Before we got married, my wife and I broke up four times. FOUR. TIMES.
To be more precise, I broke up with her four times because I was petrified of commitment. Not only that, she was the first woman I ever dated where I thought, “I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t with her.”
To a commitment-phobe, that’s like pushing the gas pedal to the floor with one foot while slamming the breaks with the other.
It doesn’t make sense. It’s a paradox. It’s complicated. It’s L-O-V-E, yo.
Long story short, she stuck with me (thankfully) and, seven years and two kids later, we’re happy as clams.
I am so thankful to look back and see the amazing people who helped me see:
- How big of a doofus I was being
- What I would have missed out on if I didn’t get a grip
- The problem wasn’t with Kerry, the problem was with me!
See, I wanted the emotional connection to her without the commitment. I was afraid of committing–of truly putting someone else’s needs before my own–but still wanted all the benefits that come from it:
In short, I was painfully selfish and completely unaware. (Not a good combo.) The only person I was concerned about in the relationship was me. What I could get out of the deal. How I could my needs met. Anyone who’s been in a one-sided relationship before knows how exhausting this can be. Relationships are two-way streets.
A good relationship is always give-and-take, share-and-listen, love-and-be-loved. Always.
Why am I telling you about my past relational issues? Because just as I had a commitment phobia in my relationship with Kerry (and it showed), many of us have commitment issues with our online communities (and it shows).
We want the connection to our community without the commitment. We want the benefits without the work. We want the reward without the risk.
We take more than we give. We share more than we listen. We want to be loved more than we love.
Volunteer for this…
Share, Like, Comment…
Now, now, now…
This can work for a short amount of time, but sooner or later even the most patient person gets tired of the Me Monster. We’re all human, after all.
If it sounds funny to think about our online communities this way, it shouldn’t.
We live in an opt-in world. Seth Godin calls it “the connection economy,” and he’s right. Moving forward, all you have is relationships. Everything else is a distraction.
Your brand, your business, your church, your nonprofit–they will rise and fall on your ability to cultivate goodwill and build strong relationships online.
Read that last line again. Go ahead. Let it sink in.
You might be wondering what changed on the fourth break-up with my wife. The answer is simple: I knew that if I couldn’t get my act together, I’d lose her forever. I knew if I didn’t start investing in her like she had so faithfully invested in me, the kindest, smartest, sassiest woman I’d ever known was going to walk out the door for good. (And she would have had every right to do so.)
Things worked out and, slowly but surely, I learned to put her first.
Don’t lose your community because you couldn’t stop thinking about yourself. They’re the best thing you have going for you right now—your most valuable asset. Start treating them like it.