The Cult of Commitment

We live in a society that glorifies commitment. The label “commitment phobe” is a put-down. However, what is a commitment? Based on a nearby dictionary, it is “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”

An engagement that restricts freedom of action? How is this a good thing? It is my belief then that commitment-phobia is not something we should be ashamed of. Rather, I am a commitment phobe by choice.

Happiness is an elusive goal for many, but many studies show that an important component of happiness is freedom or autonomy. This is why I believe that the formula for freedom is based on commitment or obligation. If you have less obligation, you have more freedom, and more freedom means more happiness.

However, as many people point out, you cannot be completely free of all commitment or obligation. For example, there are necessities like food, water, clothing and shelter. However, necessities are no longer an obligation if it is someone else’s obligation to provide these to you.

This is where passive income comes in. If you hold shares, bonds, etc. then it is the obligation of borrowers or corporations to pay you.

Hence freedom depends on how much obligation others have to you versus how much obligation you have to others. You want to increase the obligations others have to you and reduce the obligations you have to others.

Commitmentphilia permeates society

About a week ago, during a Saturday, I commuted into the city to have dinner with a work colleague named Paul. We went to an Indian restaurant where I ate yellow lentil dahl with roti and basmati rice. I mostly eat a vegan diet, but when going to Indian restaurants I give myself the freedom to eat some dairy because there supposedly a considerably amount of dairy products such as ghee in Indian food. Paul, on the other hand, kept telling me he was on a low-carb diet, so he ate lamb. It was strange because Paul is quite an obese man, yet he was lecturing me on how carbohydrates make people fat, and I am a fairly slim man. Anyway, I didn’t want to come across as a crazy animal rights activist, so I didn’t talk much about his diet. The topic of conversation quickly moved to how I live with my mother.

Paul lives in the city. He rents an apartment for himself and pays about A$2000 (US$1600) per month for it. Meanwhile, I live out in the suburbs in my mother’s house (my parents are divorced). I pay about half the bills, and I commute to the city for work.

Many people try to shame me for living with my parents, and Paul was no exception. His first argument against me living with  my mother is that it would be hard to date women, and I quickly agreed with him on this. My previous dates did not go well, and I am sure that living with my mother did not help. However, I am well aware of this, I accept that women don’t like men who live with their parents, so the solution is to simply not date. I haven’t been on a date in about three years.

My friend then asked me if I would ever date ever or whether I was going to go MGTOW. I simply told him that I do not commit to anything. I am actually open to dating, but I’m not going to make it a priority in life because, based on experience, I find dating to be quite a hassle. I will not commit myself to dating. I also won’t commit myself to not dating.

Paul was perplexed. He expected me to commit to something. He expected me to have my future planned out. He expected me to be clear about whether I was going to date in the future or not, but my position is that if some perfect girl drops into my lap while I’m going about my life, that’s great, but otherwise I am happy being single.

Paul then asked me if I planned to live with my mother forever or if I planned to move out, and yet again I have to repeat to him the fact that I have not committed to anything. I live with my mother now simply because I don’t want to pay for accommodation. I don’t want to rent nor do I want to buy a house because I do not want to be a slave to the banks. It is a purely economic decision based on an assessment of costs and benefits. I have taken into consideration the shame and stigma of living with parents as well as the inconvenience of living with others, and I have weighed this against the money I’ll save by not renting or buying.

I haven’t committed to living with my mother. Currently it is an arrangement that I like. My mother does not micromanage me that much. There are some moments when she treats me like a child, but she has a job and she is out of the house quite often, so I do have autonomy, and I do have my own car, so I often drive off elsewhere, e.g. work, the library, shopping, etc. There are many moments when my mother has annoyed me so much that I simply drove off.

Currently I accept the arrangement, but that doesn’t mean that I plan to live with my mother forever, nor do I plan to move out. I simply have not committed to anything. There is no benefit in commitment. It is better to simply see how things go and adjust if the cost-benefit analysis tells you that you should. For example, if my mother were really annoying me, so much so that I could not avoid it, then I will just move out, and I can easily rent a cheap one-bedroom apartment somewhere for about A$1000 (US$800) per month. Not only that but if I needed accommodation suddenly, there is always Airbnb, and I have performed numerous searches, and there is plenty of A$30 (US$25) per night accommodation out there. There is simply no need to commit yourself to anything when you live off dividends and rent everything you need as and if you need it.

Paul and I then spoke about something else, but then the topic of conversation veered into financial independence. Paul knew that I wanted to save money by living with my mother, but he asked me why in the world I was saving up so much money. He accepted that saving up allows you to retire early, but according to him, he loves his job, and if he didn’t have anything to do then he would be bored, so he would rather work.

Once again, Paul was showing me how brainwashed he was into the cult of commitment. He has committed himself to working in the future, and this was something he was telling himself so that he can rationalize not saving up for the future. Just because you save up money so that you are financially independent and are capable of retiring early, it doesn’t mean you will. You may be a millionaire but you may decide to work anyway. Nevertheless, being a millionaire who decides to work even though he doesn’t need to is better than a broke man who decided to work because he must (and has an incentive, for the sake of his own self-esteem, to convince himself that he loves his job).

