October - November 2001

Commitment and Control

Commitment is usually an unspoken experience. It comes along with the package of intimacy and sexual sharing, and is almost always associated with a presumption of monogamy.

A "committed" relationship is usually another way of saying a monogamous relationship, and we tend to test whether people have a commitment to us by whether they choose us exclusively above all the world.

"What we're sharing is so beautiful that I wouldn't want to express it with anyone else in the world."

"You satisfy all my needs."

"I am into this really deep and if you exchange energy with another person, will be terrified."

"I am already terrified because our intimacy is challenging all my ideas about myself, and bringing up all my past hurts."

"If you leave me I will feel totally lost."

"I hate my body but you seem to love it. I need you to want me so that I can feel less ugly."

"Your beauty is really power over me, and I know you can control me with it. Therefore I must find some way to control you."

"My only sense of self-worth comes from the fact that you love me. If you love or desire anyone else, I will feel like nobody. I will hate myself again, this time worse than ever. You can't do that to me."

"Loving you means that you're in a position to hurt me horribly. This means I get to make a lot of your decisions for you, especially about how you feel toward other people."

How often do we actually say these things? Or are they implied in the notion of commitment, which is often a word that covers for the notion of control?

John Lennon once remarked that the real trauma of our parental relationships is that our parents will never need us with the same intensity that we needed them. Their love for us is far less intense than ours for them, and since we yearn the experience of being needed, this is an obsession we can take into our intimate partnerships. The desire to be needed by our partner can become so obsessive that if we no longer feel needed by them in the same way we did yesterday, the result is an overwhelming sense of betrayal.

There must be a better way.