The Confusing Romantics of Rejecting Commitment

Posted: February 14, 2020 by Isaac Cross in Advice, Learn Something, Philosophy

“A promise is a prison…do not make yourself another’s jailer.”
– Star Trek: Picard, Season 1, Episode 4

I will never make or accept a lifetime commitment. I believe that promising to love someone forever is inherently dishonest. I believe that promising to be with someone forever is, in most cases, setting yourself up for either failure or misery. I think that people should realistically expect and prepare for their relationships, as they know them, to change or end. Because all relationships do one or the other eventually.

Wow. Sounds super cynical, right?

Actually, I think of it as romantic. And if you stick with me, maybe you will, too.

Wait commitment can be bad?

For most of human history, relationships were primarily utilitarian. They were used to consolidate resources, propagate the species, and wield power. It’s only relatively recently that we started entertaining the idea of love being the core of a relationship. But rather than adjust the structure of relationships to match this new outlook, we simply stuffed the new way of thinking into the old ways without really changing them.

In a framework of relationships that are based in love and devotion to each other’s happiness, a lifetime commitment isn’t just useless, it’s poisonous. Under the assurance that the other person will never leave them, or at least that it will be extraordinarily difficult to do so, a variety of bad things happen.

First, partners can become complacent. They stop trying to be impressive and special and considerate because the other person is “locked in”. They liked it, they put a ring on it, and now they get to let themselves go.

Second, it can create a sense of possessiveness. This person is yours. You are entitled to demand things of them and threaten anyone else that looks too long.

Finally, it can breed codependency, where you stop being able to function as an independent person. You don’t pursue your own interests, you only do activities that your partner enjoys. You lose yourself into the soup of “we”-ness.

People are best when they are able to be themselves, to be fully who they are, to be their best versions. Commitment undermines that.

But… without commitment, isn’t it just chaos?

Kind of. But it’s honest chaos.

People seek commitment because they want security. They want to know that they will be safe in the future. They want to know that the comforts they’ve found will be there forever.

But that security is false. It’s a lie. No matter what promises your partner has made, no matter how committed you have told each other you are, no matter how safe you feel wrapped up in that cute little blanket, NOTHING IS PERMANENT. They will change over time. They will grow. They will want different things. And so will you. If you are really, really, really lucky, you will continue to meet each other’s needs and everything will be fine. But what is much more likely is that you will either have to change the fundamentals of the relationship or end it.

None of the security you think you have is real. Rejecting commitment doesn’t sacrifice security, it just eliminates the illusion of it.

So what’s left to protect the relationship?

The same thing there always was: Nothing.

You can’t protect a relationship. You can’t

YOU CAN’T!

And when you finally acknowledge that, you can begin to do what you actually need to do: Not protect a relationship, but rather to nurture it.

How do I nurture a relationship?

Work hard. Earn it. Be the best version of yourself. Meet the needs of your partner. Wake up everyday and make sure you deserve the love of the person you’re with.

Find opportunities to show your love, both in your own language and in theirs. (PS, learn some shit about love languages)

And this is where the romance comes in. If there is nothing forcing them to stay with you, if there is nothing stopping them from walking away any day they want to…

Then you get to close your eyes at night and know for sure that they’re only with you because they love you and want to be with you.

Because you are a source of joy. Because you meet their needs. Because you make effort to show how much they mean to you. Because you are worthy of them.

So if I nurture a relationship, it will last forever?

Nope.

It could absolutely still end, even if you do everything right.

At the end of the day, people need to be right for each other. If, as each of you grows and changes and ages, your needs are no longer compatible, the right thing to do is to end it. This allows you each to move on and be happy. If you honor a commitment above all else, then you end up like so many elderly couples that get applauded for their 60-year marriage while everyone ignores how much they hate each other and their lives together.

The relationships that last are the ones where the people are a good fit and meet each others needs. Your relationship COULD last forever. But you shouldn’t try to force it to.

Be romantic. Earn it everyday. Don’t make them promise to love you even if you become an asshole. Don’t promise to love them even if they stop making you happy.

Just be good to each other. And if you’re both happy, the relationship will survive.

Happy Valentines Day!

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