Suppose you are broke and you are convinced that you love your work, so you don’t bother to save. You live paycheck-to-paycheck. You may love your work, but in ten or twenty years, will you still love it? Will the passion stay? What if the organization restructures and you lose your job? What if you get a new manager or new coworkers whom you do not like? Just because you feel one way one day, it doesn’t mean you will feel the same way the next day. However, if you are financially independent but choose to work, you have the option to quit. You can quit to try another job, you can retire, or you can simply not work hard. This is my plan. As I save up more and more, I will not work as hard. I may work part-time. I may even ask my manager if I can work remotely. Otherwise, I may quit and simply do freelance work from coworking spaces around the world such as Hubud, Beachub, or Angkor Hub. In fact, my ultimate dream is to travel the world and work in coworking spaces. Saving up is a necessary part of this dream because I will need to convince my employer if I can work remotely from a foreign country, and if I have saved up enough money to retire, I will not be concerned about whether my employer accepts or rejects my offer.

Conclusion

After my dinner with Paul, when I was on the train back home, I realized just how ingrained commitment is in people’s minds. A man is expected to completely commit his future so that everything is set in stone. There is a standard template for how you should live life, and you’re expected to plan everything out and know exactly if you’re going to move out, who you’ll marry, etc.

But I argue that it is simply better to commit to not committing. You do not know what will befall you in the future. Everything changes, and it is better to give yourself the freedom and choice to adjust yourself as things change.

Commitment Phobe by Choice

It makes my blood boil when I read Generation who refuse to grow up: No mortgage. No marriage. No children at the Guardian, mainly because it reminds me of the many people over the years who have suggested to me that now that I have turned thirty (or when I was in my late twenties) that I must be a responsible adult and buy a house, get married, and have children.

There is so much negativity about commitment phobia on men that you’d think there was a concerted advertising campaign being funded by the real estate, wedding planning, and children’s lifestyle industries in order to encourage us to spend more.

Buying a house, getting married, and having children are very personal matters, so I don’t want to criticize others if they decide to walk down these paths, but what I hate is the assumption almost everyone has that by a certain age I must do this or that. People give you all sorts of rules that are clearly just made up: you must date a girl for this long before you are officially in a “relationship,” then you must be in a relationship for x years before you buy her a ring. You must then save up y years worth of salary to buy the ring, and then you must marry her, and then you must buy a house, etc, etc. And if you don’t follow this formula like a slave, many people have the balls to tell you that you are not “man enough.” They tell you to “man up” and start taking responsibility.

Seriously? If I were a conformist beta male who followed what other people say I should do and get married, buy a house, then that makes me a true man? And if I defied society and did what I wanted to do instead, that would make me less of a man?

The term “commitment phobe” is used a lot. There is even an article on Psychology Today titled Understanding and Dealing with Commitment-phobia that talks about reluctance to commit as if it were a mental disease. I absolutely hate it when people talk about reluctance to commit in relationships as if it were scientifically proven to be some mental impairment when if fact it is not a scientific or medical defect.

My Strange Relationship with God

Last night was horrible. I woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly felt pain in my tummy. This pain kept me up for about an hour. During this time, as I lied in bed, I kept thinking about what could possibly be wrong with me. I have been coughing like a madman, so I’ve been taking codeine linctus. Of course, too much codeine can cause liver damage, so perhaps this is the problem. Another possibility was an overdose of protein powder, which does damage to your liver and kidneys. I normally drink a scoop of protein powder just before I go to bed.

Regardless of what caused this pain, I suddenly felt vulnerable. This was how easy it was to be struck down with a serious illness. What will happen to me? Will I be on dialysis for the rest of my life? Is this punishment from God because I have become too proud and arrogant? Is this God’s reminder to me that He is in control of my life? My mind was then filled with thoughts of dying alone. I was actually afraid of dying alone, and I suddenly thought about the girl I’m currently dating, and I felt a desire to be with her for the rest of my life. At least then I’d have someone to look after me if I ever had a debilitating kidney or liver problem. I’d have someone to caress me while I was sick. I didn’t want to be discarded in the corner of some hospital all by myself.

Feeling alone in the dark, by myself, with my thoughts, and with incredible pain in my belly, I actually started praying, as I always do when disaster strikes. It seems to be a predictable pattern: disaster strikes, I turn to God, He saves me, and I turn away again.

And just like clockwork, when I woke up today, the pain was gone. It was a Monday, and I dragged myself to work. Having had insufficient sleep, I trudged through the day feeling depressed, wishing five o’clock would finally arrive. I deliberately chose to do easy work because I was drowsy. I made a few mistakes at work. I don’t think my manager is happy with me. There are times when he has confidence in me because I do work hard and try my best, but a good reputation can be destroyed so easily. It is embarrassing. Sometimes I feel like jumping off a cliff because I am so ashamed of my incompetence. I honestly don’t know how I even got my job or how I even keep it. I sometimes get the feeling that it was a mistake or a fluke that I am even employed. But maybe not. I do remember, during the last year of university, I was job hunting, and I hated it. I was stressed out with interviews and writing resumes. I prayed to God. I asked Him to give me the job of my dreams and if He did, I promised I would sponsor a child on World Vision. I got that dream job and hence five years later I still sponsor a child on World Vision.

I suppose this is why I am so grateful for being employed, why I try to work so hard, and why I save money so aggressively. I feel as if I don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve any of the money I earn. I don’t deserve the health I have. I don’t deserve the job I have. That is why I must constantly go to the gym, why I must eat healthy, why I must save up as much as possible. I know that, just as God can give me everything I have, He can take it all back with the flick of a finger. And I need to be prepared for that. This is why I am always on edge, why I stay away from debt, stay away from a large mortgage, and refrain from committing to a long-term relationship or to getting married. This is why I am a commitment phobe. How can you commit to anything if the future is so uncertain?

I don’t even consider myself religious. I don’t tell people I am religious, and yet God is so real to me when there is trouble in my life.