On Commitment

Choosing a relationship style that includes ethical, non-monogamy (or, more directly described, multiple committed romantic relationships) presents a few challenges.  One of the persistent questions is related to the nature of commitment in open relationships.  People ask “how do you know a relationship is real? How serious can it be without commitment?”  I usually wrinkle up my nose, raise my eyebrow quizzically and ask “I don’t follow. What exactly do you mean?” I’m not trying to be dense.  It has taken me some time to realize the true nature of people’s concern. I think I get it now.  The essence, I think, is this:

Commitment = loyalty = sexual fidelity

We think the primary sign of commitment is loyalty as expressed through sexual fidelity.  We reach this stage in relationships when we label the union, boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife.  The expectation then is that we’re “serious” because we have forsaken all others, at least, temporarily.  I just don’t view things that way.  Commitment is only partially glimpsed by these formal arrangements.  There’s a presumed commitment behind them. But, the commitment should exist prior to formalization. It’s kind of like the difference between ritual versus belief in religion. The ritual can reinforce or symbolize a belief.  But, the symbol isn’t the thing.  The ritual isn’t the belief.  They are, however, signals to yourself and others.

So, what is the thing then?  What is commitment?  I tend to think of commitment as  wilful acts of love, over time. (more…)