“Who needs “commitment” when you have reality?
by Tim Ray
Sometimes people who read my questioning of our collective relationship myths ask me: “But Tim, what about ‘commitment’? What about making promises and keeping them? What about having agreements and plans for the future?”
When people say this, what comes to mind is: “Who needs ‘commitment’ when you have reality?”
Just think about it for a moment and tell me honestly – how likely is it that you and your beloved are going to stop being together if you’re a really good match, best friends, talk constantly about everything and just love hanging out with each other?
Not very likely, right?
And conversely, how likely is it that you and your partner – even though you’re ‘committed’ to being together until death do you part – will stay together forever if you’re bored to death in each other’s company, can’t really talk about what’s important, and in fact can’t stand each other?
Not very likely, right?
“But,” you may say, “does this mean that two people can’t promise each other that they’ll stay together for the rest of their lives and never ever be together with anyone else? Does this mean that they can’t do all this promising in a special building called the House of God with one of them dressed in a long, white gown while the other wears a black tuxedo and both are overseen by a third person in a white collar who reads solemn-sounding words from a book that is several thousand years old while their family and friends stand by and watch?”
And of course the answer is you can! But if we get a tiny bit real about it all, we have to admit that it’s just a tad absurd because everyone in this great building (including the solemn person in the white collar with the big book which is several thousand years old) knows perfectly well what the reality is: Namely that regardless of what these two people solemnly swear, they will stay together until they no longer stay together!
And that’s reality.
And that reality may be a month, a year, or even 10 years. Or even the rest of their lives. But standing there in the House of God, nobody knows for sure. And again, that’s reality.
In one sense having a wedding is just as absurd as if you and your best friend throw a big party and invite everyone you know and then solemnly swear in front of the whole crowd that the two of you will continue being best friends until death do you part! It would probably be a great party, but as for the rest…
“But,” you may object, “Doesn’t ‘commitment’ reduce the chances of one of the partners being unfaithful and being with someone else?”
And again what comes to mind is: “Who needs ‘commitment’ when you have reality?”
If you and your partner really are the best friends in the whole wide world and can talk about everything and really love each other’s company – what are the chances that one of you will be with someone else?
Pretty slim, right?
And conversely, if you and your partner are bored with each other and can’t really be honest about what you feel – and maybe in the end can’t stand the sight of each other – what are the chances that one of you (even though you swore fidelity in a church or town hall) will at some point be with someone else?
Pretty big, right?
This brings us to another good old myth about relationships which is: My idea about what should happen in my life and in my relationship is better than what actually does happen. It’s the belief that it would be better for me if my partner wasn’t together with someone else. The belief that it would be better for me if my partner didn’t leave me. The belief that it would be best for me if my partner and I stayed together forever.
But when you think about the above statements – can you really know for sure that any of these statements are true? Can you really know what’s best for you and your partner now or in the long run? Can you absolutely know that it’s not the very best thing in the world for you (and for your partner) that your relationship ends when it ends? Which might be right now or next week?
Try to think back to a relationship you once had that didn’t end the way you thought it should have. And then see if you can’t quietly find at least three concrete reasons why your life is better today because that relationship ended when it did. At least three concrete reasons.
Now isn’t that interesting?
So can you absolutely know for sure that your idea about what should happen in your life – and in your relationship – is better than what is really happening?
So as I said: Who needs ‘commitment’ when you have reality?
“But what about when you have children?” you may ask. “Doesn’t that take ‘commitment’?”
To this I’d say: Hey, what are the chances of you walking out the door and never returning if your one-year old baby is hungry and crying – whether or not you have a partner?
Pretty much zero, right?
So who needs ‘commitment’ when you have reality?
“But what about making plans and having agreements? If nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future and reality always wins – does that mean that you can’t make plans? I mean can’t we make plans to go out for dinner on Friday at seven or go on a holiday to the Maldives in January or to buy a house or have a child together or …?”
And the answer is yes of course you can. Agreements and plans – such as making an appointment to get your hair done at three o’clock on Tuesday – is not something we do to make life more difficult for each other, but to make things easier. But the point is that no matter how many plans and agreements we make, the reality is that nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year. We don’t even know what’s going to happen five seconds from now.
But there’s nothing wrong with making plans and agreements. The problem arises when we stubbornly and rigidly hold on to these plans and agreements instead of living in harmony with the ever-changing and unpredictable reality. That’s when we get into trouble and suffer. Especially if we’re so attached to our plans for the future that we completely forget to live and enjoy the only thing we ever really have – which when it comes to our relationship – is the two of us together in this moment. Now. Now. And now.
The fear of abandonment
If reading the above makes you feel upset or if you feel discomfort when you contemplate the fact that things really do change and that you don’t need commitment when you have reality, it may be a sign that you have deeper issues. It may be a sign that you have an underlying fear of abandonment or that you are afraid of being alone or that you fear not being able to manage or take care of yourself if you are alone. Fears like these are common and are also based on some basic misunderstandings about the nature of life. In my new book “101 Relationship Myths”, I investigate some of these fears and suggest ways in which you can learn to take better care of yourself – whether or not you have a partner.”