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Up in the Air: The Five Steps in the Journey to Commitment

Falling in love with another human being is easy, but making a commitment to love them forever is “up in the air” for many people. We like the term “up in the air” for a whole bunch of reasons, primarily because it aptly describes the struggles so many folks go through when it comes to making a commitment to love somebody for a lifetime.

Today, we saw the new movie starring George Clooney entitled, “Up in the Air.” We won’t go into detail about the movie, as that would spoil your seeing it. But trust us when we tell you that this movie, filmed principally in St. Louis, Missouri, is a great movie, with “Academy Award” written all over it! The movie is definitely a keeper! Let us warn you, you will cry a lot!

Why is commitment so difficult?

The movie says a lot about love and commitment. It certainly reminds us all of the difficulty of making commitments when it comes to love. And it illustrates once again how difficult it is to make honest commitments that last a lifetime.

Let’s face it; many people are afraid to make commitments when it comes to love and marriage! Heck, we live in a disposable world – where it is easy to have “one night stands” and avoid commitment to those we fall in love with, if even for a night.

But you know what – lots of people do fall in love. Lots of people make a commitment to “love through sickness and in health ‘til death do us part” – and mean it! Most who make this commitment feel honor-bound by the commitments they make! Lots of people fall in love for a lifetime. Honestly, there is nothing unusual about that.

Here is the question of the day – why do some find it so difficult to make a commitment to love?

We have studied successful marriages around the world for nearly 27 years. The successfully married couples we have interviewed have shared many stories with us about their commitment to each other. They have described how they formed a commitment to each other – how they decided once and for all how much they loved each other and how they would spend their lives together.

So what are the five steps along the journey to love and commitment?

How do those “up in the air” notions about love and commitment manifest themselves in real relationships? Here is what we have found, in a nutshell.

1. A Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” We think he has it right. It is not enough to be deeply loved, as you must reciprocate profound love as well before a lifetime of commitment can be made. Having strength without courage is much like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz – only when he committed to being courageous could he use his strength effectively. Successful marriage is a lot like that we think.

2. Friedrich Nietzsche once posited the notion that unhappy marriages are not caused by a lack of love, but by a lack of friendship. Nothing truer has ever been spoken about successful marriage. You see, the person you commit to must, first and foremost, be your best friend. You cannot make a lifetime commitment to someone you only love. Lifetime commitments are made to those we consider our best friends! When we ask successfully married couples who their best friend is they almost always say the name of their spouse.

3. One of our favorite quotes is by Rollo May. When we were in graduate school studying the field of counseling we got a lot of exposure to him and we love most of what he has written, especially this – “The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.” Simply stated, if you think there will ever be a moment in a budding relationship when you will say, “I have no doubts about him/her so I am willing to make the lifetime commitment” – well, forget it! Not going to happen. If you wait for that moment to come you will never make the commitment to love anyone for a lifetime.

4. Making a commitment to another human being for a lifetime also requires your resolve to make, as Alfred Adler says, an “unalterable decision.” Adler goes on to say that “. . . real examples of love and real marriages . . . do not allow . . . men or women (to) contemplate an escape. In none of the serious and important tasks of life do we arrange such a ‘getaway.’" Someone who wants a successful marriage cannot promise a lifetime of commitment to someone they purport to love while plotting an escape at the same time. A true commitment is unalterable!

5. And finally, remember this about commitment -- it is NOT an on again, off again proposition. Commitment to someone whom you love and consider your best friend can't be here today and gone tomorrow. In the best marriages there is a consistency to commitment. Love and friendship can run hot and cold from time to time, but the commitment to the one you love must be an everyday thing. Commitment is forever; it is not “up in the air.”

Simple things matter in love and marriage. Love well!

By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

Authors of Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book 2009 Nautilus Book Awards
(Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.

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