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-   -   Relationship commitment (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=22532)

redpepper 03-23-2012 01:35 AM

Relationship commitment
 
I was taking to a man today that was very concerned about his relationship with his girlfriend. He thought that perhaps this was because of their "open relationship" and her having quite an active sex life that was outside of what they had together. He said he didn't want a traditional monogamous relationship where both of them would have to tell each other where they are, what they are doing and who they are with. He wanted his freedom and for her to have hers also, but something was not working. He was missing her, or something, he wasn't sure. She wasn't spending enough time with him, he didn't really want to expect she would, as he thought they should have their freedom and besides they were really busy at school anyway. He didn't want to tie her down to any kind of commitment to him. To him commitment was a traditional monogamous term that was worth avoiding.

It occurred to me during this discussion that "commitment" is not something that people aspire to have or feel is important although at the same time people seem to struggle to find a connection even thought they really care about each other. I suggested to him that maybe he needed to find a space in the middle where they could be committed yet do their own thing. That maybe he could not have a traditional monogamous relationship, but work on the commitment aspect and what that meant to them.

I suggested that "relationship commitment" was like the table that was sitting in between us we both sat there. I am me and he is he and the table is our "relationship commitment." Traditionally, it is considered, that when you date someone or make even more of a commitment and marry the person, that you then have rights to what they think, say, do, what their goals are in the future and who they spend their time with. You become that person and they become you. Merged and acting as one. With the idea that the relationship is the table between us it means that both people can sit together and look at the table and move things around on it, sit to one side of it, leave it and come back to it later... the options are endless and solid. They are tangible. They always exist, even after the relationship as a partnership is over if one or both decide.

If this is the case, or could be the case if they both decide on it, then what is at the core of their "relationship commitment?" I suggested that it is their "love" for each other by how they describe it. The question would be if that love is worth expressing.

Love is the core of "relationship commitment," I think. That is where it is determined if the relationship is worth investing in. Its love that is at the core of deciding whether or not something can be salvaged when times are tough and everything on the table is thrown off. Its love that attracts and the seed of growth for any new partnership and older relationship alike.

The man I was talking to said he had similar kinds of relationships with his friends in terms of "commitment." It felt similar. He meets at tables with them also. So what made him and his girlfriend different? It is the "love" part I think.

He said he wasn't feeling it. He didn't know if he loved her enough to build on the table they had with each other.... I felt a sinking feeling at that point of silence. I don't know if he was thinking that he didn't really love her, that she was not the woman for him, that he loved her more than he realized.... it was unclear and he didn't say. What he did say was he had a lot of thinking and talking with her to do.

NovemberRain 03-26-2012 02:15 AM

That is a really beautiful metaphor, redpepper. Thank you. I'm sure it will prove useful to me, and possibly soon. I will keep it tucked away in my brain.

Arrowbound 03-26-2012 04:36 AM

Way to put it, Red.

For me nothing's over until that connectedness dies. When that's gone the relationship is over, and I have to move on.

Scott 04-03-2012 10:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by redpepper (Post 130013)
I was taking to a man today that was very concerned about his relationship with his girlfriend. He thought that perhaps this was because of their "open relationship" and her having quite an active sex life that was outside of what they had together. He said he didn't want a traditional monogamous relationship where both of them would have to tell each other where they are, what they are doing and who they are with. He wanted his freedom and for her to have hers also, but something was not working. He was missing her, or something, he wasn't sure. She wasn't spending enough time with him, he didn't really want to expect she would, as he thought they should have their freedom and besides they were really busy at school anyway. He didn't want to tie her down to any kind of commitment to him. To him commitment was a traditional monogamous term that was worth avoiding.

It occurred to me during this discussion that "commitment" is not something that people aspire to have or feel is important although at the same time people seem to struggle to find a connection even thought they really care about each other. I suggested to him that maybe he needed to find a space in the middle where they could be committed yet do their own thing. That maybe he could not have a traditional monogamous relationship, but work on the commitment aspect and what that meant to them.

I suggested that "relationship commitment" was like the table that was sitting in between us we both sat there. I am me and he is he and the table is our "relationship commitment." Traditionally, it is considered, that when you date someone or make even more of a commitment and marry the person, that you then have rights to what they think, say, do, what their goals are in the future and who they spend their time with. You become that person and they become you. Merged and acting as one. With the idea that the relationship is the table between us it means that both people can sit together and look at the table and move things around on it, sit to one side of it, leave it and come back to it later... the options are endless and solid. They are tangible. They always exist, even after the relationship as a partnership is over if one or both decide.

If this is the case, or could be the case if they both decide on it, then what is at the core of their "relationship commitment?" I suggested that it is their "love" for each other by how they describe it. The question would be if that love is worth expressing.

Love is the core of "relationship commitment," I think. That is where it is determined if the relationship is worth investing in. Its love that is at the core of deciding whether or not something can be salvaged when times are tough and everything on the table is thrown off. Its love that attracts and the seed of growth for any new partnership and older relationship alike.

The man I was talking to said he had similar kinds of relationships with his friends in terms of "commitment." It felt similar. He meets at tables with them also. So what made him and his girlfriend different? It is the "love" part I think.

He said he wasn't feeling it. He didn't know if he loved her enough to build on the table they had with each other.... I felt a sinking feeling at that point of silence. I don't know if he was thinking that he didn't really love her, that she was not the woman for him, that he loved her more than he realized.... it was unclear and he didn't say. What he did say was he had a lot of thinking and talking with her to do.

