I am not very good at keeping commitments. For example, my boyfriend and I both agreed – mutually – that he would take on a bit more of the financial burden as I work only part-time, and to make up for it a bit, I would keep the house nice and cook.
But, sometimes, I “don’t feel like it,” and I don’t keep my end of the bargain. I hadn’t really considered it before today, but I can’t tell you how outraged and freaked out I would be if he only paid the utility bill or his share of the rent when he “felt like it.” Yet, some part of me thinks it’s perfectly okay to keep or not keep commitments based on how I feel.
The “adult who wants to be healthy” part of me frowns on the rebellious and selfish side that shows up and parks her butt on the couch, eating ice cream and watching reality tv while the sink is full and the rugs show tons of cat hair, but more often than not, the latter part wins. (Perhaps she is the teen who wishes she could now have someone take care of her once in a while.)
As I was cleaning up the pans and utensils I used to cook dinner tonight, I did it begrudgingly. Essentially, I had an attitude. I thought about leaving the big mess and hoping he’d read my mind that I wished he would do the dishes after I had worked so hard on the meal.
But then I remembered the deal. I remembered the commitment. It flashed me back to a time in college when I was living with a friend who had a young son and an (emotionally and sometimes physically) abusive husband. The deal was I could sleep on their couch and join them for meals if I helped take care of their son and washed the dishes throughout the day.
I remember not keeping my commitment then, either. It wan’t paranoia – her husband, who didn’t like me, especially when I stood up for my friend when he would become abusive – purposefully used numerous glasses, plates, and utensils throughout the day and invited his friends to do the same, telling them that I would do them. (My boyfriend does NOT do this, by the way.)
It didn’t matter to my friend when she came home from a long day at school and work why there was a pile of dishes in the sink. In an attempt to “show him” (her husband), I hurt her by ignoring the commitment that I made. I was passive aggressive instead of dealing with the issue head on, though I’m sure you can understand some of my hesitation with this particular guy.
It didn’t feel good then, and it doesn’t feel good now. I’m not beating myself up over it…just noticing. I also practiced the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skill of Opposite Action. Even though I felt like not doing the dishes, I did them anyway. And, you know what? I’m sure I feel a lot better than I would have had I not.
The dish issue, though, is just a snapshot of a larger issue in my life – the difficulty I have around keeping commitments…essentially around keeping my word. It bothers me that this doesn’t mean more to me or that I don’t appreciate the consequences as much as I should.
Thank you for reading.