Commitment is perhaps one of the most emotionally provocative words in our vocabulary. It can bring up notions of relationships or responsibilities, or even important obligations. Some of us seek commitment as it can bring feelings of grounding and stability. After all, to be committed to something is to dedicate oneself to a person or cause. This can mean relying on that person or cause as something constant. For others, this can be unsettling or even nerve-wracking. The thought of commitment can bring about feelings of anxiety or fear of being “trapped.” It’s all a matter of perception, however certain perceptions can negatively impact our mental and emotional health.
Commitment is Necessary for a Healthy Life
Commitment is a necessary aspect of life. Many tasks will require our commitment in order to follow through. For instance, a job requires commitment, in that we must commit to working a certain amount of time, on certain days, and accomplish certain tasks. Seeking an education also requires commitment, as we must commit to attending classes and completing homework. That being said, the most recognizable form of commitment is in our personal relationships. For many individuals, when the word commitment is mentioned it brings up images of marriage or similar demonstrations of monogamy. Marriage is traditionally meant to be a formal confirmation of trustworthiness and reliability between partners. Individuals choose to marry because they not only love each other, but feel as though they can depend on each other.
It’s important to remember, though, that commitment does not mean having total control over whether or not a relationship survives. This may be a misconception which contributes to many people’s fear of commitment in the first place. We are responsible for creating our own stable and healthy partnerships. When we learn how to nurture a loving connection between ourselves and our partners, we can discover that there is no longer a need to fear committing ourselves to that person.
Breaking Fear of Commitment
Dr. John Amodeo has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 35 years. According to Dr. Amodeo, “relationships thrive based upon the depth of intimacy that two people create together. A climate for intimacy is nourished as we find the courage to contact and reveal what is happening in our inner worlds.” In other words, relationships thrive on intimacy, not just physical, but emotional and mental. When we open ourselves up completely to our partners, we are nourishing the soil which allows our relationship to grow and flourish. However, we must also remember to give each other the space we need to feel and express these emotions. Through this space we can feel more free to express our innermost thoughts and feelings to our partners.
Dr. Amodeo explains that: “trusting that it’s okay to experience and reveal our inner world bestows a tremendous sense of freedom. Partnerships are sustained as we cultivate a climate of feeling free to be ourselves with each other.” In this way, commitment can be freeing rather than a means of entrapment. By committing ourselves to being true to each other, and expressing what we truly feel, we are freeing our innermost emotions. Being in a committed relationship, then, rather than being a trap is actually a means of emotional freedom. We can feel free to express ourselves without feeling ashamed or judged. To nurture connection, Dr. Amodeo states, we must reveal “our genuine feelings rather than acting them out by blaming, shaming, or attacking.”
Intimacy can be Nurtured and Developed
A form of therapy that can help with commitment in relationships is Emotionally Focused Therapy. This technique was primarily developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist, speaker, professor, and author who specializes in the field of couples therapy. In Emotionally Focused Therapy, the primary viewpoint is that we, as human beings, are wired for connection. As such, intimacy is something that can be nurtured once we develop mindfulness towards our authentic feelings. We must then take what Dr. Amodeo calls “intelligent risks” to be able to share these wants and feelings with each other. Authenticity, then, is the key to successful partnership, as well as the key to commitment being an opportunity for freedom rather than entrapment. After all, commitment is more than just a verbal promise – it is a means of authenticity – our promise to ourselves and our partners that we will be true to how we feel and express those feelings openly and honestly.
In this way, a marriage ceremony, while meaningful, does not guarantee commitment. We can’t just go into a relationship with good intentions. We must also commit ourselves to developing the necessary awareness and skills that will help our love flourish and our intimacy thrive.