There are the typical reasons we list off as reasons we struggle with commitment…maybe they’re all lumped underneath one big one:
What if I meet someone better after I start dating ____?
What if I feel trapped and can’t do everything I want to?
What if s/he changes in a few years? Gets fat? Goes bald?
Perhaps pornography, social media, and movies have rendered my committal capabilities to that of a paperclip, always bombarding us with novelty.
And so on.
But today, I realized another reason for my fear of commitment. It’s big. It could be even bigger than all the other factors combined, and as I’ve started to chew on it, I think it could be tragically accurrate.
I realized that my purpose in doing so many of the things I do in my life is for the end goal of attracting women. I work out, partly because I enjoy it, but largely to be attractive. If I were to commit to one woman and end up marrying her, much of my purpose for exercising would vanish; the mission would be over.
Same with many of my other pursuits. Not exclusively, but I love to grow in my education because I want to come off as smart and accomplished…making me more attractive.
I want to learn new skills and hobbies, partly because I enjoy them, but also because I figure that a diversely-skilled Renaissance man is pretty attractive.
Take away the underlying purpose of all these things—attracting a spouse—and suddenly my motivation for joie de vivre disappears too!
It’s like this: Imagine a deer hunter who tells everyone that he just hunts deer for food. One day, he suddenly receives a gift of a lifetime supply of frozen deer, shipped to him monthly. His purpose in life would feel somewhat deflated if hunting deer was his sole aim in life. It was never just about food, but about the thrill, the purpose it gave him, the teleos. Now that he has accomplished his goal of accumulating deer, what does he have left? He has deer/food, sure, but he now lacks purpose, thrill, and a teleological aim.
This is scary because in many ways it exposes an idol; it lays bare something I’ve worshiped from a young age. I’ve realized that by elevating a relationship with a woman (or the pursuit of one) to a godlike status in my mind, I’ll never be satisfied by the actual success of a relationship. Like the deer hunter, if I receive a lifetime supply of affection from one woman, I will lack purpose, thrill, aim.
This, I’m realizing at it sinks in, is the problem with elevating anything that’s not infinite to the position of god in your mind. It will be exhausted and you will be left hungry. I could marry the most ravishing woman on the planet and eventually start to crave that chase, that pursuit, that high again. Not even because there is a problem with my marriage or my wife, but because I’d have emptied myself of purpose, if my purpose in life is attracting a spouse.
I tell myself and my friends and readers that I want nothing more than a wife, but simultaneously fear that I’d have no further motivation or purpose if I were to actually attain one. I’m like the Joker in The Dark Knight, “I’m like a dog chasing cars…I wouldn’t know what to do if I actually caught one!”
And I’m tragically good at chasing cars (read: women). I’ll almost always get replies back on dating apps, or get the phone number when I ask for it. Sometimes, even when I don’t ask. Yet I somehow believe I want the chase to end? I want one of my biggest drives in life to suddenly evaporate by entering into a relationship?
This is the tension I’ve realized.
Take away dating, take away the thrill of pursuit, and you take away my purpose.
I feel the thalassophobia rising up as I peer over the edge of the depths. I wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to take the plunge, not into uncertainty but into certainty! Into waking up beside the same person every morning and never experiencing that thrill of tumbling into love again with a stranger.
Will I be bored?
Or have I just been worshiping the wrong thing?
Perhaps, in my dating, I’ve been looking for less of a friend and companion and more of a satiation of my purpose in life. One woman I dated observed, “You keep thinking about the negatives of being in a relationship and neglecting the benefits!” She’s not wrong.
Making vows is for the clinically insane, or at least, the bold. Part of me (perhaps wisely?) wants to wait until I’m in a place where I feel like I can commit to a woman and honor it.
Maybe I need to adjust my vision to something more inexhaustible. Then, perhaps, this hunt for a partner will be less daunting, less pressurized, and less impossible.
Maybe I just need to go a little more mad.