If there’s a single word that stirs up deep emotions, it’s “commitment.” While some desperately seek it, others run the other way. What is it about commitment that is so appealing to some, while striking fear into the hearts of others? Can we revision commitment in a way that frees us rather than traps us?
Those seeking commitment want to know that their partner is taking the relationship seriously. Research that forms the basis for Attachment Theory tells us that we’re wired with a longing for safety and security. When I need you, I want to know you’re there. It would seem that making a commitment to the relationship might assure mutual security. But sadly, divorce statistics reveal that however seriously we may commit ourselves to a partnership, they oftentimes don’t work out
We have valid desire for security, but perhaps we need to look through a slightly different lens to understand what it actually takes to create the stability we seek. Promises are fragile. Knowing what it takes to nurture trust and connection keeps a relationship thriving and reduces the risk of separate or betrayal.
As stated in my book, Love & Betrayal:
“An important aspect of personal growth is to sort out the kinds of commitments that we as individuals are willing to make and prepared to keep…Then, instead of placing our trust in the “final product” of marital longevity, we as a couple might redirect our trust and commitment to the more immediate, fundamental process of relating openly, fully, and forthrightly with each other. Our dedicated commitment to this marital process, rather than to marital permanence, may, paradoxically, provide our best chance for maintaining the enduring love we want.”
Relationships thrive based upon the depth of intimacy that two people nurture together. Intimacy grows as we contact and reveal what is happening in our inner worlds.
Relationships are more likely to survive and thrive as we give each other ample space to feel and express what we’re experiencing inside. Trusting that it’s okay to experience and reveal our inner life bestows a tremendous sense of freedom. Partnerships are sustained as we cultivate a climate of feeling free to be ourselves with each other.
A deeper sense of connection and comfort grow as we commit ourselves to speaking what is true for us and creating time to deeply listen to each other. The art of nurturing connection means developing the skill of tenderly revealing our genuine feelings rather than acting them out by blaming, shaming, or attacking.
Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples (primarily developed by Dr. Sue Johnson) embraces the view that we’re wired for connection. Intimacy is nurtured as we become mindful of our authentic, primary feelings and take intelligent risks to share our feelings and wants with each other.
Partnerships grow and deepen as we commit ourselves to the process of being authentic with ourselves and each other. This involves a commitment to our personal growth, which doesn’t mean fixing ourselves, but rather bringing mindfulness our deeper felt experience. Partnerships may deepen as we’re committed to being emotionally honest with ourselves and our loved one. We commit ourselves to deep listening, which means caring about—and being responsive to—our partner’s feelings and needs. Our partner or potential partner is more likely to want to stay with us as embody respect, kindness, and sensitivity toward their inner world.
The authenticity that deepens connection doesn’t mean being obnoxious or aggressive. As Anais Nin reminds us, “Respect for the vulnerability of human beings is a necessary part of telling the truth, because no truth will be wrested from a callous vision or callous handling.” Kind, respectful, non-violent communication helps nurture lasting connections.
A marriage ceremony can be a wonderful way to commemorate our intention to commit ourselves to nurture love and intimacy for a lifetime. But good intentions alone are insufficient. The foundation for a lifelong, loving relationship Is built as we commit ourselves to develop the awareness and skills necessary for love and intimacy to endure.
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Image: Pixabay image by Waldryano