Warning Signs Your Date Might Be a Commitment Phobe

The truth will out, as it always does.

Eventually you will know that your partner is commitment phobic. Perhaps you’ll be like Sally, only to discover after umpteen years of false promises that your man won’t be walking you down the aisle. Or, like Wendy, you may learn that the reason your partner won’t marry you, after years of dating, is the very (unchangeable) reason you both knew to be problematic when you met–you’re too old, from the wrong ethnic group, belong to the wrong religion, have kids, are named Marian and if he hears bars from that “Madame Librarian” song from “The Music Man” hummed at him one more time he’ll have to check himself into the nearest institution. [It’s my belief that Broadway musicals can do that to people.]

But isn’t there a way to spare people years from their lives and scars on their hearts? What if we had ‘Commitment-Phobe Radar’ that could spot these people–and keep them far away?

 Well, we don’t have anything as good as what they had, in, say, “Star Wars,” so the best we can do to help ‘the force be with you’ is to go through some early warning signs that indicate you’re involved with a commitment phobic–and should call it quits while the quitting is good.

Warning Signs That Your Date Might Be A Commitment Phobe*

*Note: There are many people who will exhibit a certain sign who are not commitment phobes. This just indicates tendencies and averages. ALSO, I use the masculine-gendered pronoun merely to simplify the writing [thus sparing you the “s/he” format]. There are many, many female commitment phobes.
  • He is significantly past the normative marrying age (and you can even stretch a decade or so here), and has never been married. He says he has never met “the right one.” A lot of people use 35 as a rule of thumb here. I’m willing to be flexible, but it’s a reasonable number. I mean, if you think about it, Larry King, that paragon of relationship-normalcy, had already married four times by the age of 36 [although I believe there was a repeat in there, so if you want to discount one, that’s okay].

According to “Who Marries and When? Age at First Marriage in the United States: 2002“, the probability of first marriage by age 30 is 74% for women and 61% for men, and the probability of first marriage by age 40 is 86% for women and 81% for men. That leaves our friendly phobes aged 41+ in a very small statistical slice.

And just to finish up with this fascinating statistical analysis: Dr Charles Waehler, author of Bachelors: the Psychology of Men Who Haven’t Married, found in his research that the chances of a never-married 35-year-old man marrying are 50/50. When he moves past 40, those stats drop to 1 in 5.

Just take it for what it’s worth–but be wary.

  • He has been divorced twice or more. Marriage alone does not indicate he can commit. Like Chicagoans who vote ‘early and often,’ he may view marriage as a place to rest–early and often–in a relationship, perhaps while he’s gearing up for the next one.


And marriage isn’t an a process where you get better through practice, like, say, the piano–if anyone really does practice that.  According to “Marriage and Divorce Statistics,” the divorce rate gets higher for each additional marriage. Don’t convince yourself that third time’s a charm. A staggering 73% of those on their third marriages get divorced again.

  • He has a long history of short-term relationships. If he did have a long-term relationship, it was marred by infidelity, often right as the partners were becoming closer.
  • He sets artificial limits on the amount of time he can spend with you as the relationship goes on. A date every Saturday night sounds just fine to him, while couples who met each other at the same time are moving in together.
  • As a corollary, if you ask what he does during the week and 1 weekend day which he’s declared off-limits, he is evasive about where he was and with whom he’s been. It suddenly starts to feel like he works for the CIA, and could tell you–but he’d have to kill you.
  • He takes a suspiciously long time to introduce you to his family and friends–and then often seems to try to work to keep the two apart.. .

eHarmony. Who doesn’t know that bastion of matchmaking–and an institution my son, the illustrious social psychologist Dr. Eli Finkel, has been quite skeptical of, with its promise of famous love-algorithm, has an advice section on their website, and they make the illuminating suggestion that, if [and I quote], “you’ve been dating . . .and you’ve never laid eyes on his friends or family, it’s time to start asking questions.”  Good point.  And what does eHarmony conclude from this odd behavior on your partner’s part?

“Chances are, you aren’t his girlfriend.”

Insightful, as always. My translation: Chances are, you may have caught yourself your very own Commitment Phobe.

  •  Additionally, he wants to engage very little with your friends and family, and tends to have excuses about why he can’t get together with them.
  • He considers his married friends boring and prefers to spend time with his single mates, whom he sees as more interesting and ‘free.’
  • He avoids long-term planning discussions with you, anything from trips to career plans to–heaven forfend!–marriage and children.
  • He look like he might break out in hives when you try to talk about your relationship and where it’s heading.
  • He has a variety of excuses for why you can’t move in together–he snores, you snore, he’s allergic to the your cats, he doesn’t want his mother to know, he’d never be able to sell his place, he needs to remodel, there’s not enough room, your apartment has a funny smell, you cook cauliflower in the microwave and the odor makes him feel nauseous, living with someone else interferes with his meditation schedule–or, if all else fails, ‘it’s just too soon.’
  • In a totally different vein, new research suggests that some pointed questions about your date’s childhood might give you the information you need. M.M. Orina et al studied subjects from birth until the ages of 20 or 21, analyzing 78 who were involved in romantic relationships. As published in their article, “Developmental and dyadic perspectives on commitment in adult romantic relationships,” they found that the partners who had higher-quality support from their mothers or other caregivers as children, and those who were more adept at resolving conflicts in adolescence, in general were more committed in adult relationships.  I suppose for this one you can just ask, if you don’t mind sounding totally bizarre: “Did you get good care from Mom?” It’s an odd first-date question, but could save you some heartache later.

Some say to tread cautiously if you see these warning signs. I say to tread your way right on out of the relationship.  Your time and energy and romantic prowess are better spent elsewhere. And may the “Anti-Commitment Phobic Force” be with you.

Not to be missed:

  • 15 Signs You’ll Get Married at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/08/08/will-i-ever-get-married-15-signs-youll-tie-the-knot.html. Did you know that if you live in Nebraska, you’re 30 percent more likely to get married than if you live in Washington, D.C.? Or if that if you’re a woman without a male twin, you’re 15 percent more likely to get married than women with male twins? Fascinating and extremely relevant details like this can be found in this article–it’s worth a click on the link–if just to find out the chance of incarcerated men marrying before 40.


I help adults and adolescents through the particular struggles of our time: tension between couples, parenting frustration, blending new families, separation and divorce, (un)employment, cancer, and loss. When relationships come to an impasse, I use mediation techniques to try to ensure that each party will have his/her needs heard and accounted for in a dignified way. In addition to talking, listening, and reframing, I utilizes the tools of metaphor, active teaching, role-playing, visualization, and hypnotherapy.for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce.

Leave a Reply