If you’re single past a certain age, they say you’re commitment-phobic. Why do people presume that there’s only one kind of commitment — the coupled kind?
Psychologists and the media often point to George Clooney as the perfect example of a commitment-phobic single. Really? Someone can have a successful career, be devoted to several nonprofit organizations, maintain numerous long-term relationships with co-workers, friends, family and girlfriends — but because he’s discovered, after trying it, that marriage isn’t for him, the world sneers and calls him a commitment-phobe?
Last week, I was flipping through a book I like to read in the mornings — it’s a meditation guide with a “thought for the day.” On this particular day the topic was commitment — a word that has tremendous power in the context of relationships. But if you look up the word “commitment” in the dictionary, it’s defined as:
1. something that takes up time or energy, especially an obligation
2. a devotion or dedication to a cause, person or relationship
3. consignment to a penal or mental institution
Although I found the third definition amusing, there was nothing in the dictionary about the word “commitment” meaning “to be married.” Strange, because how many times have we (and George Clooney) been asked by well-meaning friends and family, “When are you going to make a commitment?” when what they really mean is, “When are you going to get married?”
Or what about when someone we’ve been dating for a while asks in that accusatory tone, “Is this a committed relationship?” Or when we’re threatened with, “I’m not willing to keep seeing you unless you make a commitment,” which really means: “Marry me or I’m outta here!”
If the marriage definition of commitment was included in Merriam-Webster’s, it would note that such conversations are known as “the talk” and such talks always begin with, “I need to know where this relationship is going,” as if marriage was the only place a relationship should go if it has any relevance or value. (Was that a “Here! Here!” I just heard from Mr. Clooney?)
I think marriage is great if you do it for the right reasons. But too many people do it because they’re afraid to be single; because they feel pressure from friends, family and society; they have an unrealistic expectation of what it really is; and/or they’re totally unprepared and lacking in the tools necessary to form a true partnership with a person of the opposite sex.
I see marriage as a serious commitment — one that you don’t walk away from when the inevitable shit hits the fan. If I can’t make that kind of commitment to someone, I won’t. And although marriage is a type of commitment, it lacks validity as a sweeping generalization about people who are single. In fact, most of the single people I know have made plenty of commitments: commitments to complete their education, establish a profession, purchase a home, start a business, achieve a certain level of fitness, develop a talent, raise children and achieve a desired lifestyle — all requiring considerable commitment.
If we haven’t made a marriage commitment yet — or again — maybe it’s because like George Clooney, we don’t take on such obligations lightly and certainly won’t if we’re being manipulated or coerced. No matter how good something looks on the outside, we won’t make a commitment unless it’s the right commitment for us. I hope one of my favorite movie stars won’t either — no matter how much pressure he gets from the next beautiful woman who fancies that she’ll be the one to bag “the big one.”
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2014 Singular Communications, LLC.