Tag Archives: commitment

Falling in Love

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I’ve been hearing about that little phrase an awful lot lately. Emphasis on awful. Hear me out on this. I do not have anything against love. It’s the “falling into it” thing that bothers me.

I'm not the only one who thought of it...

I’m not the only one who thought of it…

Multiple people have asked me lately how I would feel if I fell in love and [had to tell everyone I was getting married, decided to move, gave up my cat lady blog, whatever – complete the sentence however you would like]. My verbal response differs, depending on who I am speaking to and how well that person knows me. But my inward response stays the same every time: I don’t fall in love.

“Falling in Love” carries with it an attitude of romance and euphoria for most. Unfortunately, in my experience, it doesn’t live up to its glamorous reputation.

I usually hear the term used to excuse responsibility for making stupid decisions. You know, the usual stuff:

  • I’m moving across the country to live with [that weirdo creeper] I met online. I’ve fallen in love.
  • We didn’t need to wait to get married. By the end of two weeks we knew we had fallen in love!
  • It didn’t matter that he had no job, no savings, no home, and no car. [It didn’t matter that his mother kicked him out for being a lazy slob.] I fell in love.
  • I knew he had a drinking problem and some anger issues. But I never thought he would hit me! I fell in love.
  • I wanted to be a good mother. I never planned on leaving my husband. But I fell in love with someone else.

I could continue. But I won’t. It drives me crazy. When people tell me that a couple fell in love, and that is why they are acting the foolish way that they are, I kind of want to mutter under my breath, “Well if they were paying any attention to where they were going – they wouldn’t have fallen… Morons.”

It’s not that I don’t like romance. It’s not that I can’t be influenced by sweet gestures or charming words. It’s just that love is a very powerful four-letter word. It’s not something that I want to just fall into. I prefer to gingerly step or perhaps cautiously slide into it. I feel as if a relationship should be entered with wisdom. Where there is not an abundance of wisdom, there is typically an abundance of foolishness.  As I’ve made clear, falling into love too often ends poorly. After all, if a person falls in love, completely by chance or by accident, that person can just as easily fall out of love. If they couldn’t help themselves on the way into the relationship, it stands to reason that they won’t be able to help themselves on the way out of the relationship. Hence, the divorce rate in America.

On the other hand, if one carefully plants a foot into love, and then steps more fully into it with the other foot, that same person must knowingly step out of love in the future if s/he ever wants to leave the relationship. The silly excuses disappear. When a choice to love is made, the person who made that choice accepts responsibility in that relationship. It’s no longer a coin flip as to whether or not the relationship will last. A relationship entered by practical choice still has room for butterflies and warm fuzzies. The wonderful feeling that most associate with “falling in love” can still be found when two people “step into love” instead. How do I know? Although my expertise is in singleness, I have been in love. And I didn’t fall into it. I hesitantly stepped in. And although things didn’t work out as I hoped they might, I would not trade the experience for any of my friends’ “falling in love” experiences. In fact, I find that conscious choice leads to a far more romantic situation. It’s nice to feel loved by someone who is temporarily blinded with giddy enthusiasm to all my flaws and weaknesses. But it’s absolutely fabulous when someone who can clearly see my flaws shows love to me. You mean, even after you’ve discovered all of these horrible things about me – you STILL want to be with me? WOW!

In fact, it kind of reminds me of Jesus and His love for humankind even after we rejected Him and crucified Him… Doesn’t the Bible suggest a husband should love his wife in that same manner? Hmmmm….

If you find yourself falling in love, please consider my words. Stop, catch your footing, and come to a decision. Is this relationship truly worth stepping into? Are you ready to be selfless? Are you capable of putting another person’s hopes, feelings, dreams, needs ahead of your own? Are you prepared to commit yourself to that one individual for the rest of your life no matter what hardships you encounter? Can you clearly see this person’s flaws and have you considered them? Has this person been given opportunity to see YOUR flaws and make the same consideration? If so, blessings in your relationship. If you’re not even close to that point, grab a hold of something and pull yourself out of whatever you’ve fallen into. It’s better to get those things over with now than it will be later.

Can't the brain and heart learn to work together?

Can’t the brain and heart learn to work together?

One last thing: if you ever see me “falling”, please scream these words back at me – or just beat me with a stick until I come to my senses. I’m sure I will appreciate the gesture someday. Just make sure you don’t confuse my “consciously stepping” for “falling”. Because if I’m consciously stepping, I might turn around and beat you back. 😉

Commitment-Phobe? Moi?

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Scenario 1

“If we hire you for this position, are you willing to commit for at least one year?”

Wave of terror passes over my face.

“Why is it so important that I stay for a year? Even if I only work here for a short time, I will still be a good worker,” I questioned the man interviewing me. I’m not good at sucking up during interviews. The blunt, confrontational side of me never backs down.

