If you are following my posts, you now understand that Un-coupling is about loving someone without any commitments. I often get this question below in some form or another, so I wanted to answer it thoroughly.
Aren’t you afraid that without a commitment your person will leave you, or choose someone else?
Let’s break this down. The assumption that a commitment protects a couple from destruction is faulty at best. I can speak from anecdotal evidence first. I’ve known thousands of people personally, some intimately, some from a distance. Some of these people were neighbors, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, family and so forth. I have also had a few hundred clients in my work, at least. From many accounts and observations of all the humans I’ve met as an adult, I couldn’t count how many were miserable, frustrated, unfaithful, wished they could be unfaithful, planning to leave, hoping to leave, regretful, divorced, broken up, married… multiple times, disillusioned, and altogether bitter. All of those who were unhappy, had committed to their partner in some way. Nearly all of them were supposed to be monogamous, as far as I knew. But let’s step outside of myself, I can’t tell you how many of those people told me about other people that they knew, who were also experiencing some sort of failed relationship. Again, all of them with commitments to their partner; some married, and many with children. And yet, their relationships fell apart. Now lets step even further outside of myself, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) – National Center for Health Statistics reports in the latest marriage/divorce data for 2020 that 1,676,911 people in the United States were married in 2020 while 630,505 people got divorced. See a full report here. I feel confident stating that commitments do not secure relationships between people, even when they are legally bound. Therefore, I am not fearful about losing my companion simply because we are not committed, or because we don’t have a label. There are more serious threats to be concerned about; like trying to control or contain each other, keeping score, condemning, shaming. These things would scare me.
Commitments, agreements, and rules simply do not have a lot of evidence supporting that they are effective at preventing people from abandonment. Security in a relationship has very little to do with the expectations and commitments set forth, and more to do with the amount of qualitative love between both parties–love that is replete with respect, kindness, compassion, and acceptance. This type of love nudges at a notion of something pure, but often elusive. This mysterious thing is something we see in close friendships, healthy workplaces, loving families, and healthy communities. This thing is called psychological safety. This is the shared belief that people can disclose their thoughts, opinions, and values without being condemned or endure painful repercussions. It means that a person feels safe to be themselves, whatever that looks like. Psychological safety is terminology most notably used in the workplace, but it is equally relevant in romantic and social relationships. When psychological safety is paired with patience, acceptance, and love, commitment happens naturally. It is no longer a verbally defined agreement made up of expectations about how you act or what you do; it is an emotional and unconscious choice to simply remain in tandem with the person that affords such a warm and nurturing environment for you. When two people practice this type of shared belief, they are unlikely to stray from such emotional security. This doesn’t mean that a person never explores other avenues in life or other people, but it does mean that what is shared between two people is very special-sacred even-and not easily abandoned. Commitment is not a set of rules or a title when it comes to love, it is a way of being. Abandonment doesn’t occur when someone explores other experiences or people; rather abandonment is about the person severing their connection with you. Our connection is unlikely to be severed, because there simply isn’t much motivation to do so.
For me, I know my person may want to travel without me at times. Often, he wants to spend time with other people, do things that are more fun with them, because while I’m a fun person, I’m not fun at everything! Occasionally, he learns new things that don’t include me. Sometimes he gets curious, restless, bored. Maybe he talks to other women, maybe he explores them sexually, develops friendships. I’m not entirely sure how it all plays out. In our circumstances, we don’t ask each other for details, we don’t pry. Jealousy is still a real emotion, so we both agree not to stoke that fire without good reason. (I promise I will talk about this later!) In spite of all this, I know he isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I. For what reason would either of us want to run away? We are abundantly happy, joyous, loved, and free. He is there when I need him, he is there when I want him. I also choose willingly to be there when he needs me, there when he wants me. We are equally conscientious about not being greedy with each other’s time. We allow each other space and time away, acknowledging that over-saturation can feel heavy and stagnant. I too, get bored, restless, curious. I get playful, silly. Sometimes I want to act out different parts of myself with new people as a means of self-exploration. I also believe people are the most fascinating vehicle for experiencing life and uncovering who we are deep down; so meeting and connecting with others is vital for my lifelong development and contentment. I have a secure base, but sometimes I just want to experience life differently. If this is true for me, then I have to allow that to be true for him, too.
Go and explore. Feel. Taste. See. Touch. However far you go, however far I go, we are always here, together.
Questions for self-reflection:
Does your relationship foster a sense of psychological safety? If not, in what ways have you and your partner’s expectations and commitments prevented this?
Have you ever been in a committed relationship, complete with titles and labels, and it fell apart anyway? Can you remember why?
What commitments have you set in place for your relationship and what is their purpose? What are they supposed to accomplish?