Raise Your SMV by Learning How to Negotiate Commitment in a Romantic Relationship
7 Reasons Why You’re Afraid Of Commitment (And What To Do About It)
10 Sure Signs You've Got the Fear of Commitment! 
What is Commitment Phobia & Relationship Anxiety?
How To Overcome Your Fear Of Commitment 
16 signs you're scared of commitment
5 Signs You Really Are Afraid of Commitment
Is he scared of commitment? 12 Reasons why he won't commit

Google “fear of commitment” and you will get more than 32 millions hits, many of them with titles like the ones above. Are so many people really that afraid of commitment?

Most people are not truly afraid of commitment, rather they are commitment illiterate. They don't understand what commitment means and how to negotiate mutually beneficial arrangements. The result is a fear and distrust of the unknown, rather than a fear of the commitment itself. 

How can a person gain confidence and capacity to negotiate mutually beneficial romantic relationship commitments?

Negotiation is a very valuable social skill. It will serve you well in your career, when you make large financial decisions and in all your relationships. When done in the best, most ethical manner it creates a situation that improves the lives of all involved.

The 2 primary keys to becoming a skilled negotiator are:

  1. Learn the basics of negotiation.
  2. Practice negotiation skills at every opportunity, starting with small things.

Learning the basics of negotiation

“Any method of negotiation may be fairly judged by three criteria: It should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible. It should be efficient. And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.” Roger Fisher, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In.

Start by reading the bible of negotiating, Getting to Yes. I highly suggest reading this book from cover to cover. Make notes or even write out some of the main points in your own words. Share some quotes via social media. Discuss the topics with friends. This will help to fix the ideas into your mind.

Some gems from Getting to Yes include:

“The purpose of negotiation is to explore whether you can satisfy your interests better through an agreement than you could by pursuing your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).”

In the context of negotiating commitment in a relationship your BATNA is your best alternative to negotiating the commitment you want. 

For example: You ask a woman to commit to a date. If she says no your alternatives are to try again later, ask for a less involved commitment (coffee with friends) or try with a different woman. Your BATNA is the alternative that you prefer.

Another example: You want a certain man to commit to exclusive dating. If he is hesitating for too long, or out right says he doesn't want to commit at this time your alternatives are to wait or shift your attention to a different man. Your BATNA is the alternative that you prefer.

By having an alternative to resolving the issue you create an escape valve. This reduces your anxiety over the success of the relationship. 

We have a rather short window of time to date, marry and have children. Another benefit of having a BATNA is that when you have options it puts some gentle pressure on the person you are dating. They know they need to take the relationship seriously and ensure that it is maturing at a reasonable rate.

“I have come to the conclusion that the greatest obstacle to getting what we really want in life is not the other party, as difficult as he or she can be. The biggest obstacle is actually ourselves.” 

The advice in Getting to Yes helps us to develop a mindset that is conducive to achieving our negotiating goals. In a relationship this means being reasonably flexible, looking for alternatives to reaching our goals and avoiding negotiation ending habits.

Practice negotiation skills at every opportunity

Negotiation is a skill. Skills can not be learned from books alone. You need to put into practice the knowledge that you acquire. You also need practice to overcome the fear of “confrontation”, judgement and the unknown that prevents many people from successfully negotiating.

Start consciously negotiating in your everyday life with your friends and family. Start small. Reflect on the outcomes of your efforts, take notes, refer to your source material (Getting to Yes) and be open to new approaches.

Excellent starter negotiations include:

  • Negotiate agreement about where to go for dinner with a few friends.
  • Pick some very minor annoyance in your workplace that is reducing your productivity. Negotiate with your employer to have that issue resolved.
  • Go to a farmers market or flea market and negotiate over the price of a few items, even if you don't need them. Later, have a garage sale. Sell everything back and negotiate the prices of the items. This isn't about making money, it's about overcoming fear and developing skills.

As you progress you could:

  • Pick one person in your life who you are having a minor issue with. It could be your noisy neighbours, your inconsiderate co worker or a family member that is doing something irritating. Using the principles and skills you have developed negotiate a resolution to the problem that everyone is happy with.
  • Negotiate a pay raise or other benefits.
  • Negotiate with your landlord to improve your dwelling or lower your rent.

As you continue use your growing negotiating skills to solve more and more of your social challenges. Let it smooth out all of your relationships. As you develop a reputation for negotiating solutions that delight all sides people will start to seek you out, wanting to do business with you and enter into relationships with you. 

