A quick search on google indicates the word commitment means "the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity" and has synonyms like dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, and fidelity.
But it also shows a definition of "an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action" with synonyms like responsibility, obligation, duty, tie, and liability…”
No wonder the word scares both men and women!
Okay-- more men than women when it comes to relationships-- but the reality is that healthy commitment doesn't have to restrict freedom of action. How about instead we think of commitment as "an agreement to do something fun/exciting/together in the future?”
Back in March, I wrote a blog about how men and women approach this topic. It is my top rated blog to date. The subject often shows up in my private practice as well as group workshops, and lately, it has been more in the form of doubt from my women clientele in avalanches of questions that revolve around "what should I say to him?” or “how do I bring it up to him?"
Every relationship is different, but to best answer questions like that, there are certain behavioral patterns from men that can help you identify the stage they are in and decide how to approach the conversation.
Pattern 1: Men act like they are in the relationship for the long-term but don't entertain any conversation about commitment, let alone marriage. Women in this situation are confused about what to say because they deeply believe that if they bring up marriage, it will send the man in their lives on a one way ticket to Mars. But the truth is, healthy relationships are formed on a solid foundation of open communication, and healthy conversations should exist. It is especially essential to discuss this with your partner if you are looking for a long-term commitment, that is, after you have dated for a few months and have found compatibility on all different moments spent together before going all in. If this is where you are in your relationship, I recommend you read one of the best book I have come across on doing relationships right, called "Getting to I Do" by Dr. Pat Allen and Sandra Harmon.
Pattern 2: Men refuse to discuss commitment or seem incapable of articulating feelings about what they are waiting for before making the leap. For women in this situation, you must decide how long are you willing to ride the wave and communicate clearly the steps your partner needs to take to show that you are both moving in the direction you desire.
Pattern 3: For some men, the challenge to communicate about commitment may be due to past and personal issues. If this is the case, whatever you do-- don't coach your partner in trying to solve his past issues. People have an illusion that they can change one another, but all we can do at best is influence others. If he shows legitimate initiative to seek individual coaching or counseling, then discuss the small milestones that will show he is working toward a mutual goal.
If your partner is expressing that commitment or marriage is not in the future, seek to understand the fears and anxieties without judgment, and also, be sure to express your desires without a fear of feeling not good enough if the outcome of the situation or relationship is the opposite of what you anticipate. Regardless of what your partner says or wants, it is ultimately up to you to decide what you want in your life. If commitment or marriage is NOT in your plan, you can choose to stay in the relationship. And remember not to nag, tell your partner what to do, emphasize how the lack of commitment makes you feel, or invest time and energy into changing the person you are in a relationship with.
No matter the pattern, my advice to clients is to always say it like you mean it-- don't avoid this conversations for months, or even years, hoping that your partner will speak about it. Most men associate commitment with loss of freedom, and chances are, if you don't take the initiative to share how you feel, the conversation may never come up and you could risk building resentment and regurgitating your feelings without analyzing or comprehending the information you want to share with him.
When someone looks good on paper, says "I love you, I am attracted to you, I love spending time together" but is not ready or able to make a long-term commitment, and shows no desire to change, it is better to be authentic with yourself, share your relationship desires and find out how the other person will react to it. If the other person desires the opposite of what you would like to experience, then cut your losses and create space in your life for someone that wants to be in a healthy, loving, fun, fulfilling, committed relationship.
Lastly, remember that words and actions must match consistently over time. