May 20, 2011 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Why is commitment so important? I can't seem to go into any dating situation without wanting a commitment.

Just got out of a 5-month casual relationship, one that I ended because I knew he was moving for grad school and did not want anything other than something casual. I get it; I am somewhat at peace with the decision. But this may be the fourth or fifth casual relationship I have been in the past two years, and I have also been in a series of longer-term relationships that came to the same dead end.

In the end, I find myself asking why is it so important to me? Or anyone? I can't get to the bottom of this.
posted by mando to Human Relations (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
maybe you shouldn't date people in or into grad school? I take that advice for myself and try not to lay it on people. Sometimes you can nudge people to make commitments that don't involve you. You might be so encouraging but you're not painting a picture of yourself with it. You might really enjoy where you are but are meeting people who don't really have a handle on things and not settled. Your helping them settle cancels you out.

You could correct the problem by being more explicit about meeting people more likely to be interested early in a committed relationship.
posted by parmanparman at 6:51 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's just a comfort preference. You don't like the idea of him being with others, lavishing attention on others, breaking plans with you. It makes you uncomfortable because that attention is just part of what makes relationships feel nice. Mattresses that are too soft also make some people uncomfortable.
posted by bleep at 6:59 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Personally I found it harder to feel comfortable and enjoy a relationship where there was no commitment. Sure, casual relationships sound good, but in practice they just caused more angst than they caused pleasure.

I also think it's natural to want commitment. With a commitment, there's a certainty and trust that is very satisfying.
posted by Leezie at 7:29 PM on May 20, 2011 [11 favorites]

The best thing about memories is seeing the same face in them as time passes. Like cornerstones of life, family, Simpsons, significant others. Casual relationships do not equal significant others or time well spent (well sometimes they can but usually no.)

Building memories with someone is better than pictures.
posted by Max Power at 7:29 PM on May 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

It may just be this time in your life--you don't say how old you are, but I know that when I was in my early 20s I had a very pressing (biological?) drive to be in a committed relationship, and needless to say none of the people I knew in the right age cohort were the least bit interested in that type of thing. At the time I knew intellectually that it was silly, I didn't want to be married with kids at that time, but I couldn't seem to talk myself out of the relationship fantasy.

It's probably lucky for me that I couldn't find anyone willing to go the distance with me at that time, because I got over it, and vastly enjoyed my later 20s as a swinging single. And both phases taught me a lot about interpersonal relationships that served me well once I shifted back into a place where I not only felt that drive to be in a long term commitment, but a place where it actually made good common sense for me to do it.
posted by padraigin at 7:35 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

In the end, I find myself asking why is it so important to me? Or anyone?

Well, I can tell you why it's important to me. Maybe some of it will resonate with you.

-I don't like the idea of being emotionally/physically naked or otherwise vulnerable around someone who doesn't care much about me or love me.

-Hugging and kissing someone who doesn't love me feels like lying or faking something.

-I like a good amount of time and attention, and in daily life there's not always a ton of that to go around even if you are the only person someone's seeing. I don't have any interest in being with more than one man. So if the person I was seeing was also dating other people, that would become really unbalanced.

-If someone has the opportunity to be with me, yet still wants to see other people, that makes me feel like they are dissatisfied with me/I'm not enough for them, and that makes me feel bad.

-I want to occupy a unique position in the life of my SO, for him to love me and care for me in a way that he doesn't for anyone else.

-There are things I know I want to do in my life in the future (marriage, family) that I wouldn't want to do as a single person.

In the end, though, I think the reasons don't matter. I think people are just built one way or the other - wanting commitment or not caring about it. You don't have to justify it.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:35 PM on May 20, 2011 [24 favorites]

Wait, are you asking "why the hell am I interested in seeking assurance from someone I date that we might come to some mutual agreement to try to stay together for more than this ephemeral present moment?"

Don't doubt yourself, this is not some weird thing to ask for or to desire. Things we find that we hold dear, we want to keep in our lives if we can. When we find someone else who could become dear, we hope they want to keep us too around too.

The fact that a lot of people are on the move a much longer time now in their young lives and are on very disparate and personally intense trajectories doesn't erase this human want. It just means you'll have to keep moving on your own track and keep your eye out for someone who wants to sync up with YOU, not your route, and you both decide you want to forge a new path together.
posted by sestaaak at 7:37 PM on May 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

Because a lot of humans feel like that. They want to know that this person they are bonding with so closely will be there forever, not for long enough for a few fucks.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:52 PM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wanting some sort of commitment is as natural as not wanting the other kids to knock down your sand castle or the cats not to dig up the begonias - relationships take work and patience, so it is tiresome to keep starting over.

As far as I am concerned commitment and exclusivity go well together but are not equal. I am a person who pushes for commitment of some sort, but never demands exclusivity (I can readily concede exclusivity especially if that gets me a commitment).
posted by idiopath at 7:53 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just curious... why do you keep making the same choices and wondering why you are getting the same results?

Could there be something wrong with the choices you are making?

Is there a slight possibility that the SO's are scooting because there's a good reason for them to do so?

Time, it seems, for a personality assessment and a critical review of the common factors in these relationships. You have a good data base now... lots of data points.

You are sighting in a rifle, bud. You need to know what your target is. You need to keep your eyes open. You can't shoot cows in deer season just because they look similar. You can't hunt deer on the deep ocean. You can't use gasoline to lure hummingbirds. Judgment is essential for success.

What kind of person are you? What kind of person are you seeking? Where are they found? How can you get there?

It's OK not to want commitment. I think we're hard wired for it, but my personal conclusion is that we're wired for serial monogamy. Your series' interval seems a tad brief, but that's OK if that's what you want.

Good luck. I'm not trying to be mean, just to stimulate your thinking. I hope you find happiness at some point.
posted by FauxScot at 4:15 AM on May 21, 2011

Sestaaak is absolutely right.
posted by cscott at 4:44 AM on May 21, 2011

Because you want things emotionally that a casual relationship with no future cannot provide, and so can only ultimately be frustrated by a relationship where the possibility of a long-term commitment is at least on the table?

I never had any interest in dating someone who didn't have finding a long-term commitment as their goal. What's the point? Of course I don't view this as the "correct" way to engage in romance. There's nothing wrong with people who are happy in casual, open-ended relationships that probably (or even certainly) have a built-in expiration date. It just wasn't for me. I wanted to build a shared life with someone.

The upside of my way is that I tended to longer relationships with little ambiguity (together, exclusive, looking to the long term, and definitively over when they didn't work out). The downside was dry spells that were sometimes very long (years) and at times awfully lonely. I would probably be a lot less sanguine about these pros and cons if I was single right now instead of happily married.
posted by nanojath at 12:57 PM on May 21, 2011

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