Do you know a couple who has been together for a long time but still aren’t married? Maybe you know somebody who’s longest relationship ever was three months. How about “friends with benefits?” Have you ever been on a first date and heard “I’m not looking for anything serious right now, but…”? It’s possible that these people have fear of commitment, otherwise known as FOC. Why are so many people FOC’ed? Well… there are several reasons. Today I will discuss one common reason for FOC: knowing they lack the skillset for a committed relationship.
The Formative Years
About 50% of people in the US didn’t grow up with two parents in the home (see Children of Divorce). And it’s hard to say what percent of those in two-parent households had parents that were healthy and emotionally available. So many people didn’t have good examples of what healthy love or commitment looks like. And now that porn sites are getting more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined (see HuffPost), we can be sure that people have plenty of bad examples.
Furthermore, many kids were abused, neglected, manipulated, enmeshed, abandoned and taught all types of dysfunctional behavior during their formative years. The moment you’re born (arguably in the womb, even) you begin absorbing everything around you with all of your senses. Children are extremely impressionable and they learn primarily by imitation. So, whatever you are born into is automatically your norm. And since schools don’t explicitly teach relationship skills, this will necessarily dictate how you show up as a partner.
What Usually Happens
Most human beings enter the dating world without the knowledge and skills required to sustain long-term, healthy, satisfying relationships. With any luck, each failed relationship teaches them something new, but this is hardly enough to achieve mastery of love. “Just keep failing until I get it right” really isn’t a strategy for success.
As adults, we can seek out good role models, mentors, therapists, personal coaches, books and other ways to educate ourselves. We can slowly unlearn the unhealthy beliefs, coping strategies, defense mechanisms and character flaws that were instilled in us. We are able to acquire the skillset necessary for a true commitment to ourselves and our partner. However, unfortunately, many do not. The result is that lots of people never learn the skills needed for a healthy, committed partnership.
How This Becomes Fear of Commitment
Humans seek love and connection. It’s what we do (see psychology, sociology, anthropology and all of recorded human history). We are naturally drawn into relationships. However, those who don’t know how to sustain relationships usually find a workaround that involves blaming others or never committing. (Also see Why People Aim Low). These people get into a relationship and already suspect they’re gonna ruin it sooner or later. They just don’t know when. Staying out of commitment is their idea of protecting you (or themselves) from their unavoidable blunder.
I imagine some people are aware of their ineptitude, but I’d wager that it is subconscious for most folks. They can’t commit because it literally feels morally wrong to them and they don’t know why. In their hearts they know that committing to you means inevitably hurting you, and they really do care about you. They’re not bad people or sociopaths. They don’t want to hurt you. But they don’t see that not committing to you is hurtful as well. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, passing on the hurt that was given to them. If only there was another way. #FixYourPicker