“Sarah, it is a waste of our time to hire and train an employee who will leave the company in less than a year. I need to know if you will commit to at least one year,” he responded. He looked slightly annoyed – but overall he was very patient with me.

I self-talked myself through the decision. Surely I could last a year. I agreed. I may have sounded hesitant; but my word is my word.

Next year will mark my five year anniversary with the same corporation. That interview question, although it threw me into a temporary panic, didn’t turn out to be such a big deal.

 

Scenario 2

Should I do it? Should I not? Should I keep looking? Should I wait? I don’t know. Will I find a better deal? Is this the right place?

On and on the questions soared through my brain. I had a lease to sign. Once again, someone was asking for a year-long commitment. Once again, I was not feeling so hot about the idea.

It’s the right price. Right distance from work. Good parking for my motorcycle. They will let me bring my cat. Why must they insist that I sign a year-long lease? What’s so terrible about month-to-month?

I signed the lease. It’s been a year and a half now.

I don’t really have any intentions to move. Nonetheless, I opted out of renewing my lease. Once I fulfilled the first year they allowed me to rent month-to-month going forward. Why place restrictions upon myself that are not absolutely necessary?

 

Scenario 3

“Hi, I’m Mr. BraveEnoughToAskYouOut. What’s your name?”

This is the kind of guy that automatically goes in for eye contact. I don’t dare call him Mr. CommitmentLover, because he may also be a total commitment-phobe in the typical sense of the term. He may dodge long-term relationships or marriage. He may only be interested in a night of pleasure. But he’s got me beat. Committing to that first date is even too hard for me.

Like I said, he’s brave and he goes in for eye contact. He’s searching: Is she interested? What will she say if I ask her out? Is she checking me out?

I dodge the eye contact.

Yes, I am interested. Yes, I am checking you out. But, don’t even ask that question in between. I dodge the eye contact in an effort to squelch your bravery because your bravery will lead to our dating and our dating will lead to me feeling attached and I don’t want to feel attached. You want me to flirt? Quit acting so interested. (I know I’ve adamantly proclaimed that guys should be brave and pursue. I’m admitting now that I’m a total hypocrite and don’t encourage men to pursue with my actions. Sue me.)

Should Mr. BraveEnoughToAskYouOut happen to continue despite my lack of eye contact… I continue to run. Hang out this weekend? I might be busy this weekend… Not really sure about all my plans yet. Dinner? How about coffee? Coffee doesn’t feel like nearly as big of a commitment as dinner…

 

Okay. In the first two scenarios I was practically forced to commit, despite my reservations. Neither situation turned out too badly. That goes to show that if I actually step out of my comfort zone and go on a real date with a guy I actually like, it may not turn out too badly either. If someone manages to get me past that first step – then maybe it will work out. Like the job and the apartment.

We may end up in a steady dating relationship and I may end up appreciating said relationship.

Or he may cheat on me. Or dump me and leave me desperately heart-broken. Or betray my confidence. Or use me. Or die. Or all of the above.

I think I’d rather dodge eye contact and whine about how men are cowards.

 

The Runner’s High

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 My mom called me up one day to tell me she bought a book for me from the thrift store. She knows that I read tons of book about singleness and relationships and psychology. Sometimes I read them simply because I think I may write about them on here. Other times I read them because they truly fascinate me. She thought this one might pique my interest.

I glanced over the front cover: The Commitment Cure: What to Do When You Fall for an Ambivalent Man. What does ambivalent mean? I flipped the book over and was relieved to discover that I must not be the only person unfamiliar with that term. On the back, in dictionary format, I read the definition of “ambivalence” followed by the definition of “ambivalent man”.

How does the author, Rhonda Findling, define ambivalence? Ambivalence is “the existence of mixed feelings toward someone or something. Difficulty in reaching a decision.” As for the “ambivalent man”, he is the “one who exhibits or feels ambivalence toward women; one who plays games. He wants a relationship; he wants to break up. He’s confused, mixed up, inconsistent, and unpredictable. Yet he’s irresistable and easy to fall in love with . . . and almost sure to cause a broken heart.”

Good to know. I opened the book. To give some background, I already mentioned that I did not pick this book up by myself. It was given to me. With that in mind, I quickly realized that I am not the typical reader that this book would be directed toward. Findling’s target audience would be women who are unhappy in relationships that seem to lack commitment or a stable future. She calls to women who want the men they love to quit messing with them and marry them! As a cat lady, I don’t exactly fall into that target audience. I don’t want anyone I’m dating to take our relationship more seriously. That would be difficult, since I’m not dating anyone… I don’t yearn for a man to commit to me in marriage. I’m pretty happy while single. I’m really just reading this book for the sake of curiosity. Nothing more, nothing less.

