Relationship Commitment: The Healing Journey
- 2006 29 Mar
Recent buzz seems to be that all men are commitment-phobic. The word is there are no more good men out there. Is that true, or is it more complex than that? Let me share Christina’s story.
Christina arrived for her third appointment wearing her uniform of jeans and a T-shirt. Her eyes had dark circles, and she wore no makeup. She appeared frustrated and annoyed as she offered a forced smile to my greeting.
I asked her what was bothering her, and she launched into a diatribe about men and dating. She had previously shared about her painful and unwanted divorce and the breakup of a long-term relationship. Both her ex-husband and ex-boyfriend offered no real emotional or physical commitment.
Christina was attempting to break into the dating scene again, but found so many men unwilling to fully commit. She was not sure if she was giving people a chance because of her own fear of getting hurt again.
Christina had experienced a lot of pain for a young woman, and it had beaten her down. She was discouraged, but still wanted to discover love again. She wanted a committed relationship, a committed marriage. The pain of her recent rejection, coupled with being rejected by her husband, had left her shaken and unsure of herself.
“I wonder if I can make good choices now,” she said with uncertainty. “I have made so many bad choices with men. Do I just pick bad boys or are there just no good men left out there?”
“Well, I’m not sure about the first part, about you picking bad boys who aren’t willing to commit,” I told her. “The second part, concerning whether there are any good men left, I think there are, but it takes being very selective. Let’s figure out what you might be doing wrong and fix it.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here,” she said sharply.
“Yes, I know that Christina. I don’t think you are trying to set yourself up for rejection and disappointment. No one goes out of her way to feel bad.”
“I just don’t trust myself,” she said again. “I think I sabotage myself without even trying. I know God intended us to be in relationship, but I’m not sure the men know it. There doesn’t seem to be any man willing to make a commitment. I wonder if all men are afraid of commitment, or is it me?”
Christina’s story is common. Many women seek commitment from a man who runs from permanent relationships, or they are in a physically committed relationship that lacks emotional intimacy. Both are symptoms of the same problem: a lack of real commitment.
For some, a lack of commitment takes the form of an inability to write your loved one into your personal future; for others it means being unwilling to share intimacies and vulnerabilities with your mate. As I shared in my recent book, "When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit," commitment means “knowing all of your partner’s idiosyncrasies and still choosing to stay with him or her. It is a dedication to – over time – understand and accept the foibles of your mate.
The issue of commitment is not a new one. Our society seems plagued with commitment issues: we move from job to job, friendship to friendship, church to church and sometimes, from marriage to marriage. Many see commitment as a daunting enterprise, something that asks us to lock the proverbial back door and stick with the person, church, friendship or marriage, when it might be easier to jump ship. We see commitment as being “hemmed in.”
Still, in spite of the “gallows humor” surrounding commitment, a loyal and trustworthy mate provides us with a place where we can grow, and grow up. In his book "The Road Less Traveled," Scott Peck says commitment is the foundation and bedrock of any genuinely loving relationship. “Couples cannot resolve in any healthy way the universal issues of marriage – dependency and independency, dominance and submission, freedom and infidelity, for example, without the security of knowing that the act of struggling over these issues will not itself destroy the relationship.”
Where do you stand on the issue of commitment in your relationship? Do you find yourself:
- Desiring closeness but finding your man unwilling to give it?
- Being with a man who offers myriad excuses for not spending quality time with you?
- Enjoying a loving evening but then feeling distanced and rejected the next day?
- Being with men who want to serial date?
- Wanting to be attached but being with a man who is resistant to making long-range plans that involve both of you?
- Being discouraged and settling for a relationship without long-term commitment?
- Filling your life up so you have no room left for closeness and relationship?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need to learn more about how to create the opportunity for an emotionally available, committed relationship.
Not surprisingly, the Scriptures address the issue of commitment. Consider the commitment Jonathan made to David. “Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (1 Samuel 18:3). Or, how about the beautifully poignant story of Ruth’s commitment to Naomi? “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). Finally, the writer of the Song of Solomon uses commitment language to describe our relationship to the Lord – “My lover is mine, and I am his.” Simple, profound, delightful commitment.
During the next month or so, we will explore the issue of commitment-phobia – how to make better choices in your dating as well as how to prepare yourself for your knight in shining armor. We will examine why some men have commitment issues and what you can do to help resolve them. We will explore ways to encourage your man to lock the door behind him, put both feet in the circle as well as be emotionally available to you. Don’t settle for too little – you deserve the best.
David Hawkins, PhD., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years.
He is the author of over 18 books, including "Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage," "Saying It So He'll Listen," and "When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You." His newest book is titled "When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit." Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.