Why is the idea of commitment such a fuck-around for so many millennials?
Now, I don’t want you to think this is going to be an angst-fuelled rant by someone plagued with commitment insecurities (because only the latter part of that is true).
No no, this is merely me posing a potential reason for the skewed notion of dating and commitment in the modern age.
Pretty much, simply put – crossing the threshold of defined (and more so, not so defined) relationships is now a tricky and arduous task.
It isn’t always a seamless transition.
The standard transitions are quite simple – becoming boyfriend/girlfriend, becoming a fiancé, becoming a husband/wife.
Big steps, not always simple but at least pretty clearly defined.
However, in our modern, twisted day of dating – the standard transitions are blurred, leaving us with a hodge podge of vastly differing views and expectations of the people we involve ourselves with.
There’s the friend to friend with benefits transition. A transition we can attribute to binge drinking, over-active hormones and basically, most of the time – convenience.
Or you know, matching with them on Tinder.
It can get even trickier though.
Then there’s the tip toe transition from friend with benefits to friend with benefits with feelings involved.
A transition that can work in your favour, but most of the time involves a careful tug of war between repressed feelings and the truth.
It’s an ideological mind game as both parties engage in a cycle of edging closer then fading out – an exercise to ensure that interest and emotion remain aroused but there’s always the option to bail out with no hard feelings involved.
Yeah … perfect sense.
Lol. Retrospectively, it’s so difficult to look back at situations like that and justify why that logic made so much sense at the time.
The transitions continue though, manifesting themselves into weird, semi-commitment creatures of the relationship world.
The ‘maybe we’re something.’
The ‘my friends say we’re together.’
The ‘exclusive FWB.’
All something. What that something is, who knows.
I’ve been on the boundaries of semi-commitment with most girls I’ve been involved with in my life.
Sometimes I’ve been on the anxious end – unable to allow things to transition and struggling to understand how my stagnant viewpoint was genuinely hurting the other person.
Conversely, I’ve been on the other end – trying to encourage a transition into some defined relationship category free of ifs and buts, similarly struggling to see the impact of my actions on my anxious could-be partner.
Why does this sort of thing happen? There are a multitude of contributing factors, and probably a multitude of articles that can better explain it than this one.
But I read something and I felt it was definitely poignant and worthy of sharing.
In this day and age, we all can’t help but exhibit a degree of selfishness, or I guess its better worded as misunderstanding.
Essentially, we fail to understand the weighting that different people apply to commitments and labels in certain circumstances.
To explain this, here’s Dan Ariely’s scenario from his book Irrationally Yours.
David was stationed in the army as an expert in explosives, and had been badly injured while disassembling a land mine. He lost one of his hands and an eye and also had injuries to his legs and some scars. When Rachel, his girlfriend of several months, broke up with him, all the patients in the rehabilitation center, myself included, were furious with her. How could she be so disloyal or shallow?
Was Rachel in the right or wrong?
Ariely poses some questions.
How might your feelings towards her change if the relationship with David had been a longer-term relationship? What if they were engaged? What if they were part of a civil union? What if they were married? How would you behave if you were in Rachel’s position in each of these different types of relationships? How would you expect your significant other to behave?
So … what’s the verdict and what do we take from this?
Essentially, the level of scorn you’d have towards Rachel (if at all to be honest) and your predictions about your decision in that scenario come down to the type of relationship and the weighting you put on each.
Every person’s assessment is different. Maybe the ‘for better and for worse’ commitment of marriage is the level you’d need, or perhaps a long term partner, or even a boyfriend/girlfriend or special friend you can’t picture yourself without.
The fact is – whilst labels and stages of commitment aren’t some sort of magical superglue that keep relationships together, they mean a tonne to a lot of people.
Becoming an official boyfriend/girlfriend (and other important relationships stages) might seem like nothing to a lot of people, but many people see it as an important catalyst for commitment and long-term relationships.
Because each person sees these labels as carrying a set of expectations and responsibilities.
Especially if the two of you hit rough patches. Maybe not to the extent of explosive-induced injuries – but rough patches personally, emotionally and anything else that may rear its head into your lives in the future
And these expectations are different for everyone – they are a product of our own wants, needs and past personal experiences.
And that, my friends, is what’s wrong.
We’re all just a little selfish in understanding each other – in understanding the weighting and influence each of us places on labels and commitments.
The give and take in relationships and semi-relationships is a futile exercise without taking the time to genuinely get to know someone, and inferring or genuinely understanding their views and expectations underlying labels and commitments.
As mum always told me – ‘be a good listener, they love that.’
One day it’ll work mum, I swear.
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