The topic of commitment comes up a lot when discussing non-monogamy. Some people think non-monogamy in itself is a lack of commitment, because they see commitment as holding a monogamous relationship and getting married and having babies. It’s a very one-size-should-fit-all sort of idea, that, honestly, doesn’t really fit many of us (even those of us in monogamous relationships). Commitment is as diverse as the relationships we can form, and just as individual. The concept of commitment can mean very different things to different people. That’s why it’s so important to communicate with your partners thoroughly to make sure you’re on the same page. To make sure the kind of commitment you’re asking for is what your partner is wanting, and vice versa. In order to discuss these things, though, first you need to ask yourself what commitment means to you. What IS commitment?
A Facebook post I read recently asked a very common question – “What does commitment mean/look like to you if it doesn’t include marriage/living together or sexual fidelity?” Many people wonder what it would mean to commit to a partner if they took out these aspects, since society pushes these things so strongly as the only things that qualify as commitment. What else could be under the commitment category? What does commitment look like outside of these monogamous culture confines? Solo-polyamory, in particular, gets pegged as a relationship type that lacks commitment. People tend to think if you aren’t making the culturally-approved commitments, that you aren’t serious about your partner(s). This perspective is entirely inaccurate.
Though some individuals choose to have more casual relationships, that is not the extent of variety within the polyamorous (or even solo-polyamorous) community. Relationships can have many different forms of commitment. However, I’d like to note here that commitment (of any form) does not make one relationship more valuable than another. All connections we share with people can be valuable, beneficial, rewarding, and amazing…even the casual ones, the sporadic ones, and the ones that are fast and fleeting. Don’t underestimate the connections you make with strangers that last only a few minutes, or the long distance love affairs. Each and every connection is wonderful and beautiful in itself, regardless of the level of commitment that you engage in.
What the Polyamorous Community Has to Say About Commitment
The polyamorous Facebook community had lots of great responses to this question. So, what does the polyamorous community call commitment? One individual said that they expressed commitment “by being mindfully present with [their] partner” when engaging with them; whether in person or over messaging. A lot of people said that the extent to which they communicate and are honest with their partners is a form of commitment. There was also a common theme of making sure to work through conflicts with partner(s) and that deciding together how to transition the relationship at any given time is a form of commitment.
Other responses included things like “being there for the hard things, the tough things (like moving, or medical emergencies) and not just the fun stuff.” Commitment is also when you consider your partner in big life choices you make “like moving or high travel jobs.” Also “having each other’s backs” or just genuinely having the feeling of partnership, or a desire to see your partner in your future. A response I personally really liked was one that said commitment looked like “someone being there as [you] change and grow and learn as a person. With the understanding that [you’re] not perfect, but [you are] worthy of love.” The idea of being there for your partner when they need you most was mentioned a lot. Also the idea that you’re accountable in your relationship. Stating your intentions. That you “agree to put in effort to remain in each others’ lives as partners.” Shifting from a casual “seeing each other” to agreeing “to work through anything that may arise so that [your] relationship can stay intact.”
My Views on Commitment
To me commitment is being able to trust my partners, as well as vocally stating to each other that we want to be committed. It really doesn’t have to include a lot more than that. Just knowing I can count on them as someone I can be emotionally vulnerable with, who will make a conscious decision to communicate with me (talk shit through with me if there are issues). That’s what commitment is to me. Committing to honesty, to open and frequent communication, and trust. Being able to trust and communicate are really my only big needs when it comes to establishing commitment. If I can’t trust my partner, or they are unwilling to communicate with me when necessary, then I can’t consider us to be committed. However, I don’t need marriage, or children. I don’t need to live together or combine finances. I definitely don’t care about sexual fidelity. Those aren’t things that matter to me. Those aren’t qualifications for me to consider a relationship a committed one. Being a solo-polyamorous relationship anarchist, I actually prefer not to have those forms of commitment in my relationships.
Clearly commitment can mean different things to different people. And the typical cultural ideals of what “committed” means are not mandatory. The only people who need to agree to what the type of commitment within the relationship involves, are the people in that relationship. So, don’t be quick to judge the commitment of other people’s relationships. Don’t assume other people will have the same idea as you about commitment, or about the value of commitment. Everybody is different. Most of all, I hope this article has helped you see a wider variety of options. Don’t be afraid to make connections, and form commitments, that are right for you. There are endless possibilities. Commitment is anything you want it to be. So…what is commitment to you?