7 Signs That It’s You Who Is Actually The Commitment-Phobe

You know, I always find it quite fascinating that whenever the topic of cheating comes up, it’s assumed that damn near everyone in the world does it and that women barely do it when the reality is that, reportedly, only 20 percent of men cheat and 13 percent of women do (both ways, that is a minority, for sure). And then, when the topic of marriage is on the table, while there is constant dialogue about men being afraid to say “I do,” somehow what doesn’t come up nearly as much is the fact that it’s 70 percent of women who initiate divorce.

Know what this means to me? When it comes to the topic of relationships, we have to be careful about making gross generalizations. And, when it comes to long-term dynamics, a commitment-phobe can be a man or a woman. Most definitely so.

Back in the day, I wrote, “5 Reasons Why You KEEP Attracting Commitment-Phobes” for the platform, in hopes that as many women as possible could avoid investing their heart, time, energy, and body parts to men who run from commitments like they are the plague. However, if you read enough of my content, you know that when it comes to having healthy, happy, and thriving relationships, I believe that everyone can get it as far as personal accountability goes.

So today, let’s look at commitment issues from a different angle. Below, I’m going to share seven signs that you — or one of your girlfriends — could be a commitment-phobe whether you’re in denial or you’re seeking confirmation. I won’t lie; there might be a few “ouch” moments along the way, yet if it can help you to break the habit and get closer to your future man, I think it’ll ultimately be worth it.

1. Your Expectations Are Unrealistic As All Get Out


Two people that set themselves up to be consistently disappointed are the ones who think you should never expect anything out of life and the ones who have expectations that are so unrealistic they are damn near unattainable. The first folks? They are typically coming from a place of protecting themselves from pain. That’s why they say that they subscribe to life mottos like, “If you never expect anything, you won’t ever be disappointed.” Lord. How dark is that? Expecting something is literally having something to look forward to, and if your life doesn’t consist of any of that, you’re going to find yourself leaning on the side of cynicism at best, and negativity at worst — and that is no way to live a satisfying life.

The second? Low-key, these types of individuals oftentimes fall into the commitment-phobe category because…just think about it: If your expectations are super unrealistic, you can always say that it’s not that you didn’t want a relationship, you simply did not find someone who checked off everything on that 10-page list of yours. SMDH. Yeah, commitment-phobes are good for meeting a really great guy and then ending the relationship after they find out that he makes $60K while they make $40K or not giving a guy a chance because he’s 5’10” when they are 5’5” (only 15 percent of men are 6’ or over, by the way).

It’s not really about having high standards; it’s about building up walls and calling them standards so that no one will catch on to what’s really going on with them.

2. You’re Constantly Moving the Bar


The ever-moving goalpost; this is how a true commitment-phobe gets down. First, you want someone who is really nice — oh, but not too nice. Then you want someone who is romantic — oh, but not someone who comes off as clingy or needy because that seems “sassy” (I really need some of y’all to look that word up; I promise it doesn’t mean what social media implies that it does). First, your love language is quality time — yet he’s on the quiet side and so now it’s words of affirmation. No wonder guys find themselves frustrated; like Issa once told Molly on Insecure (the episode when Lawrence found out that Issa cheated on him with Daniel…that really was a great show), “You’re impossible to please” — and so, guys tap out…because they don’t know what else to do.

Commitment-phobes tend to be this way because a commitment requires them to stand firm on some things, and since the thought of that makes them uncomfortable, they’re constantly shifting their definition of what makes them happy and what will cause them to actually settle down with someone.

I like soccer. Whenever I watch it, I enjoy the focus and flexibility of the person trying to get the ball into the goal. They have to learn how to make that happen — and that requires real time, effort, and skill. At the same time, it’s ridiculous to blame them if the goal is always moving around; that would be the goal’s issue, not theirs. I hope you got where I was going with that little analogy.

3. Your Last Long-Term Relationship Was…Hell, When Was It?


When it comes to this particular point, I’m not speaking of those who have intentionally taken themselves out of the dating game. I’m talking about people who are out here actively dating (or actively doing…something…LOL), and it hasn’t led to anything even remotely serious or long-term. If this is the box that you can check when it comes to this article, why is that the case? Are you someone who doesn’t really like dates to go beyond the initial 1-3? Do you only see dating as a recreational activity? Does the thought of letting someone actually get to know more than the “top layers” of you make you feel emotionally claustrophobic?

Maybe it’s something deeper like your last real relationship was an absolute trainwreck, and the thought of getting into another frightens you, makes you want to throw up, or both. Maybe, like one of my clients once told me, you never saw a long-term commitment modeled to you while growing up, so the concept is completely foreign in your mind. Perhaps you’ve had so many bitter people in your life that you automatically equate a relationship with a headache.

Whatever the reason may be, if you’re in your 30s or older and it’s been years since you’ve had something solid, more times than not, that’s another sign of being a commitment-phobe. What I will say is, when it comes to this one, it’s a good idea to do some real pondering because your reason determines what approach you should take to change it (if you want to change it). Some folks need to date with more intention. Others need to go to therapy and do some healing. A ton of folks should take social media breaks and get some mentors who are happily married/committed.

Anyway, there’s no way that I could write an article like this and not bring up this point. If it struck a nerve, ask yourself…why that is the case.

4. Intimacy Is Only Surface Layer with/for You


Where in the world does time go? I can’t believe that it was almost four years ago when I penned, “Umm, What's Up With These People Who Hate Kissing?” for the platform. When I was discussing this very topic with a woman I know who can relate to the people who are featured in it, she was quick to admit that although she likes having as much sex as possible, she tries to avoid kissing at all costs because it’s “too intimate.” Lawd, this reminds me of yet another Insecure episode when Tiffany basically said to Issa (as all of the ladies were discussing giving head) that she found it wild that while Issa thought that putting a penis in her mouth was too intimate, putting a penis in her vagina…wasn’t (chile).

