Tuesday July 29th 2014

How Long To Date Before Talking Commitment?

Question: I want to start by thanking you for all the free advice that you provide. I’m in a relationship that is fairly stable. We’ve been dating exclusively for 16 months and we both think the other is “the one”. I want to bring up the topic of commitment but I am not sure if it’s the right time. Based on your experience, how long should two people date before bringing up commitment?

Answer: I appreciate your kind words, means a lot. To answer your question, there is no one-size-fits-all length of time for the “dating phase”. The common sense rule of thumb is to take as much time as such a serious decision like commitment requires. It’s not usually the best in us that pushes for premature commitment from our partner, and the same holds true for the part of us that resists making a long over due one.

There are however, some specifics that give you a clearer and honest appraisal of your relationship before you attempt to discuss the future of your relationship.

1. The desire, willingness and motivation on both sides to build, maintain, strengthen and deepen the relationship

Are you capitalizing on each other’s assets and strengths to create a relationship that can be maintained over time? Is there a willingness — on both sides — to make short-term sacrifices for long term stability? The willingness to make sacrifices for your partner and for the relationship shows you’ve evolved from thinking of the relationship in “short” terms to thinking of it “long” terms.

2. A balance that offers security without suffocation and independence without physical and emotional distance.

This should be a mutually defined and agreed upon goal, which is constantly discussed, updated and open for redefinition. If this balance does not exist or continue to exist then it’s likely that over time, you will grow apart and start looking for other people, places, and things to sustain yourselves as individuals.

3. Freedom to express positive feelings, negative feelings, complaints, needs, and above all, affection.

Freedom to express oneself and a willingness to be open to learning about oneself and the other allows for exploration and experimentation. It’s great for maintaining quality communication in a relationship.

4. Trust and accountability

Trust makes commitment possible. Accountability insures that trustworthiness and commitment will be pursued with vigour.

5. Excitement, energy and enthusiasm for the relationship

Taking time to be with and to talk to each other on a daily basis are the prerequisites for an exciting, energetic and fun relationship.

If after reading this you think that you and your partner have openly and exhaustively discussed all these areas, and are already livng all of them, then find a time to talk to him when both of you are feeling relaxed and generally positive about life. But if you have not yet thoroughly discussed all of these main areas, then I suggest you first have a conversation — may be even many conversations — before you discuss taking things to the next level.

Taking the time to thoroughly discuss and even test-drive these areas helps you avoid “buyer’s remorse” — the other person behaving opportunistically, going back on his word, or not putting in the required effort.

Readers' Questions and The Love Doctor's Answers...

8 Responses to “How Long To Date Before Talking Commitment?”

  1. Zena says:

    Just what I was looking for. Thank you.

  2. BobbyB says:

    This is good advice. We have been in a 6 year relationship and I believe that my girlfriend definitely has commitment issues. She says she loves me and that I’m her best friend but thinks marrying me will be a mistake. I’ve tried to tell her that these fears she has are because of her previous marriage, I am not like her ex husband. She says she knows I’m different it’s just a “feeling” she has. Lately she’s talking of breaking up with me because she doesn’t want to lead me on. Is this typical of someone with commitment issues?

  3. Matt says:

    My girlfriend thinks I’m sexy and says I’d make a great father/husband but one thing that is missing is that “feeling” that we should be together. I don’t really understand it. What else does she need?

  4. BobbyB & Matt, I wrote a lengthy article “Fear Of Commitment Explained: No Situation Is Hopeless” you might want to read it.

    It’d be very wise for you not to dismiss it as “just a feeling”. It’s this “feeling” that makes all the difference. Next time you have a conversation, tell her you want her to have that “feeling”, then ask her what she wants to “feel”. This will give you a good idea on which areas of your life you need to work on and which emotions you need to trigger in her for her to feel that “feeling”. Each woman is different in what she wants to “feel” so it’s important that you understand your woman and give it to her the way she wants it.

  5. Haniboi says:

    I also think my ex has commitment issues. We’re broken up right now (three months) but we keep in contact. Bringing up the areas that you mention will let her know that I’m thinking long term.

  6. You can’t talk long term (commitment) when you not even in a relationship. It just doesn’t make any sense. Talking long -term (commitment) at this point is useless. You first have to “get her back” (reassure her that that relationship is possible), then after you get her back you can start talking long term (commitment).

  7. rightfullymine says:

    I am in the same situation as BobbyB. She tells me that one of the reasons it is so difficult to completely end things and go our separate ways is because out of all of the men she dated, I am the one that has all the qualities she is looking for. But she still can’t marry me right now. As much as she’s attracted to those great qualities, the feeling she wants to feel — that something is “missing.”

  8. The silver lining here is that she says she doesn’t want to marry you “right now”. This to me says that she has hopes that might change. Like I said to BobbyB, try to understand what it is she wants to “feel” and work on those areas of the relationship that may be causing this feeling of “something is missing”. She might have already even mentioned/complained about you not being this/that and you just didn’t think it was a big deal. It is — to her.

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