Love Lingers Here: Enduring Intimate Relationships VII. The Marker Event—Establishing A Commitment as A Couple
It was clear for Dave and Sheila that this tentativeness was based, in part, on a lack of complete trust in one another. When asked point blank, “do you trust your spouse” they both indicated some uncertainty. Dave said: “Yeah, but not 100%.” Sheila spoke of “guardedly” trusting Dave and suggested that: “neither of us likes to lose control. We both have to maintain the sense we’re in control.” Their caution regarding basic trust in one another and regarding the need for control in their relationship is probably not uncommon among many young couples and probably is a revealing symptom of our times. The fear of commitment and permanency engendered by mistrust and the need for control is painfully obvious in many contemporary relationships.
Several years ago, Dave and Sheila attempted to have a child, which resulted in a miscarriage. Since that time, they have danced around the issue. As Dave puts it, their decision regarding having a child is likely to remain “unresolved until after menopause and then we’ll make a decision.” Once again, they are letting external factors “make” their decision for them. Yet, from their statement, it seems fairly clear that a conscious decision has been made not to have children.
Sheila admits that children would imply commitment: “I think for me it has a lot to do with not being sure I want to make that kind of commitment, that lifetime commitment.” Dave agrees, though (like many other young people) he introduces a financial variable into the equation that seems to fuse with his concern about commitment:
. . . Yeah, [not making a lifetime commitment is] strong for me too. In part I have not felt financially ready. Intellectually, it is a matter of birth control. But at a gut level its different. To me its centered a lot on a gut level of financial insecurity, never being ready to take that responsibility on, because if anything happens to me, she can take care of herself. I can take care of myself. But taking care of a kid is a whole different commitment.
Dave reminds us of Billy Bigelow, from the musical Carousel. In his famous soliloquy Billy confronts the need for financial stability when his wife, Julie, announces her pregnancy. He doesn’t feel that he needs money if he has a son, but “you’ve got to be a father [i.e. financially responsible] to a girl.” For both Billy and Dave, money and commitment are intimately linked together. Billy accepted the commitment—but went out and attempted a robbery to get the money, while Dave is trying to head this commitment off before it occurs by choosing (with Sheila) not to have children.