We live in a disposable culture, addicted to constant stimulation, new thrills, and instant gratification. In that kind of model, with all the blends of media encouragement to keep it up, and the pressures of trying to keep up with life, where is your relationship fitting in? Is it falling prey at all to “Hamster-itis” – my term for living life as if you’re a hamster or guinea pig on one of those wheels in a cage you remember from elementary school. Are you gauging the health of your relationship/marriage by how often you get those hits of feeling like it’s still exciting and giving you enough TPW (Thrills Per Week)?
If you are, how often do you find yourself either questioning your commitment to the relationship…or fantasizing about walking away from it, permanently or temporarily through a virtual or real affair?
That’s increasingly happening more and more; perhaps, it’s even being amplified by the pressures of coping with all the economic fear that so many seem to be sucked into. It makes me wonder how people really relate to the concept of commitment these days. In so many arenas, it seems to have lost a lot of its meaning. But, in the realm of committed relationships, it seems to be getting disturbingly loosey-goosey.
Dictionary.com has one definition of commitment that reads: “Consignment; as to a prison.” Now, you may be feeling that’s a perfectly apt description of what your commitment to your partner/spouse feels like more often than not. But, would it be more empowering for you both if you were living more by this definition: “Engagement; involvement…as in “they have a sincere commitment to?” That latter one seems much more exciting, and also challenging. This kind of commitment really implies that that engagement and involvement is pure and whole…not selective, as in “I’m totally committed to my partner as long as s/he’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing to assure me that they love me,” for example.
Commitment in relationship is, at best, pretty tricky. It’s the glue that can keep you both hanging in through situations and developmental phases that require commitment to get through. It’s the compass that can help you get clearer on what you really want (or don’t) without hitting a panic button and inappropriately leaving your relationship, just because the going gets tough (which it will in EVERY relationship). However, it can also be misused in a way that keeps you with a partner that’s really and truly toxic. Commitment can, unfortunately, be what you have to suffering…endlessly. So, how do you tell the difference between which type of commitment is tending to govern your relationship?
There are a few perspectives I would offer on this:
- Taking The Longer View – Healthy commitment in a marriage/relationship really orients you towards a reflexive long-range perspective; in other words, when you’re fighting with your partner, you’re easily able to realize it’s a short-term circumstance that’s not worth knee-jerkingly throwing the partner out with the bath water. You can pretty easily see that a struggle’s an opportunity to work something out that’s just burping up to be sorted out…so you can actually get closer with your partner. You will want that badly enough that you stay committed to the process until you’re both clear it’s been through its full resolution.
- What Comes Out In The Wash – If you’re clear enough that you’ve got a high enough level of commitment to the relationship – and yourself – to take that long-range view, then it’s important that you monitor – over time – how well things are coming out in the wash; in other words, on balance, do you each feel that you’re both getting what you need over the long haul? However, if you’re both fighting constantly, getting increasingly disconnected from each other, and/or are unable to even try to conceal the levels of resentment that are choking each of you, a healthy commitment would guide you both to getting professional help. No couple can work out chronic conflict on their own.
- Trading In – It’s unique to each couple what the “right” balance is between the kind of commitment level that keeps you hanging in and working out the kinks, and the kind that keeps you suffering in a relationship way past its shelf date. However, reflexively and chronically tending to go toward, “This is really a pain in the butt…wouldn’t it just be easier to look for someone else that’s a better fit?” is an indicator that you’re probably not in a healthy commitment to your partner, but more in a commitment that’s devoted to it all being about you and your needs. It’s not a bad thing to want your needs met, but a healthy commitment in a relationship is one dedicated to both partners being fulfilled. That kind of commitment naturally orients you both to realize that both of you are creating the state of your relationship at any given time. Recognizing and owning that will help you both re-connect with a healthy commitment to staying engaged in mutually serving each other’s growth and well-being, even if it means you have to hit some speed bumps along the way.
One simple rule of thumb that will really help you to sort out what you’re really committed to in your relationship, how healthy that commitment continues to be (or not), and what it can make possible is to NOT try figuring it out solely in YOUR head! You want to remember that – like all humans – you’re going to orient towards seeing things the way your ego wants you to see them…not necessarily seeing things as they really are, or as your partner may see them. So, to help remove such bias, it always pays to talk with your partner…ask them how they see (and feel) things.
Continually re-examine what commitment really means to each of you, together…and, look freshly and constantly at what each of you are committed to NOW – within the overarching, long-term commitment you made to your relationship. If you’re not able to do that, get some help from a third-party Relationships Expert, like what I offer couples, to see the forest for the trees. If you’re not willing to do that, than you’ll know that you’re not really committed to the relationship working, but instead are comfortably committed to being and staying unhappy. Now, that’s an unhealthy commitment.
If you’re seeing that your relationship is ready for the major breakthroughs you want with your partner & haven’t achieved with others you’ve turned to for help, click here to take advantage of a complimentary 40-minute Love & Relationship Breakthrough Session with Geoff.
I would really love to hear what you think and feel about this topic. If you would be willing to share, and would want it to be anonymous, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re willing to have your experiences be of more immediate use and support for others trying to figure all this stuff out too, I invite you to post a comment or a note, to my Living Your Spirit Now Facebook Fan Page.