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What is commitment? How do we find ourselves in commitments and what is its relationship to love?
I grew up watching all the romantic comedies and found myself completely enamored with the idea of love and relationships. Often, when you turn on the television, listen to the radio, or read a book Love is portrayed as magic. People are fated to be together. There is no talk of choice, or even commitment, only destiny.
I learned the hard way that love isn’t magic. I have fallen in love with people, convinced to the end of time that they are the one because how could I possibly feel this way about someone if we aren’t fated to be. I saw them, I may or may not have talked to them, their eye glimmered in just the right way, and off my heart went on a rollercoaster ride that sometimes lasted years. I felt as though I had no choice but to be committed to that person, even if they had no interest in committing to me.
Have you seen Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? That was me, with a different brand of emotional instability. There was definitely a point where I was willing to do anything possible to be with someone and did everything I could to get them to love me. Fated love, fated commitment will always disappoint you.
There came a point where I realized, fate wasn’t working. If I feel fated to be with this person and they don’t feel fated to be with me, something must be wrong with this system. I can’t be fated to be with them if I don’t actually get to be with them.
So how do we end up in commitments if fate is a fallacy? We make choices. We choose to commit to friendships, family, romantic partners, work, school, how we spend time, and hopefully self-care. We choose and balance our commitment to these different areas of our lives every day, and while we lose some of the magic of destiny we uncover our power and self-agency.
Why do we fail to recognize our choice in our commitments? Because choosing a commitment is a lot harder than giving things over to destiny. If we admit that have choice in our relationships, we begin to worry that we’re making the wrong choice. We start to think – if I can choose this, is it real? It’d be so much easier to hand our power over to someone else, or to a higher power.
I had my first relationship when I was 13. Someone wanted to be with me, they were persistent about it, and while I didn’t want to be with them, I began to think - if they are so sure that they want to be with me, perhaps this is fate. It was easy for me to convince myself into the relationship because I was telling myself that it was out of my hands.
It took me an entire year, a long time at 13, for me to give up on the fate I had constructed in my head. I was unhappy in that relationship for most of our time together but I was afraid of being wrong, I was afraid of regretting, and most of all, I was afraid my own power to drastically alter my life in a way that felt unimaginable at the time. There were times in the relationship that were good and those only convinced me more that my commitment to this person was supposed to work out in the end.
In the end, he made me choose. He told me that if I was trying to get him to leave me, he wasn’t going to do it, that I would need to make that choice myself. After a year, I did it, and it was painful, it was scary, but I let the commitment go. This did change my life in a big way, I lost friends, and I lost the storyline in my head.
We are not born into this world meant to be with any one person, and for those of us romantics, we can feel crushed by that reality. Luckily, what blossoms is a new understanding of ourselves, and our ability to choose happiness, to grow from hardship, and to build love with those we care about the most. We will make mistakes but we are now choosing to commit to ourselves and others, and our commitment enlightens us to the beauty of being human, the beauty of forgiveness, and the power of a love that is fostered and changes everyday.
I am in a committed relationship that I have had doubts about. I have no interest in pretending that it’s perfect. After a year or two of being with my Fiance, people began to ask me, “Is he the one?” to which I always hesitate to respond. I don’t hesitate because he isn’t, but because of the nature of the question. The idea of “the one” comes with a magical element that doesn’t acknowledge or validate the hard work my partner and I have both put in. So I respond, he is the one I choose, the one I have chosen over and over again, every morning when I wake up, every time we have fought, through every tear I’ve shed. Together we continuously build something beautiful and it has made me feel more alive than any relationship I’ve had before.
The most romantic part of marriage is that its a leap of faith. Marriage would be easy if their really was such a thing as “meant to be.” But we get scared because deep down we are all human, we make mistakes, we change, and for me, my ultimate commitment has to be to myself. I commit knowing that someday either of us may choose to stop committing. But I hope that we don’t, and I cherish every moment that we stay choosing each other over and over again.
The older I get, the more I appreciate and enjoy my choice in committing to friendships, my career, and my daily activities. I invite you to uncover the choices you make in your commitments. How do they serve you? If you’re afraid to choose, can you find the beauty and joy in the simple act of choosing a path for yourself, working hard at it, and accepting the possibility of failure that you face everyday anyway?
At the end of the day, I still watch the romantic comedies, I still have and love my ships, but I can stay grounded in reality because I know that choice in commitment is far more beautiful than a chance in fate.