I have recently come to terms with something about my personality that is quite important to understanding my relationships and the frequency with which I do or do not make plans and keep in touch. I have non-commitment issues. If you haven’t heard of this condition, that’s probably because it’s made-up…but only the term is an invention, the situation is REAL for me!
While it’s much more common for people to talk about having commitment issues,―in which they don’t want to feel tied down, make promises, or commit to a relationship or project―I feel like I suffer from the opposite of this problem. I DO appreciate commitment and promises. I LIKE to dedicate myself whole-heartedly to whatever it is I’m doing at the moment. And you would think that these are great attributes to have, but I’m starting to realize that sometimes they have negative repercussions as well.
How this affects my work
The fact that I want to give 100%, 100% of the time can get really draining. I see this in my professional life as I know that I put “too much” time into filling out After Class Reports for my online students. When I see the generic and less-than-thoughtful feedback many of the other teachers provide, I know that I could easily put in half the effort that I currently do and still provide equal feedback to what students are used to (if not better).
The problem is, I’m not okay with that. I know that if I were the student I would really appreciate the specific advice, examples, and explanations that I provide in my After Class Reports and so my heart will not let me change this habit. I have taken measures to “work smart, not harder” by keeping a growing list of comments I find myself using often so that I can copy-and-paste parts of the report, but I still have to expect that I will spend an extra hour or two after each day of classes providing this feedback.
I will also stay in the classroom beyond the allotted time to finish a conversation or explanation when I can tell the student is eager to do so. Does this cut into my break time (in which I technically should be doing those After Class Reports)? Sure, but I can’t say that it really bothers me. I pride myself on the positive feedback I get from students and know that it’s because I’m giving my all, making the time meaningful, and letting my passion for connecting with them shine through. I simply can’t half-ass it.
How this affects my personal life
You would think this issue with lack of commitment would make me a stellar friend (and I think I am!) but the reality is that it may not come across this way to everyone. Let me explain… I’m not someone who sends regular “Hey what’s up?” messages or who has ongoing banter on Messenger. I know this type of staying in touch is what many people expect, especially if you’re in different places and can’t see each other regularly. I imagine that my resistance to doing so could be a factor in growing distant with many people who were once close friends. However, this sort of interaction is empty to me and seems like a non-commitment.
Friends who live abroad:
I don’t want to exchange memes and funny stories about the people we see on our way to work because that’s not actually important. I don’t want to ask you what’s going in your life and then not actually be engaged in the answer because I’m grading or watching Netflix at the same time or because you didn’t respond for a few hours and then I was out. I can’t bring myself to settle for these tactics which seem to be the norm in our fast-paced, mulit-tasking world. Instead, I prefer to schedule a two-hour Skype chat or write a Facebook message that requires at least five scrolls to read. Is this more time-consuming at the moment? Of course! But I would rather gather one or two hours to commit and focus solely on that one friend than to dedicate the same amount of time to them over the course of a month but to always be distracted and only half-engaged at those times.
Friends who live near me:
I hate trying to fit people into a one-hour open slot that I have in my schedule. I know that it must get old that every time you ask to hang out, my answer is “I have a ton of classes…no, I can’t…no, I can’t” and it gets old for me too! I feel like a broken record and sometimes I feel disingenuous because I DO have a lunch break and so, technically, we could meet…but it’s not enough time for someone with non-commitment issues! Especially with Spanish friends, I know the norm is to eat lunch over a two-hour period and perhaps get a coffee or go for a wander together afterwards. I cherish afternoons like that and want to be able to dedicate my attention and time to you in this more meaningful way. Thus, when you ask to grab tapas and I only have an hour to do so, I will most likely say no because I feel like a bad friend saying that I only have a short bit of time to give you.
So what’s the common theme here?
Although my choices when it comes to keeping in touch and making plans come from a place of good intentions, I know sometimes it will be interpreted as the opposite―as if I don’t want to dedicate ANY time to the friendship when the reality is that I only want to dedicate A LOT of time. I know it sounds ironic that I want to be so committed to something/someone that, when life gets in the way (as it often does), I instead end up not being committed at all. Rather than have surface-level contact I choose no contact in the interim between an intense catch-up.
How I’m trying to deal with this issue
To be completely honest with you, the realization and the naming of my non-commitment issue is something very recent in my life (shout-out to our first coffee date, Caroline and Claudia!) and so I’m still in the initial stages of figuring this out. I think the proper plan of action is to take some time to analyze which friends seem to think like me and which seem to really need/appreciate more consistent contact to feel cared about. I’ve made an effort to explain my tendencies to some friends along the way, but I wonder if I subconsciously explained myself to the friends I thought would ‘get it’ and not the friends who have more likely been hurt my lack of consistent contact.
I also want to make a bit more effort with my family as we think of our families as ‘givens’ but when you’ve lived abroad for as long as I have, you start to wonder if they think your absence from their lives is intentional. If any of you are reading this, it is not! If I haven’t been sending cards or making contact as much as I used to, please know that it’s for the same reasons I’ve stated above. I am not the type of person who feels comfortable writing a “Wish you were here, miss you!” line on the back of a postcard and sending it off. I believe it means more when you sit down and write up a genuine, page long greeting/update but then when I don’t find time to do that regularly I’m not sending anything and the vicious cycle continues.
I simply hope that being aware of my non-commitment issues is the first step in figuring out how to make this personality trait work for me. I don’t think it’s something I’m going to be able to “get over” or “get rid of” because it’s rooted in values that I’m happy to hold. At the same time, I’m now more conscientious about some of the negative side effects and I do want to work on minimizing those!
Having read all of this, do you feel like you have non-commitment issues too, or am I the only one? Either way, please share any tips or advice you think might be useful for me, I’d appreciate it!