Commitment. Why do so many of us find it so hard? I spent many of the early years of my marriage terrified. It was exhausting. Yes, some of our problems were real, but there were concrete things we could do to handle them. It was the things I made up in my head that I had trouble dealing with. Dreadful things. I battled with the demons in my mind.
My fears caused continual mental anguish and even physical pain. They sent me down dark hallways and spine-tingling crevices. And, in a way, that was the point. Fortunately, thanks to years of work in 12 Step Programs, counseling and especially meditation, I knew that these fears were not real. Through meditation, I had discovered just how addicted I was to feeling bad; to having all these emotions coursing through my body, putting me on edge. It was like a drug and I used it to feel alive even though it was killing me on many levels. I would make things up and then react to them as if they were real. Madness? Yes. But boy, did I get a kick out of it.
Often, I felt like a trapped animal. My partner was getting too close. It terrified me. And that's the way I'd acted in many of my previous relationships: Fight or flight. Lashing out at those who got in my way. Yes, I had been hurt in the past -- by other lovers, by my upbringing, by my friends -- but this fear of commitment was irrational, mad, out of control terror. A base reaction. A lot of us think that when someone really gets to know us they won't love us anymore. If that is the case, it's far better they get to know you as soon as possible. Then, if they can't handle the truth at least you can move on quickly.
One of the fears that tormented me was the, "but what if there's someone better out there" kind. And, now I say, well, maybe there is, maybe there isn't. You're never going to be in a wonderful and loving relationship if that's the way you approach it. I knew, deep in my heart, that if I couldn't be in a relationship with this man, I would never be able to make a relationship work with anyone, ever. He was very much in touch with himself and continued to do the work to clear his emotional baggage despite the constant setbacks we suffered. I had to show up and do the work too. I knew he would always support me in that.
But often, I didn't want to and acted like a spoiled brat. Sometimes, I must admit, I still do act like a spoiled brat. However, these days, I know the truth and the truth is where we always end up. We love each other. We are committed to each other on every level and it's no longer terrifying.
Mary-Lou's latest book How To Stay Married was released on her tenth wedding anniversary. Find out more at www.maryloustephens.com.au