I agree that love makes a lover type relationship, and if the love is no longer there, then the relationship is no longer that of lovers.

I just read a story here somewhere regarding a woman who had a relationship with another woman but things didn't work out so they went their separate ways; still, after not seeing her for years, when she did see her, her heart was aflutter with emotions and I can definitely understand that.

I also think that relationship commitments can get pretty concrete and I think that can be a good thing as well. Child support and alimony are legal issues, and I definitely think they have their place (although I certainly know that there can be strong disagreement as to when it should be applied, and how much, etc.). I think it's hard to argue that generally, the strongest cement to a permanent relationship with someone is children. You may get separated, divorced, and even refuse to see your former partner ever again, but most people will always want to love and care for their children until the day they die.

MindfulAgony 04-03-2012 04:47 PM

It's interesting to me. Commitment generally equals sexual fidelity for monos (plus often other stuff too). Commitment for polys? Is often some form of agreement... primary dynamic or some negotiated agreement.

I just don't view things that way. Commitment is only partially glimpsed by those "formalities." There's a presumed commitment behind them. But, the commitment should exist prior to formalization. It's kind of like the difference between ritual versus belief in religion. The ritual can reinforce or symbolize a belief but when it replaces it, the religious act is hollow.

And so, I tend to think of commitment as a wilful act of love. Wilful in that it takes both effort and the intention to maintain a connection/relationship. Act because it's something we do (and things we don't do) every day. And, it needs to be, of course, anexpression of love (note: a lot of things we do in relationships that we think are expressions of love are as often expressions of fear, guilt, aversion, etc. and not love). These daily wilful acts of love neither require or are created by those ceremonies or other formalities to codify our commitment - so that we can refer to it as something "real" (e.g., husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, primary/secondary, etc.).

I was listening to a workship that was co-led by Jack Kornfield (buddhist teacher and therapist) and Dan Siegal (psychiatrist and researcher). Dr. Siegal was talking about the idea that some people don't see relationships as real. They just haven't had the formative deep connections in life that allowed them to see "the table" that Redpepper talks about. And, when you're in a relationship with someone who can't see "the table" as a separate thing that two people co-create, the other partner's experience is very lonely. He pointed out that it's not that the person who can't see loves their partner any less. But, the result is that they don't feed the relationship in the same way as those who do. This "relational sense" as he called it, is a critical aspect of our inter-relating.

I think we too often put the formal constructs a priviledged place ahead of the underlying "wilful acts of love" that actually build and maintain 'the table' in the first place. Commitment, as such, is not a specific set of agreements but a set of actions that move to maintain, reinfoce and grow the relationship over time versus those that detract from it. That's real commitment.

And it should be perfectly compatible with a fully open relationship the guy is experiencing if he (and she) understand what wilful acts of love feed their union.

<<edit: I think I should expand on this in my next blog post. Thanks for the prompt RP!>>

CielDuMatin 04-03-2012 06:02 PM

There have been quite a few folks that believe that a committed relationship and polyamory are mutually antagonistic. "Oh I don't want poly, I want a committed relationship".

I agree with the earlier post - what they really mean is an exclusivity agreement between them. That is pretty much a centrepiece of a monogamous partnership.

For me, commitment is a set of things that you have agreed to about the relationship (and so doesn't exclude the narrower monogamous definition). It's about not walking away at the first sign of trouble, it's about making an effort to "make things work" when times are rough. It's about having a sense of confidence in the other that you can rely on.

I don't believe that it should be a "one size fits all" thing - different people need and want different things in their lives.

Going back to RP's original post - this "I don't want to tie her down, but I need her to want to be with me more" is a tough one, because essentially it feels like they are wishing that the other person felt differently. Dangerous place to go, in my opinion.

We have to understand our needs, wants and likes, and that includes understanding what we need from the other people around us. If we are to have successful relationships, we have to effectively communicate that with folks, and to find out whether the commitments offered and needed are compatible.

There again, is it possible that this can be ascribed to a lack of communication? Maybe she doesn't know that he wants more time with her, feeling like he "needs his space" when in fact she would like that very much. This could be a bad case of "second guessing" what the other wants, and neither end up getting what they need.

StarTeddy 04-03-2012 06:06 PM

To me, commitment is about loyalty and dedication. It's about saying "I'll stand by you and work hard to make this relationship work". I think that can apply to all relationships, poly or mono, and has nothing to do with "control".

MindfulAgony 04-03-2012 06:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by StarTeddy (Post 131323)
To me, commitment is about loyalty and dedication. It's about saying "I'll stand by you and work hard to make this relationship work". I think that can apply to all relationships, poly or mono, and has nothing to do with "control".

Exactly.

KyleKat 04-04-2012 01:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by StarTeddy (Post 131323)
To me, commitment is about loyalty and dedication. It's about saying "I'll stand by you and work hard to make this relationship work". I think that can apply to all relationships, poly or mono, and has nothing to do with "control".

I am also in agreement.

KyleKat 04-04-2012 02:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by drtalon (Post 131356)
Yes, many people incorrectly confuse the meaning of commitment with exclusivity.

See, but even that is a problem for me. Being exclusive doesn't mean being controlling. I still let my wife be free to do what she wanted when we were mono. I trusted her not to cheat on me.

They are all separate. People need to be more trusting. Mono or poly. Be more trusting.


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