The Truth About Commitment-Phobes

I was trying out a bed in a bed store when I realized I had a fear of commitment. I happened to be laying on a mattress the size they call: single. 

I was single, and proudly so. But I was also ready to start looking for “The One”. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I did know it meant a bed larger than the size of an index card.

I’d just read a dating self-help book about how you can bring a relationship into your life through your furniture. If you have one end table, you’re not inviting him in. If you have two end tables, you’re preparing for his arrival, and so on. Basically, I needed two of everything for one of somebody. 

At this point, the futon couch I was also using as a bed had a deep crease down the middle from daily bed-to-couch folding. It looked like a bun and was only going to invite in a hot dog.

As I considered the size of the person who might one day share this new purchase with me, I tried the full-size, then the queen. What if he’s a restless sleeper? The Eastern King was four inches wider than the California King which was four inches longer. How was I supposed to know where that four inches would need to be?

I took the bed buying, and my future, very seriously. If I got the wrong bed I’d have to sleep on for at least the 10-year warranty, with or without The One. But that’s when I realized, I didn’t have a fear of commitment, I had a fear of committing to the wrong thing. (In the case of relationships, the wrong person.) 

Loyal people have this conflict. Once we’re in, we have trouble getting out. We don’t want to hurt anyone. Independent people have this conflict. It’s got to be really right for us to alter our TV preferences. People on a tight budget also have this conflict. If we don’t end up liking it, you can’t just buy a big thing like a bed and store it under the bed. 

For that matter, what about a commitment to a New Year’s resolution, or a commitment to a where-will-you-be-in-five-years goal? The idea of commitment can seem so… trapped. 

Until I realized this: You commit with your time. 

Commitment isn’t about restriction. It’s not all or nothing. It’s looking at how you spend your time and then using it on things that are meaningful or move you forward.

I started looking at how I was spending my time not only in my schedule, but how I was spending time in my mind. What kinds of things was I telling myself? Anything encouraging? Who was I spending my time with? Was I engaged in any drama? What did I want and how much time was I using during the day taking action toward it?  

I decided to budget time in my day, every day, for the love department of my life. I was used to working 24/7, so budgeting time for something that should happen, like a relationship, felt like a waste of time. But, to experiment, I went ahead and budgeted four hours for anything related to finding The One. This could include reading a dating self-help book, asking a happy couple at a party what the secret to a good marriage is, finessing my online dating profile, or going on an actual date. My attitude about dating went from reluctance to enjoyment. 

What worked was creating a state of mind about how I spent my time. Instead of making a commitment to just working out, let’s say, (a New Year’s classic), make a commitment to your health. That lightens resistance you might have to the one daily effort. Instead of a 5-year-goal, how about for just the next three weeks you get curious about a goal? Want more money? Learn about it. Read about it. Ask what other people do. Organize your wallet. Whatever you spend time on creates momentum. 

A commitment from a time perspective removes the “trapped” and welcomes the boundaries. It has flexibility, change, and creativity within it because it’s not one single thing to pass or fail at, but many ways to approach what you want. It’s easier to recognize the kind of people you want to be around, date, and maybe end up with in your California King. 

Of course, it’s important to recognize that some commitments we choose, and some commitments choose us. We have obligations to other people, chores, and the time it takes to get tech support. It’s part of life. 

But no matter what, and especially when you feel lost or overwhelmed, commit to respect. Respect where you’re at. Speak to yourself with respect. Respect other people’s time with authenticity so they can make their own choices, too. Respect what you want by committing to it with your time. 

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