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Committed Relationships: The Key to Our Survival

Human beings are relational beings. Since long before homo sapiens, humanity has depended upon the close bonds of family and community for survival. Selfless love and trust were inherent to the fabric of existence, not mere concepts to be learned in modern workshops.

Imagine yourself on the Tibetan plateau, before cities, and agriculture. The environment is harsh, bordering inhospitable. Life is not a walk in the park. Every single person you know, which may not be many, in your small nomadic community depends on you to show up and do your part for the community to thrive. Likewise, you depend on each and every one of them showing up, forgetting themselves, and doing what is necessary to not die of cold or go hungry today.

Compare this to modern-day relationships, where if someone says or does the wrong thing they can be exiled from the family or friendship circle. Or where we can just swipe left until we find a selfie worth swiping right for, and if it doesn’t work, well never mind, there are thousands more to go. Centuries ago, this disposable friendship attitude would have meant certain death.

In such a setting, even if someone upsets you, regardless of the problem you have with that person, the love you share must run deeper. Not necessarily the romantic, sexual flavours of love, but the ‘you belong here as much as I do, your life and well-being are not more or less important than mine’ flavour of love. This is the level of love that would allow one to forget or overlook their grievances with another and still share food, fire and anything else that was needed with them, the kind of relational resilience that fosters deep bonds over time.

Human beings are relational beings. Since long before homo sapiens, humanity has depended upon the close bonds of family and community for survival. Selfless love and trust were inherent to the fabric of existence, not mere concepts to be learned in modern workshops.

Fast Food Dating Culture

A Woman on a dating app on her phone looking for a partner

Above all else, we have forgotten that as much as we value independence, we don’t exist independently of relationships.

In today’s culture, the fundamental need for deep connection, love and trust are no longer so obvious. We have many choices, we can find friends, ‘tribe’, partners, lovers etc. through apps. We can take buses or planes to new places and meet all kinds of disposable friendships and relationships. We can literally swipe left while on the toilet during our lunch break until we find ‘Mr. or Miss. right swipe’ and then click, next day delivery, and boom, a new relationship based on the fact that he likes dogs or she also enjoys a workout followed by the sauna.

Unlike our ancestors, we can afford to put our personal needs front and centre in our agenda and as such we have forgotten what it means to compromise; to let go of our needs in order to serve another. We have forgotten that we thrive most when those around us thrive.

We seem to take for granted the amount of options available. As a result, we have forgotten what it means to love through differences, to commit even in the face of difficulties. Modern ‘alternative’ or ‘conscious’ circles and communities put a lot of emphasis on individualism. Seeking and finding your own way in the world, creating the life that you desire.

Ideas like ‘you are the creator of your own reality’ are too easily misunderstood, along with new-age ideas, like ‘suffering is an old paradigm, you don’t need it, you can grow through light and joy’, too often lead to a kind of fantastical, yet shallow day dream in which if something becomes difficult, it must not be ‘aligned’, therefore it must be replaced.

Conscious Circles and the Commitment to Oneself

It’s not healthy boundaries or love languages that make lasting relationships.

There are many tools available today in the spiritual marketplace and pop psychology inspired new age culture. We can learn about attachment styles, stay clear of trauma bonds and easily spot the red flags of toxicity in relationships and get out long before it becomes a long and painful traumatic experience.

We can learn about polarity, about the dark sides of sexuality and how to spice up a tired relationship.

We can claim our sovereignty and independence, listen to and respect our own and each other's truths, know, define and healthily defend our boundaries, our non-negotiables, learn each other's love languages, ad infinitum.

In a deeply committed relationship that may have lost its spark, these tools can be the key to reviving that spark. We have taught these practices and ideas to couples with 10+ year long relationships where the connection had either become a stagnant friendship, or where the trust was eroded through miscommunication and childish reactivity, and I can tell you, this stuff works. We have seen, in the space of 5 days, porridge-like friendships become fully polarised, sparkly and new. We have seen trust restored and the long term work of reviving a tired relationship actually produce healthier and more profound relationships. (We’re still in touch with these couples, and it's still working!)

However, we have also noticed another pattern. Without the depth of genuine commitment, in the best cases, these ideas support a healthy sense of one's individuality. Yet, in many cases, such ideas become like an armour for the ego, defending its radical individuality. The concepts become hiding places and the ideas that can potentially deepen a committed relationship simply build walls, keeping intimacy further away.

These new age ideas about ideal relationships often remain highly conceptual, theoretical. They can spice up and reinvigorate a sparkless once-passionate-now-porridge style friendship, but alone they are not powerful enough to weather the storms of long term relating.

Commitment in Relationship

An Older couple, happy, in a committed relationship
Committed Relationships Sustain Joy Late into Life
A young man asked his grandfather how did you manage to live 50 years together. They said: because in our era, when something broke, we used to repair it. Nowadays people just buy a new one.
Russian Proverb

Unfortunately, our culture lives in and values the conceptual mind with its idealistic frameworks above all else. Which seems to install the belief that a good set of ideas is enough to foster deep and meaningful relationships. Somehow the focus on what I think or want this relationship to be is the wrong direction of attention.

We suffer the lack of commitment. Without true commitment, there is no relationship. There are just 2 people sharing ideas, bodies, pleasure and pain, attempting to fit their shells together; attempting to negotiate a situation whereby the boundaries that make me ‘me’ remain intact, and the boundaries that make you ‘you’ do not encroach upon my ‘me’.

It’s a funny irony that in order to be able to enter a healthy relationship, one must first marry oneself which means discovering oneself, staking out one's ‘personal’ space in this existence. Yet for there to be commitment, what is needed is not a perfect grasp of attachment styles, polarity and hyper individualism, but the capacity to surrender one’s boundaries, one’s hard earned sense of individuality.

