Falling in love with another human being is easy, but making a commitment to love them forever is difficult for many people. We like the term “up in the air” from the movie title for a whole bunch of reasons, primarily because it aptly describes the struggles so many folks go through when it comes to making a commitment to love somebody for a lifetime.
“Up in the Air” certainly reminds us all of the difficulty of making commitments when it comes to love. And it illustrates once again how difficult it is to make honest commitments that last a lifetime.
Let’s face it; many people are afraid to make commitments when it comes to love and marriage! Heck, we live in a disposable world – where it is easy to have “one night stands” and avoid commitment to those we fall in love with, if even for a night.
But you know what – lots of people do fall in love. Lots of people make a commitment to “love through sickness and in health ‘til death do us part” – and mean it! Most who make this commitment feel honor-bound by the commitments they make! Lots of people fall in love for a lifetime. Honestly, there is nothing unusual about that.
Here is the question of the day – why do some find it so hard to make a commitment to love?
The happily married couples we have interviewed on all seven of the world’s continents have shared many stories with us about their commitment to each other. They have described how they formed a commitment to each other – how they decided once and for all how much they loved each other and how they would spend their lives together. While some had trouble with the commitment issue, they found a way to get past it and enter into a fulfilling lifelong relationship with the one they love.
How does the fear of commitment manifest itself in real relationships? What are the steps along the journey of a commitment to love?
1. It is not enough to be deeply loved, as you must reciprocate profound love as well before a lifetime of commitment can be made. “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage,” said Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher. We think he has it right. Having strength without courage is much like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz – only when he committed to being courageous could he use his strength effectively. Successful marriage is a lot like that.
2. Friedrich Nietzsche once posited the notion that unhappy marriages are not caused by a lack of love, but by a lack of friendship. Nothing truer has ever been spoken about successful marriage. You see, the person you commit to must, first and foremost, be your best friend. You cannot make a lifetime commitment to someone you only love. Lifetime commitments are made to those we consider our best friends! When we ask successfully married couples who their best friend is they almost always say the name of their spouse.
3. If you wait to make a commitment until you have no doubts, it will never happen. One of our favorite quotes is by Rollo May. When we were in graduate school studying the field of counseling we got a lot of exposure to him and we love most of what he has written, especially this – “The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.” Simply stated, if you think there will ever be a moment in a budding relationship when you will say, “I have no doubts about him/her so I am willing to make the lifetime commitment” – well, forget it! Not going to happen. If you wait for that moment to come you will never make the commitment to love anyone for a lifetime.
4. Making a commitment to another human being for a lifetime also requires your resolve to make, an “unalterable decision,” as Alfred Adler says, Adler goes on to say that “. . . real examples of love and real marriages . . . do not allow . . . men or women (to) contemplate an escape. In none of the serious and important tasks of life do we arrange such a ‘getaway.’” Someone who wants a successful marriage cannot promise a lifetime of commitment to someone they purport to love while plotting an escape at the same time. A true commitment is unalterable!
5. And finally, remember this about commitment — it is NOT an on again, off again proposition. Commitment to someone whom you love and consider your best friend can’t be here today and gone tomorrow. In the best marriages there is a consistency to commitment. Love and friendship can run hot and cold from time to time, but the commitment to the one you love must be an everyday thing. Commitment is forever; it is not “up in the air.”
In love and marriage the simple things matter. Love well!
Creating a successful marriage is not always the easiest thing to do. Your visiting our Simple Things Matter blog suggests you are highly interested in making your marriage work! And truthfully, we have learned over 30 years of marriage research that there are proven effective ways to ensure a happy and healthy marriage. In fact, we took hundreds of tips from the thousands of happy couples we interviewed and put their marriage advice into our award-winning and bestselling book, Building a Love that Lasts.
**Today, you can see how you stack up to the best marriages around the world. Take the Marriage Quiz to assess your chances of achieving a successful marriage of your own.
By Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz
Love and Marriage Experts