Throughout my life, I’ve had a pretty big fear of commitment. This fear of commitment permeated all areas of my life. It showed up in the little things, like not wanting to commit to hanging out with someone on a Friday night, in the hopes that better plans would come along. But it also showed up in the big things, like struggling to make a commitment to get married and have a family, because I wanted to leave my options open.
At some level, my fear of commitment was protective: I didn’t want to miss out on something good. I didn’t want to commit to a set of plans for Friday night, because it meant I might miss out on something if a better plan came along. I didn’t want to commit to one woman for the long haul, because I didn’t want to lock myself into one person in case someone better came along.
But here’s the paradox of commitment: I struggled to commit because I had a fear of missing out on something good. But there are certain good things in life that you can only get through commitment. By not committing, I was automatically missing out on those good things.
For example, my work life has flourished because I have stayed at the same job for several years, and I am well-integrated into the university community. I have a great support system in Dallas, but that only happened because I have lived in one spot for awhile instead of moving around. I made a commitment to get married, and in that process I have realized that there are certain benefits in regard to intimacy, safety, and personal growth that can only happen in a long-term, committed relationship.
By making a commitment, you do forgo other options. And there is a reality of loss that is associated with that decision. But by not committing, you give up the benefits that only happen in the context of making the commitment. So there’s a reality of loss that is associated with that decision also.
There is loss either way. It’s inevitable. You can’t avoid it. My previous way of doing life involved trying to avoid all the losses, but I couldn’t do it. You can’t do it either. It is impossible. The better way to live is to be clear about the losses inherent in your decision to commit (or not), and then make the decision that is in your best interest.