Fear of Commitment

This is going to be an unusually personal post for me, and only tangentially has to do with rope and kink, so feel free to skip it and go on to something more sexy.

Lee Harrington has this habit of changing people’s lives. Maybe you already knew that, having taken his classes, heard his sermon on Living Leather, read his books or something like that. If you’ve read my essay in Ropes, Bondage and Power you know that it was a scene with Lee that took me past a plateau of rope and sadism and into a much darker, scarier, fulfilling and wonderful world. It was a casual lunch with Lee where he said “Gray, you really ought to create an event with your name on it,” and so the GRUE was born.

See what I mean? Lee Harrington is dangerous.

And if he’s that dangerous to other people’s lives, inspiring change and forcing growth with a casual sentence, can you imagine how he is in his own life? I don’t think I know anyone else who is more powerful in shaping their world to fit their calling, in doing the work necessary to force reality to be more the way it should be, as opposed to the way it is.

I got to see and be a part of a little of that during the Dark Odyssey WinterFire Cabaret Social fund raiser. That’s where he presented Aiden Fyre with their earned leather, a fantastically beautiful custom-made chest harness similar to Spartacus. It was beautiful, violent, powerful, and as he led them off to a pre-planned gang bang I felt the way I would feel watching a friend skydive or jump off the high diving board doing a half-twist pike triple somersault and nail it.

Namely, Damn, that’s impressive, followed by wow, I sure wouldn’t try that.

Not that I don’t want to, you understand. Kind of like the way I longingly stroll through the furniture section of Office Max and read Organizational Porn, dreaming of a world where my files are neatly alphabetized and my desk chair solid and comfortable in front of my dual 36″ monitors, I also attend MAST meetings and classes on protocol and read the polyamory sections of FetLife. It’s a fantasy, a desire that remains just that.

Why? you may ask. Surely you have people willing to serve, wanting to be involved. Yes, that’s true. I’ve been blessed with relationships with some absolutely incredible poly and submissive people. That’s not the difficulty; it’s not them, it’s me.

It’s a fear of commitment. Not for the typical reason (If I commit, I’ll give up XYZ). No, the opportunity cost doesn’t bother me. It’s actually the fear of commitment broken. To make a long story short, having seen the biggest commitment of my life suddenly disappear, after working as hard as I could to preserve it for years, I am loathe to put forth that effort again.

That’s Commitment, of course. Big C. The kind of thing that Lee and Aiden did last weekend at Beltane in Ramblewood, where I had hoped to attend, but was unable to due to unforeseen roadblocks. I wish I could have, because I love Lee, and I wanted to be there for him, but at the same time I’m a bit glad I didn’t.

The weekend before I had taken a short trip to the Bondage Capital of the World, Madison WI, to finalize the divorce that was the final nail in the coffin of that Big Commitment I’d tried more than a decade ago. It didn’t hurt as much as I expected (in fact, it’s a bit amusing; in an amicable divorce hearing, the words you say most often are “I do.“). But it reinforced something that has been the case for a while now: a reluctance to take the long view.

What will your life look like in 10 years? I can’t answer that question. Even when faced with the usual follow up, What do you want it to look like? I really can’t answer it. Ditto for five years, and while I’m a little more clear on one year from now, it’s mainly because I’ve already agreed to do some events in 2012.

Thing is, I really don’t have a good excuse. Lee’s gone through much more shit than me, and probably been through more relationships. Yet there he was, committing to moving across the country and starting an entire life with Aiden. I think it was Heinlein who talked about how courage is not facing the unknown, it’s facing the possibility – even the likelihood – of getting hurt and doing it anyway, because it’s the right thing to do.

Lee’s one of the bravest men I know.

But you know, we all have our own paths to tread. When I say “more shit” it’s of course relative, and there’s no real way to measure experiences against each other. And while I may not be able to make big-C Commitments right now, I’m working my way up. Commitment, like anything else, is more about habit than anything else. It’s not deciding to show up one day; it’s showing up day after day after day.

So I commit to studying every morning. I commit to working out with my partner DNGG. I commit when I pull out my rope and start to tie that I am going to follow through from the first laying on of strands through the final hugging “thank you“. I commit when I sit on the couch and watch an episode of Prison Break from beginning to end, not letting my workaholic ADD nature check on twitter or email. I commit when I open up WordPress and decide to write a post celebrating commitment, both big-C like Lee & Ayden’s and little-c like buying an iPad 2.

Thanks to a conversation I had with Mollena, I commit when I say I’ll have a play date with someone. One way or another I will show the fuck up, even if it’s only to tell you that my hand is injured but by the way, there’s this world-class rigger standing behind you who is willing to take one for the team and tie up your gorgeous and amazing willing and supple body (you owe me, buddy). What’s really funny is that since I’ve adopted that particular commitment, several time it’s been the bottom who doesn’t show up.

