This is the first entry in the series The Components of A Lasting Relationship. When I put out a survey asking you what the most important aspects of a relationship were, the answers became the topics of this series. They are the top answers that I got back. It was pretty interesting that when over 200 people responded, there were clear cut "winners". There were ten that were continually repeated with "Trust" being the number one answer. But for the sake of the series, these articles are presented in no particular order as all seem to be equally important.
And let me take a quick moment to thank all who send in their opinions and answer all of my questions to make these articles much more personal and while I'm taking a "scientific" approach to love, your viewpoints and comments make it more real and close to home. So thank you.
And without further ado, I offer the first in our series: Commitment
"One of the prerequisites of a healthy relationship is that it is usually necessary to make a commitment in order to reap benefits."
-H. Wallace Goddard, PhD, C.F.L.E.
Professor of Family Life
The dictionary explains commitment as a "pledge or promise" and some of you say that there are "levels" of commitment, but in talking with you and doing my research, the majority of those who responded,when it comes to love relationships, commitment means so much more.
JoAnn O. believes that commitment comes in many levels depending where a couple is in their relationship. "Plenty of relationships have survived without a commitment, but even in non-commital relationships, the lines have to be clear." Meaning that even though the couple may not be destined for the alter, there is a certain level of commitment. For example, "I will date other people but I will only have sex with you." "I only want to date you." These kinds of commitments are usually found in the beginnings of the dating process and as a couple grows closer the commitment intensifies. But the couple needs to be honest as to the boundaries of your relationship and what each one of you are looking for.
Once you have the faintest idea that the person you are with could be "the One" wanting a commitment is a natural process that occurs on its own. Feelings increase, possessiveness and maybe even a little "healthy jealousy" sneaks in and before you know it, you can't stand the thought of spending time with anyone else.
"To me," Laura G. says, "commitment means that you are in it until the end. You can't just leave when things get rough. You choose to stick it out no matter what."
"Commitment starts as a promise," Heather C. offered, "But it's more than words. It has to be attitude too. People can be in a committed relationship for years because they feel that they HAVE to stay in it, so I think commitment is also about wanting to stay in that relationship. It's the attitude that you don't HAVE to but you WANT to."
Some make the difference between promise and commitment by saying that a promise is an individual thing. "I promise to take you to the concert." or "I promise to stop at the grocery store after work." But a commitment is an on-going event. "I commit to the effort to quit smoking." I commit that you are the only one I want in my life." "I commit that this puppy is a part of our family for its life." Commitment is more, deeper, consistent. It's a mind set that despite the problems or trials that may come in front of you, you won't give up on what you have committed.
Commitment needs to approached by both action and emotion. Action is, of course the doing. Taking the necessary steps to always keep your commitment a priority but then there is the emotional aspect. The feeling that what you have committed to is worthwhile. That it is something, or in our case, someone that is worth all the effort and sacrifice to make your world a better place.
On that same note, if the person you're dating has a difficult time keeping minor promises, the odds are pretty high that he/she will have a tough time with commitment as well.
Jennifer L. says, "Without commitment you have a loveless (relationship). Why would you stay together? Relationships can't survive without it."
A relationship that is built on an unclear foundation where one or both partners are not honest about their level of commitment will most likely be unable to sustain for a long period of time. Our minds and hearts need that sound foundation that in turn creates trust that futures are built on. Commitment provides a safe and secure environment so that couples can grow together in confidence knowing that their partner is always going to be there.
Couples state that this kind of foundation is rarely found in "singles" relationships because the "exit" door is always within reach. Married couples are more likely to "lock" the exit door or remove it as an option all together.
"Call me old fashioned," Larry R. explains, "but I believe you have to be married to be in a committed relationship. You're committing yourself to God and spouse."
Commitment is an investment. Commitment is a learned skill that needs to be practiced daily and refined as you grow together and separately. It will change and strengthen as the relationship grows.
Commitment is a choice. It says that in spite of all the other choices, options and opportunities that may present themselves, "I choose you."
"I think commitment shouldn't seem like it takes much effort. It should be something you want to work for. If it does feel like an effort, and the other person isn't responding, they probably aren't committed." Ryan C. added.
Nurturing Commitment With Your Partner
- Make the Relationship a Priority
Find common interests and build on them together. Take time out of each and every day to greet each other physically and personally. Make eye contact and heart contact.
- Connect During Conversation
Take a few moments every day to have some kind of verbal connection. Keep it up-beat, happy, inquisitive.
-Make Decisions Together
Get into the habit of realizing that you are no longer alone. You are part of a team and any decision that would affect your team mate should be discussed with him/her. You build trust and confidence when you plan future events, purchases and learn to compromise.
-Keep the Relationship Moving Forward
Be willing to try new things together. Create new memories, sign up for classes, revive conversation, find new ways to connect.
-Stay Focused on Your Partner's Strengths
Let your partner know all the things that you love and admire about him/her!
- Safe-Guard the Relationship
Limit outside intrusions. Don't put yourself in compromising positions. Never give your partner reason to doubt.
Commitment is a decision. The couples that choose to commit to each other are more likely to find the lasting rewards of deeper intimacy, trust, and loving companionship rather than by those who invest only half-heartedly.
Invest. Choose. Decide. Commit.