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, Allergic to Routine, Runaway Bride (which may or may not be the end result of this trope), and The Ditherer who cannot manage any kind of commitment. A much more malicious version is the Intentional Heartbreaker, who dates people intending to dump them. 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. See also the Deconfirmed Bachelor, for when someone with Commitment Issues finally does settle down, often after swearing up, down, sideways, and diagonally that they'll never get married.
- 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.
- Tsubame from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is a member of the Impossible Girls (four girls in Shuchi'in Academy who are impossible to date for various reason) because of this. Her previous boyfriend cheated on her (and it's implied that the other girl in the equation was her best friend), leaving her very wary towards entering another relationship. Chapter 160 has her admit that she was always confessed to, but never confessed to someone else. Confessions scare her, because she views them as binding contracts, and she is too indecisive to make such a decision herself.
- 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.
- This is the biggest source of conflict in Lum and Ataru's "relationship" in Urusei Yatsura. Lum is hopelessly in love with Ataru and gets very jealous whenever he hits on other girls, which is almost all of the time. Ataru, while he does have some feelings for her, he is very reluctant to settle down with her since it would mean giving up on his dream of acquiring a harem (despite how unlikely that is) and taking on a lifelong responsibility.
- In the Batman franchise, Bruce Wayne cultivates a reputation as a playboy who finds it boring to go steady with one woman for any length of time, although his real reasons for avoiding meaningful romantic relationships are more complicated. Exaggerated in the comedic Batman: Black and White story "Batsman: Swarming Scourge of the Underworld", in which his upper limit for "we've been going out too long" is about twenty minutes.
- Mary Jane Watson of Spider-Man fame had this vice because of the bad relationships both her parents and her sister and brother-in-law had. Peter proposed to her about three times before she said yes. And then...
- 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.
- 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 run away 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.
- In Someone Great, both Jenny and Blair accuse Erin of commitment issues, since she's never been in a serious relationship and is reluctant to commit to her new girlfriend Leah. Erin resolves to try and get over it by the end.
- 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
- In the erotic comedy Rock 'n' Roll Babes From Outer Space by Linda Jaivin, a Running Gag involves the main character having a panic attack every time he thinks a Girl of the Week is going to have a... RELATIONSHIP CONVERSATION!
- Blue Avenger: Omaha's father could never commit to her mother enough to marry her, even while raising a child with her.
- Our Miss Brooks: Part of Miss Brooks' troubles in getting Mr. Boynton to propose arise from commitment issues, coupled with his innate shyness.
- This was made especially clear in the episodes "Hello, Mr. Chips" and "24 Hours". Specifically, in "Hello Mr. Chips" Miss Brooks hears that Mr. Boynton has been saying a man should only get married when he's too old to do anything else. Miss Brooks punishes him by treating him as an old man that evening when he comes to dinner.
- When Miss Brooks gets Mr. Boynton to take her to a friends' wedding in "Old Age Plan", Mr. Boynton tries to back out of the date (finally) anticipating that Miss Brooks will want to get married herself.
- Part of this may be hereditary influence, as in "Mr. Boynton's Parents", Mr. Boynton remarks that his father and mother went together for eight years until they were married.
- In The Movie Grand Finale, Mr. Boynton himself is finally getting ready for commitment. He, up to now, Oblivious to Love, discusses with Miss Brooks the "good, old biological feeling" of being ready to marry and start a family. Miss Brooks, who decided she wanted to marry Mr. Boynton on their first meeting, remarks that's she's way ahead of him.. Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton get married at the end of the movie.
- 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.
- Bones: Angela at first. Sweets psychological analysis is that she keeps sabotaging her relationships because shes afraid to commit. She eventually does marry Hodgins though.
- Chuck: In "Chuck Vs The Suitcase", focuses on Sarah and Casey having commitment issues, both romantical and familial since "spies dont have roots".
- Being a spy who's Married to the Job, Sarah is unwilling to "plant roots" with Chuck, demonstrated by the eponymous suitcase that she refuses to unpack at their place, as she's used to not having a home and being always on the move. At the end of the episode, she willingly unpacks the suitcase, telling Chuck that "He is her home" and the situation seems to be resolved... but then Chuck comments that maybe they're "next" to get married and have children. Cue a shot of Sarah's freaked out expression.
- Casey is hesitant about developing a relationship with his daughter Alex and has been avoiding her for months, since he thinks his spy life is too complicated and he's not sure how he's going to fit into her life or how she will fit into his. Morgan encourages him to pursue it.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Josh has these, though it's only noticeable by late in season one. He dated Valencia for 15 years before they moved in together after being pressured to do so by Valencia's jealousy of Rebecca. Towards the end of the season, with a ring in hand, Josh still can't bring himself to propose to a crying Valencia. She breaks up with him on the spot, after noticing that Josh will never promise her a future together.
- In season 2, this is explored: Josh dislikes being alone, so he is always seeking to be in a relationship, but he dislikes the serious part of relationships, so he never wants them to get serious, and once it seems that the relationship is in a rough patch or ending, he starts to look for another one.
