"You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear."A character with commitment issues does not want to settle down with a Love Interest. They may think that being married is inherently boring and unadventurous, or they believe they're still not old enough to be serious yet, or they have issues stemming from observing the dysfunctional relationship their parents had, or being a swinger is just too much fun, or maybe they're Really 700 Years Old and are afraid that by committing they'll outlive the person they love. Whatever the reason, don't expect them to jump into a Relationship Upgrade anytime soon. The "I Love You" Stigma is a Sub-Trope and common symptom of this problem. Compare Insecure Love Interest, where the love interest's damage is specifically they don't think themselves worthy, Runaway Bride (which may or may not be the end result of this trope) and The Ditherer who cannot be complied with any kind of commitment, showing immaturity. Truth in Television for a lot of people. Has nothing to with Commitment Anxiety, which is about the fear of starting a long-running series.
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Anime and Manga
- Haruka in Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu, despite being ostensibly in a relationship with Akiho, keeps applying Skinship Grope on other girls, much to Akiho's anguish. Eventually, Akiho makes it abundantly clear that she doesn't like it, and Haruka stops. While not necessarily afraid of commitment, until then Haruka didn't see a need for it.
- Michael in Macross Frontier, who is always hitting on girls but ignoring the not-subtle attentions of Klan Klan, his childhood friend. Eventually, he admits that he knows he has issues: since he's a soldier who could die in battle any given day, he's terrified of starting a real relationship with anyone, and therefore only dates girls he knows he won't get serious with. In the series, Klan manages to break him out of this by stating plainly her love for him, causing him to admit that he loves her too, but he dies shortly thereafter. In the movies, though, they both survive and wind up together.
- Miltia, from Four Deadly Secrets.
Film — Animation
- One of the plot threads of Despicable Me 2; Gru is shown several times having problems romantically relating to women, though at one point he goes on a date with a Paris Hilton Expy (a date which goes disastrously wrong, to his evident relief). At the end of the movie, he marries his colleague Lucy.
Film — Live Action
- A central focus of the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The main characters cheat, lie, and even enter a polygamous relationship that's doomed to fail instead of finding and settling down with a single person in a healthy relationship. In the end the film is a Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story in that the main characters remain the same people and their experience in no way helps them with their issues in the future.
- Uncle Buck has this in regards to his relationship with his girlfriend, the car repair business owing Chanice. It's just one of several ways he's presented as being unreliable at the beginning of the film.
- Runaway Bride is about a woman with commitment issues that has almost been married three times, but has runaway from the wedding each time because of her fear (in addition to leaving a long list of boyfriends that never even made it to the engagement stage). Considering the film's genre it's not a spoiler to reveal by the end of film she finds someone to finally settle down with.
- In Bruce Almighty, Bruce is living with his long-term girlfriend Grace. She keeps bringing up the subject of getting formally married, but he keeps skating around the issue.
- Amanda in Carefree (1938) breaks off her engagement to Stephen so many times that he finally asks his psychiatrist friend Tony to analyze her and get to the root of her "phobia" of marriage. As it turns out, Amanda's problem is simply that she doesn't really love Stephen—as she realizes when she falls for Tony.
- The Hunger Games: The reason why Katniss Everdeen keeps Peeta at arm's length is that she is determined to never fall in love, get married and have children. The reason is implied to be a combination of not wanting to be a parent on Reaping Day and not wanting to end up like her mother, who broke down completely when her husband died. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire it's Katniss who suggests that she and Peeta get married but it's not because of romantic desire but rather a desperate attempt at keeping Snow happy. Peeta agrees, but not very happily.
- Shows up in Dave Barry's works, notably Dave Barry's Complete Guide To Guys, where men are afraid that they'll get in a relationship and get married and have kids and get old and one day they'll be walking down the beach and see a single guy relaxing in a hot tub with several supermodels and invite him and he won't be able to join them AAAIIIEEEEE!! He notes that to get the same amount of love and devotion with more reliability than a man, you might as well get a dog.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen spends the better part of three books fighting her growing feelings for Peeta Mellark because she doesn't want to get married and have children.
- In The Dresden Files, this is one reason that Murphy doesn't act on her attraction to Harry (the other being that they are too different).
- Just how committed two heterosexual men can be to one another is a central theme of Redfern Jon Barrett's The Giddy Death of the Gays and the Strange Demise of Straights
Live Action TV
- The Big Bang Theory:
- Penny has this problem in regards to her relationship with Leonard. The couple eventually works through it by Leonard putting the power to propose marriage in Penny's hands, so she won't have the weight of it on her shoulders until she decides she's ready.
- Sheldon struggles with committing to Amy and then from there moving forward in their relationship. In his case, the issue stems from having previously thought of himself as a Celibate Eccentric Genius who is above time-wasting romantic notions, and having an aversion to change. In one episode both Leonard and Amy decide to move too fast for their partners and put moving in on the table. Sheldon and Penny are forced to confide their hesitations about it to each other.
