Let’s face it. The word “commitment” has acquired a bad reputation. We use it to describe our self-imposed hectic lifestyles (“I’m just so over-committed.”). Parents and authority figures employ it to shame people (especially youth) into action (“But you made a commitment to this, you have to stick with it.”). It’s thrown out as a ready excuse for not pursuing something long-term (“I’m a ‘commitment-phobe,’ you know?”).
Last night, a friend of mine made a comment about relationships she’s been in where she only felt comfortable because “the door was always open,” meaning she could leave if things turned bad. “It wasn’t a true commitment, you know, like a marriage,” she said. Her comments made me think about the cultural and moral baggage associated with terms like “commitment” and “marriage.” In many sectors of our society, we have been made to feel like marriage is the “end all be all,” and not always in a positive way. There is the pervading notion (often “humorously” manifested in “ball and chain” jokes) that once the commitment is made, it’s all over….you’re stuck.
As I think about my own marriage, these negative connotations of “commitment” don’t fit. In lieu of restriction, I find extreme liberty in knowing that a commitment has been made. It was a lucid choice — we knew, in essence, to whom and what we were committing. We are, however, still discovering our many layers. Our commitment gives us room and freedom to examine who we are individually and as a couple. It gives us space to disagree, to “rock the boat,” to be true to ourselves. It allows us the privilege of being honest with each other at all times.
Ours is a union based both in reality and in vision. For better or for worse (usually for better), we are forward thinkers —- grateful for what we have, but always seeking out opportunities to grow, to expand, to improve. This applies to the emotional foundation of our marriage as well. It is only through our commitment to each other that we can achieve all that we want as a team, in life and in love.
I am grateful that I have come to know this meaning of the term “commitment.” I certainly have my life partner to thank for it. My commitment to him goes far beyond the labels associated with the traditional social bond of marriage— it was made well before we even considered becoming “husband and wife.” It is, and will always be, a deep, intrinsic part of me. In this connection I find joy, assurance, and the opportunity to be and become.