Expanding on Tiff’s point, a lot of commitment-phobes are just like this; only, they feel this way about their heart (and to a certain extent, their time)…not so much their mouth.

They don’t want to cuddle — it’s too intimate. They don’t want to spend the night — it’s too intimate. The minute that their sex partner wants to forego sex and talk, they feel insulted, rejected, wonder about his sexuality, and then use one of these as a reason to end the sexuationship. Or — and please really peep this one — they only really enjoy sex if they are tipsy or high. That’s because being not-fully-sober is also a type of wall; being sober means being totally present, and for a lot of commitment-phobes, that’s the last thing that they want to be.

Or it comes another way. Sex or not, there are certain topics that are totally off limits: childhood, past relationships, vulnerabilities, and fears. To them, they think that you are trying to get too close, and so they will either gaslight you into feeling like you are being nosy or invasive when the reality is they don’t like any genuine emotional familiarity; so, you can either chill and keep it fun and games or move on to someone else.

5. You Avoid Making Plans at All Costs


Although I mostly work with married couples, there are quite a few singles who also cross my path. And you know what? You’d be amazed how many of them are women who don’t like to be “locked in” to long-term plans. What I mean by that is, they will start dating a guy, and a good couple of months of steady communication and interaction in, he will ask if they want to take a trip over the summer or make plans for a particular holiday, and they will immediately take the “we’ll see” approach.

When I ask them if they see any red flags with ole’ boy, the answer is “no.” Then they come with some, “I just don’t want to feel pressured when I don’t know what the future will bring.” Girl, it’s not a marriage proposal; it’s a weekend at a resort, or he wants to not be overbilled for reservations on Valentine’s Day so…what’s really going on?

I’ll tell you: Commitment-phobes hate things like plans and schedules because that means they have to be held accountable and keep their word — and that’s two things that they are not very good at; no, not at all. The thing that’s wild about this particular point is, that if you asked their friends and family about it, they would tell you that they can totally relate to your frustration because they are just as unpredictable and fickle with them.

Yeah, that’s another interesting thing about commitment-phobes: sometimes the waters run deep; other times, they are just reckless with other people’s time because they haven’t had any real consequences for their negligence…yet. As they get older, that tends to change, though. Wisdom teaches their circle that wasting time on commitment-phobes is pretty damn foolish.

6. You Make Excuses for Pretty Much Everything


George Washington Carver once said, “Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” The interesting thing about excuses is why we all have a general concept of what the word means, peep an actual definition: “a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense”. Okay, so you know what this means, right? More times than not, if you’re trying to come up with an excuse about something, chances are, you did something wrong. And commitment-phobes? They are fluent in excuses-speak.

Excuses for why they disappointed you. Excuses for why they hurt your feelings. Excuses for why they "can’t" be (which really ends up being "won’t" in many instances) what you need in a relationship. Excuses for not returning calls, responding to texts, or breaking dates at the last minute. Excuses for why they just keep on making more excuses. As a direct result, as Mr. Washington so eloquently stated, it leads to failure — including in relationships. Because so long as all you do is make excuses, you don’t really focus on changing your behavior.

And when it comes to relationships, that just keeps you in the pattern of interactions with people who don’t ever really get around to going the distance.

7. Self-Sabotage Is Basically Your Middle Name


Listen, I’m not saying that once you meet someone you really like, it can be a bit “scary” because…what if you go all in and it doesn’t work out? I get it. At the same time, though, it’s one thing to think that way — it’s another thing to become obsessed with that type of mindset to the point where you ruin everything all by yourself. That, my dear, is a form of self-sabotage, and it runs rampant when it comes to commitment-phobes.

So how can you know if self-sabotage is something you do indeed struggle with?

  • You’re a poor communicator
  • You make mountains out of molehills
  • You’re dismissive of your partner’s needs
  • You are emotionally erratic
  • You’re entitled and/or ungrateful
  • You nitpick at every little thing
  • You gaslight — a lot
  • You’re a serial dater
  • You hate the idea of being sexually exclusive
  • You keep finding a billion reasons to not settle down

Oh, there are more yet, as I wind this down, I think these 10 signs are enough to give you the overall gist. Bottom line with all of this is, a commitment is about devoting yourself to someone in both word and deed. And the actions above? They hinder that from being a true possibility, especially long-term.


Was this the most comfortable article? Of course not. It wasn’t meant to be. What I can assure you is if you commit to taking it seriously, you can break free from being a commitment-phobe and learn to embrace what it looks and feels like to be truly and fully committed to someone…as they do the same thing to/for/with you. Amen? Selah.

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This article is in partnership with SheaMoisture

Skylar Marshai is known for her extravagant style, and her hair is no exception. But now, she’s giving her hair a break and focusing on hair care with SheaMoisture’s Bond Repair Collection. “I feel like my hair has always been an extension of my storytelling because I know it's so innately linked to my self-expression that I've been thinking a lot about how my love for crafting my hair into these different forms and shapes has honestly never given it a chance to just be,” Skylar explains.


Listen, don’t even get me started on all of the sheer creative geniuses that the Gemini season produces (you can check out a mere handful of them via an ESSENCE article from a few years backhere); however, when it comes to my DNA and some members of my tribe, we’re Gemini deep too. My paternal grandparents are both Geminis. My mother, her late brother, and my own brother are Geminis. My mother’s husband is a Gemini. Both of my goddaughters are Geminis. Two of my closest male friends are Geminis. And yes, I am a very proud Gemini as well.