When my ex and I broke up, one of his main concerns was commitment. Namely, he didn’t want to make one because he was too afraid to break it. He felt like he would be “holding me back” or “making promises he had no idea if he could keep.” The kind of commitment I was envisioning was the commitment to continue to get to know each other and see where things went, not the commitment to get married and start making babies. I never even mentioned that, but in his head, that’s what I was asking for.
I’ve heard a variation on this theme from so many men I’ve dated. Divorced or not. In talking to my friends, I understand that I am not alone. Most women — and some men — I know have heard it too.
In my early 20s, I had this recurring dream that I was sitting on the sidelines watching while hundreds of people swam in the pool. Everyone was wearing colorful costumes, laughing and crying and swimming. God was there — a woman in big, purple headdress, watching the swimmers from above. I sat on a bench in black bathing suit, wondering why I wasn’t allowed to swim.
I remember this dream vividly because I started having it when I quit my acting career and felt like something I made a huge commitment to for most of my life didn’t work out. My feelings of failure were so pervasive, that the thought of ever diving into anything ever again seemed unfathomable.
In those months after I quit acting, I got a job selling cars. My logic being, if I did something that meant absolutely nothing to me, if I left my passion out of the equation, that I could never be heartbroken again. I was awful at selling cars.”
In my two months as a car saleswoman, I sold two cars. Both to customers who thought I was using reverse psychology. I wasn’t.
I define making a commitment to someone I’m dating as a pledge to put forth my best effort. It means I show up and jump into the pool. My commitment comes with the full awareness that I may have to discontinue it at some point. I understand that there are no guarantees about anything in life. But I can’t I let the fear of failure prevent me from ever making a commitment. A commitment is not a promise. Relationships are an at-will contract, either party can quit at any time, without notice. The chance of heartbreak is highly probable, but isn’t taking that risk better than watching everyone else swim?