As I am focusing this month on commitment, I actually had the thought that looking at it through the lens of what I perceived (and perhaps naively) to be one of the biggest commitments of your life, marriage. My best friend, Katrina Franklin married her hombre, the Spaniard Oscar Barchin, 12 months ago in a gorgeous country setting in northern NSW. Both of them I adore and really am akin to their values and sense of humour, I only wish I was able to capture the humour that came through in the conversation as we chatted through the interview, but alas I’m not going to paint myself as a comedy writer, but instead focus on the content of what both Oscar and Kat had to say. Quite to my surprise, they aren’t one hundred percent aligned in what the believe ‘commitment’ to be as a definition, but there is still no doubt that they are dedicated to one another and building a life they’re proud of in many areas beyond their relationship. At the core for them, commitment comes down to love and happiness, and I feel that is a mighty great place to be and continuously aim for in life. Let’s hear what they had to say.
L: Kat, was does commitment mean to you?
K: To me, a lot of things, my intent to follow through, to stick to something when I have a goal. In a relationship, commitment means being loyal, sticking to our values, respect, love, being honest, so it encapsulates many things.
O: For me, commitment is something you’re forced to do. Thinking about marriage I don’t think you have to make a commitment, as that would be like an obligation. I don’t understand the word commitment in a marriage, but I do understand marriage is about love. Loving the person, wanting to share your lives and look after each other – but not some kind of guideline on how to behave.
K: I agree in some ways. It can be a very formal word. It feels more applicable to other areas of your life outside of relationships and marriage, like you’d commit yourself to a challenge or a goal. Although for me, commitment does just automatically happen when you love someone, it’s natural.
O: Yeah, a challenge, that is a commitment. It doesn’t need to be an agreement in relationships or we don’t need to say, ‘I commit to you.’ It’s just what you do, so yes it happens quite naturally.
L: Sometimes it can be a matter of linguistics. I like this, how a word can conjure up different reactions in people. Like you say Oscar, for you commitment is about obligation. For others it may be about determination, say if you were linking it back to more tangible goals like saving money. Whereas in marriage it may not be a contract you sign, or something that’s tangible – it comes through in an emotive way.
K: Exactly, it is not like I woke up one morning and went, ‘right I am going to be committed to Oscar.’ It’s more of a support that builds and I know that you want to be there for him, in his challenges and the dreams he has.
O: It’s the affect or consequence of love.
K: I agree, I always think about commitment in my exercise, going for a run or being active every day. I don’t consciously think about it in my relationship with Oscar, but in some situations I remind myself to consider him when making choices, say with my business and where we want to live, or if he were sick and trips overseas to see his family. I am committed to Oscar’s wellbeing and my own, so I make decisions that benefit us both.
L: So you think it’s important?
O: It relates to what it means to be married, what is acceptable and what is not, as a couple you have your own ways of behaving – what it can be and what it can’t. Overall, it’s about sharing a life together, and that can be very different for everyone.
K: I also think commitment is sticking to your word and beliefs. If you don’t have commitment then how do you know you can stick to something, or build trust with people.
L: So how does commitment show up in other areas of your life?
K: You follow and live by what you believe in.
O: You behave as you are, without letting outside factors affect how others perceive you, or how you want to be perceived. Maybe it is a bit selfish, but it’s about saying this is who I am.
K: It’s in many things – my passions and dreams, to see things through and lead my life and design business in the direction I want to go in. To be healthy and fit is really important to me, commitment means exercising regularly and eating healthy the majority of the week, plus being respectful and helpful to friends.
L: How about you Oscar?
O: It is simple. To do things that make me happy. That is a commitment I have to myself.
O: Sure. Say when I go to work, it has the potential to be a shit day or a great day. I don’t know sometimes until I walk through the door, but if I focus on being happy it makes it easier.
L: What is the impact of that choice to be happy? Believing it’s going to be a good day?
O: It is the way I approach difficulties. Everyone has problems and issues, but it’s the way we deal with them that makes the difference between solving them or not being able to cope.
K: I think that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you Oscar, sometimes I take things too seriously and I love that Oscar can see the benefit of creating a life where he chooses to be happy. That is something that many people strive for, and he does it quite naturally. It’s a major thing to be committed to.