- Howard goes through a sudden spell of commitment issues about committing to Bernadette. His problem is that he's too attached to some fantasy of actually being with some perfect-beauty actress like Megan Fox (and he has a slight illusion about distinguishing this fantasy from its chances of becoming reality, but not more than slightly.) A history of enduring the fate of the Casanova Wannabe can do that to a guy. He gets over it.
- Torch Wood's Captain Jack Harkness has this, primarily of the afraid-of-outliving-love-interest variety.
- Men of a Certain Age has this as Terry's main problem to overcome. He's a middle aged man that still goes through multiple girls like he's a young twenty something.
- Friends: Chandler's parents had a messy divorce, leaving him unable to commit and fearing he was destined to end up alone. He can't maintain relationships, usually breaking up over minor issues or interpreting one big fight as the end. He has an on-off relationship with Janice, a nice girl with an annoying personality quirk, but she eventually moves on. He thinks Kathy is "the one" but his mistrust and her cheating conspire to end that. By an accident of circumstance, he and Monica have sex, which leads to a stable, loving relationship, marriage and children. It works because they've known each other for years, so she can handle his insecurities and he can handle her obsessions.
- Drake from Drake & Josh goes through a different Girl of the Week every episode (sometimes he'll go through multiple girls in the same episode). He's been shown to be afraid of being steady for too long and will often get bored with his current girlfriend very quickly (possibly the only exception is Carly, the record store worker, and even she disappears eventually). When his brother is struggling with The "I Love You" Stigma and asks him for advice, Drake's immediate response is that saying I love you is a trap.
- Farscape: Chiana's Commitment Issues lead her to cheat on D'Argo with Jothee, D'Argo's son.
- In How I Met Your Mother both Robin and Barney freak out at the very thought of marriage and children in the first couple seasons.
- In Bell, Book and Candle, after Shep and Gillian have been close for two weeks, he asks her when they are going to get married, and she recoils at the suggestion. They point out that they're reversing the usual male and female roles in this kind of argument. Her problem is that she would have to give up being a witch, but that's a secret she doesn't want to divulge to him yet.
- Nathan in Guys and Dolls has been engaged to Adelaide for over a decade.
- In Bye Bye Birdie, Rose nags Albert about when they will finally get married and settled down, after eight years. The two things holding Albert back are Conrad Birdie and his mother.
- Mocked in "You Wanna Be My Friend" from Closer Than Ever:
"But I don't want to make a commitment to you!"
Ha! Can't you see?
You don't want to tell the truth, oh, no,
You just want out from me.
Yes, I know inside you're fragile.
Yes, your mother was a mess.
If that's why you can't receive a woman's love
I could care less!
- Dragon Age: Origins: An absolute staple of the franchise. The Token Evil Teammate Love Interests Morrigan and Zevran will both gladly sleep with the player at lower approval than the prudish sweethearts Alistair and Leliana, but when things start to get too serious they both get scared and try to backpedal for different reasons.
- Morrigan because she was taught by her emotionally abusive mother that Love Is a Weakness,and she's frightened by this feeling called "love" anyway, so she practically begs him to call things off. She also can't afford to be tied down to the Warden, since she has her own secret agenda she feels she must pursue, and she leaves at the end of the game no matter what. The Warden can only opt to follow her in the DLC Witch Hunt to be with her.
- Zevran was the Son of a Whore whose mother died giving birth to him, was raised in a whorehouse till age seven, and then was sold to the ruthless Antivan Crows, where he was put through Training from Hell and groomed from early childhood to be a ruthlessly efficient assassin; also to lure targets (of any gender) into a Honey Trap to invoke Death by Sex. As such, he takes a decidedly casual approach to sex, insiting that they're Friends with Benefits and that there's no place for love for someone like him. Predictably, he starts to develop romantic feelings for the Warden, becomes confused, and tries to distance himself from the relationship to cope.
- Dragon Age 2: While the mage love interests Merrill and Anders jump at the chance to move in with Hawke, Fenris and Isabela are afraid to commit romantically.
- Isabela because she was sold into an abusive marriage as a teenager by her mother, which left her with a deep-seated fear of being tied down like that again. She'd rather just be Friends with Benefits, thank you very much.
- Fenris for similar reasons; he's a literal escaped slave trying to cope with the absolutely horrific abuse he suffered while one, and is learning how to be a free person for the first time. He's also just prickly and private in general, so learning to open up to people terrifies him. After his and Hawke's first night together, he becomes so overwhelmed with the emotions it brings that he cuts things off. It takes years for a Hawke who is pursuing them romantically to get them to come around, if s/he waits patiently.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition: Commitment issues are generally less prevalent in this game, but they are there for some romances.
- Like his predecessors, The Iron Bull is hot to trot but would rather you stay away from all that romantic talk. While he's committed to sleeping with only you're while you're together, any talk about love, romance, and/or marriage makes him visibly uncomfortable. This is because he's a spy for the Qunari, a society that is so strict in its teachings that emotional love and physical sex are separate, that individuals who sleep with someone they're romantically in love with are deemed mentally ill and sent to the Secret Police for "re-education." If you encourage him to leave the Qunari for good, he's starting to show signs of moving past this. If not, he gladly betrays you for his government.