That’s ok. There is solace in knowing that it wasn’t me. I held up my end of the deal, and that reflects well on my self-image regardless. Every little commitment kept, or even the ones that are let go with full knowledge and understanding of the necessity, reduces that fear of commitment. Reduces the fear that it’s not worth trying.

Eventually I’ll learn to accept that about the big-C stuff, too, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be as brave as Lee.

Congratulations, Lee & Ayden. I am proud to be your friend and wish you both the best on your journey.

4 thoughts on “Fear of Commitment

  • My experience of their ceremony (in addition to being delighted that these two awesome people were becoming “intentionally interdependent” in such a profound and aware way) was feeling a profound sadness that I’m still in need of making commitments to love and respect myself to the extent that Lee and Aiden committed to love and respect each other. I can’t commit to someone else until I can commit to myself with a big-c. That said, I should stop discounting the importance of the little-c commitments that I keep. Thanks for that reminder.

  • This made me a bit weepy reading as well. Gray, I love the way that you write; and the subject matter is very resonant for my path right now as well.

    Thank you, well done and so glad to hear that you are doing critical reflection that is propelling you along your path.

  • “It’s actually the fear of commitment broken. To make a long story short, having seen the biggest commitment of my life suddenly disappear, after working as hard as I could to preserve it for years, I am loathe to put forth that effort again.”

    Graydancer, this sounds like a perfectly healthy self preservation reaction to me. You’ve experienced firsthand what kind of damage occurs when an intimate, committed relationship with a lot of time, emotion, etc invested in it evaporates. It’s not just a loss- it’s damage, like an injury. There’s nothing wrong with having some common sense part of your brain estimating the amount of existing damage/healing required, plus the worst case scenario risk of damage from forging a new bond requiring so much of yourself, and deciding that’s a level of potential deficit that’s unacceptable/ too painful to knowingly put yourself into a position to receive right now. In a way, it’s trying to protect yourself so you can get back to a place where you can pursue those things you look at wistfully from afar and think ‘maybe, some day…’

    The whole idea ,however, is that you’re actually working on that process with the goal of being able to pursue what you want- healing, taking baby steps, and balancing your personal experience of things not working out with examples that things *can* work out, such as Lee Harrington and Aiden Fyre. It’s challenging what emotions and results that you equate commitment to and creating a mix with a little more ‘wow, this is good stuff’ and a little less ‘never again, that hurt too much’.

    I’ve found there’s usually a grace period after something big and stable gets pulled out of one’s life. Nothing is set, everything gets called into question, and patterns get disrupted. It’s an uncomfortable, lonely, and not necessarily happy time, but it’s also a great time for introspection, change, growth, healing, and little acts of courage. The aversion to commitment might just be how you’re marking out a safe, protected space in which to do some of the more fragile life change play that you have the option of pursuing now.

    The danger is in building this signal from yourself (i.e. that this may not be the best time to commit) into something more than it is. Fear accompanying the contemplation to commit is feedback based off of your experience, like pain signals from nerve endings may have taught you at a young age that fire burns or cats have claws or your really don’t want to walk over thumb tacks on the floor in bare feet. The signals should not make your decisions for you, just inform you. They are not you or your identity or your destiny. It’s not- ‘I am incapable of commitment’- that’s mentally boxing yourself into a corner. If I’m reading this correctly, it’s more ‘I like the idea of commitment, I’m just not in a personal place to want to pursue it like that right now’ and that’s okay. You’re taking the small steps of courage necessary towards being someone who can commit, so that when you want to commit, most of the hard work will already be done. And it is courage, because your fear is not an irrational one.

    I want to pass on a quote that helped me work through the worst of my relationship fallout: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” -Ambrose Redmoon

    Good luck, queer sex-positive kinky ninja sex poodle.

  • I’ve read off and on for ages, but I had to comment on this.

    I’m no expert. I’m probably the last person who should be giving advice, having finalized a lengthy divorce slightly over a year ago after having been separated for almost 3 years leading up to it. I’m still loathe to commit, in fact I absolutely refuse to date. I go for the “friends with benefits” route, instead. I’m ok with that. I can admit it, I know it’s an issue. I know it will eventually fix itself. (And hell if not, I’ll sure have fun along the way.) It sounds like you want to be ready for commitment again, but aren’t there yet. And you know what? That’s ok.

    Thanks for the blogging you’ve done over the years. Here’s hoping you resolve this particular feeling to your satisfaction soon. 🙂

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