Unable to relate: how to free yourself from your commitment fears

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Unable to relate: how to free yourself from your commitment fears

Do your relationships break up regularly and never last more than a few weeks or months? Do the changing partnerships make you unhappy? Then you could be relationship-incapable. What sounds threatening at first is no longer a rarity in today's society. Experts like the well-known author Michael Nast even speak of the "Generation unable to relate".

There are several possible explanations for this phenomenon. For example, the change in gender roles and the strong individualization in our society could play a significant role. However, it is usually personal reasons that are decisive for the inability to form relationships, which we would like to discuss in more detail below.

You may be reading this article because you suspect that your partner may be relationally unfit. This is undoubtedly a difficult situation for you. We will show you how you can help your partner overcome his or her relationship incapacity. Provided, of course, that he or she is willing to do so.

When is someone considered unable to relate?

People who long for a partnership but are unable to maintain it are considered relationship-incapable. A key characteristic is constantly changing RelationshipsThese relationships exist only for a short period of time. The reason for ending the newly entered partnership prematurely usually results from a feeling of constriction.

In psychology, however, the term relationship incapacity is not entirely uncontroversial. In principle, every human being has the Need for love and attachment is innate. This means that no one is born incapable of relationships. Insofar as psychologists speak of relationship incapacity, this refers to a behavioral pattern acquired in the course of life.

Men and women, by the way, are equally affected by relationship incapacity. It is not a question of gender. Rather, the decisive factors are personal mentality as well as experienced traumas that lead to Attachment Anxiety have led to. The extent to which those affected experience suffering due to their inability to relate varies from individual to individual.

relationship incompetent symptoms

Unable to relate - 5 possible causes

As mentioned earlier, relationship incapacity is an acquired behavior. The following factors can be causative:

1. attachment anxiety

Attachment anxiety is considered one of the main causes of repeated partnership failure. Those who are unable to form relationships have often had bad experiences in the past. Children of divorce are a striking example: those who have experienced their parents' war of the roses often develop an unconscious fear of commitment. After all, one has learned that these lead to pain and suffering.

The link between the divorce of one's parents and attachment anxiety later in life has been well studied scientifically - as shown in this Study ...that's what I'm talking about.

The loss of attachment figures in childhood (e.g., due to death) or traumatic separations in young adulthood can also trigger attachment anxiety. The desire not to have to go through such intense emotional pain again is quite understandable. This is expressed by avoiding relationships: "If I don't love anymore, I can't experience loss."

2. fear of self-sacrifice

Being in a relationship requires making compromises. Some people are not willing to do this. They are downright afraid that their own life plans might be boycotted by their partner's ideas about the future. Sometimes this concern is not so unfounded: Let's take the delicate topic of wanting children as an example.

A man who is very focused on his career often feels the fear that, as a family man, he will no longer be able to make such good progress in his job. In this case, fulfilling his partner's wish for a family would be tantamount to giving up himself: what is important to him would no longer be possible in his mind. Whether this corresponds to reality remains to be seen. The fears and experiences from one's own childhood are decisive.

In fact, self-sacrifice in a healthy relationship not the solution. Together, you should see if there is a way to shape the future so that both partners are happy. Authentic communication is the basic prerequisite for this. However, if the ideas are too far apart, it is necessary to Separation better. If the fear of a possible self-sacrifice without real cause dominates, this speaks for an inability to relate.

3. low self-worth

His Self-worth defining oneself through one's partner is also considered a form of relationship inability. The focus of the connection is not love, but one's own ego: "Look, I have a great man/woman. I'm desirable." The causes of a low Self-esteem result, just like attachment anxiety, mostly from bad experiences in the past.

It is self-explanatory that the partner does not put up with this for long. No one wants to be regarded merely as a trophy. As a result, the relationship usually breaks up after a short time. However, since the ego of the relationship-incompetent partner depends on a partnership, he will soon look for a new match.

4. narrow-mindedness

Do you have a very specific idea of your dream partner? Having demands is by no means reprehensible, but too much narrow-mindedness can make you downright incapable of having a relationship. The perfect partner does not exist! Every person has his or her rough edges. Learn this to accept and not to judge potential candidates based on minor details. Take time to get to know the person.

5. the fear of missing out

Surely you have heard something about the so-called midlife crisis. It often affects men (but also women) in their middle years. They suddenly wonder if life doesn't have more in store for them. Can that be all there is? This question is sometimes very agonizing and calls everything into question: including the topic of partnership.

In extreme cases, those affected start rushing from one partnership to the next: after all, life is short and you don't want to miss out on anything. But that's exactly what happens: in the constant hunt for a better opportunity, true love falls by the wayside.

How does it manifest that I am incapable of relationship?

