So, what is commitment in a relationship anyway?
When you look around at all the various types of relationships people are having, it is difficult to define what commitment is. What we can say is that the interpretation of what commitment is varies and is different for every couple, and that through time, society has broadened the factors that may frame what level of commitment a couple feel comfortable with.
One definition of commitment is to promise ‘loyalty, devotion and dedication to a person and to a relationship’. The terms – ‘loyalty, devotion and dedication’ – are indeed themselves quite broad and can be interpreted in various ways. Another definition of commitment is ‘an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action’. This situation in a relationship setting, can lead to serious issues such as disorders like commitment phobia or infidelity.
How can commitment phobia affect long-term relationships?
We often tell tales about people (particularly) men who can’t commit and often find themselves in short-term relationship after short-term relationship. We call thee men “commitment phobic”. However, in long term relationships (like marriage or engagement) there are varying degrees of commitment issues as well. Relationship commitment is a paradox because it is laced with inconsistencies and illogicality. Most people want long term loyalty, devotion and dedication and they also want freedom and independence. People with a commitment phobia want a long-term link with another person, but their overpowering anxiety prevents them from staying in any relationship for too long. If pressed for a commitment, they are far more likely to leave the relationship than to make the commitment. Or they may initially agree to the commitment, and then back down days, weeks or years later, because of their overwhelming anxiety and fears.
Some people suffer from commitment phobia continually – and it is a very painful experience both for the one who engages in the pattern and for those who are involved with that person. It is a very real experience of anxiety and fear. Usually the art of pushing and pulling and seduction are the domain of the commitment “phobe.”
Couples’ inability at times to understand or manage the commitment paradox has caused confusion and uncertainty when they consider their views on commitment in their relationship. They may be confronted or challenged by cheating on their partner because they want to be free and committed at the same time. In my book “Get Selfish Get Happy” I talk about this at great length.
So, why do people cheat?
People cheat on their partner because they know that they can get away with it. If they know they would get found out, or knew that there would be hefty consequences, I always use the million dollar argument. If a person is adamant that they will never cheat in their relationship, I then ask them if they would be prepared to put in writing that they would pay one million dollars into my bank account if they ever cheated on their partner. Most people have said no, they wouldn’t. Why not if they have promised to be faithful? What the then is the problem?
The problem is that people do not have enough personal integrity or moral strength of character to confidently make a promise that they will never cheat on their partner.
The cheater’s justification
Everyone wants to be verified and acknowledged, which in turn makes them feel valued and important in the world. What this means is that the cheater doesn’t want to be acknowledged as a wilful cheater by his/her partner and family; however a cheater may like to be acknowledged by his friends as an accomplished sexual idol. Consider this, there is a paradox of beliefs and behaviours that are resulting in failed and unhappy relationships because the integrity and morals of society are inconsistent and rapidly diminishing.
To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting; take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.
– Criss Jami
Counselling is suitable for anyone who’s gone through serious relationships, only to have them end when the person couldn’t take the relationship to the next step. A relationship counsellor will help a person understand there is no “perfect” relationship, and that all relationships need nurturing, attention and ‘thoughtful listening’. Couples or family counselling also helps open up communication with their partner will reduce the likelihood of there being any future surprises or trust issues.
Call Helen 0415 392 009 or visit www.helenowen.com.au
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