Men do not have an excellent reputation when it comes to commitment. Like, let’s be real. Men and commitment go together about just as well as Spanx and me (read: not very well at all).
Women are often perceived as being desperate to bag a man and make him commit to them. That’s why every single time you’ve asked a guy, “What’s going on with us?” after three months of dating, he ends up looking at you like you’re just minutes away from chasing after him with a rolling pin.
While neither of these perceptions is universally true, they are a cliché: how often have you heard a heartbroken friend reveal that her relationship ended because her man was afraid of commitment? How many times have you overheard a man call a woman “crazy” for wanting him to agree to settle down with her?
I have definitely dated men who are afraid of commitment before. I’ve definitely also been the girlfriend who is like, “OMG, JUST SAY I AM YOUR GIRLFRIEND, WEIRDO.”
Then again, the shoe has also been on the other foot. I’ve dated men who leaped to committing to me like a house on fire, which left me either delighted or slightly panicked. Both are totally reasonable reactions, guys. Relationships can be hard, and the easy path isn’t always clear.
Whether or not a man is ready to commit isn’t something that we can just vastly generalize, it varies from man to man. When one guy on a first date used the word “soulmate” with me, I seriously considered pepper spraying him and fleeing from him into the night, margarita still in hand. However, when my boyfriend Rob told me he was falling for me on our second date, it just felt right.
With that in mind, I polled a group of anonymous men to find out why men are afraid of commitment, what they think about the hype, and how they relate to the cliché and the reality of commitment. It was a fun time.
I learned four really important things in the process about why commitment seems to chase men away:
1. It’s not the commitment; it’s the girl.
This is one of the most common answers I got when I talked to men about why they feared commitment.
Almost without exception, every man I polled gave me a few reasons a man might not want to “take the plunge” in a relationship.
He would then follow up those fears by explaining that very often, what a woman perceives as the man being able to make a romantic commitment is actually the fact that he is unable to commit to her.
But you feel like he just won’t ever commit to you, it is a tough thing, but you do need to ask yourself: is it commitment he fears, or does he know he doesn’t want that kind of commitment with you?
2. Blame the baggage.
Many men I polled are divorced. Many men I polled have been in a string of long-term monogamous relationships.
All of them had prior experience with a romantic partner that went south. Some men were survivors of domestic violence.
So, suppose a man has experienced a long, drawn-out divorce that’s left him spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. In that case, that’s the kind of baggage that might make commitment something he is wary of pursuing, even if he cares about you.
The same can be said for the men whose romantic relationships left them feeling jaded about romantic love.
We all have our baggage; this is theirs.
3. Can you say “trust issues”?
Trust was a word a lot of men used when I asked them about fear of commitment.
Every man polled seemed to understand that a commitment is founded on trust — that’s a pretty awesome start! Glad we’re all on the same page.
However, men who suspect that their girlfriend is cheating, or men who have been cheated on before, can find it harder to trust their partners, which makes them unable to make that big leap to a more serious commitment, like marriage.
You don’t have to be a cheater or a suspected cheater for a man not to trust you.
His own baggage and/or any lie you’ve told him (no matter how big or how small) could affect how much he is able to trust you, and how quickly.
4. He’s just not ready to make a commitment.
Some of the men I polled were quick to tell me that a “woman would have to be pretty special to get me as her man when I’m in my sexual prime.”
That’s bro for you: he isn’t afraid of commitment; he just isn’t ready for it.
Be it immaturity or his own plans for a romantic future; commitment isn’t for everyone.
Commitment just isn’t for them.
Want to know more about why men are afraid of commitment? Read all of the responses I gathered below:
- “Anytime I’ve feared ‘commitment,’ it’s been because I did not trust the person I was going to commit to.”
- “I usually feel like they want to much too soon. I’ve dated a lot of girls who just won’t give things time to develop. To me, that’s a red flag and will make me close off a little more and make it harder for the lady to get my trust.”
- “Even when you do start a long-term relationship, there can be a lot of uncertainly about whether this is going to work out, which messes with your head. For some, it leads to them having problems having a serious relationship because they are afraid it will go south at some point and what the consequences of that will be.”
- “Opening up to someone can be a tough and scary thing for people. It takes putting a lot of trust and faith into another person to truly open your entire world and soul to them. So it can be difficult to really have a secure relationship out of fear of rejection.”
- “It’s not a commitment we fear. It’s the commitment to you.”
- “I don’t fear marriage. I fear divorce court. It makes the cost of breaking up too high.”
- “I’m only 21, and I’m already wary of who I’d date because of how much I have to lose. For example, in Australia, if you live together and buy white goods (washing machine, fridge etc.), you’re classified as a de facto relationship. She can claim dependency if she can prove she has lived with you for six months in a relationship like that.”
- “I fear both divorce and if I happen to have children with said woman. It can turn very, very badly if it’s a bad breakup/divorce.”
- “I fear making the wrong commitment, not making a commitment.”
- “A girl broke me because I invested too much in her, and I never want that to happen again. I let my guard down and suffered.”
- “At least for me, it’s been a lack of faith in the other person. I can easily commit to someone I want to, but not if I don’t feel like it’s the right person.”
- “You’re presuming a long-term relationship is the end goal of life and a good thing. I’ve seen it work out, but I’ve also seen very good men broken and shrivel into withered husks of their former selves.”
- “Just look at the relationships around you and see the number of times a person who has always seemed completely trustworthy cheats or does something horrendous without any warning, usually breaking hearts. It’s hard to believe in such a thing as a completely secure relationship when you see/experience that kind of thing. Have you ever been blindsided by something horribly cruel by someone you trusted absolutely? It jades people.”
- “I will get so involved with that person (prioritizing them mentally) that when/if they eventually say or do something that damages my ego or makes me sad, it will dull my sense and destroy the way I work toward my ambitions. While the goal of stability is great, suitability, in my view, requires maintenance. And the constant maintenance and fear of the relationship breaking is what scares me the most.”
- “As a good-looking guy, I know there are options out there, and I like to keep them semi-open in case things go sour with a current S.O. If I get too committed to someone, then I can’t keep options open. Because I’m not going to be flirty with girls if there is someone who would not want me doing that.”
- “I think fear of commitment is really fear of what you might be passing up on. Imagine if you were buying a car, but you knew you might have to drive that car forever or, if you got rid of the car, it would be a terrible ordeal with lots of battered emotions that could take years to get over. Making that choice to pick just one would be excruciating. Some amazing car might come out next month, or the car you want now might have a major defect you don’t know about yet. You might decide you don’t like the color, but once you’ve taken it home, you can’t change those things. You’re locked in, maybe forever. That’s terrifying even if you KNOW there’s no better car (or person) in the world than the one standing in front of you right now.”
- “It’s either the idea of having the variety or that we don’t know about committing to you in particular. Settling down with one woman in your sexual prime takes something pretty special.”
- “Probably been burned so many times by the person they thought was “the one” and eventually lost confidence in their ability to judge character. Also, peoples’ tastes change all the time… it can be really scary to make a life-long commitment to someone only to realize two years too late that you made the wrong choice and now you have to live with it because society will look down on you if you make the hard although honest decision to divorce. That being said, the glorious feeling of a good relationship is worth the initial fright. Some people just have a hard time taking that first step.”
- “Every case of “fear of commitment” that I’ve seen is actually a guy not wanting to commit to a particular girl.”