loyalty and commitment in (and out of!) romantic relationships

Someone recently equivocated loyalty and commitment in a conversation.  Or perhaps they didn’t mean their words to be taken in that manner.

Regardless, it’s not the first time I’ve come cross the idea that


Romance and Commitment.

“I want someone loyal to me, someone who knows how to commit.”  Romance is often portrayed in this way.  If someone is loyal, they will commit.  Simple equation.  But…something felt off about that statement.

I think part of my dilemma is that when we speak of “committed relationships,” we are almost entirely speaking about romantic relationships.  I have literally never seen an example where someone spoke of Commitment and Loyalty in a non-Romantic context (of course, I may have missed something).

..but, for a moment, I’d like to separate the idea of Loyalty from Commitment.  Because Loyalty to me is far more important and far broader than Commitment.

Loyalty is not always about Commitment; though Commitment can, I think, be associated with Loyalty.

Loyalty, funnily, isn’t exclusive to romantic entanglements. I’ve often heard people talk about a “loyal friend.” If anything, I’ve known of friendships with more loyalty than many romantic partnerships. And that isn’t particularly controversial or unspoken. Heard that plenty, too. “My best friend has been the most loyal person to me all my life. Not like my boyfriends.” Am I the only one?

Loyalty is personal.  I can be loyal, in and of myself.  I can’t Commit, unless I have something or someone to commit to.  But I can firmly adhere to a principle of Being Loyal, regardless of who exists in my life.

Furthermore, I can be Loyal to much more than a Romantic person.  I have always craved loyalty with friends, though rarely succeeded in managing that.  Sometimes I wanted Commitments, too.  These friends from whom I sought Commitment would assume my desire meant I was secretly wishing for a romantic attachment to them– when truly I respected the friendship and only wanted some security with the friendship, just as anyone would desire with their romantic partner.   Untrue.  I simply wanted a deeper bond between us.  No romance required.

I’d often drop the idea of Commitment with these people, who could not understand wanting Commitment outside of Romance.  Fine.  I don’t need it.

But I did need loyalty from them.

Unfortunately, I found it very difficult (read impossible in most cases) to gain loyalty with these friends, because we lacked Commitments between us.  No expectations of shared vacation time or making major life decisions with each other in mind.  I did not mind that; you cannot have that level of a relationship with everyone without driving oneself mad.

Yes, I still wanted loyalty with non romantic connections.

I wanted to be able to count on them when I needed them, as they could count on me.  I wanted to know that what we had was real and valued, even if it was just a friend.  Even if we had no expectations of it lasting.  Even if we might part the next day and never see each other again.  I needed loyalty in the moment.

Of course, I also wanted loyalty in any relationship where we did have Commitments.

What does a commitment mean, if there is no loyalty?  I want trust in the relationships in which I’ve invested myself the most.  There is no trust with a disloyal person.

I just think think it’s possible dangerous to confuse the two as being One and the Same.  I only wish to be clear that loyalty is not exclusive to Committed relationships.  And that loyalty without Commitment is just as true as loyalty within Commitment.

Thanks for listening to my little TED talk!

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