How I Found My Freedom To Love, As A Commitment Phobic Man
There is a path for those of us who dread losing ourselves with another
Who am I to speak to this? Just one dude who has struggled with commitment — for decades — imploding many a great relationship.
Two characteristics have made it feel impossible to stick around with any one person — no matter how wonderful and perfect a match they may have been.
One is that I have a high need for love.
Two is an equally high need for freedom.
The tension between freedom and love pulled me in opposite directions, and ended a handful of truly worthy relationships.
My first real insight about what commitment is came a while back from Gay and Katie Hendricks, pioneers of embodied couples work.
“Commitment is not what I say I will do,
but what I am doing already.”
Here’s how I understand this in my own words today…
I realized a while back in my marriage that I did not actually have “commitment issues”.
In fact, I was committed to lots of things (which are rather embarrassing to admit) like:
- Arguing with and invalidating my wife as a way to show I was “right” and affirm my own identity, separate from hers.
- Watching late night TV and being on my phone to avoid my uncomfortable emotions and being intimate with hers.
- Nurturing fantasies of an ideal partner who met all of my needs, without me having to voice them, whenever I wanted, and without asking for anything in return. (Read as my “Spousal Entitlement Syndrome”)
So, here’s how I have come to understand and love, yes love commitment these days.
It all begins with how “commitment” is defined, doesn’t it?
How I define commitment defines how I feel about commitment.
So, lets look at the most common and my new and evolving definition.
Now, if I see that there are these two very basic yet very different options, two starkly unique choices lay before me.
One, based on a sense of duty, leads me to where I was most stuck and conflicted.
The other, based on choice, breeds a very satisfying liberating result.
Now, living in my power of “choice” sounds simple, but it’s a conscious practice.
It is so devilishly easy to slip back into the lethargy of “duty”.
It helps me to remember to “awaken” to my power to choose and to silence the “shoulding” voice of duty and sometimes shame. To simply make a choice.
Even a choice to not be loving, if made consciously is a way of re-claiming my freedom and power.
Choosing NO, in moments, liberates me to say a wholehearted YES at other moments.
Over time, as they say, “the proof is in the pudding”.
Millions of moments, each the fruit of my choices in the relationship — made consciously or not, out of duty or fully freedom to choose — add up.
And I begin to see what my choices sown, now reap over time.
Ultimately, I have discovered…
What do you find when you choose to love, again and again?
In moments where it is easy and others where it is hard?
When it doesn’t fit a fairytale notion of love, but more a gritty noir?
When it’s a normal mundane act? When no one notices and gives you any credit?
What do you reap when you sow actions of love?