If someone asked, “What is the truest expression of love”, my answer would be “commitment”.
Of course the perfect answer would be “dying for another” but the reality is that there aren’t that many opportunities for each of us to die for another to demonstrate our love.
In terms of love between a woman and man, what defines “commitment”?
Difficult question! There are probably as many answers as there are couples and individuals in partnerships.
Some ways the word “commitment” have been used include:
— A formal public vow in which two people choose to dedicate themselves to each other for life, through a marriage ceremony, either religious or civil.
— An arrangement that allows two people to enjoy all of the benefits of marriage, but without the “slippery realities” of a religious or civil contract (live in boyfriend/girlfriend)
— An agreement to start planning a future together (engagement)
— A verbal contract to “see how it works out” before starting to plan a future together
— A verbal contract to continue working on and investing in the relationship
— A promise to have only one sex partner (exclusive relationship)
As you can see, every man and woman’s commitment expectations are different, and that’s perfectly fine. But whether commitment to you means a marriage ceremony and vow or a verbal agreement to be exclusive sex partners, one thing is for sure: a committed relationship is not something that just happens because you’ve been with the same person for a certain period of time, so things “naturally” progress into a committed relationship.
We all know too well that in real life that’s not what happens. What happens is that one partner finds him or herself feeling committed but doesn’t sense the same level of commitment from the other person. Getting someone who doesn’t seem ready to commit or resists commitment to commit is probably one of the most difficult things to do.
Some men and women may be tempted to tell the other person to get on board or get out, but this usually doesn’t work because people in general resent being forced to abandon their position, and are likely to leave or try to undermine the relationship. Just as you can’t insist that someone love you or love you back, you can’t insist that someone commits to you. To insist or try to force a commitment is to court unhappiness, pain and a broken heart.
So what do you do if you are ready for a commitment and the other person doesn’t seem quite there yet? Do you just wait for him or her to commit to you — and to the relationship?
There’s no hard and fast rule for when a relationship should move from one stage to the next, but if your relationship has been stable for some time now but things just aren’t moving forward, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.
The first step is to evaluate the relationship’s commitment potential. Sometimes it’s a matter of really understanding the situation and why commitment hasn’t been brought up and if it has been brought up why you’re not in a committed relationship – yet!
An honest, realistic and open inventory of the situation would include among other things finding out what the other person is worried or concerned about. Most men and women have good reasons for resisting commitment, some may be consciously aware of their reasons and others have no clue themselves.
It’s possible that the other person is more focused on the negatives than the positives. There is a chance that s/he thinks that things just won’t work out, that they’ll fail, that they’ll get hurt or will hurt you.
If his/her fears are unfounded, then reassure him/her. If you don’t understand what s/he is saying, ask him/her to explain. Don’t assume you know what s/he is most worried or concerned about. Ask, listen and show empathy towards his/her worries or concerns. When someone is allowed to talk about his/her fears and reservations in a supportive and safe environment, without being attacked or made fun of, they’re more likely to see that their fears are unfounded.
It’s also possible that the other person is comfortable with the current situation and feels that a commitment will change things and even spoil them. If s/he thinks the uncertainties, risks and what s/he has to give up outweighs the benefits of a committed relationships, s/he’ll be disinclined to the change commitment brings.
The best thing you can do in this situation is to explain in words and demonstrate in actions what’s in it for him/her personally. S/he needs to see that the future will be better than the current situation. S/he also needs to feel that not only will s/he be a beneficiary of that desired future, but an equal co-creator in making the future happen. His/her commitment will be directly proportionate to his/her confidence and enthusiasm, so make sure you that you keep communication open at all times.
It’s important to remember that while resistance to commitment can sometimes seem like your world has come to a standstill, resistance to commitment can also be healthy. It can act like brakes slowing it down and allowing you to see things more clearly (is this person right for you) and also manage the process at the pace that is comfortable to you emotionally and financially.
That said, it’s not a very good idea not to wait too long before bringing up commitment as things might just get too comfortable to change.