If you've been seeing someone for a while and you've already exchanged "I love yous," it's normal to expect commitment and exclusivity. But that doesn't always happen. It's confusing to be in a situation where someone says they love you, but refuses to commit. While it's easy to assume that your partner is lying about how they feel, experts say that may not always be the case. There are many different reasons behind
why a partner won't commit.
"While many of us would agree [what the definition of commitment is], it may look very different for each individual,"
Deanna Fernandez, MHC, NYC-based psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle. "This is where our attachment styles, stories, values and beliefs, lifestyle and more come into play."
In other words, there are so many different reasons behind why your
partner won't commit. It's not as simple as saying they just want to keep their options open or they're not that into you. For instance, past experiences like a bad relationship or attachment issues can affect how someone views commitment.
"If you align with dismissive, fearful, and maybe even anxious attachment styles, you may find it challenging to commit to others," Fernandez says. So even if your partner really does love you, their negative feelings about commitment will make them try to avoid it at all costs. Although it feels personal to not have someone want to commit to you, in this case, it really has nothing to do with you. It's something they need to work out on their own.
Here are some things it can mean if your partner doesn't want to commit, according to experts.
1 They Are Not Where They Want To Be In Life
"Commitment is a huge responsibility," Dr. Connie Omari, PhD, clinician who specializes in relationships and owner of
Tech Talk Therapy, tells Bustle. "With that comes aspects such as joint finances, taking care of a household, and building a future together." Your partner may see a future with you. They may envision you getting married and starting a family together. But if they really don't feel like they're ready for that, especially financially, it can stop them from wanting to commit too soon. If this is the case, a little bit of patience can pay off. If you know your partner is struggling financially, just be supportive. Pushing for commitment when they're not in a good place in their life will just add to their stress. 2 They Don't Believe Their Parents Would Approve Of You
For some people, parental approval is very important. According to Omari, your partner might fall in love with you, but then fear that their parents may not approve of you or accept you. "A lack of parental approval could be because of many things, including being from different cultures, religions, different social classes, and/or simply having very strict parents who are difficult to please," she says. "Either way, your partner may be struggling with commitment to you if they feel you may not fit in with their family dynamics." This is a tough situation to be in because you can't really force someone to see things differently. The last thing you should ever do in this case is go behind your partner's back and try to befriend their family. So if your partner really doesn't feel like you're going to fit in, you just have to respect that and decide if this is really the relationship for you.
3 They Still Want To See What's Out There
As confusing as it can be, someone can love you but still want to see what's out there. "The reality of committing to one person could be overwhelming," Omari says. "If that's the case, your partner may refuse to commit, for fear of breaking the commitment that they have with you." It's a little selfish thinking on their part and some do this as a way to protect themselves from getting into trouble. But at least they're being honest. If you say you're OK with it, you'll know what to expect from them.
4 They Don't Really See You As Someone They Could Spend Forever With
If you've been with someone for such a long time that you've been on vacations together and you've pretty much moved in with them, sometimes it really comes down to them not seeing a future with you. "You may be with someone who sees you as someone they can date, but not necessarily someone they can marry," Lisa Concepcion, certified love life strategist and founder of
LoveQuest Coaching, tells Bustle. "It's maddening and frustrating." Sometimes people realize this when it's a little too late. So the important thing here is to always check in with your partner to see how they really feel about your relationship. Also, give yourself a timeline. If they haven't changed their mind about wanting commitment with you, you may have to reevaluate the situation. 5 Their Lifestyle Makes It Hard For Them To Commit
"As a therapist I’m always intrigued when someone refers to their lifestyle as a reason to not commit, usually because there’s something more meaningful behind this 'story,'" Fernandez says. When you're with someone who's always busy or travels a lot for work, your relationship is going to be put on the back-burner a lot. You may be with someone who not only has no time for themselves but no time for other people. Relationships require an equal amount of energy from both people to make it work. If they really have no time, being committed to you isn't going to change that fact. According to Fernandez, they're the only ones blocking themselves from forming emotional connections with others.
6 They're Insecure
"Our 'stories' are thoughts that we create typically based on real life events and experiences," Fernandez says. "They are essentially a filter that we process experiences through in order to make 'sense' of things." These are things you tend to believe about yourself and other people, even if it's not really true. So if you're with someone whose "story" includes thoughts like "I'm not loveable," "I'm unworthy of meaningful connections," or "I'm just going to end up hurt again," you're unlikely going to get a commitment out of them unless they really work on themselves. According to Fernandez, even thinking about taking things to the next level may bring up past hurtful experiences. When this happen, they're likely to pull away.
7 Commitment Really Isn't For Them
"The statistics don't lie," Concepcion says. "More and more people are opting out of marriage in favor of 'commitment' ceremonies for a reason." If your partner really doesn't feel like commitment is for them, they're unlikely to change their mind. In this case, it really is a compatbility issue. Your values may not align. So if you're not OK with it, you may have to find someone who wants the same type of relationship that you do.
As you can see, there are many different reasons why someone won't commit. Sometimes it just requires a little time and patience, and sometimes it's a case of being with someone who doesn't want it at all. It's up to you to decide what you want and if your relationship really lines up with that.