“Obligation” is NOT a Four-letter Word
Relationships are weird, and I’m a little awkward with the whole “emotional bonding” thing. True story. However, a gentleman friend of mine who is important in my life chose not to inform me of his birthday. The text exchange went like this:
How was your day?
Good. Some friends brought a cake to work.
Nice. What’s the occasion?
Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday? WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?
I didn’t want you to feel obligated to get me anything.
Are you kidding? If I’m important to you then I AM obligated, no matter what you do. I LIKE TO BE OBLIGATED TO THE PEOPLE I LOVE!
I left it at that and let him stew for a day or two before I followed up with another proper scolding.
Why would this set me off? It’s simple.
To be important in ones life; to love someone, means that you are obligated to that person to share life events, whether they be happy birthdays or spiral fractures. Obligation is part of commitment, and commitment is essential to a lasting emotional bond. The failure by my dear friend to include me in a birthday celebration because he didn’t want me to feel obligated to get him a gift was a wordless communication of, “I don’t trust that you can love me enough to go out of your way for me.” It was an insult.
Notions such as “belonging” and “obligations” have been given a bad rap in recent decades, and as a result our essential institutions of family, marriage, and romantic love are dissolving at the seams. Belonging–not as a possession but as a love, a kindred soul–is what nuclear family and monogamy are all about. Yes, a wife belongs to her husband, and he to she, in a covenant, excluding all others. Yes a child belongs to his parents, not as an object or a slave, but as a child of God, on loan to an earthly home, to be raised in love and devotion. And YES, love means that all parties are OBLIGATED to help, nurture, love, encourage, and prioritize one another as the most important things in their lives.
The lesson to everyone is that to be obligated to one another is an honor, not an inconvenience. My friend has been put on notice that should he exclude me from being “obligated” to him on an important day or for an important need, he’s toast. Besides, I’m still a little pissed that I didn’t get some of that cake.
Relationships are so confusing.
by Marjorie Haun 6/11/14