I was talking with a delightful couple the other day. They shared that they were drawn to be together, knew they were the one for each other, but the fear of commitment gnawed at each of them. They were both concerned that marriage would destroy their relationship. I could feel each of them struggle with the desire to make the commitment and the absolute terror that the commitment would devastatingly change the dynamics of their love.
Several years ago, I was plagued by a similar push-pull of desire and fear. At the time, I was being guided to start a business, but I was hesitant to do so. I liked the freedom my life held. My freelance work didn’t have a structure that required me to be in a certain place at a certain time. The new business would require making sure that I, or someone I hired, was standing behind an open sign for specific hours every day. I went deeply into resistance even though the silent voice guiding me was getting less and less silent. One day I was discussing my dilemma with a friend and wise woman. I told her I was hesitant to follow guidance that would require my commitment. She said, “There is freedom in commitment.”
At first, I didn’t understand what she meant, but I held onto her words and explored their content. As I went forth and opened the doors to my new venture, I discovered that there was, indeed, a certain kind of freedom in knowing what I needed to do every day. There were times prior when the blank canvas and the multitude of possible decisions on how to fill my time were paralyzing. Now, with this new structure in place, I was free from the daily onslaught of decisions that had to be made. I knew what I needed to do and where I needed to be each day.
We can look at that commitment as a limitation, or we can look at it as a structure that guides us and supports us in our daily decision-making. Marriage, for instance, has a specific structure that, in theory at least, should make decisions easier. Prior to that commitment, we may have a million choices to face every day about who to flirt with, who to date, who to sleep with (or not sleep with!), and sometimes the onslaught of options can take up a lot of time, energy and emotion. Once we settle into the groove of our decision to be committed, the structure of that decision can offer a freedom that is rewarding. The decisions post-commitment are about how to keep that specific relationship joyful, loving, kind, and mutually supportive. While not always easy, at least the target and the trajectory of our actions has a clear intent. It is when we lose sight of that intent, the target, that our actions lead us astray.
So I repeated the words to the couple, “There is freedom in commitment.” As they looked at me a little confused, I suggested that they consider that it is not the commitment or “marriage” that destroys a relationship, but rather the way we choose to look at the commitment. We tend to unconsciously think that we have to be together once we say “I do” and forget that this is a choice we are making because we want to be together. We go into resistance to what we think we have to do. We embrace that which we want to do. So, keeping an eye on the target is critical.
When we are afraid of something, if we take the time to look deeper, the fear has the ability to reveal to us that which we treasure and want to protect. In this case, the couple’s fear that commitment would destroy their relationship was revealing how much they treasured their relationship and wanted to keep it safe. When we know what we are trying to protect with our fear, we know what our target is. We then have the ability build strategies into our commitment to make our desires successful. Commitment does, indeed, change the dynamics of love. But I dare to suggest that the changes do not have to be devastating. Rather, commitment is the foundation upon which we are free to build.