Why Couldn't He Commit?
I wish my partner had committed to me as I had to the hike
Five days before I was going to New Zealand with friends, I was on the sofa with my partner and I saw a flash of purple out of the corner of my eye while he was closing tabs on his phone. Purple is the colour of messages on the dating app, Hinge. My partner and I both know Hinge well; it’s how we met. I asked why he was on it. Hours of implausible lies followed, and eventually, he told me a version of the truth which was bad enough for me to say: ‘this is over.’ He told me that he’d scheduled dates with other women for when I was away. ‘Can we pretend you didn’t see it?’ he said.
I can’t pretend.
The next few days were some of the worst of my life, but somehow I got on my flight and made it to the other side of the world. One day, about halfway through the trip, the guys I was with wanted to do a hike up Mount Fox. The trail had not one, but two warning signs saying that it was only for experienced hikers.
I am not a hiker.
I like the outdoors, but in moderation. I’d bought my walking boots for music festivals and I grew up minutes from a London tube station. I primarily exercise indoors and the steepest climbs I do regularly are when I turn up the resistance dial on my Peloton bike.
However, my heart was suffering and I’m sort of fit and very susceptible to peer pressure, so I agreed to the hike. We agreed that if anyone didn’t like it, we’d all turn back. So off we went, nervously passing the warning signs that advised you to start first thing in the morning (we didn’t).
The hike was hard from the beginning. We were climbing on our hands and feet and I kept thinking that what comes up, must come down. My far fitter friends, who run outside and track it on Strava, were breezing through the hike, while I was panicking. I decided I couldn’t bear to make them turn back. So, if I was going to quit, I was going to do so alone and I’d have to do it sooner rather than later. The longer I left it, the more treacherous going back down alone was going to be. If I fell, I’d be lying there for hours waiting for them to pass me on my way back. I needed to make a decision, but I couldn’t. I kept wrestling with it and ranted to my friends that: ‘this isn’t even fun’ and the first hour when I was like this, was the worst part of the hike.
Then, as time went on, I decided to commit. I kept going, I passed the point when it’d be too dangerous to turn back alone and my friends told me they knew I can do it, but we can still turn back as a group at a later point. I stopped thinking about it and moved through it. I committed and felt lighter. It was hard, but I kept going. It was always me who’d be the one to ask to stop for breaks. I complained, shrieked disproportionately when I slipped, ate lots of Haribo and chanted the writer Glennon Doyle’s quote; ‘We can do hard things.’
My friends supported me, showed me which branches to hold on to climb and patiently waited for me. They called me out on my bullshit, pointing out that if I was fine to take pictures for Instagram, then I was fine to keep going. I kept going, having no idea how long it’d be and eventually, we got to the top. We took some pics, ate some snacks and came back down. Six and a half hours later, we made it to the bottom. ‘We knew you could do it,’ my friends said. We had a beer in the sun afterwards; never has anything tasted more satisfying.
I wish my partner had committed to me as I had to the hike. I wish he’d taken on the challenge of pursuing a life together on an uncertain path. I wish he’d allow us to support each other through the fear, like my friends did me. I wish he’d done whatever the metaphorical thing for a relationship is of stopping for Haribo and selfies and making jokes, knowing that no matter how hard it all was, we could tackle it together. I wish he’d wanted to do life with me.
Actually, I wish he’d turned back in the first hour.
Before I left for my trip, my partner had written me an email explaining that he did what he did because he was scared of commitment. The email was still riddled with uncertainty and hesitation and it also said: ‘I don’t want to lose you.’
I don’t want to lose myself either. Something happens to you when you bend and shape yourself and suppress your own desires. A part of me had surrendered to the other person’s rhythm. I wanted more, but I’d seek clues that this was enough and that our relationship was progressing. We lived together, we had holidays booked and flights to his hometown in the diary and I’d met his friends and family. I wished time away, hoping I’d feel more secure as time went on. But as long as he was in the mindset that paralleled the agony I felt at my indecision at the start of my hike, we were never going to make it.
He didn’t want to lose me, but he didn’t want to commit to me, either. The right thing for him to do would have been to quit early and turn back. I understand his fears because I felt them too. But whether it’s the path of life or the path of Mount Fox, commitment can be freeing and makes the challenges of the path easier to face. It’s not too much to expect commitment from a person, and if they can’t offer me that, I hope that they’ll turn back quickly and leave me in peace to find someone who will.
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