It’s not like you can’t commit: You’re loyal to your friends, to your career, and to your family. So why can’t you commit to a significant other? If you’re afraid of getting serious, you might play hard to get instead of diving in — or shy away from hard conversations. Erika Boissiere, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco, has a few tips for kicking these bad relationship habits and getting over your fear of commitment.

A worried woman sits at her kitchen table

Where This Fear Comes From & How It Affects You

“Everyone harbors fears,” Boissiere recognizes. “Whether it’s fear of flying or spiders, all of us face things in our life that literally terrify us. Those who struggle with commitment usually have strong perceptions of what it means to be in a relationship, and these perceptions are built over a lifetime.”

To understand where fears come from, suggests Boissiere, you have to take a deep dive into your personal history. When it comes to relationships, this means thinking about the the ones you were surrounded with as you grew up. Chances are, those relationships taught you lessons and established habits that translate to your current romantic life.

In some cases, your past relationships are the root cause of your fears. Boissiere explains that getting burned may lead you to believe that relationships are hard or dangerous to be in. “In any case, it is the story of your life and the lessons you picked up along the way that create fear of commitment,” she affirms.

If you’ve decided to be in a relationship despite your fear, Boissiere warns that you run the risk of your partner losing patience. “While they are likely to be willing to wait for a certain period of time, they eventually tire and move on,” she reminds. “It is easy to interpret your fear of commitment as fear of commitment ‘with me.’”

A couple takes a selfie to show off her engagement ring

3 Tips to Overcome Your Fear

1. Unpack your story. We’ve established that thinking deeply about your past experiences will help you understand your present feelings. If you understand who or what made you fear commitment, Boissiere says that you’ll be more equipped to move forward with a healthy relationship.

2. Is it you or them? “Discern if you have a fear of commitment, or if you have a fear of commitment to the person you’re with,” urges Boissiere. Simply put, differentiate your feelings toward your partner from your feelings about commitment in general. Then you’ll know whether overcoming them means working with this specific partner or on your attitudes about relationships in general.

3. Track your thoughts. It might sound cheesy, but in order to truly address your fear of commitment, you have to think clearly about the way that commitment makes you feel. If you’re in a relationship, this means checking your feelings about being committed. If you’re single, it means thinking about what you enjoy so much about freedom to begin with.

What advice would you give a friend who fears commitment? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)