I don’t think there is enough emphasis given to the differences between someone who is a commitment phobe versus someone who is commitment resistant. It is an important distinction, because I think there is a better opportunity to overcome resistance than there is to overcome a phobia.
A commitment phobe’s problems likely stem from early childhood experiences. The fear of commitment is deep and emotionally based, so it may be something even the phobic finds difficult to understand. One who is resistant to commitment perhaps developed that through experiences that were significant emotional events at the time, but were probably things that happened later in life. That will make the resistance easier to overcome through rational means.
How can you tell the difference? One obvious clue is whether or not the individual was able to make prior commitments in their life. If so, you are probably dealing with someone who is commitment resistant.
Identifying the root causes of the resistance is the key to help a “resistant”. If they were married, then what events led to the end of the marriage? Was it an abusive relationship, emotional or otherwise, did it end because of an affair, or did the marriage just fizzle out because of boredom, Also, how traumatic was the divorce for the resistant? American divorce laws, for example, often punish good behavior and the results can be financially and emotionally devastating.
Once the root causes are known it is possible to deal with each one in a rational manner. A resistant is always going to think about anything in a new relationship within the context of prior experiences. Even little things can trigger them and send their thoughts spiraling out of control.
In my post divorce life I have had women say or do things that served as triggers for me that I find fascinating. For example, I had one woman talk in detail about how she had cheated in every prior relationship, but of course she assured me that our case would be different. Another woman, who I never actually dated, said that I seemed to have money and that she wanted to marry someone that could properly care for her. A third woman, who I have referred to on this site as my Narcissist, said or did a lot of things that triggered me, but when she told me that I would only be “allowed” to watch one football game per weekend, and that I couldn’t look at my iPad and watch a game at the same time, it sent my mind off on a journey of imagining what day to day life would be like with her. Perhaps it was the use of the word “allowed” that set me off, because limiting the amount of football I would watch if in a relationship is probably something I would do voluntarily anyway.
What this all means for someone dealing with a lack of commitment is to first try to determine if the person is phobic or resistant, and then try to break down the root causes of the resistance, and finally see if there are ways to deal with those root causes. The ultimate goal is for the relationship to be comfortable for both of the people involved, but the resistant must be able to imagine a future that doesn’t repeat the past.