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PQ 15.5 — How do I define “commitment”? Do my definitions leave room for nontraditional commitments and nontraditional relationship trajectories?

·664 words·4 mins
PQ Series

PQ 15.5 — How do I define “commitment”? Do my definitions leave room for nontraditional commitments and nontraditional relationship trajectories?


Here is a good example of commitment, drawn from an earlier piece:

I walked a mile in the bitter cold to get him DayQuil while he was buried up to his neck in covers, damp and shivering under the down comforter.

I gave him a neuro exam when the derailleur broke on his bike and his shades smashed into his temples. Extraocular movements intact. No diplopia. Oriented to time, place, and person. We limped home together. I helped him dig gravel out of his wounds, cleaned the blood off the edge of the tub.

I held him in the dark and let him hold me even when it hurt to be loved, when it felt selfish and wrong to be treated so well. When he’s benevolent, there’s nothing like it. It is so wonderful that it’s like torture, kindness so intense that it practically tickles. I can’t bear it. It’s worse than abuse because at least that I know how to deal with.

For four years, I resisted the urge to run away, despite feeling the entire time that he could do better than me, that he deserved better than me, more than what I had to offer. Sometimes I hid from him. But not well. He reads my face better than anyone.

I have seen him angry, exhausted, frustrated, sick, hurt. I know precisely what he’s like when he’s short tempered, irritable, unfair.

Wanting to Get Back to Okay

We have that entire history together, and I am still here, three years after I first wrote that piece. Since then, we’ve encountered other expected challenges:

My eyes are raw from crying. As I sit on the downstairs couch, I feel like there are bricks in my chest. If I think carefully through the last hour, I can actually retrace the series of statements that took us here. But he’s sitting upstairs in the bedroom angry and frustrated. Not in the mood to talk about anything. He has his shields up.

I take a deep breath and text the following: How do we get back to okay? I want to be okay, but I don’t see a path to getting there.

A few seconds later, I hear his footsteps moving on the floor above. The sound of the bedroom door opening. Then he’s on the stairs. And finally in my arms. Smoothing down my hair.

We’re both crying.

“This fight is stupid,” I say. “We’re worth more than that, to be arguing over pointless things.”

“Yup,” he says. “Stupid.”

“All we need to make up is a unanimous vote that we *want *to,” I say. “We’re the only ones who count here.”

Commitment to me is _wanting _to get back to okay. Being severely biased against breaking up, moving apart. To be driven to explore and exhaust alternatives first.

This can look quite traditional, sure. Living together, intermingling finances, legal marriage.

But it doesn’t have to.

I know of long-distance relationships others have that rival my own anchor partnership in terms of intimacy and commitment.

Similar Installments

This question is quite similar to others in this series. Readers may also be interested in the following installments:


This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this  indexed list.


PQ 15.3 — What assumptions do I make about commitments in my relationships?
·486 words·3 mins
PQ Series
PQ 15.1 — What are my existing commitments? How much time do they leave for new partners?
·352 words·2 mins
PQ Series
PQ 9.2 — Am I being asked to consent to something in a way that I can’t later withdraw my consent?
·570 words·3 mins
PQ Series