By Dr. Charles & Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz for YourTango.com
Let's face it: many people are afraid to make commitments when it comes to love and marriage. We live in a disposable world where it is easy to have one-night stands and avoid devoting ourselves to those we fall in love with.
Yet, many people do fall in love and make a commitment to love, in sickness and in health 'til death do they part -- and mean it. Most who make this statement feel honor-bound by the commitments they make. But why are some people able to make the commitment to love someone for a lifetime, while others have so much trouble taking the leap?
Falling in love with another human being is easy, but making a commitment to love them forever is difficult for some. We like to use the term "up in the air" (like the movie) for a whole bunch of reasons, primarily because it aptly describes the struggles so many folks go through when it comes to a lifelong partnership.
"Up in the Air" certainly reminds us of the difficulty of buckling down with one person. Here is the question of the day: why do some find it so hard to make a commitment to love?
Happily married couples we have interviewed on all seven continents have shared many stories with us about their love for each other. They have described how they formed a commitment to their relationship, as well as how they decided, once and for all, how much they loved each other and that they would spend their lives together.
While some couples initially had trouble with the commitment issue, they found a way to get past it and enter into a fulfilling lifelong relationship with the one they love. The successfully married couples we interviewed talked about the five challenges that make commitment difficult for some:
1. Commitment requires reciprocal love. It is not enough to be deeply loved, as you must also reciprocate profound love before a lifetime of commitment can be made. "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage," said Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher. We think he has it right. Having strength without courage is much like the cowardly lion in "The Wizard of Oz" -- only when he committed to being courageous could he use his strength effectively. Successful marriage is a lot like that.
2. A lifetime commitment can only be made to a best friend. Friedrich Nietzsche once posited the notion that unhappy marriages are not caused by a lack of love, but by a lack of friendship. Nothing truer has ever been spoken about successful marriage. You see, the person you commit to must, first and foremost, must be your best friend. You cannot make a lifetime commitment to someone you only love. These types of commitments are made to those we consider our best friends! When we ask successfully married couples who their best friend is, they almost always say the name of their spouse.
3. The commitment to marriage is an unalterable decision. Making a commitment to another human being for a lifetime also requires your resolve to make an "unalterable decision," as Alfred Adler says. Adler goes on to say that "...real examples of love and real marriages ... do not allow ... men or women [to] contemplate an escape. In none of the serious and important tasks of life do we arrange such a getaway." Someone who wants a successful marriage cannot promise a lifetime of commitment to someone they purport to love while plotting an escape at the same time. A true commitment is unalterable!
4. A lifetime commitment has to be made while there is still some uncertainty. If you wait to make a commitment until you have no doubts, it will never happen. One of our favorite quotes is by Rollo May. When we were in graduate school studying the field of counseling, we got a lot of exposure to him and we love most of what he has written, especially this: "The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt." Simply stated, if you think there will ever be a moment in a budding relationship when you will say, "I have no doubts about him/her, so I am willing to make the lifetime commitment" -- well, forget it! It is not going to happen. If you wait for that moment to come you will never make the commitment to love anyone for a lifetime.
5. A commitment to another human being has to be consistent. It is not an on-again, off-again proposition. Commitment to someone whom you love and consider your best friend can't be here today and gone tomorrow. In the best marriages there is a consistency to commitment. Love and friendship can run hot and cold from time to time, but the commitment to the one you love must be an everyday thing. Commitment is forever; it is not "up in the air."
Do you know someone with commitment difficulties? Help other readers by sharing your stories about commitment issues in the comments.
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