You can have the milk, but you can’t buy the cow

This particular post is about my commitment issues, but something funny happened while I was looking for a graphic to go with it that I’d like to address before I get to the meat of the matter.  I kept running across the two main stereotypes of commitment-phobes.  I can’t really speak for the male commitment issues since I do not have the equipment to qualify as such, but I can speak for the women.

It’s not that we “made” a commitment to you, General Male Population, and had some kind of intention to bail on it or kept some reservation about it (though, admittedly, some of us did – we have that whole “trying to please” thing going on).  It’s that we tried to enter into the relationship honestly, and then when we got there and you realized that you had us, you stopped trying.  We didn’t get bored with you:  you became boring.*

See, part of the excellence of being a human is that you continue to grow and change as time goes on – and the personal evolutionary process is not meant as the means to the end of finding a romantic, life-long commitment.  You’re supposed to keep changing after that, not becoming stagnant or crawling under a rock or resigning yourself from humanity because you believe that the presence of a “little lady” at home validates all you have been or ever will be.

Now, on to the other thing I was going to talk about…

I was chit-chatting with a new friend the other day, and he said, “So, let me get this straight: you can work on cars, you do your own household repairs, you’re a fantastic cook, you’re smart, you’re funny, you’re cute as hell, you aren’t shy about your sexuality… and you’re still single?!?  How the hell does that make sense?”

I said, “I have commitment issues.”

Admittedly, I was really just trying to be a little funny, but I realized as soon as I said it that it was true.  It’s all true.  Oh, gods, I’ve turned into one of those people…

Really, though?  I realized in that moment – flash-fast brain and all that – that while I technically do have commitment issues, I’ve earned every last one of them.

My history speaks for itself in this regard.  My first marriage was an eight-year relationship of alcoholism (even the dry kind), abuse, manic-depressive cycles, emotional manipulation, emotional hostaging, and a wide variety of other offenses.  In a perfect world, I never would have fallen for the bait, but I was young and needed the gold pieces.  My second marriage was an ongoing “dog problem” where we kept using the same words and thinking we were talking about the same thing, but in the end, it turns out that “forever” and “love” and “honor” and “respect” just didn’t mean the same things to each of us.  (At least, that’s my current assessment of it.)

In both cases, I think I’ve more than earned my right to be a little cautious of any kind of long-term commitment, but that’s not why I’m poly.  (Wait, what?)  Seriously.  I’m not polyamorous because I’m afraid of commitment, I’m polyamorous because I don’t want to limit myself to a single commitment, and I want to have the leeway and freedom to explore different possibilities before committing to any person or persons out there.

But, the process of recognizing a problem is to analyze it and find the core of fear, and then to resolve said core of fear.

When it comes to commitments (and relationships in general), what am I afraid of?

I’m afraid of being lied to again, or to take it from a more “personal responsibility” stance, I’m afraid of believing in something that turns out to be false.

I’m afraid of wasting more time, committing myself to a situation that is presented as long-term and stable but winds up being terminally incompatible.

I’m afraid of being neglected and left wanting in one or more areas, even after repeated attempts to communicate my needs and wants in a variety of different ways.

I’m afraid of the fallout of shame and guilt that comes from loving someone so much that I want to share them with my kids/family, and then ending up having to explain the exit of said person due to whatever circumstances.

I’m afraid that my work to get past my abused past and communication quirks has been insufficient, and that I’ll continue experiencing the same problem again and again, as though there’s some kind of key to understanding that I just can’t seem to grasp.

More than anything, I’m afraid of trusting enough that I rely on another human being again, and then being so hideously disappointed – and also financially or economically or emotionally screwed – that it takes a few more years to regain my footing.

I suppose to a certain degree, embracing my poly-ness more completely than I have in the past is something of a symptom of these fears because by declaring only secondary relationships and never primaries, I have plenty of room to explore the other people and compare and contrast their pros and cons before considering anyone for the Exalted Role.  I have found, though, that I’m trending more towards people who are also not terribly interested in primary relationships, people who would have the luxury of throwing themselves into the enjoyment of each other without having to worry about the pesky “next week issues”, and maybe that is a symptom of the fear.

Or maybe it’s just a way for me to seek out having my needs met without having the fear overriding my emotions, causing me to second-guess every level.  I love playing with certain types of people whom I would never introduce to my kids, and I love being able to explore those connections without feeling like that introduction has to be part of the relationship.  It leaves me open to indulge myself in deeper arenas, if that makes sense.

I’d meant for this to be funnier, I think, but really… outside of the stereotypical jokes and jabs, there’s not a lot about it that is funny.  It’s a terrible place to be, to have to tell someone who thinks you’re wonderful (so far) that, no, you’re not going to escalate.  You can have the milk, but you can’t buy the cow.

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* Yes, I know it’s not like that all the time, but it’s like that often enough that it warrants a conditionally generalized statement.

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