Our Generation’s Inability To Commit Is Costing Us Our Happiness
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(I originally published this post on Medium).
Whether it be in relationships or work, those who build a stronger foundation over time experience an even deeper level of happiness and fulfillment.
Consider the concept of commitment for a moment. When you think of something you’re committed to, how does it make you feel?
Perhaps you’re committed to your workout regimen. Undoubtedly there are days when you don’t feel like going to the gym, but you do anyway. This is commitment.
Maybe you’re committed to a moral or civil cause. You volunteer or donate or contribute to something that means a lot to you, even when it’s not convenient. This is commitment.
Maybe you’re committed to helping a friend or family member in their times of need, or caring for them if they are sick. You put aside your own interests for the sake of theirs. This is commitment.
Yet, when it comes to relationships, we seem to have lost sight of what this concept really means. When I first began writing and speaking about human relationships nearly a decade ago, many of my ideas were (and still are) based on what I observed growing up.
Anyone who’s read some of my work knows my parents have an amazing relationship after 40+ years and my late grandparents had one for 60+ years. This doesn’t mean these relationships are perfect, free from disagreement, or without their own conflict.
What it does mean, is that both partners have chosen to honor their commitment to each other through thick and thin.
This is always the part of the article where I need to put the disclaimer that this never means to tolerate abuse, betrayal, or intentional damage of any kind. I am strictly talking about our shortened attention span and constant search for ‘better.’
Commitment is a conscious choice. It is something that should be done when you feel that the person you’re with is a good match for you and you’d like to explore building a life together. Obviously, there are times where irreconcilable differences arise and you simply learn you are not compatible — but I often wonder how many relationships never had the chance to flourish because they simply were not given the chance, or maybe one partner walked away at the first sign of tension.
We are living in a society right now where everything looks like it “just works.” Everyone on social media looks fit, happy, in love, and wealthy. Rarely are all of these things actually true.
Yet, this is the image we are fed every single day, and it creates a false sense of reality.
The same happens with entrepreneurship and work. Fancy watches, cars, shoes, travel destinations, and even jets are displayed as if they’re easy to obtain and maintain. The gritty behind the scenes reality of how these lifestyles are actually built is not something most people are willing to display.
The sacrifice, compromise, failure, and defeat of building a brand or a business is something that very few people are actually willing to endure. Far more will pose for pretty pictures and never show you the reality they actually live in.
Likewise in relationships.
Relationships are forged through difficult times, communication, facing challenges together, and the willingness to put in the work. Healthy and functional adult relationships do not read like a fairy tale or rom-com, there are real struggles and challenges.
For some reason, though, many in our generation(s) have chosen to forego that reality. Perhaps it’s because singledom is easier, and for some it is more appealing.
But for those who want a relationship, the reality must be accepted: It’s going to be a difficult road and require a conscious choice to wake up beside the person you’ve chosen every day and be by their side.
“Why should I bother when it’s so much easier being single?”
Believe me, I am highly familiar with all of the perks of single life. But I also understand the support, camaraderie, and teamwork a relationship can bring. To know someone is standing behind you when you need them. To take pride in being there for them in return. To work together as a team to create a life that you’re both determined to live together.
Also — sex is even better with someone you can communicate and grow with because a stronger emotional bond enhances the physical experience.
Building this sort of foundation takes time, though. It’s not something that just “happens” as social media and movies would lead you to believe. There are many factors which need to be taken into account. As I’ve outlined before, the 5 C’s:
Communication is the foundation of everything else in a relationship. It helps us understand why someone acts the way they do, how they feel about how we treat them, what they do or do not like, the standards they’ve set for themselves…
It sounds basic, but there are so many people and couples who’ve come to me and told me that their partner doesn’t talk to them or express their feelings. I understand some of us are more willing to share these things than others, but we must put the effort forth for the sake of our significant other and our relationship.
Nobody is a mind reader, and if there is something good OR bad that you’re just expecting your partner to automatically know, you will inevitably be disappointed when they don’t.
