January 20, 2015

What Commitment is (Not).

WikiMedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zombie_love.jpg

Commitment. It’s a scary word for so many of us.

Too many “what ifs.”  Memories and fears get in the way, so a lot of us steer damn clear of it!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what commitment means to me, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Commitment does not mean marriage.

I’ve been married. I’m not anymore. I’ve seen marriages collapse all around me, and I’ve seen marriages occur for the wrong reasons.

However, I’m not against marriage— in fact, I very much want to get married again. Not because marriage shows commitment, but because it’s a personal expression between two people.  It’s a way for people to show their already existing commitment to each other and to the world.

Is marriage necessary? Absolutely not!  Does it show commitment? Hell no!

Yet, marriage can be a wonderful celebration of love— a ritual. It’s something we humans have been doing since the beginning of time! Somehow a ritual solidifies something in ourselves, in our community and in our hearts.

Marriage doesn’t change anything. It is the result of and the expression of something that should exist already. And if that ritual is the only thing holding you together for fear of shame, guilt or assumed responsibility— there’s something amiss.

Sometimes we do need a reminder of who the person we are with is, and not what we’ve made them. Sometimes we need to be pulled out of our own selfishness, and sometimes marriage will do that for us. However, when it’s the only thing, after all else has failed, it’s not something to continue suffering for.

It should never be about suffering. Ever.

Commitment means deciding to put someone just after yourself.

I hear and read so often that commitment is about putting someone else before yourself. I’ve done that, and trust me, it doesn’t go so well!

Putting anyone or anything before your own happiness and peace is never going to work out.

Sure, at times we sacrifice ourselves for others—we put ourselves out when another is in need, and sometimes we even place another’s needs before our own. That’s called being a nice human, not commitment.

There’s a reason someone chooses to be our partner. That person is attracted to us and sees something in us that they want to be a part of. So if we go and mold ourselves around that other person’s needs, whims and thoughts, then we will eventually be nothing like the person they fell in love with!

We have to be ourselves. We have to respect who we are and do our best to preserve that person someone else loves so much. (Please do not confuse this with emotional or spiritual stagnancy, as It is not the same thing.)

Commitment means choosing to look at ourselves.

When two people agree to always find a way through—for the sake of themselves, their dreams, each other and the relationship—magic happens.

However, magic requires a cauldron—a stirring pot made of hard material full of bubbling, hot emotion! This means looking at ourselves, as well as the other person.

I am guilty of looking only at the other person during a conflict. I tend to focus on the wrong doings of  someone else to avoid the painful experience of looking at myself.

The truth is,  I can be horribly selfish.

I can be a judgmental, angry and unempathetic person. It’s just easier to focus on how they are, than to admit any shortcomings in myself. But we must! We have take a breath, a step back and remember the love.

Why this person is in our life? What is most important? Is my righteous anger (my reaction to the other person’s point of view ) really that important when it comes to becoming being two old folks in rocking chairs, holding hands while we sip tea, with blankets on our laps? Probably not.

Commitment cannot be done on our own.

This is a two-way street. One cannot commit to another who does not. That’s how abuse happens. One doting partner earnestly standing by another who could quite blatantly not give a damn. Even if one is committed, without reciprocation from the other, it means nothing. It is an empty relationship, and it will hurt.

In fact, without the other person meeting us heart-on, ready to climb to the heady heights of freedom and love, it is no relationship at all.

Two people have to be in agreement on this! They have to have the same ideas regarding commitment, and perhaps this is different for couple. Perhaps for some, pooling all their money and dedicating their lives to their children is their idea of commitment. As long as both partners agree and it causes no suffering, then great! Get at it!

Commitment means striving to know the other.

I’m learning French and, ironically, one of the first phrases I have learnt is: Je regrét, mais ce ne est pas confortable pour moi comme ça. (This translates to: I am sorry ,but this is not comfortable for me like that.)

If I don’t commit to learning more, I won’t. Even if I’m tired, or distracted or something extremely important is on my mind, I have to keep at it. I have to understand it. Because once I do, not only will I feel like a kick ass rock-star, but a whole world of opportunity will open up to me!

The same goes for our partners. If I strive to understand my partner, eventually I will see the parts of her that invite a whole new level of intimacy and love. A flippant remark becomes a signal that she’s feeling something. Her silence becomes loud and full of description. However, unless I drop my own selfishness and take the time to try to understand what she’s feeling, she will continue to be the quiet girl who makes flippant remarks, and I’ll be the guy who doesn’t meet her needs.

Commitment is not about giving up anything.

So often, the argument of a loss of freedom or independence is used to justify one’s refusal to commit. This truly makes me feel sad. It makes me wonder—who broke the heart of this person? Because it appears that this person was never loved in the way they truly deserved.

Commitment shouldn’t cause us to lose anything, especially not our freedom or independence!

No dreams should be put on hold, no longings left unfulfilled, and no achievements never met. After all, if commitment means sacrificing the things we love or giving up on our dreams, then what are we committing ourselves? Our own unhappiness for the happiness of another? I’m sorry, but that’s not love or commitment. That’s desperation.

Committing to another person means committing to every part of them. That includes their dreams, their desires and their wishes. It means holding their hand when they need you to and allowing them space when they don’t. Most importantly, it means finding happiness and joy in their smile when they achieve their goals or start living their dream. It means feeling what they feel and having a snog in the rain when “that thing” happens for them.

Commitment means agreeing to see the now, not the memory of the past.

I’m familiar with the struggle of not trusting another. I understand how difficult it can be to believe someone’s words and good intentions, when others have used the same words in the past and wound up crippling you. But we must somehow reign in that fear. Somehow , we must recognize that we are expecting our present to turn out like our past.

Too often, my reactions are based on similar experiences from the past.

Someone I loved wanted to go hang out with her friend and smoke pot. At the time, I trusted her. Why would I not? I had not been burned yet. She wound up sleeping with her friend, which has resulted in my own judgment of pot, a distrust of those who say they love me and a fear of so-called “platonic” relationships.

However, I can recognize this in myself now. When I find myself reacting this way, I need to remember to check myself. I must stay present and see the beautiful person in front of me, rather than succumbing to the pain of a past wound.

Just because we’ve been hurt once, doesn’t mean we will be hurt again. (Unless we keep choosing douche-bags or unavailable partners, in which case we should probably examine our choices more closely.)

This brings me to my final point…

Commitment is a mindset, not a list of rules.

What I’ve written here nearly seems to make what should be a wonderful, romantic and exciting part of life, almost seem like something bland, mundane and rigid.

The thing is, commitment isn’t about reading this, or any other article on the subject, and checking things off a list. It’s about what’s in our hearts. And whilst we sometimes need a gentle reality check or a nudge in our selfish butts—if we are constantly just referring to what others think we should be doing, then something’s gone awry.

These thoughts—because that’s all they are—are of no consequence at all.

These musings hold absolutely no bearing on the beautiful prospect of two people walking hand in hand and choosing to commit to each other, again and again each day.

I could never do justice to the depths of romance or love with mere words, but perhaps I can open a dialogue. And perhaps that is enough, for now…

Personally I say, “f*ck yes!” to commitment. How about you?


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Author: Andy Charrington

Apprentice Editor: Yoli Ramazzina / Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: WiiMedia Commons, via Jeremy Keith 

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