This is how to embrace commitment when you’re a commitment-phobe

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The host of an upcoming comedy night with dating experts Match, comedian Sukh Ojla explains what commitment means to her…

Not so long ago, the very mention of commitment would have me rolling my eyes so hard it was almost audible.

Even the word sounded dull and joyless to me. It smacked of obligation and nothing brings out the obstinate, headstrong child in me like the thought of having to do something.

It’s probably one of the reasons I’m freelance, so I don’t have to answer to a boss. Or get dressed to go to work.

While most of my peers rebelled by taking gap years or getting their eyebrows pierced, I rebelled by not committing.

Why commit to three years of further education when I could go to drama school? Why commit to one person when I could go on a date with a different man every night?

Why commit to a full-time job when I could be a nomad and move to the Canary Islands and write a series of steamy bestsellers?

Of course, I never did the latter but the point is, I could have.

I had only seen commitment referred to in a romantic context, so as someone with things in her fridge that have outlasted her relationships, I thought it didn’t apply to me.

I had never committed to anything (or anyone) in my life.

My longest relationship lasted a mere six months, I never stayed in one place longer than a year and I changed career multiple times.

Life as a stand-up suited my fear of commitment. No boring routine, no tedious small talk with Sharon from accounts, no daily commute. Bliss.

However, it also meant I couldn’t commit to holidays, friends’ weddings or any semblance of a savings account.

When I hit my 30s my most used sentence (apart from “I just fancy a quiet night in tonight”) became “I’m just not ready for commitment.”

I still dated, albeit half-heartedly, but after a few uninspiring outings I found myself declaring myself “off men” and started googling “women-only communes” in earnest.

I closed myself off to the idea of ever meeting someone and found myself properly single… so single I didn’t even have anyone to send saucy texts after too many gins-in-tins on the way home from a gig (I can’t be the only one who forgets that they’re double measures?).

I was part of an ever-dwindling number of single people in my circle, as friends I’d sang girl power anthems with started committing to life partners, mortgages and a weekly veg box.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t even commit to paying rent - I had moved back in with my parents at the age of 30, so I could pursue a career in comedy.

Before I realised it, five years had passed and I found myself feeling deeply unsatisfied with my love life, or lack thereof.

But rather than downing tubs of melted Häagen Dazs and watching rom-coms on repeat, I went on a year-long quest to find out why.

I read self-help books, attended seminars and took far too many online quizzes. What kind of pasta am I? Gnocchi. Soft, and an acquired taste.

All of my “research” led me to a single conclusion - in order to commit to someone else, I needed to learn how to commit to myself. 

Firstly, I committed to my career and finally stopped fantasizing about running away to the Canary Islands every time things got a bit tough.

Next, I committed to taking care of myself. Not in a “I will not eat carbs after 5pm ever again” way, but more of a “listening to my gut when a guy seems a bit shady” way.

I started going to sleep when I said I would, committed to regular therapy and deleted my shopping apps to stop myself buying another sequinned bodysuit I’ll never wear.

After about a year, I actually caught myself wishing I had someone to go halves with on a weekly organic veg box.

By knowing exactly who I am and what I want (a house by the sea, a cat, a partner who’s keen on veg), I’m finally committed to dating, and more importantly, staying open to love.

I realised that I did want commitment after all - I just wanted it on my own terms. 

Match will be brightening up Blue Monday with a special comedy night featuring Sukh Ojla, Fern Brady, Darren Harriott and Mae Martin at London’s Phoenix Arts Club on Monday 20 January. Tickets cost just £10 and include prosecco and canapés on arrival, followed by more drinks and bowl food after the show. Buy your tickets here.

Illustrations: Aneta Pacholska