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Published on: 07/22/07 6:55 AM

Feature: Are We Seeing A Commitment Crisis?

Are We Seeing A Commitment Crisis?

Time was when our elders (and betters, many would have it) just went with the flow of the tide. They would study hard, marry whom their elders told them to, work hard at being good husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. They never paused to examin e the concept of commitment and if they did, it was complete and total commitment for them. No pauses to reconsider, worry, change their minds.

That was then. Today, with more and more people dating, going steady, marrying of their choice, some of that commitment seems to have become diluted. This can have its advantages as well as disadvantages.

One positive outcome of this reluctance to commit too soon is, now people don’t have to compromise needlessly and can afford to sift the grain from the chaff and settle for the best.

On the other hand, this kind of feet dragging can cost people, in that their fear of commitment makes them walk away from potential Mr and Miss Rights.

Age-old attributes

Some yardsticks remain from the days of yore, which today’s couples would do well to use. Studies show that decency rates at the top of attributes people look for in their partners. Decent behaviour to their partners, elders, young ones, friends, subordinates, animals apparently is seen as a sound value. An abusive tongue and nature does not make for a very pleasant partner, in fact it makes for a potential disaster.

Another given: men and women steer clear of whiners. Those who are perpetually discontent with their lot are perceived as losers, and their grouses only increase with age. Conversely, people who are perpetually cheerful are people who attract others to them. It reveals a sturdy optimism that tends to triumph over adversity.

A third evergreen attribute is one’s own instinct. It has always told you when someone is right for you, down the ages. I mean, it’s not as if Cleopatra didn’t know Mark Anthony was not good for her, in the long run. Call it pheromones or an intellectual response, usually, your instincts point out who is okay and who isn’t. After that, it’s your call.

Physical attributes continue to garner top points. Earlier, everyone looked for good looks in their partner only they were subtle about this requirement. Today, with beauty in-your-face, as it were, it has become a top prerequisite.

Looks matter

Unfortunately, despite all we know about beauty being only skin deep, the good looking, well-dressed man or woman invariably wins out over the lesser attractive person. The weight factor, too, plays a large part here. Unfair but it was ever thus.

Culture is another top requisite. People who are well-spoken, speak in low refined tones, do not ever argue, do not lose their cool, are seen as cultured and invariably attract partners.

People who can exercise restraint seem to have an advantageous edge over those who give in to bouts of greed, sloth, rage and avarice. This comes as no surprise, of course. Boors and shrews remain at the bottom of any list of would-be partners.

Even today, with dollar and rupee millionaires fast mushrooming, old world values seem to matter a lot. People who can look others in the eye, who deal straight, who refuse to cut corners and make a fast buck in the end are the people who win both accolades and partners.

This ran in THE HINDU of 21 July 2007.


commitmentcommitment crisisFeatureFeaturesrelationships

Sheila Kumar • July 22, 2007

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