Many relationships described by the individuals in the relationships as “committed relationships” often are, in reality, uncommitted.
While there are as many types of “committed relationships” as there are couples and individuals in partnerships, there appear to be three common characteristics that constitute a commitment:
- Consistent intent to continue a relationship with a specific person;
- Expressed willingness to do what is necessary to maintain the stability and longevity of a valued relationship; and
- Observable behaviour and actions that create satisfaction in the relationship
Intent, willingness and actions create a sense of “commitment”, but the strength of the commitment varies depending on:
Individual capacity to act in a committed manner and (more importantly);
How the individual feels about being in the relationship.
Over the years, I have identified some common conscious and subconscious behaviours that can help you determine how your partner feels about being in the relationship. Hopefully these insights will inspire you do something about your “committed relationship” before the relationship falls apart — irreconcilably.
Signs your partner FEELS NO DESIRE to be committed
- Unlikely to express desire to maintain the relationship – even when pressured he or she will always find ways to avoid talking about personal commitment
- Thinks other relationships are better and other couples are happier
- Complains about lack of freedom to say and do what he or she wants to (and blames it on you)
- Hardly follows up on promises — even on very small things
- Less inclined to actively work to develop a feeling of togetherness (does not feel there is need to)
- More inclined to engage in opportunistic and even insulting or abusive behavior (and isn’t bothered about how you feel about it)
- Always puts personal interest above the relationship
- More inclined to actively and openly seek distractions outside of the relationship (work, affairs, adult entertainment, internet porn, addictions etc)
- Unwilling and dismissive of any requests for emotional openness or closeness, time or effort
- Committed only as long as there are “personal befits” to being in the relationship
- Will at some point end the relationship or intentionally do something to make you end it
Signs your partner FEELS OBLIGATED — morally or legally — to act committed
- Publicly displays a desire to maintain the relationship but privately is reluctant to verbally express that desire
- Thinks the relationship could be better if he or she had the freedom to say or do what he or she wants to
- Invests time and effort in only agreed upon obligations and responsibilities — and not more
- Less inclined to actively work to develop a feeling of togetherness (thinks it’s too much work for so little)
- Occasionally puts personal interest above the relationship
- Less inclined to engage in opportunistic behavior, not because he or she does not want to but because it will publicly expose his or her lack of commitment
- Puts more emphasis on obligations and responsibilities than on emotional openness and closeness (says things like, “I am here. Aren’t I?”, or “I did what I am supposed to do. What more do you want from me?”)
- Less inclined to date or have relationships with other men/women but may do so very discreetly if he or she strongly believes that it’ll never be found out
- Committed only as long as the “debt” remains unpaid
- Could end the relationship or could become committed (but only when enthusiasm outweighs any sense of obligation or expectation)
Signs your partner FEELS INSPIRED and motivated to be committed
- Privately expresses a desire to maintain the relationship but may or may not make his or her commitment public
- Thinks you (and the relationship) are one of the best things in his/her life
- Feels that he or she is an equal partner who has the freedom to say no or ask for what he or she wants
- Invests self, time and effort in the growth and longevity of the relationship
- Actively works to develop a balance between interdependence and togetherness
- Less inclined to engage in opportunistic behavior
- More likely to put the relationship above personal interest
- Willing, open and excited about cultivating emotional openness and closeness (and open to seeking outside help, if necessary)
- Less inclined to date or have relationships with other men/women (doesn’t see the need to)
- Unlikely to end the relationship (and/or more likely to remain committed for a long time)
Given the above scenario, it’s wise to seek commitment in which the other person feels that he or she chose to be in the relationship, wants to be in the relationship and has a say in what happens now and in the future. But this should not just be one person telling the other the what, how and when of commitment and the other nodding. Commitment comes with negotiated responsibilities and expectations mutually acceptable to both of you at levels that you can both honor, fulfill and maintain over time. It is only within the context of this understanding that both of you can meaningfully act with each other’s (and the relationship’s) best interest at heart.
While the act of committing is mostly a private affair, both of you should be willing to make your private commitment public. Making your private intentions public helps to reduce any lingering ambiguity that can undermine the relationship’s potential. Couples who make a commitment in public are more confident with each other and in their relationships.
But in attempting to inspire a commitment that is both personal and public, it’s important to recognize that there are significant risks in doing so.
- A commitment can not be in direct conflict with your partner’s personal values or life goals. Any attempts to influence the other to give up his or her personal values, options, dreams and independence will make it hard for him or her to follow through or remain committed
- A commitment should not feel confining or feel like being sent to an institution. Allow lots of room for your partner to express and their commitment personally and publicly in their own way.
- A commitment shouldn’t be a one time only vow or pledge. If a relationship is to have a chance, provide space and rituals for recommitting — renewing promises, pledges, vows, expectations etc. as individuals, and as partners or lovers.
- Commitment should not be a one-person project. You have to work together at it.