Findling describes a handful of categories that ambivalent men fall into. Just like a criminal is more specifically labeled by his crime, she labels these ambivalent men more particularly by their behaviors. In Chapter 1, she describes the first kind of ambivalent man; The Runner.

As I sail through the first few pages, I’m dumbfounded by Findling’s description of “The Runner”. I feel slightly uncomfortable. Is it just my imagination, or does this Runner sound a lot like myself?

Although it is packed with information, and loaded with psychological observations (Findling is a psychotherapist), I found this book to be a quick read. As she describes and labels these men who avoid commitment, run from relationship, use women, manipulate others’ feelings, and criticize marriage, I picture several men I know and place them in the most appropriate categories. I’m amazed by how many I know who may be described as ambivalent. In fact, most of the men that I’ve found myself infatuated with could be described as ambivalent. Why is that?

Towards the end of the book, the author begins to address the reasons women are drawn toward ambivalent men. As she rattles off ideas, I find myself wondering why she doesn’t mention the ambivalent woman. After so closely identifying with the runner, I quickly realized that I find a noncommittal attitude attractive in men because I am also noncommittal. I am comfortable with his lack of stability because long-term relationships still terrify me. And yet, chapter after chapter, Findling neglects to mention the ambivalent woman. There are 18 chapters altogether. Finally, in Chapter 16, she directs her attention to girls like me.

There is a 10 question test in this chapter to help a woman determine whether or not she may be ambivalent. The author says that any woman who answers “yes” to at least three questions is very likely ambivalent. My score? Yes to 8. Kind of to 1. I could only give a straight-forward “no” to one question out of the ten. At least I’m self-aware and pegged myself in the first chapter…

I am quite comfortable running. It’s easy. It’s natural. Habitual, even. I run before I even get the chance to worry. Selfish, perhaps. And hurtful to others. The book made that clear. But comfortable. Unfortunately, I came to the decision earlier this year that I no longer want to run from relationship due to fear. Remember? Singleness is okay, as long as I remain single for healthy reasons… Fear, however, is not a healthy reason…

The problem is that running is ingrained. I’m not sure if I know how to stop. I sabotage the relationship before I even begin the relationship. I’ve tried to get past my tendency to sabotage a few times now, in the past few months. Ultimately, it never worked and I walked away feeling tremendously relieved. How do I quit running when running feels SO good? I find myself approaching another potential relationship right now – and I already want to run. I am trying to be positive. I am trying not to be cynical. And yet, I can’t say that I have high hopes. I don’t really feel like putting forth the effort necessary to date this guy. I’ve already contemplated the kindest way to let him down easy. I’m not sure if I know how to not run. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m capable. Perhaps I am addicted to the Runner’s High?

The Challenge

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Yesterday I posted Selfish Single. Then I ran some errands and went for a long ride with Arthur. I didn’t really know where I was going – in fact, at one point I ended up on a road with loose gravel (not fun to handle a motorcycle like mine on gravel) and I almost got lost. I just rode.

I don’t think I will ever outgrow that feeling of intense freedom I find while driving a motorcycle.

As I rode, I pondered. I often think best on my bike. My thoughts turned from freedom to bondage to pointless rules to things I fear to the differences between rebels and freedom-seekers to Free-Spirited Singleness. When I arrived home, I wrote that post and scheduled it to publish today.

When I checked WordPress to see if it posted successfully today, I saw a new comment on Selfish Single. To spare anyone the effort of going all the way back to that post to see the comment I am referring to, allow me to share:

Less thinking, more doing! :-p The more you sit and ponder over whether or not to do something, the more you are missing out on the pure joy of exploring the unknown. Sure, things can go wrong and you can be hurt, but you work through that stuff and it develops you as a person.

What is there to lose? Do you want to look back and say that you took chances when there were chances available or look back and say, wow, I kind of didn’t do much.

So my challenge for you is to go out and explore, go on dates with men, you don’t have to get serious, just go for a date. If it works, then it works, if it doesn’t, then on to the next one. :-)

Matt

I’m still somewhat speechless to be honest. I think I’ve said the word “WOW” outloud at least 90 times now… I hear very similar advice from my best friend, my brother, and a few others I know well. But to hear this from someone across the world who knows me only through this blog…. WOW.

So, Matt, I can’t deny the truth in your words. I know at least four of my friends have specific guys in mind to set me up with right now. I’m being rather hypocritical to say that I love freedom and that I seek it out when I simultaneously put bars up all around myself to keep men away. I guess what I’m saying is… I accept your challenge. We’ll see how I do.

