayley writes articles on a freelance basis for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in sex and relationships.
  • Her work has appeared in The Knot, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and more.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hayley was a full-time editor at a business publication.
Updated Oct 25, 2023

When you think about the idea of spending your life with one person forever, does your heart begin to race just a little bit—and NOT in a good way? While this might sound dramatic for those have never been hesitant to tie the knot, it's a tell-tale sign of the fear of commitment, and it's very real. It even has an official name: gamophobia. Who knew?

If you or your partner struggle with a fear of commitment, it can be a true challenge. Fortunately, you don't have to get over the hurdle of marriage anxiety alone. We've teamed up with relationship expert and clinical director of First Light Recovery, Jennifer Worley, for the best advice on the phobia of commitment below.

In this article:

    What Exactly Is A Fear Of Commitment?

    Believe it or not, a lot of people struggle with the fear of monogamy, also known as gamophobia. But what is gamophobia, exactly? It's the fear of long-term commitment (or, if applicable, marriage anxiety), and it can be the thing what stops you from truly enjoying a meaningful and connected relationship.

    According to Worley, a fear of commitment—sometimes also referred to as commitment phobia—can be about relationships, but it can also filter into a person's career and even decision-making. The anxiety from fear of commitment often stems from a worry of losing one's independence, a fear of making the wrong choice or even the possibility of getting hurt in the end.

    What Causes Commitment Issues?

    You might be asking yourself: Why am I afraid of commitment? Why is my partner nervous about monogamy? There are a lot of reasons for being afraid of commitment.

    For some people, past traumas like a tumultuous parental relationship or a painful breakup can be a factor, causing an embedded fear of being hurt or betrayed. There are also cultural or societal pressures can also play a role, too.

    "We live in an age of endless choices, which can make settling down seem daunting," explains Worley. "Moreover, some individuals might have an intrinsic personality trait or an attachment style, like avoidant attachment, that makes them wary of close, enduring bonds."

    Signs Of Commitment Issues

    So you think you (or your partner) may have a fear of monogamy or commitment, huh? These are some of the key signs of commitment issues, below.

    1. Avoiding discussing or making future plans

    Maybe you or your partner avoid discussing the future—like inviting each other to weddings, talking about being together a year from now or what you'd like to do in the next five years. This can be a tell-tale sign of gamophobia.

    2. Being hesitant to label or define a relationship

    Maybe you or your partner feel very hesitant about using the terms boyfriend or girlfriend. Or you've been dating for awhile, but it feels like more like a situationship than a relationship. If you're further down the line, this could also be characterized by a hesitancy to move from a partnership to marriage.

    3. Having a history of short-term relationships

    If you or your partner have never had a relationship longer than a few months, it might be a sign of a fear of monogamy. Ask yourself why it is that your relationships end so quickly and if you ultimately want them to last.

    4. Expressing discomfort or anxiety when things get too serious

    Say your partner feels uncomfortable or anxious when you ask them to meet your family or close friends. This can definitely be a sign that they are afraid to take next steps in your relationship.

    5. Seeking out reasons to end relationships

    Do you always find reasons to end relationships? Everyone has flaws, but if you find yourself picking out a partner's every flaw, this could be a sign of a fear of commitment and self-sabotage.

    What To Do If You Feel Your Partner Has A Fear Of Commitment?

    Do you think your partner has a fear of commitment? There are things you can do to help ease their mind. First and foremost, know that If you suspect your partner has a fear of commitment, communication is key.

    Instead of getting frustrated with your partner's fear, Worley recommends following a gentle, safe and understanding approach:

    • Initiate a gentle conversation, ensuring they feel safe and not attacked.
    • Understand that their fears might not be a direct reflection of their feelings towards you, but rather personal issues.
    • Encourage them to express themselves.
    • Consider seeking couples therapy or counseling if needed.

    How To Get Over Your Own Fear Of Commitment

    It's easy to say have no fear. But if you're the one with commitment issues, rest assured that there are tactical ways you can combat your fear and nurture the kind of relationship you truly desire.

    First, self-awareness is paramount. Reflect on past experiences, traumas or

    beliefs that may have shaped this fear. "Sometimes, merely understanding the

    root of your fear can diminish its power," Worley says. "Therapy can be immensely

    beneficial in providing tools and coping strategies."

    Most importantly, though, Worley says to remember that commitment doesn't equate to a loss of freedom or identity; rather, it's about choosing to share your journey with someone while still retaining your unique self.

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