O: When I am in situations I don’t want to be in, I do feel committed to deal with them in a positive way. If I don’t want to be there, or it’s uncomfortable or weird, if I stay focused on being positive it will always work out.
L: How do you motivate yourself to not give in Oscar?
O: I think people give up when they think nothing positive will happen out of a situation. When people lose hope.
L: Does that happen often for you?
O: I can get complacent, but I rarely give up. Sometimes at work I can get a little bored, ultimately I know I have great hours, great money and low stress, so I value what I have rather than focusing on one thing that may not be working. There are always many more positives. Weighing it up, you can never have 100%, but 70-80% is enough to keep me happy. I make a change if that scale tips a lot lower.
L: So that’s how you put your beliefs in to practice? You can see that scale and be pragmatic?
O: Exactly, that is why I don’t change jobs much. Many people emphasise the one part that needs to improve and discard the rest, often people are chasing after something that doesn’t exist. Not just in work, but in life. It is so important to value what you already have. Keeping the weight and scales in the right proportion, from 80% plus you should be happy. I said to Kat when we started dating that it needs to be easy, it can’t be hard. If there are quarrels early on, there is no point continuing.
L: What a great scale to visualise, as many people strive for that 100% that’s not achievable, but if you aim for 80% then it’s going to give you satisfaction and keep you motivated.
O: Glass almost full!
L: So what motivates you to stay committed Kat?
K: It would be happiness as well. Committing to myself, my husband, my family and friends and business. It can often be tricky or not completely enjoyable, but knowing that it’s overall going to benefit my wellbeing it keeps me going. So while Oscar focuses on being happy, I see happiness more as a result.
L: How do you think you learnt commitment, to stick to things, to follow through?
K: Definitely taught to me by my parents, from an early age, it was the way I was bought up. Growing up on a farm you were delegated jobs and had deadlines. Looking at my Mum and Dad’s relationship, they’ve been married for 46 years and they were great role models of commitment. I also grew up being in scouts and venturers, being part of a team, learning new things and seeing the task through to the end.
O: Or do you mean discipline?
K: No discipline is different. Discipline is how it gets done, the process and structure. Commitment is sticking with it and has an emotional pay off, the happiness of reaching a goal.
O: I think life shows you commitment. My parents may have imposed some commitments when I was young, like saving up money for something or making good grades to have success in life. It was different in the city growing up, not necessarily having a strong community connection or spirit like Kat had in her small town. I like how Kat’s father does Anzac day and other jobs in the community.
K: Yeah, but he’s also so passionate about it. He loves it.
L: Interesting point, commitment is easy when it is applied what you love to do. But when it’s obligation or forced perhaps it feels more like discipline and going through the motions without the goal and sense of achievement at the end. So perhaps exercise may feel like discipline at first, but after a while when you begin to enjoy it, it becomes something you’re committed to?
O: Yeah the payoff ends up being worth it.
K: It becomes a lifestyle choice.
O: Or quitting smoking. I have to treat my process of giving up as a commitment, not as discipline. My personality needs to know how to believe in it for the benefit, rather than what I’m missing out on. I have to learn to believe quitting is good.
K: I think you struggle between the two – being disciplined to begin with to get over the addiction and cravings, and then believing in the commitment and bigger health benefits comes later.
O: It is all the associations I have with smoking in my mind, the fun, the drinking and social, being on holidays, down to the movies with the cool guys smoking. Feeling like you aren’t missing out on all these associations, not just the smoking.
L: That is a really big part of commitment, understanding the bigger picture is more important than the temporary missing out. I really think that’s critical.
K: Completely. Commitment is focusing on the bigger picture benefits. I really believe that is why sticking with something to the end is one of the hardest things for people in life.
L: So who represents commitment to you guys? Who does it well?
K: My Mum and Dad.
O: Politicians, perhaps Nelson Mandela who is committed to his cause, the sacrifices he made demonstrated this. Teachers, how they instil principles and guide kids through life. Teachers aren’t valued highly enough for all the good they do.
L: Great examples. So how would you wrap up a final thought on commitment?
O: My point is to believe in the positive when you commit to something, it’s not about discipline or obligation, believe it will make you happy.
K: I think it’s about many things from positivity, love, passions to respect and goals, we may see it in different lights. I think everyone needs to have it, and in the end the result will be happiness.