BTW – as long as I’m bringing his comment into my post, I may as well advertise for him. His blog is pretty fabulous. Check it out:

http://throughtheeyesofarider.wordpress.com/

 

Free-Spirited Singleness

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I’m not a rebellious person. But I am a free spirit. Others often get the two mixed up.

I didn’t like to go to school. It’s natural to neglect that which you do not like… School was often neglected. My teachers told me if I did not show up to school, I would never show up to work and I would never hold down a real job. They mistook me for a rebel. A rebel does not show up because she is told to show up. A rebel is looking for someone or something to defy. A free spirit, on the other hand, is looking for a choice. A free spirit does not show up because she did not feel like showing up. A rebel can’t hold down a job because she cannot fight the compulsion to go against that which she is told. A free spirit can hold down a job, because she realizes choices have consequences, and those consequences help her decide how to make those choices she values so much.

I often skipped school to prove that I had a choice. I did not have to be there – although I was always told that I did. I went when I so desired. Many of my teachers viewed me as a rebel – acting out. In all reality, I was exercizing my love for freedom by escaping the prison I envisioned school to be.

I will always be a freedom-lover. It shows up in every aspect of my life. 90% I would choose to wear my seatbelt. No matter what. It’s a natural instinct to reach for the strap and stretch it across my body. But I resent the fact that wearing a seatbelt is forced upon me. If I don’t feel like wearing my seatbelt, I choose to flip off the government by hopping on my motorcycle instead. I equally resent that in New York it is mandatory to wear a helmet on a motorcycle. If I lived in another state, a state where riding without a helmet is legal, I would still choose to wear a helmet. Why? Because I appreciate my face. But I hate that I don’t have a choice where I live. I hate that my freedom is limited.

My free spirit, by nature, runs from boundaries. I felt as if my teeth were being pulled when a man asked me to commit to work for his company for at least a year during an interview. It took me at least three minutes to agree that I could commit for a year. I’m now approaching my fifth year with that same company. When I signed a year-long lease for my apartment, I nearly panicked. What if I want to move? What if I have the opportunity to live in another country before my lease is up? I sucked it up and signed the lease. My year has passed. Two months after my lease ended, my landlord and landlady brought before me a new lease. I told them that as long as I had a choice, I’d rather not sign a new one. I assured them I had no plans to move (because I don’t), but as long as I have access to that freedom – why give it up?

It’s this love for freedom that leads to my hesitation toward commitment. Hesitation? Okay, fear of commitment. Fear? Fine, terror.

I see a cage. It’s not that I do not want to get married. I want a choice. As long as I am single, I have a choice. If ever I get married, I will give up that freedom. It’s not that marriage is bad. It’s not that marriage should be compared to bondage. But it’s a commitment that eliminates the freedom I so enjoy. I imagine if I ever enter that covenant, it will be similar to my job or my lease. Despite my concerns, it will last and I will appreciate it until the end. But for my lease and for my job I promised a year. In marriage I will promise a lifetime. Anyone else feel intimidated by that?

A Valentine to Cherish

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Dewey

My jaw dropped open at the nasty comment which escaped his lips. He was ordinarily very polite. I looked him over and then chose to brush off the comment.

The elderly man’s face dropped moments after the words came out. He turned around and walked out the door. I knew he was under enormous stress. His wife of 63 years was on her deathbed. About two minutes later he drove up to the window which my teller station faced. He apologized into the speaker phone for his rude statement. I accepted the apology and smiled my thanks, then moved on. No hard feelings.

Valentine’s Day was the following week. The man came in frequently to update us on his wife’s health status. After 63 years, he was still very much in love with his bride. Her ailing condition tore him to pieces. One of the other tellers and I offered him support and encouragement in any way we could. Often we just listened. There wasn’t much either of us could do.

The Monday before Valentine’s Day, I waltzed into the bank to discover a large pink and red stuffed dog sitting the counter by my teller station. I smiled at the adorable gift and asked to whom it belonged.

Another teller’s eyes darted toward mine and she declared, “You!”

In response to my shock she explained that the elderly man visited the bank that morning, clutching that lovely Valentine. He told the other teller that he lost sleep over the comment he made toward me the previous week. He bought me the beautiful pink dog and he bought one to match for his beloved wife.  The gift in itself thrilled my heart. But to know that his dying wife had a matching Valentine added so much significance. I named the doggie Dewey, after the kind man who gave him to me.

Mr. Dewey’s wife died that week before Valentine’s Day. Although I never met that wonderful woman, I will always cherish the Valentine we shared. Dewey is my special reminder that marriage can succeed. In an age so filled with divorce and marital strife, the picture of a man so deeply devoted to his wife after 63 years is absolutely breathtaking. Unlike the Valentine’s Day gifts my friends discard after relationships gone wrong, I will always appreciate my large, pink dog and the love and commitment he represents.