- 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.
- 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. When he does push past his issues to commit to his on/off girlfriend Janice and later Kathy (who he thinks is "the one") both women end up cheating on him and going off with other people, leaving him even more commitment-phobic than before. 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.
- 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. However, as time goes by they both gradually warm up to the idea, each having several serious relationships and even getting engaged to separate people before marrying each other in the final season.
- 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.
- The entire main cast of Seinfeld suffers from this, with Jerry and George admitting in Season 7's "The Engagement" that the many Minor Flaw, Major Breakup situations in the show are the result of them actively looking for reasons to end promising relationships.
- Torchwood's Captain Jack Harkness has this, primarily of the afraid-of-outliving-love-interest variety.
- The Vocaloid song "Relationship Scramble" is about a young man with this problem, which turns out to be caused by the suicide of his former girlfriend, who left a hole in his heart that, try as he might, he couldn't fill.
- The subject of Poets of the Fall's "Diamonds For Tears," as the singer searches for reasons to bolt, precisely because he suspects his lover is worth keeping.
'Cause when you're sleeping right next to me, I know you're the one
So when I hear you calling my name, why do I turn away and run?
- Parodied in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque," in which the narrator falls in love, gets married, buys a house, has a couple kids... but balks when his wife suggests joining the Columbia Record Club and ends the relationship.
- 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!
- The Mrs. Hawking play series: Justin Hawking. In part IV: Gilded Cages, Nathaniel says that Clara broke up with Justin because she tired of his wandering eye.
- Robert, the main character of Company is friends with five married couples yet only resorts to romantic flings himself. A big part of the show is him trying to convince his friends (and himself) that he's open to the possibility of marriage to the point of Doublethink.
Marry me a little,
Love me just enough.
Cry, but not too often,
Play, but not too rough.
Keep a tender distance
so we'll both be free.
- 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, insisting 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 II: 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.
- Ashley in HuniePop 2 admits to the player that she prefers to stay single over settling down in a relationship with someone, adding that at one point she seriously considered marrying someone before backing out at the last minute. It serves as the basis of her Commitment Issues Baggage, which penalizes you for spending four or more consecutive turns on her during a date.
- 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.
- Bishop of Neverwinter Nights 2 will unashamedly hit on the female player character, but because he highly values his freedom, tells her he has no interest in getting tied down. If she has high influence with him, his issues fuel his betrayal at the endgame—he realizes his feelings for her are genuine and will tie him down, panics, and ends their relationship as permanently as he can.
- Moira from Dead In Vinland is a proudly single middle-aged woman in a society where her refusal to marry (among other things) has gotten her a reputation as a witch. She has had lots of partners both male and female, but she values her freedom and independence. Depending on player choices, she may decide to settle down with one of her love interests from the Player Party, or stay single.
- In Melody, Becca lampshades this for the protagonist, and he admits on multiple occasions that his failed relationship with Bethany was partly due to a fear of commitment.
- 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.
- Rayne in Least I Could Do. At first he is presented as an unapologetic Jerkass 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.
- Played straight and inverted in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. Jonesy, who is sort of dating/not dating/going to bars with Commander has extreme problems committing to anything, be it relationships or hobbies. Commander, on the other hand, is too committed, being unable to leave an unstable and abusive relationship with Tank, one of his squad mates. Eventually they got him out of the relationship but not before a lot of emotional damage was done.
- Ménage à 3: Lead character Zii describes herself as a casual sex girl, and its pretty clear that she has serious emotional problems with commitment, though she tries to conquer these a couple of times during the comics run. Likewise, Ascended Extra Peggy is first seen breaking up with a long-term boyfriend, and she subsequently looks for an exciting, adventurous, commitment-free love life. Unfortunately, when she starts getting fond of Gary, this leads her to a moment of existential panic.
- Played up completely with Mr. Hyde in MK's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde because he is afraid of getting hurt, used or weighed down by the wrong woman.
- 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.
- Ginger Foutley from As Told by Ginger experiences this 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 also really likes Orion, she's worried that her mom's relationship with Dr. Dave might not work and is also clearly hesitant about committing to a more serious relationship with Orion. She talks things over with Dodie and Macie, who suggest this trope, and noting how, aside from being the child of divorced parents, the last relationship that Ginger was in didn't exactly work out (Ginger previously dated Darren, who eventually left her for a cheerleader named Simone). When Ginger talks this out with her mom and questions how she can handle getting married a second time after her first marriage didn't work out, Lois admits to her daughter that nothing is certain for the moment, but she genuinely loves Dr. Dave and wants to give this marriage a shot—Lois also tells Ginger that it's important to take risks instead of staying in your comfort zone all the time. This gives Ginger the courage to give a more serious/committed relationship with Orion a shot.
- 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 still has feelings for her (and feels really bad for how he's treated her).
- In Mission Hill, Andy French sleeps around a lot but never settles down. This seems to be a source of frustration with Gwen, who points out that he wants his freedom to sleep around.