I heard the story of the brother of a friend of mine. He was drafted into the army and sent to fight in a war. While there, he was injured. When his wife found out, she drove across the country and slept on the floor of a military hospital, just to be near him, to support and take care of him.

The same friend, when discussing this topic (If you read this, thanks for inspiring the article, brother) , told of a conversation with a friend of his. This man was in a 10+ year deeply committed and healthy relationship, with a wildly passionate and alive woman. He asked my friend what devotion means to him in relationship. My friend replied describing the inspiration and excitement felt when holding a woman, being totally present with her. He then asked the guy what his definition of devotion was, the man replied that in his understanding, true devotion means giving up his needs to support his partner.

Showing Up for the Relationship More than for Yourself

Inspirational message in scrabble letters, in lifting others we rise
To Love is to Forget Yourself and Serve Another
It is how we handle the inevitable and normal challenges in our relationships that makes or breaks the relationship, not whether or not we can apply enough strategies to avoid triggers, pain and disconnection. 

There are many many ways to define commitment in a relationship, or in general. In discussing this with friends and people similarly committed to this journey, I have found that many people are afraid of commitment to relationships. Instead preferring ideas like, ‘I am committed to myself, as long as this is right for me then I am fully here, but feelings and life and the moment may change, so if it becomes obvious to me that this is not serving anymore, then I prefer to leave.

A wise sentiment, and a highly effective strategy for protecting oneself or for dating and exploring options. However, If you want to build a solid lasting relationship, (and it would be worth contemplating whether or not you really want this), you need a foundation as reliable as the foundation upon which you would choose to build your house.

Certainly it's hard to imagine a 10+ year relationship that doesn’t face incredible challenges, dance with codependent patterns, jealousy, boredom, breaking of trust, communication breakdowns, lack of polarity, attraction etc. from time to time. It’s also unavoidable that we develop what Terry Real calls a CNI (Core negative image) of our partner, an internal representation of them that highlights their very worst behaviours and traits.

Freedom in Relationship

A woman walking, free from the joy of relationship
A True Relationship Leads to Freedom, Not Bondage
If you are able to do the mammoth work of freeing yourself of these fears and limitations, you are free to experience freedom IN commitment. Because nothing can compromise the inner freedom, the greatness of your True Being.

In an ideal world, commitment can bring true freedom in a relationship. Of course there is a tendency towards the fear that if I commit, I will be helplessly locked into this binding contract with no escape. Our selfishness would like to think that I maintain my freedom by staking my claim on my ‘me’, stating my personal boundaries, claiming my space etc. but this kind of freedom is selfish; by definition it is not free. It is defined by the limitation of the ego (your boundaries).

In truth, letting go of that little me, (which again requires a healthy, well established little me to begin with) means letting go of the worry about oneself. Paradoxically then, freedom means being free enough to step out of your boundaries; doing things simply out of love and devotion to one another. Which is a greater freedom and expression of love than anything that you can fit within your bubble.

What is Commitment?

Consider, If you think you’re ready for commitment, you probably aren’t fully. Even if you are, there are still places in you that aren’t (otherwise it would be easy…) so ruthless and loving self reflection will be a great support.

Here you’ll find an assortment of ideas and reflection on commitment for inspiration, if you’ve read this far, then reflecting on these points can serve as a kind of practice of self reflection that might help to weed out some of your hiding places.

When you complain that you haven’t met the right person, check with yourself. Most probably, you are not yet ready to fully commit.

Consider the way a mother loves her child. If the child gets hurt at school, the mother will give up whatever she is doing, if possible, and drive across town to pick that child up from school or from the emergency room. A mother gives up the greater part of her life, many times, the most energised and youthful years of her life, to serve the life of her child.

The direction of my attention is not only focused on me but on the needs of the relationship and on the other person too, considering both, which is not a final step beyond oneself but is at least a big step out of egocentricity.

Commitment in relationship means focusing energy on the space in between us, on the relationship space, not on me or on you. Seek out and release the beliefs that your relationship and/or your life, is primarily about you. (You have this, or you wouldn’t have made it this far through the article)

Commitment is the basis for safety in the relationship, the relationship becomes a safe place where we can explore and grow and go into uncomfortable things.

We agree that it's not just about pleasure and you meeting my needs but is also about going into discomfort and facing difficulties and challenges with openness, grace and humility.

Commitment makes the relationship worth investing in. If you know that it can finish after whatever fight, then why put energy into it, rather than just focus the energy on my own growth.

Commitment Means you can support and inspire each other to open to God, Truth, your highest potential, your goals, more deeply and fully than you could alone.

Commitment is willingness to support as much as you can the mutual journey towards more growth and ultimately in your journey towards the ultimate freedom. Even if it means some changes in you may be scary or uncomfortable for me…(because when we live more in a selfish paradigm then the freedom of another being is what we fear most).

“We walk each other home”…and that is our commitment.

…and If You’re Honest Enough to Admit That You Are Not Ready Yet

If you are not yet truly available for commitment, what holds you back?

What are you afraid of losing? 

What situations are you afraid of (like codependency, or giving up your dreams, your perceived ‘freedom’) 

What beliefs does the idea of commitment bring up both about yourself, your partner, about relationships in general.

Face them courageously in therapy, in meditation, in contemplation. Until your relationship with them is such that you can notice when they come online, you can see their thoughts, ideas beliefs as distortions of your reality, rather than believe them as true.

Eventually you will be able to see, experientially, that whether you want or enter a committed relationship or not, that these distortions are simply limitations to the expansion of your True Being. 


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