My friend recently sought my opinion concerning an acquaintance of hers- a young lady in her thirties, who was thinking of leaving her marriage because she was unhappy and unfulfilled.
My friend had asked her several questions in a bid to make sense of her decision. No- her husband wasn’t irresponsible, he wasn’t cheating on her (as far as she knew), sex wasn’t frequent as before but when it occurred it was good, he was a nice, good hearted, caring and involved father though a bit laidback and unambitious but she said her feelings for him had died and that they were in a rut emotionally.
My friend and I whilst pondering at the reasoning behind the thinking of the young lady which is somewhat a reflection of her generation’s mindset, mused on the fact that unlike our parents and to some extent our generation who show a high level of regard and commitment to our relationships whether marital or familial, majority of millennials lack the virtue of commitment. Commitment to staying on a job for a long period of time, commitment to friends and loved ones, cultures and values cherished by their predecessors, commitment to a partner who is reasonable and meets most of their needs.
Our young people have grown up on fairy tales and think life must be perfect and that relationships and even marriage exist to make one happy and fulfilled- whatever that means. Very few of them will not hesitate to jump ship once their relationships do not give them the required satisfaction they crave regardless of whether the other party had in the past, given them reasons to remain faithful to them.
It is now commonplace to read or hear of marriages breaking up because a hitherto responsible and loving partner loses their job and social standing or partner becomes terminally ill and cannot afford luxuries and a lifestyle that the other desires or one spouse had a onetime affair.
Let me quickly state that adultery is a serious affair and for most of us, an affair is a deal breaker and rightly so. But, whilst I do not in any way condone adultery, I cannot but consider cases where the adulterer is an ideal partner who has had a lapse in his/her judgment, fallen prey to their emotions, and /or is a victim of their circumstances but is repentant and willing to do all they can to win back the affections of their wounded spouse.
In this regard, I am reminded of a case that was brought to my attention where the husband who had been caught by circumstantial evidence by his wife, who immediately moved out of their home taking their toddler with her and sued for divorce on grounds of adultery, was willing to admit in open court that he was sorry about the affair if only she would forgive him and come back home.
Wikipedia defines a committed relationship as an interpersonal relationship based upon agreed commitment to one another involving love, trust, honesty, openness, or some other behavior. I have however discovered that commitment means different things to different people and that sometimes commitment can be taken to the extreme.
So what does it mean to be committed to a person? Does it mean standing by someone irrespective of how they treat us and our relationship? Does it mean staying with someone in situations that you could not foresee happening at the time you made the commitment irrespective of the situation? and are there exceptions to the expectations foisted on us by virtue of our commitments.
The truth is that in every marriage or relationship, our commitment to one another will be severely tested at one time or the other irrespective of the age and season of the marriage.
In stating how our commitment to each other is affected during the different seasons of marriage, I will refer to the categorization by my friend Dayo Adebayo of the 5 seasons every marriage passes through.
1. The romance stage; the period where our blood runs hot just at the thought or touch of the other person. When the chemistry between both parties is explosive and where they can see no or little fault in each other.
For most of us in this stage commitment is tested by opposition from outside sources such as family and friends however it is easily defeated because at this stage most couples are very committed to being together.
2. The awakening or seizing up stage; this period is characterized by the startled wakefulness of eyes blinded by love , the subtle but gradual acknowledgement of discontent with each other as irritation whells at those unique quirks and mannerisms that initially drew us to our partner and the dawning realization by parties of the possibility of having made a mistake in the choice of partners
Commitment is severely tested at this stage as partners have the option of an early exit from the relationship. Sad to say, some relationships die at this stage.
3. The refining stage; the period where both parties begin to adjust to each other and understand themselves better, recognizing the traits that they will have to live with and attitudes they will need to curb to make the partnership a success. Partners may withhold commitment at this stage for fear of becoming dependent on the other party or losing their individuality and the injustice of one party showing more commitment to the relationship than the other.
4. The consolidation stage; this is likened to the cruise a plane attains after breaking through the Laws of Gravity, partners understand and accommodate each other and are better equipped to engage with one another. Most times the partners have been with each other for a while and the children ( if any) are grown up and are beginning to leave the nest. The unconscious danger and threat to commitment at this stage is the penchant to take one another and the relationship for granted.
5. The reinvention stage; This is a stage that is both beautiful and fraught with dangers. Beautiful if the partners have grown together and are able to infuse some chemistry from time to time in their relationship and have sustained a deep friendship and shared interests. Dangerous because most couples having paid their dues to their career, children and society have the urge to be true to their deepest desires and feelings. It’s the stage where partners wake up and find themselves committed to a stranger- someone they don’t know, understand and desire and yearn to be free from their bounds or where they feel they have been committed to an extreme with little or nothing to show for it.
The main goal of commitment in relationships is for each party to feel some sense of security and control but what happens if the other party does not show the same level of commitment to the relationship, is the other party free to walk away?
There are no easy answers to the questions I have asked but what has helped me greatly with my relationships with people is my ability to remember the good they did in the past and to weigh that good against who they are now or the bad that they are doing presently. I found this trait to be very helpful and as a result, there are people I have committed to keeping a relationship with and to love in spite of themselves.
Commitment is the foundation of all relationships because its an intentional act to be there for someone but before you commit to someone it will do you well to know exactly what commitment means to them. You may just find out that you are on opposite sides and save yourself a whole lot of trouble and heartache.