35: Sneaking Up On Commitment

35: Sneaking Up On Commitment

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Sneaking Up On Commitment

A man without a wife is like a vase without flowers.

~African Proverb

Forever can be a long time. For many people, the idea of committing to something or someone for forever can be so right-in-your-face intimidating, it’s often easier to avoid it at all cost. This was certainly the case for me when Ann and I first met.

Ann and I met in the hallway prior to a workshop entitled More Money. Our homework assignment was to list 100 things we wanted to do, be or have. I listened as Ann shared with another participant two items on her list: a committed relationship and a romantic relationship. As a way to enter into the conversation (in my own smartass style), I asked her why those were two separate items? Didn’t it make more sense to combine them into one — a committed and romantic relationship?

I then made sure I sat next to her in class, since being in a committed relationship was on my list as well, and I found her to be cute and very engaging. A few weeks later, after going out on three or four dates, I informed her I was ready for a committed, romantic relationship and asked if she was ready as well.

I still remember the shocked look on Ann’s face as she backed away from me saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa — not so fast! If I was any good at committed relationships I’d still be married to my first husband.”

Well, I could understand her point of view. I’d been through not one, but two divorces of my own and had a long list of other failed attempts at committed relationships. Thinking fast on my feet, I made a counter offer.

“Would you be willing to go for a twenty-four-hour committed relationship?” At first, she thought I was joking so I repeated, “Let’s go for a twenty-four-hour committed relationship. Surely we can make it for twenty-four hours, right?”

So we agreed.

The next day, twenty-four hours later, I called to congratulate her. She asked, “What for?”

“Congratulations on your first successful, committed relationship. Now, are you ready to try for another one? How about one for forty-eight hours? Forty-eight hours isn’t that much longer than twenty-four hours, right?” She agreed once again.

Sure enough, we made it through the forty-eight-hour one and also a seventy-two-hour committed relationship. As our confidence grew, we decided to take on a much longer stretch of time. We enrolled in a five-day personal development retreat together. The entire trip would take ten days, so we committed to staying together for the whole time.

Midway through the retreat we were sure we’d sabotaged our relationship. The program brought up all our ugly stuff — the stuff you really don’t want someone else to see, especially the person you’ve just started dating. While neither of us was thrilled revealing that side of ourselves, we hung in there, and by the end of the program we announced to the entire group that we were committing to a six-month relationship.

After completing the six months, we made a second six-month commitment. During the second six months, as we sat on the deck of a restaurant overlooking the San Francisco Bay Bridge sipping mimosas, Ann proposed to me.

We’ve now been married for over twenty years. Some commitments are worth sneaking up on!


~W. Bradford Swift

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