September 21, 2014

The Commitment Illusion. ~ Caecilia Raeder

Holding Hands

A lot has been happening in the relationship world around me over these past few months.

Couples moved in together, got engaged or had their first baby.

Some broke up and are back in the dating game, on the search for that special person to sweep them off their feet and mesmerize their senses—if only it could be that easy.

It seems we can’t help but overthink and overcomplicate things at the point in relationships where it really should be simple.

The story goes something like this: you meet someone over friends, at work or on tinder. You like what you see and go on a few dates. You start spending more time together until one fine day one of your friends asks the deadly questions: “So, are you guys seeing each other now? Have you had the chat? Do you think this could have potential?”

Believe it or not, it’s a game changer! We were happy to spend time getting to know this new, amazing person. Now we suddenly start to think and analyze not just about how we feel, but also about the other person’s point of view.

Before we know it, we feel an incredibly strong urge to define what this “new thing” is and can be—to the point where we can’t help but get it off our chest and confront the other person involved.

And then this: a friend tells us excitedly about this awesome new person they are seeing, and a couple of months later we rock up to their house with a box of tissues because a “commitment chat” ended in an epic disaster and crushed hopes.

Occasionally, we all come across people who play games or simply don’t want a relationship, but what about the ones who actually long for romance and partnership? How is it possible that someone is all loved up in one moment, and shuts down as soon as commitment becomes a topic?

We all know affection for someone doesn’t disappear overnight, so it seems the problem isn’t commitment itself, or our feelings for this special someone. It’s the need to talk about it, the need to lock someone in, the need for clarity and perspective.

We may as well consult our lawyer and draft a contract, bottom-line: “Please sign here to confirm your formal commitment to this relationship.”

Truth is, head and heart aren’t always on the same page. While our heart is in the present, nurtured by the beauty of shared experiences and positive moments, our mind is hung up in the past or flying into future scenarios.

Verbalizing an emotional matter too soon can suddenly bring up fears, worries or pain from the past. Our positive feelings of freedom and flexibility in this effortless romantic liaison are suddenly replaced by insecurity, anxiety and question marks as to where we actually stand with the other person. We start assessing compatibility, potential and possible future challenges as a couple. This shift from heart to head creates heaviness where there was ease. Expectations build and pressure increases.

Welcome to our world of targets, goals, strategy and security. We are used to quantifying things, having control, forecasting results and setting rules to minimize our risks. We constantly need to know where we stand with our friend, boss, trainer and partner.

We are terribly afraid of finding ourselves in a grey zone or an unpredictable situation.

Many of us are scared of love because we can’t touch it, we can’t see it and we can’t guarantee it won’t change—love isn’t tangible! As the mind-driven people we have become, we hope labelling something gives us control over it. By giving romance a name we make it feel more predictable, and by committing a person to a relationship we feel secure and reassured.

But is verbal commitment real? Does it save us from being hurt? Does it make our partnership any better or worse?

Reality check: It’s an illusion we like to use when our innermost fear of abandonment is creeping in, our fear of total vulnerability.

We all have our own story, reasons why we need to comfort our mind, but deep down, we know that a relationship isn’t a contract and our lover isn’t a business partner. Plus, not everyone we meet knows exactly what he or she is looking for. Some people may be quite content with their life as it is, so when they fall for someone it might just take them a little longer to re-arrange their mindset and make some space for this new person in their life.

Someone said to me recently that love itself is the strongest commitment.

Let’s assume for a moment we would never have the chat. Suppose we would just continue to spend time collecting unforgettable moments together. Suppose our feelings would grow stronger. Suppose we would simply trust life and the universe a little more.

Would we not just enjoy getting to know and exploring each other? Wouldn’t we long to show the other person they are special to us and put a smile on their face as often as we can?

Wouldn’t our heart just naturally commit to the other person over time and wouldn’t we show this by integrating them in our lives and making them a priority? Wouldn’t a partnership develop organically? And wouldn’t we simply take on the challenges that come up along the way and grow together?

Actual commitment grows stronger through positive times together, through learning to love each other’s imperfections and through making our chosen partner priority.

We need to come back to the core definition of a partnership, the stuff that creates the reality between two people: affection, care, thoughtfulness and dedication. Maybe we should simply go with what we see, let things flow and trust life.

We meet people for a purpose, they come and go. All we can do is be ourselves, vulnerable and loving. We can’t foresee the future but we have a major impact on the present moment—besides:

“Nothing is forever except change.”

~ Gautama Buddha



Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr / Michael Patterson

Read 10 Comments and Reply

Read 10 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Caecilia Raeder