Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit my local coffee shop. As I was relaxing, there were a couple of great conversations going on around me. Even though the people were different genders and ages, the common theme really struck me. In one dialogue, a mother was under siege by a determined preschooler. He was pleading, using some of the best tactics to get his point across. This young lobbyist was trying to make his case about why he needed a puppy.
“I need something to play with.”
“Everybody else has a pet.”
“It would be really fun.”
His mother answered each plea with her best rebuttals.
“I don’t think you’re old enough.”
“I will think about it.”
And eventually, “You will have to talk to your father.”
Bingo! At this point, the best arguments had finally made progress, since now this little guy managed to be given permission to take his case to the next highest court. Simultaneously, there was a conversation going on behind me between two young women. The content in
this case was about motherhood. The vibrant redhead stated that she really wanted a baby, but her husband was not as interested. The brunette was playing devil’s advocate, pointing out all the reasons to put off child-rearing: more time to spend with friends, more money for furniture, and being able to build a career without distractions.
And then right in front of me, even one more exchange was being laid out, this one about relationships. “I really want to be married. I am worried that I am getting older and no one will want me.” At this point I had an overwhelming urge to stand up and announce, “Hey, I have this class! Can we talk?” If you just listen, you too can hear these types of conversations around every turn:
“I want a baby.”
“I want a house.”
“I want a car.”
“I want a man.”
“I want…I want…I want.”
These often-heard demands ignore one very important aspect of relationships… OBLIGATION. When we make the decision to start a relationship with anything or anyone, we too often approach that relationship from a self-possessed point of view based on ownership. We think about what we want, what someone else has, what we will possess, or what will make us happy for the moment. And in doing so, we forget what our responsibility to that relationship is going to involve. Another way of defining this is called commitment.
Commitment isn’t just about long-term relationships such as marriage. We make small commitments every moment of our day. Commitment can be found every time we say “no” to one thing to say “yes” to another. And commitment requires that we be able to prioritize the importance of one thing over another, as well as to understand what our obligation is going to be once we get what we want. What I am suggesting is that we should consider what we need to do to care for what we have acquired.
What is our obligation to this new relationship, whether it be for one hour, one day, six months, or a lifetime? When you decide to be with someone, have you ever thought about what your obligations are to that person? Have you thought about how starting that new relationship will affect or change your obligations to already established relationships with other people, activities, goals or possessions. Some of your obligations include such things as honesty, respect, dependability, reasonableness, time; to name just a few of the fifty-two concepts we discuss in my class. All of these are part of the obligation that I speak of. For some, just having this new awareness is enough to help create pause before jumping into a new relationship.