05/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Learning to Love: The Power of Commitment

David Letterman, Senator Stanford, John Edwards, Tiger Woods - every month it seems another celebrity is in the news for crossing the line and straying. Are they an exception, or is finding the right romantic partner simply that much of a confounding thing?

See if this sounds right in today's world. First you look for and choose a partner. Then you try them out. Once you've had a chance to settle in, you find out more. If you like what you see, you stay put. If you don't, you leave and scout around for another one. In other words, whether your relationship works or not it depends upon your ability to find or attract the right person. And if you can't, the common solution is to stray or divorce and start all over again with a new and, it is hoped, better one. Of course the problem is this causes a lot of pain and there is no growth.

Here are a set of questions for you.

You may want a soul mate, but have you found your own soul?

You may want someone to trust, but can you trust yourself?

You may want someone to love you, but have you learned to love yourself?

Do you get the gist?

The common pattern in romance is that after the initial magic wears off, relationships settle down into the ordinary, and eventually into a rough patch. Today the inclination is to switch rather than work when the rough patch hits, but then the pattern just repeats itself again in the next relationship. Why? Because in looking for the perfect match, we always run up against our imperfect selves.

On the other hand, if we were to stick it out, we might find great value. A recent study shows that two out of three unhappily married couples who managed to avoid divorce ended up happily married five years later. For those who worked through the tough part, dramatic turnarounds seem to be common place. So instead of finding the perfect match, a better strategy might be to cultivate the one you are in.

This requires making a commitment.

But what does that mean really? Of course it means faithfulness, but there are a number ways you can commit. You can commit because you want to (you love the other person), you can commit because you ought to (you do what is right by your values), and you can commit because you have to (you fear the consequences of leaving). The one that works best for developing a deep, rewarding, and even lasting relationship is the first, otherwise resentment, fear, and distancing eventually creep in. This means making the relationship primary in your life. Those who do are likely to enjoy a relationship that get better and better over time. Sure there are many troubled relationships, but many could benefit simply from a deeper or wiser commitment.

Making such a commitment really means aiming for the best possible sharing and growth in your relationship, and that can be the highest expression of love between two people. A truly powerful relationship balances a nurturing of yourself with a giving of yourself.

This can be a bit of a paradox because you seek wholeness through the relationship but cannot do so until you become whole first. The only way around this is to discover a deeper you through the relationship and the mirror it provides. In facing your issues and your partners' you find wholeness in you and the relationship at the same time. So in committing to loving the other person you are really committing to self-discovery and mutual growth. In doing this openly and honestly your commitment is built through change and reaffirmed through change. You grow together. Otherwise, what are you really committed to - a co-dependent glob?

Of course, the greatest obstacle to commitment is fear, and we have all heard of commitment phobia. We are afraid of committing because we fear becoming trapped or hurt. But fearing to commit can be more costly than actually committing. To commit, means to open your heart fully and freely without fear of pain or loss, but if you are afraid of the ending from the beginning, you just sabotage the whole thing at the start.

Committing is a conscious decision, and like many decisions, this means taking a risk. But you need to take that risk, to step into the unknown, before you can reap the benefits. Just as a farmer does not reap a good harvest without first caring for the crops, a relationship does not grow without first making a commitment to nurture it. Without commitment there is no growth (because it is not safe), and without growth there is just clinging.

In making that decision though, realize that the universe often mirrors your intentions - what you put into it is reflected back in kind. Just like that farmer who planted his seed, if you nurture your intention in a focused and positive way, it will produce a result similar to that seed. So if you of both decide to go for what you want with unwavering tenacity and steadfastness, you will reap the benefit. You can draw your mate to you. If you actually dare to believe in the greatness of your relationship, then what seems far-fetched may eventually embrace you. If you just hold on to the tiniest sliver of hope, tangible progress may come. So nurture the dream and the dream may come true.

So what if you get hurt? I have never known learning to love to be painless or to come without suffering. I have been hurt before, much more than once. Yet each time I grew. You see, it is only through both the joy and the sorrow that you learn the secrets of your heart. Otherwise, as Kahlil Gibran reminds us, "you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears." The heart is a muscle that like any other needs exercise. So even if you do hurt, are you not still better off for the attempt?

Be a God, and you will attract your Goddess (or vice versa).