Relational inability can have several faces. There are two main facets: clinging and avoidance. In the latter, a relationship is not entered into at all or is ended immediately as soon as it becomes too close. In this way, those affected try to turn away (further) negative experiences from themselves at an early stage.

A clinger is no less incapable of having a relationship than an avoider, but the behavior is very different. Clingers need the constant reassurance of their partner that they are still loved. The partner quickly feels crushed and oppressed by this. In the end, exactly what the clinger wants to avoid happens: the partner takes flight.

8 characteristics that indicate inability to relate

In addition to the main facets mentioned above, there are other characteristics that indicate relationship incapacity:

  1. Statements such as "I don't want a committed relationship" or "I need my freedom" are made.
  2. Your partner never talks about the future.
  3. One partner invests more time and effort into the relationship than the other.
  4. Moments of emotional closeness are followed by coldness and days of distance.
  5. All previous relationships were short-lived.
  6. Lack of willingness to compromise.
  7. Constant criticism of the partner: provoking quarrels in order to maintain distance.
  8. Emotionlessness and indecision.

Tip: The above checklist will not only help you if you think your partner is incapable of having a relationship. If in doubt, it is worth checking whether the characteristics also apply to you.

What do I do if my partner is incapable of a relationship?

If you've noticed that your partner is incapable of relating, you're probably very distressed right now. It is important to know that relationship incapacity is a serious attachment disorder that is best addressed with therapeutic help. However, do not make the mistake of pressuring your partner about it!

If he or she does not feel (sufficient) pressure to suffer, even therapy will not lead to the desired success. The sad truth is that you can't do too much about your partner's inability to have a relationship. The desire to change something must come from him/her. Above all, pay attention to your own emotional well-being and offer your partner a sympathetic ear.

As long as you don't pressure him/her, there is a chance that your partner will open up to you at some point. Then you can look for solutions together.

Unable to relate: accept and transform in 5 steps

If you are unable to relate, it is up to you to make a change. Work through your underlying traumas with therapeutic help. Only in this way will you be able to free yourself from the blockages of your past in the long term. In addition, the following steps can help you to regain your relationship skills:

1. discover obstructive behavior patterns and get rid of them

A relaxed basic attitude is of great importance for restoring the ability to have a relationship. You have always run away when someone has expressed serious interest in you? Do you always reply to a text message only on the third day? You will not be able to build a stable partnership this way.

Why don't you consciously try to do exactly the opposite of what you've always done: take the supposed risk? You are still an autonomous personality and can set limits if it becomes too much for you. But refrain from hiding behind a protective wall right from the start.

2. unable to relate? Strengthen your self-esteem

An good relationship To be able to lead a healthy partnership, it is essential to be true to yourself. Listen to yourself: What are your true needs and how can you fulfill them? You are important! Take a little time for yourself every day. For example, many people find relaxation training such as yoga or Meditation. Just give it a try!

Also, become aware of your strengths: What makes you special in terms of character? What makes you lovable to other people? By making this clear to yourself, it will be easier for you to accept the affection of another person without bias. You are worthy of being liked.

3. leave your comfort zone

Surely you can think of a thousand excuses why you don't want to change anything in your life and behavior. However, the longing for closeness and connection lives in every human being. This is true even if you are supposedly incapable of having a relationship. There is no guarantee that you will not be hurt or disappointed. However, this is no reason to completely deny you the wonderful experience of love.

Don't retreat into your shell, but go out into the world. Get together with friends or find a new hobby. If you just sit at home, you will never find a person who suits you. Take the chance to gain positive experiences in the outside world.

4. think positive

If you radiate negativity, you attract negativity. When you deal with fears and Uncertainties you'll probably keep running into situations that fuel your negative thoughts. Instead, approach dating with a positive attitude.

It is not helpful to generally label yourself as incapable of having a relationship just because you are currently having problems in this area of your life. Believe that somewhere out there is a person with whom you can be happy.

5. rethink your prey scheme

Maybe you've noticed that you keep attracting the same kind of person who is not good for you? This is no coincidence, but follows a psychological pattern. In his research, U.S. psychologist Amir Levine has identified three relationship types: the avoidant type, the secure type, and the anxious type.

For example, it is well documented that anxious attachment types are attracted to avoidant types. That this can't be healthy for either party is self-explanatory. By finding out which type you match, you can break the pattern. Learn more now about the Relationship types.


The theory of relationship incapacity should be viewed in a differentiated way: After all, attachment is a basic human need. There is no one who does not need closeness. However, trauma can lead to the development of fear of attachment, which in turn can lead to the person no longer being able to maintain relationships.

The good news is: as soon as you have identified your problem, you can actively take countermeasures. Even small changes in your inner attitude as well as in your behavior can make a lot of difference. If your partner is incapable of having a relationship, the following are most important Patience and understanding are required. Refrain from pressuring the person. And most importantly, don't blame yourself!


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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