Commitment is not a simple process. In recent post, we’ve touched on your feelings, behavior, choices, and fears. Most of all we’ve talked about conflict. But there is on thing we haven’t yet talked about, and that is how to go about establishing and sustaining a genuinely committed relationship.
That’s what we want to do here. We would like to start out by saying that we don’t believe it’s simple or easy. (I haven’t found it simple in my life and I don’t expect to find it simple in yours).
However, if you’re tired of always sitting on the edge of the pool, envying those who have had the courage to dive in and lead committed lives, there is a way to learn to take the plunge and swim in this intimidating body of water.
Before you can do anything else, you have stop kidding yourself and stop trying to kid everyone else. Stop looking for excuses – either for yourself or for your partners. Whether you are always ambivalent or you always find yourself in relationships with ambivalent partners, recognize that you have issues that need to be resolved.
In life, there are always reasons why commitments haven’t been made or shouldn’t be made. For example, if someone is twenty-two and has only dated a few people, it’s appropriate to be unsure.
But at a certain point you need to acknowledge those relionalizations that keep you stuck. When you start facing the ways in which commitment fears control what you do, you begin to reduce the power of those ‘commitment phobia’ fears which have you up all night.
You may never feel one hundred percent certain about any realistic and appropriate choices, romantic or otherwise. There is only one solution to this dilemma: Instead of trying to find a relationship in which you have no ambivalence, commit yourself to managing it and constructing your life in such a way that you control this ambivalence, rather than letting it control you.
Know yourself and recognize how you behave. For example:
Commitment Phobia is about fear. Fear of being stuck, trapped, or tied down; fear of losing options; fear of losing freedom; fear of losing control; fear of dependency; fear of being bored; fear of leading an ordinary life; fear of making a mistake or repeating mistakes (yours or someone else’s).
You need to be very specific in examining precisely what it is you don’t want in a relationship and then look at how these fears can cause you to choose badly or behave badly.
Here’s a good way to do this: Starting with parents and other relatives, think about all the people you know in long-term relationships. Make a list of what it is about these relationships that makes you uncomfortable and that you don’t want to duplicate in your own life.
Then think about all the people you know who have lives or jobs that you consider settled but dreary. Make a list of everything you consider negative or stultifying about their lives.
Then think about how these “fears” might be determining your patterns and behavior. Have any of your less-fortunate choices been extreme reactions to some of your fears?
We realize that there are many more complicated issues that can be reinforcing commitment conflicts, including fundamental fears of abandonment and intimacy that have their source in early childhood. These are obviously best managed with the help and support of a professional in a therapeutic situation. Be prepared to take those steps if necessary.
All too often the narcissistic voices in our heads lead us to make choices that reflect fantasy images of ourselves, but not who we really are. We live in homes we can’t afford, but cars we can’t maintain, we find partners who make us look good but are not necessarily good for us.
If there is a strong narcissistic voice in your head, you are walking on eggshells all the time. Prisoners of the need to be perfect are always searching for the perfect passion, the perfect career, the perfect car, the perfect VCR, and the perfect dog.
If you are relentlessly judging, criticizing, labeling, and typing, you may assume that everyone is doing the same to you. Always anticipating being scrutinized by the world, you give these feelings top priority. Your real needs are lost. You can’t make choices just for you.
If you want to liberate yourself from the prison of perfection, you must find the origin of the judgemental voices inside your head and start replacing them with self-acceptance.
Try to become comfortable with the concept of “good enough.” You need to see yourself as good enough right now, and you need to see your choices as good enough. There is no such thing as perfect; it’s a word we can all learn to live without.