The Illusion of Commitment

The Millennials and Generation Z are known for many things, from avocado toast to snapchat filters. As the average age for marriage continues to climb and we become the generation that rents, it becomes increasingly apparent that we fear commitment.

Relationships look very different to how they did when our parents were young. Dating has been digitised and often it’s the double tap of a screen that causes arguments. Technology has contributed to our paranoia and crippling anxiety, and we’re all trying to live our best lives but often this just means presenting what we believe other people to think is our best life on Instagram.

We are so desperate for our ‘freedom’ for an escape from societies labels, but in our escape from labels we have simply just created a dozen more. I’m not implying this is a negative thing, just that we haven’t removed the constraints of labels; we have just acknowledged and identified with more.

I feel sometimes we have trapped ourselves with this idea of this need for freedom, freedom from commitments and constraint in relationship in particular, which we are never going to fully satisfy.

Freedom isn’t in not having labels or not having commitments. Freedom is having the power to choose our commitments and to recognise the ones we have. We all have constraints regardless of our relationship status.

If we are too afraid of commitment in a meaningful relationship, then that is a constraint from ever having that level of relationship. We bind ourselves to this idea that we can’t possibly have something when actually the only thing stopping us is the thought structures we have created.

For relationships to be meaningful and committed there must be a certain amount of constraint. For me personally I have found being married at 21 one of the most liberating things I have experienced. I felt in single life I was trying too hard to be free and I had a very set idea of what that was that it constrained me far more than marriage does. I feel this is because I am aware of my constraints in marriage as where I wasn’t aware in my single life.

I do feel bound to my spouse but in a way that gives me a new sense of freedom. This is a commitment I want for my life, that in choosing to be constrained by this decision I am free in many other ways.

A lot of how we process information is about making things more cognitively pleasant for our brain. I have always hated decisions, but by making this one big decision about my constraints I feel I have freed up some cognitive space which allows me to work on other aspects of my life as many questions have an automated answer. When meeting a new friend, I no longer am analysing them as a potential partner or wondering what the romantic possibilities are and if they feel the same, and I can focus on our joint interests without a subconscious agenda.

It’s not that we need a relationship to experience this liberation but it’s regaining this openness to fact that freedom looks like different things for different people. It’s not a question of having constraints or attempting to remove these contraints, but whether we are even aware of what is constraining us.