What if I told you that commitment was more than just saying “I do” – that it meant diving in head first, really diving in, and not waiting on the edge weighing your options. Some of us commit before we are married and some of us take years after to really commit. So what is commitment, and are you really committed?
John Gottman once referred to commitment in terms of Alice and Wonderland and I think it’s a pretty great depiction. He asked audience members to recall Alice seeing the white rabbit. When the white rabbit goes down the rabbit hole, Alice dives in right after. He went on to say that she did not wait at the top of the hole and weigh the options of jumping in or waiting for a better rabbit, she just did it, for better or worse and whatever was in-between.
This is what commitment is like. You don’t wait on the outskirts of your relationship, peaking in, evaluating if something better is going to come along or what your exit strategy is, you dive in.
In looking further into commitment in preparation of writing this, I read another Gottman informed clinician’s blog , and he referenced the idea of commitment as being told to him as the idea that you take your partner with you wherever you go.
I like this.
When discussing betrayal in session and partners’ differing ideas on betrayal, I usually frame it as something like this idea of taking your partner with you – I say, you should act the way you would if your partner was with you and if you wouldn’t do what you are doing in front of them, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Commitment can be really scary, and not to sound cliché but truly, real commitment takes courage, trust, and letting go.
It is courageous because you are putting yourself in a position to be hurt, and nobody likes that. You have to trust not only your partner, but also yourself to keep that commitment sacred. You have to let go of control to some degree because you cannot control anyone else’s actions (hence the trust).
There is also trust in “the bigger picture” I think. As you spend more and more days, months, and eventually years with your partner, your highs and lows may take up more time. For instance, in a 40 year marriage you may hear couples refer to years as being difficult or as being great. In that instance there has to be a trust that bad years aren’t permanent and if both partners are committed things may get better.
So how do you know if you are committed? Well if you find yourself thinking of your “exit strategy” often or even more obvious joking about or throwing around the word divorce, or talking about breaking up, then you probably need to reevaluate the commitment in the relationship. Also, think about the idea of transparency and would you be willing to “take your partner with you” as previously discussed. If the answer is no, then it may be time to go to therapy.
That’s the good news – therapy can also help with commitment in relationships and helping couples to build a stronger sense of trust and level of commitment with one another.
So go ahead and be like Alice – jump in!