Commitment doesn’t have to have a timeframe. Kay has been married to the same man for sixteen years. ‘We met when we were at school and we became good friends. We would sit together in class and have lunch together most days. Then one weekend when we were about seventeen I was invited to a friend’s birthday party and she said to bring a partner. So I asked James if he would like to go with me. That night we kissed each other for the first time and it just felt so wonderful. We talked for ages after the party and we agreed that we were officially “going steady” (that’s what they called it back then). I know this sounds weird but we decided then and there that one day we would marry. Of course nobody believed either of us at the time … but that’s exactly what we did as soon as we graduated from university and one of us got a job. We’ve had our ups and downs but we’re still here!’
Two people can make a mutual commitment after only a few weeks and keep to it but a relationship can go on for years without any real commitment beyond next Saturday night.
Colin talks about the other side of the coin. ‘Michelle and I started our relationship when we were fifteen. We would go to all the parties together, we went to the beach, we would go on holidays with each other’s families and all that. As we got older our relationship became sexual but in a way we were like brother and sister. We never talked about marriage or children. In fact, we never even talked about living together. Anyway, by the time we were about twenty-three our parents started dropping little hints about us “tying the knot” and about how they would like to be grandparents one day and how well suited we were. At first we just ignored it but by the time we were twenty-five the thumbscrews were really on. I suppose they managed to convince us that because we had been together for ten years we were duty-bound to get married. Well it lasted about eighteen months.’
Now at first glance the concept of agreeing to a set of restrictions doesn’t seem all that appealing, but making a commitment can mean a lot of plusses — a degree of security, mutual support, companionship, trust, and being able to make longterm plans together.