Commitment problems

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I have been dating my wonderful girlfriend fro two years. We have been living together for over one year. She is 29 years old. She is under a lot of pressure from family and society (here in China) to marry. Plus, we love each other and she genuinely wants to marry me and have a life and family together. She is a professional and independent girl, not the kind only looking for money or security or a visa. We relate well with each other and get along in every way- except when talking about marriage!

The problem is I just can’t bring myself to commit and say “will you marry me.” I want to be able to, but its like I hit an internal barrier when the subject comes up. I get just plain scared, and feel like my life would be over if I got married, and am afraid to have children and loose personal freedom. I really want to be able to just jump in, but cant bring myself to do it.

Thats not so bad, the bad part is that I don’t know if my hesitation is due to really not wanting it, or to patterns I’ve built up in my behavior and thinking after years of single life. Am I stuck in adolescence? Is marriage to a girl I love the next step in my personal evolution, or am I better off traveling a different path? I’m really confused and honestly don’t know what to do or think. To ad to the problem, my girlfriend is tired of waiting (it been 6 months now since we first discussed it), and if I don’t come clear one way or the other soon, she will leave me. Please help!!!

A: Thank you for your honesty and sincerity in asking this question. This puts the issue squarely in front of you to examine. I am happy to provide some thoughts.

You list you age as 44 and my answer to you would be different if you were 10 or 15 years younger. I say this because if you are planning children in your life at all your decision is more than the issue of commitment to one person. The question may not be about the two of you, but about what you want for yourself. Most people find the physical demands of keeping up with children and watching them mature something they want to take an active role in. If you want to have a child with a partner you clearly admire, the timeline for your decision is rather quickly approaching.

If you see this crossroad as one where you are losing then it will be difficult to move forward. It may be better to think what will come into your life rather than what you are leaving behind.

I encourage you to set a time limit for your decision and give yourself the benefit that comes from making a choice. Ultimately indecision becomes a decision by default. When we fail to make a conscious choice we miss the opportunity to feel empowered. Additionally, your girlfriend deserves to be aware of your intention. The excuse I most often hear in these situations is that the person trying to make the decision doesn’t want to hurt their partner. While a decision might, indeed, hurt, not deciding most often creates immeasurable pain and turmoil.

Don’t let time rob you of the opportunity to make a choice on your own. If you need help with a therapist our find help key may have contacts for you in your country.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Sep 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Commitment problems. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/09/19/commitment-problems/