What a big issue commitment seems to be for many of us! Merriam-Webster.com defines commitment as “to pledge or assign to some particular course or use.” Whether it’s getting work done, committing to exercise regularly or eat well, or pledge our love to someone else, commitment can be a challenge. Every day in my private practice, I see clients who are having trouble understanding what commitment is, accepting the reality of their relationships, or communicating about what they want or need from a partner.
A major part of the problem is thinking that we must “make a commitment”. A true commitment is not something you make, but a state of being rather than a decision. The realization that you are committed, that you feel dedicated to a relationship or a venture, must come before the declaration. It does not develop the other way around. What works is being inspired to commit to love because we recognize that we can’t imagine life without our beloved.
A marriage or a relationship commitment is not made at the ceremony, but gradually over the weeks and months before. A proposal and a ceremonial celebration are only the beginning of further development of commitment. Commitment is also made by moving in together, although the lack of formality can create confusion about what commitments are being made.
Relationship responsibilities can be viewed as obligations, which usually generates resentment. Remembering the reasons why the relationship is important and what it means, replaces the resentment with gratitude and pleasure. Even the routine, boring responsibilities are transformed into expressing love through action.
We literally cannot know the extent of our commitment when we decide to declare ourselves a couple, because we are unable to read the future, or to know what will be required of us. It is a great, courageous step into the unknown.
Many couples do this with great pomp and circumstance, with blessings of various religions, with many friends present. Many others have no ceremony at all, beyond the exhausting and jumbled event of moving their belongings into the same space. Others still have kept their commitments faithfully and well for many years without even living together, sometimes without the knowledge of co-workers and family. When our friends Doug and Ed had a church wedding two years ago, it was after 47 years of loving commitment.
Whatever form this great step takes, it is a declaration of a commitment to begin to form a deeper commitment. It is a decision to live mutually, to work it out together. Being committed is the recognition that you’ve surrendered to a mutual path rather than a solo one. There’s a surprising amount of surrender involved.
A joyous commitment means surrendering every day to the greater good. Your responsibilities expand to include three: yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Few decisions can be made without consideration for all three parts. You will not be able to contribute to the growth and development of the relationship if you allow my own health and/or well-being to suffer. Without commitment to yourself, you risk being a burden rather than an asset to your partner and your love. Caring for yourself within the relationship means feeling fulfilled and enriched within your love.
Your partner’s wants and needs become equal to your own; not more, not less. No decision can be truly satisfying unless it also satisfies your partner. When mutual satisfaction seems impossible, and you compromise, it’s an unstable, unsettled condition; a temporary solution that gives you time to research more options until you find the mutual answer.
Your relationship, too, has needs and conditions that must be met to insure its health. One relationship need that comes to mind immediately is time. Devoting time to the relationship is important to its health and growth. ( I find in my therapy practice that many relationships in trouble benefit from the simple fact that the couple is devoting one hour a week to focus on the relationship in a constructive way.)
Surrendering to these responsibilities, and meeting them with love and joy are the keys to success. These ideal conditions cannot possibly be met out of a sense of obligation.
In 1982, I married Richard feeling that I had no other choice. To pass up the chance that I could really have everything I ever wanted was impossible. I had to give it my best shot, to surrender to living out my dream. Reconciling that dream with our reality has been a challenge; and has reshaped both fantasy and real life. They are slowly and steadily coming closer together. I would not have lasted past the first year without the power of my commitment to achieving my dream. Now, in the twenty first century, we have created mutual happiness, love and contentment.
A declaration of commitment is the beginning of growing a deeper commitment. It is a decision to live mutually, to work it out together. For me, being committed is the recognition that I’ve surrendered to a mutual path rather than a solo one. There’s a surprising amount of surrender involved.
To couples on the path, I offer this wish: May you be married to your inner wisdom as well as to each other, and may you be guided by your true commitment through all the hills and valleys you must face. May it give you joy, and strength, and a sense of how precious is the gift of life and love.
May you live surrounded by love: your own, your friends’, and the mysterious higher energies of love you will touch in your transcendent moments. Seeing the power and the beauty of love, may you surrender fully to it, and through that surrender come to truly know yourselves and each other.
© 2017 Tina B. Tessina / adapted from: How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together http://tinyurl.com/zbe63u9