Commitment is a topic that brings a lot of couples into therapy. While it has a single definition, it holds infinite meanings.
For many women and men, commitment includes an emotional acknowledgment of a we, in that we are with each other and choosing to be part of the couple.
And on a practical level, the possibility then of planning for a future, even if it is just the weekend. A sense of continuity. For others, commitment is about living together or getting married and sharing a home life. And for still others, it is a child that expresses the commitment desired. But wherever we fall on the spectrum, when our partner cannot provide the commitment we want and need, we are left to live in a difficult limbo, in something we want, but that we want more of and from, and don’t know if we’ll ever get.
How do we ever know when to stay or leave?
There are no hard fast rules, ever. Each time we make the choice to stay or go it is unique, and sometimes we make it again and again within the same relationship.
At the most concrete level, we can always ask our partner if and when he will be willing to meet us at the level of commitment we desire. Sometimes the answer we get is comforting and gives us the sense that we are heading in the direction we want, but more often than not the answer is unsatisfying and we are left not knowing if what we want in the relationship will ever happen, usually because our partner doesn’t know. Living then with the uncertainty is anxious-making and painful, and can lead to insecurity and resentment.
What’s most important is that we own our own truth, which is our desire for more commitment.
We must stop judging and blaming ourselves for needing what we need. For years I have heard people condemn themselves for being too demanding or not being able to figure out how to be okay without what they fundamentally want. I have heard every rationalization in the book, why it makes sense for us to do without what we fundamentally want. In the context of relationship, there is nothing Buddhist about not being able to make plans for the future, or with someone who is not sure about us. Even if everything is impermanent in the absolute sense, we still need to create places of security in our relative lives, where the ground is solid or at least as solid as it can be.
We get certain things in relationship and give up others.
When we’re not getting the commitment we want, we must ask ourselves if the balance is workable, that is, Am I receiving enough to give up what I’m giving up?
We can only answer this question one moment at a time and the answer does change over time. We know we must leave when we can no longer tolerate or bear the situation we are living in, when the equation shifts and it’s too painful to do without what we really want. We leave when the unrealized desire for commitment sedimentizes into resentment, and we can no longer enjoy or appreciate what our partner offers.
No one can answer the question whether to stay or leave for us.
But when we stop judging ourselves for wanting what we want, and dive deep into our own truth, the answer is there.
Nancy Colier, LCSW, Author of ‘The Power of Off’ – www.nancycolier.com