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.