Dr. Steve explores not one, not two, but three “C” words and how they affect men’s ability to be in a long-lasting relationship.
Commitment, the word that makes some grown men quake in their booties. What is it with guys these days? Ok, not all guys. I am talking specifically about two age groups, 25-35 and 40-50.
Let’s examine the first age group. I know things are different out there than in my time but some things never change. Young men like having sex (a lot) and they also want connection. Many actually like being in a relationship. I am talking specifically about the young men that are conflicted between their need for multiple sex partners and their need to be in a relationship (typically meaning one sexual partner).
I talk to these men every day and another c word comes up – conflicted. That makes three “c” words: commitment, connection, and conflicted. Where does it stop?
Why is this concept so terrifying to young men (and a few old ones)? Maybe it goes to the very root of the meaning. According to the dictionary there are two meaning that have opposite connotations.
One, commitment is the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, or activity and synonyms include, dedication, allegiance, and loyalty.
Two, commitment is an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action with synonyms like responsibility, tie, obligation, and duty. Even the definition is conflicted.
Negative images and concepts associated with commitment and relationship are: ball and chain, losing time with your buds, loss of spontaneity, having no say about your life anymore, loss of freedom, no sex with other women ever again and the big one, RESPONSIBILITY. Aarrrgggg!!!!
The young men I know are constantly cycling through relationships, or should I say friendships that include sex.
At some point, the demands or expectations (usually from the women) require an up-movement from friend status to something more – including a commitment to the relationship. This is when it falls apart.
These men are attractive, fit, healthy, sensitive, intelligent, ambitious, and doing well financially. They are even into self-development and spirituality. Yet, something is missing.
Maybe it is difficult giving up the single life. It’s just too much fun. Sure, they wish they had a committed relationship but they never stay in one long enough to get the benefits. One of them said that anything over three months was unusual. Three months, are you kidding me?
In the old days (even saying that makes me feel old) say, thirty to forty years ago, if you said that men had difficulty connecting with women no one would have been surprised. Today, it seems different, at least to some degree. These men I am talking about do not have trouble connecting with women. In fact, they are good at it, which could explain why they never seem to have trouble finding women. Keeping them is another issue.
You probably are aware of the arguments about male sexuality. On one side sit the bonobos who believe that men are biologically determined to have multiple sex partners, and on the other side sit, let me think about this, ah, nothing in the ape family. OK, let’s expand our view to other species, I have it, swans, who mate for life and apparently don’t have a problem with this arrangement.
Just the other day I was talking to a good friend (a bonobo for sure) who marveled at my ability to be satisfied in a monogamous relationship. I assured him that I do notice other women and, as he pointed out, I am happy being monogamous. It is a choice for me. The benefits of being in a long-term satisfying relationship far outweigh the novelty and excitement of a new sex partner.
We are both committed and he has not strayed outside the marriage, but he is frustrated. This is an example of the separateness of commitment and sexual needs. Sexual needs do not trump commitment, they can, but it is not inevitable.
This is where knowing yourself would be helpful. If you believe that monogamy is not for you, sharing this with a prospective partner is critical. Not everyone embraces or needs to be in a monogamous relationship. I think this is where it gets confusing for some young men. They want to commit to a woman but they can’t restrict sex to their partner. In truth, only time will tell if they are not clear.
Like any commitment, whether to a career, a business, a sport, or a friend, it is an act of will that determines whether you hang around or not. When one is clear there is no hesitating, there is no regret, there is no second guessing. And sometimes, we have to just make a choice even when ambivalent. Then, we stick to our decisions because we are true to our word. If we become clear and need to make another choice, we communicate first, and then take action once a new understanding is in place – not before.
If we held stronger to our choices, I would see a lot less pain in my work with couples. When commitments are broken around monogamy it leaves long-lasting scars for both partners.
Let’s discuss that second group of men I mentioned, those between forty and fifty years old. With these men I have learned that they do not have a problem with commitment per se, but with making a commitment. They have been burnt, often more than once, and are now gun shy and suspicious of relationships. Some of them have given up on women and ever being in a relationship again – very sad.
It’s not that they can’t make a commitment, they don’t want to. They did, once, and it didn’t work. They don’t want to ever go through that kind of pain again. What they don’t realize is that without risking that pain they will never get the gain from being in a relationship.
Going back to the first dictionary definition, commitment is seen as a virtue, something that elicits strength, pride and enhanced feeling for oneself and the other.
Unfortunately, it is the second definition that plays out in the minds’ of men who are ambivalent about choosing to be committed.
One of the most simple and truest quotes I have seen on commitment goes like this: decide, commit, succeed.
It’s not a guarantee, but without this philosophy, failure is guaranteed.
Also by Steven Lake
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