People often view the issue of commitment with a “right / wrong” approach. For instance: “It is wrong of my partner to be avoiding commitment”. Or, in a different vein: ”Is there something wrong with me that is causing my partner to avoid commitment?”.
I prefer to think of commitment within the context of the relationship. The problem is when one partner wants more commitment, and the other doesn’t.
Looking at it this way, it’s not just about commitment, it’s also about how you two, as a couple, are able to manage conflict.
Look at it this way: If the relationship is to go on, and to become deeper, it’s not going to be the fairy tale ending of “happily ever after”. In real-life relationships – even very happy relationships – there are plenty of conflicts. What makes a relationship good is not the absence of conflict, it’s your ability to deal with conflict.
Why am I saying this?
I would like you to adopt a different attitude toward this commitment issue.
The attitude I am suggesting for you is: “This struggle about commitment is a great opportunity for us to practice resolving difficult conflicts”.
This is a way to see what’s happening within a broader complex. The struggle you’re having right now is part of what relationships are all about – struggling between being individuals and being a couple.
In practice, how is this going to be different from what you’ve been doing?
For one thing, I hope this broader perspective helps you relax some of the pressure that you may be putting on yourself and your partner. After all, if what’s happening is part of the normal process of what relationships are all about, there is less of a need to be on “high alert” mode for dealing with it.
Relaxing the pressure means feeling less antagonistic.
What happens in a conflict situation (not just this one) is that you feel: “It’s me against my partner”. So you have the paradoxical situation that, on the one hand, you’re trying to be more of a couple…. And, on the other hand, you’re experiencing this as a moment of being very alone, fighting against the person you want to be a couple with!
In other words, your challenge is to start to conceive of what’s happening as something that involves both of you, as opposed to something that your partner perpetrates against you.
Does this mean that you essentially cave in to what your partner wants?
Not at all. Remember, I said this is part of dealing with the conflicts in a relationship, part of dealing with being individuals as well as members of a couple. Your goal is certainly not to lose yourself in order to have a relationship.
You can want what you want, and be firm about it.
So, you’ll say, what’s different about what’s happening now? I’m certainly not shy about asking my partner to commit!
The difference is in the style of the struggle.
The antagonistic struggle is a bit like the trench-warfare of World War One. Each partner is entrenched in their position, and won’t budge. You keep using heavy artillery against each other’s position, in the hope that the other person will “see the light” and see the wisdom of your position.
In contrast, the approach I am suggesting is one in which, while you are clear about what you each want, you are also each willing to look at things within a broader perspective, and to look inside in order to re-examine your assumptions.
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