PRO TIP: Negotiate win-win outcomes regularly with your boss and coworkers. Later, when you ask for a raise it will be seen as just another winning proposition by your boss. This GREATLY increases your chance of success in developing the career that you want.

Negotiating Relationship Commitment

Some caveats when negotiating romantic commitment:

  1. In K-selected, traditional relationship the man MUST take the lead. This means that it is the man's responsibility to propose options that are acceptable to the woman. You need to make the commitment request.
  2. The woman's responsibility is to choose from the options given her. There is nothing wrong with giving more detailed feedback as long as it's not an attempt to reverse the gender roles.

What would a proper commitment request look like? 

Basically any commitment has three main factors:

  1. It's a very specific agreement (both must agree to all aspects).
  2. Its bounded (limits to its duration, scope and exit).
  3. Forces healthy dispute resolution practices.

Even a simple date is a proposal to a commitment that follows all the rules above. You are committing to be at a certain place at a certain time with a certain person for a meal, movie, etc. Every stage of a relationship requires commitments that get stronger, more exclusive and of longer duration. This is a natural cycle. Following the cycle will help you to move your relationship forward.

For example a man might propose the following to a woman that he is attracted to and who he believes might be potential mate and mother to his children: 

"Let's agree to date exclusively for 3 months. We should see each other 2 or 3 times a week. Meet each other's family and friends. Discuss the kind of lifestyle we want. Open up to each other about our pasts. At the end of this period we need to decide if this relationship is going to become a marriage or not. If yes, we should get engaged. If not, we should break up"

Of course you should put that in your own words. However, make sure your proposal is clear and to the point. Don't bury it in lots of meaningless words. Don't mumble. Speak clearly and with confidence.

Interpreting female responses:

  1. If a woman says no without giving reasons it probably because she isn't interested in you or in hearing more options. She is not attempting to keep the relationship flowing.
  2. If a woman says no and gives you reasons, listen to them. She is really saying that she would accept a proposal from you if the situation was different. Probably, you can still get her to commit to you if you address her concerns. Generally the reasons for her saying no include: A) She doesn't like some aspects of the proposal. B) The timing is not right. C) She feels a lack of self confidence (felt as fear) in fulfilling her part of the commitment.

Be very empathetic, be patient be smart. Make sure you understand her objections, but don't pry too hard. She may very well be stunned by your proposal and unable to give a deeper explanation at that time. Let her know that you are listening to her.

When you can, write down your understanding of her objections. Evaluate if you want to address them or if you prefer your BATNA. If you choose to address them it really helps to have your notes for later so that you can recall your conversations with more clarity.

What if he will not commit?

This issue is much more difficult to answer. Unfortunately, most men have not been taught to take the lead or how to propose commitment. They very often lack basic relationship skills and assertiveness that would have been considered normal 3 generations ago. Many men are confused about what is expected in a relationship. 

  • Be thankful. Show that you are thankful for everything he does for you, for his compliments, for his gifts, etc. Smile, be pleasant, say thanks and do something kind to return the favours.
  • Be encouraging. Whenever your man takes a step in the right direction praise him sincerely for it. Let him know you support his efforts to take the lead.
  • Be empathetic. Recognize that for many men, even good men, taking the lead is not something that comes naturally. Therefore, be easy to lead. 
  • Be patient. This might take a while.
  • Have a strong BATNA. Men are naturally competitive. Competition is a great way to get a man to rise to their potential. If you have options it will encourage your man to propose a commitment to you before you become unavailable.

There are good reasons...

These caveats and suggestions might sound overly rigid, formal or old fashioned, however they exist for very important reasons. When the man is proposing solutions it indicates to the woman his level of empathy, his intelligence and his assertiveness. All skills needed to be a successful provider and protector. When a woman relies on the man to lead she is setting up a pattern of support that will build up her potential future husband, tighten the bond they share and lead to a lower chance of a failed marriage.

As a man, when you take the lead observe your woman's response it will serve as an indicator to you of her deeper personality and motives. You can use her reactions to filter out unsuitable or undesirable women who are likely to divorce you in the future.

In short, use negotiation skills to raise your SMV and negotiate relationship commitments. By starting off your relationships with healthy communication and negotiations you are ensuring that they will be maximally successful and fulfilling.