- The rather young, immature Sera likes you good and well, but she'd rather skip all that boring talk about what the relationship means just get to the fun stuff, like going to bed. After a major story quest where the Inquisitor falls in the Fade, she becomes scared and tries to back out because she's starting to really, truly fall in love with you, and it's scary. Having fun in bed and when walking around? That's one thing. But loving someone so much she'd be devastated to lose you? She can't handle it. Thankfully, it doesn't take much for the Inquisitor to talk her out of it.
- Like the male elf love interests Zevran and Fenris before him, Solas can fall deeply in love with a (female elven) player character, but resists giving into his feelings and committing all game, coming around only due to her patience and persistence. And then he leaves at the end of the game anyway because he is really Fen'Harel, the Big Bad of her people's legends, and he has catastrophic plans for her world that an emotional attachment to her would ruin.
- The Sims:
- In The Sims 2, a Romance sim will often fear marriages, committed relationships and having children.
- In The Sims 3, this is a trait you can give one of your Sims. Sims that have it will often get the wish to break up with whomever they're romantic with, and for other Sims to get a Relationship Upgrade with them the relationship meter must be particularly high. They also don't like being committed to a job for very long, frequently wishing to quit the job. There is also a book entitled "Commitment Issues" Sims can read.
- In The Sims 4, Sims with the "Noncommittal" trait will become Tense if they stay in one relationship or job for too long, and become Happy when they break up with someone or quit their job. They're also more likely to reject proposals unless their romantic relationship with the proposing Sim is very high.
- Some people cite Sonic the Hedgehog's aversion to romance as being scared of settling down and giving up his free and adventurous lifestyle.
- The plot of Catherine is kicked off because Vincent can't commit to a marriage with Katherine and decides instead to cheat with another girl named Catherine.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Andronikos Revel, the Love Interest for a female Sith Inquisitor, is (more or less) a serial monogamist who was always good to his previous girlfriends while they were together... until things got too serious, then he would bolt due to a fear of being tied down. (This ties back to his overall characterization of I Just Want to Be Free.) Naturally, falling in love with the female Sith Inquisitor helps him kick these Commitment Issues.
- For the Smuggler storyline, the said Smuggler can come across one of thousands of their arch-rival Skavak's Brainless Beauty ex-girlfriends (that he used for sex and money before dumping her). Said girlfriend is convinced that she knows Skavak loves her — he's just afraid of commitment! The player character knows better.
- Rayne in Least I Could Do. At first he is presented as an unapologetic Jerk Ass womanizer, with little to no desire to ever be in a serious relationship. As the strip goes it delves into some Hidden Depths revealing his issues with commitment actually aren't as straight forward and shallow as they are initially presented.
- Riff in Sluggy Freelance goes through a lot of girlfriends, mostly offscreen, but he's been known to run screaming at the thought of either marriage or even just deep feelings. It probably has something to do with his Mommy Issues — at least some other relationship issues of his do.
- Darius in Campus Safari, partially because he feels overworked by his position as headmaster of the Mars Academy and partially because both he and Sheana have a life expectancy of several hundred years so he figures they can wait. Sheana doesn't see it that way, especially when she's in heat.
- Hazel from Girls with Slingshots is a female example, as she refuses to consider settling down or to even talk about the future with her boyfriend, Zach, instead preferring the lifestyle of drinking, partying and sex. This drives a wedge between them which, coupled with her own immaturity and selfishness, ultimately pushes Zach into ending their relationship.
- Ginger Foutley in As Told by Ginger expresses this doubt in the Series Finale—her and Carl's mom is getting remarried to a kind, friendly and successful physician named Dr. David Dave while Ginger's new boyfriend, Orion, is making it clear that he wants to commit to a more serious relationship with her. While Ginger's happy for her mom and Dr. Dave getting married and also really likes Orion, she seems worried that her mom's current relationship might not work out and she also feels uneasy about committing to a more serious relationship with Orion. She talks it all over with Dodie and Macie, who suggest this trope, noting such things as her parents being divorced and how her romantic relationship with her old friend, Darren, didn't work out (since he ended up leaving her for a cheerleader named Simone). When Ginger questions her mom on how she can take getting remarried despite having already been in a marriage that ultimately didn't work out, Lois admits to her daughter while nothing is certain at the moment, she genuinely loves David and is happy to get remarried anyway, ultimately telling Ginger that it's important to take risks in life rather than staying in your comfort zone all the time.
- Darren seems to be experiencing this trope to a certain extent with his current girlfriend, Simone—during the series finale, Darren seems to be having some relationship issues with Simone, especially once it becomes apparent that he really seems to regret leaving Ginger for her and basically all but confirming that Darren still has feelings for Ginger.