Attraction, enjoying someone’s company, developing feelings for them…it all takes a backseat to actually being compatible with a person.
Many of us get caught up in the excitement or passion of a relationship without stopping to really take inventory on whether or not this person would be compatible with the way you’re looking to live your life.
Your values, views on the world, ideas for what is “normal” in a relationship. These things are all shaped by our upbringing and life experiences, which naturally makes it difficult to find someone who aligns fully with us.
Necessary nevertheless. The way you approach every other “C” in this article comes down to how compatible you are, and if you have fundamentally different views that cannot be changed, it will cause tension in the relationship and possibly the ultimate conclusion that you simply do not work together.
That brings me to the next point:
No matter how compatible two people are, no two people are identical. We want different things and go about our days in different ways, so while we may not always agree or even like the way our partner does something, the willingness to compromise to meet halfway is of the utmost importance for both partners.
If you are not willing to make compromises in your personal life for a partner or relationship, it’s always best to stay single until you are.
The truth is that sexual chemistry and attraction is an enormous part of a healthy relationship. It can also serve as a barometer for the level of emotional comfort both partners are facing. If there is a sudden lack of physical intimacy, it likely means there is a deeper-rooted cause that communication should help bring to light.
Keeping things fresh over time, prioritizing private time with each other, and continuing to do the things that attracted each other in the first place will all help to keep intimacy fun and exciting.
We’ve already discussed this one.
Not everyone wants a lifelong commitment. Not everyone wants to get married, or have children, and especially these days most people do not want to be at one company or job for their entire lives. That is simply not the reality of work anymore.
But we are robbing ourselves of meaningful connections and relationships by throwing in the towel at the first bell. We are skimming along the surface and expecting to feel the same depth or love that can only be created over a longer timeline. We are expecting a single hookup to cause a ‘click’ that signals someone is ‘the one.’
That’s not how any of this works.
Meaningful relationships are not just found. You do not just fall in love. These are things that are consciously built every day over time. This is why commitment is not something to be taken lightly. It is not something to play with and it is not something to casually agree to.
A relationship is an investment. You can’t get anything out of it if you don’t put anything into it, you’re going to take some losses and also have some gains. Sometimes, you’ll need to know when to walk away. Most of all, though, you’ll need to hang on for the ride and be in it for the long run. That’s when the real returns are made and that’s when you’ll be able to look back with pride on what you and your partner have decided to create together.
But if your portfolio drops a short time after you invest, and you simply walk away, you’ll have even less to give to the next fund and you’ll be even more hesitant to invest at all.
This is cause to be selective. To be patient. To deeply consider the person you’re giving your heart, body, and time to.
This is also cause to openly communicate your intentions, desires, and visions for the future. If two people are not on the same page about those things then the relationship will never stand the test of time.
The person you choose to commit yourself to will influence every single other part of your life. The choices you make, where you live, how you raise your kids (if you choose to have them), even your level of productivity at work.
I believe that we can restore dignity back to relationships again. The willingness to look at the long term, to have a vision for the future that includes our partner, to consciously choose the same person every day. To ignore temptation because you’ve committed to the person you’re with and have too much integrity to stray.
These are realizations that come when we’ve put in the work to develop fulfillment and love within ourselves. We cannot rely on a relationship, a job, a level of income, or a material possession in order to obtain it. That’s not the reality of life.
So many of us are searching for something externally that can only be found within, and that is why we are quick to dismiss a relationship when it doesn’t instantly fix us. We can’t be looking for someone to complete us, we need to be a whole person on our own, and then find someone who accepts us completely
This means our need for instant gratification and constant search for something (or someone) new is leaving many people feeling lonely and confused because they always have a feeling the grass is greener elsewhere.
It’s time to start considering that greener grass is simply a result of someone who tends to it over time, gives it consistent attention, and takes care of it.
Even the greenest grass will turn brown if it isn’t maintained.
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That’s a touch unrealistic with the rampant misandry and #metoo hatemongering all over the place. There’s far too much risk to justify the alleged reward now.