You have heard about commitment phobic people, that is, men and women who cannot commit to a relationship. But do you realise that too much commitment is also a problem?
Too much commitment happens when someone goes into a relationship with absolute determination to make it work.
There is nothing wrong with having a desire to make your relationship work. The problem is when the determination is one sided. You need two people making that commitment, not one.
Of course the person making the absolute commitment hopes his or her partner is committed to the same degree. Unfortunately, this is not always true.
When one makes an absolute commitment to make the relationship work and the other does not there is a power imbalance. The person who is willing to walk away has all the power. The one who is determined to make it work is in a very weak position.
Let me illustrate with an example:
Marie was aged forty-six when she embarked on her third marriage. She was determined to make this relationship with David work.
David had been married several times before. He appeared to be very much in love with Marie. David was a romantic. He had wooed Marie with much attention and generous gestures. Marie fell under his spell.
Marie didn’t know it but David was one of those people who falls in love with love. Once the gloss of the relationship wears off, he can become bored.
The honeymoon period of a relationship usually lasts from one to two years. After that, both partners start dealing with the real issues between them. They either grow together or grow apart.
Marie and David hit trouble around eighteen months. Marie wanted more attention from David, who started working longer hours and getting home late. She could feel the intimacy in their relationship diminishing.
It didn’t matter what she asked of David, he basically did his own thing. When their interaction erupted in an argument, David always suggested they split up.
Of course, Marie couldn’t have that. She had made her commitment. She had no choice but to give in.
She kept giving in until she lost so much of herself she was desperate. One day she overdosed on all her prescription medication.
Luckily she didn’t die. But she had no memory of making the decision to end her life. This scared her. She realised her suicide attempt was a wake-up call. She decided to release herself from the commitment she’d made at the beginning of the relationship. She left David.
Marie suffered major fallout from her determination to make the relationship work. Earlier in the relationship, David had insisted she sell her house and invest in his business.
When she left, he let the business run down so he didn’t have to repay her. She lost her house and nearly all her financial assets.
She didn’t have the strength to fight him. By now she was an emotional wreck. She had to find the funds for counselling so she could get back on her feet psychologically and financially.
Marie’s desire to make the relationship work had fear at its core. She was getting older and she didn’t want to be alone.
When we have an agenda like “I will make this relationship work” we are in danger of going into denial. We can start to lose touch with reality and stop seeing our situation clearly. Our fear of breaking up is driving our effort. Fear is not the best motivator. Sooner or later we usually create what we feared.
A better approach to a relationship is curiosity. Suspend judgement and take the relationship as it comes. Keep a sense of wonderment, and notice each day how you feel about your partner and your interactions.
If you feel there is definitely more good than bad, the relationship is working. But if you are feeling sad, burdened or desperate, the relationship is in trouble. Now is the time to seek counselling. You will soon discover if you are both motivated enough to make the changes needed to stay together.
Marie thought she had the power to make her relationship work. She didn’t. And no one person does. It always takes two people to make a relationship work.
Struggling in your relationship? North Brisbane Psychologists is here to help. Book an appointment today!