Defining commitment

Joey Garcia

Two weeks ago, my fiancé told me that he wanted to call off our wedding unless I paid off my credit-card bills completely. I was so shocked that I cried all the way home. The last time he brought this up, I thought he understood that I would try to pay everything off. This time, he accused me of still using credit cards and not paying off the bills. I have been paying my bills, but my job requires that I dress professionally, so I need to buy clothes. I’m so hurt and angry that I don’t want to talk to him. Doesn’t he love me? I think I should be the one to call off the wedding because he doesn’t really want to build a life with me.

He wants to build a new life with you. To be ready to create a new life, you must attend to the unresolved portions of your old life. Marriage is the death of your life as a single person (one who only thinks of himself or herself) and the birth of your life as a partner. A partner is someone whose decisions always will include consideration of the person he or she loves. Entering the marriage debt-free is a sign of respect for your partner. Expecting your partner to pay off debt you incurred prior to the marriage may be a sign that you’re looking for a sugar daddy, not a partner. The institution of marriage deserves more respect than that. So do you. So does your fiancé.

Why is every man I meet commitment-phobic? I have worked at the same company for 15 years. I have really good friends who I can count on and who can count on me. I have made and kept commitments to myself, to friends and to my employer. Yet the men I meet are super-flakes who seem incapable of being consistent or available to commit with me. I’m ready to give up!

With apologies to P.T. Barnum, a commitment-phobe is born every minute. People fear commitment because they lie about who they are and what they want. Then they try to hide that lie from themselves by blaming the other person for their own unwillingness to commit (we call this denial). Or, they refuse to trust another person, because they have been indoctrinated by pop culture and fail to understand that if you haven’t been hurt, you haven’t ever really loved anyone. Or, they run at the first sniff of trouble because they fear they might bear some responsibility for the problem and then refuse to take responsibility. Or, they fear change, so when it becomes necessary to grow, they leave. On the other hand, maybe your solid and dependable persona likes the spicy kick that an emotional roller coaster provides. If so, heal that wound so you can start attracting reliable, available men.

I am still thinking about the March 11 column, in which you wrote, “Commitment is rooted in interdependence.” My friends and I are talking about the concept of deep involvement in the midst of impermanence. Please elaborate on your statement.

Paradox is to be experienced, not captured! Nonetheless, consider this: Everything is permanent and in the process of becoming impermanent. Or, nothing is permanent, except momentarily, before moving to impermanence again. Similarly, healthy relationships are in process, moving fluidly through dependence and independence. We get stuck, psychologically and spiritually, when we believe that what we have is permanent or when we believe that nothing we have will last. Thus, commitment is a promise (permanence) to be a partner in the dance of dependence and independence (impermanence).

Meditation of the week
A 9-year-old girl in New Mexico saved her allowance to have bumper stickers printed with this antiwar message: “Jesus said, 'Love Your Enemies’ (I think this means don’t kill them).” She gave the stickers away while her father looked on, abashed. How many lives have you saved?

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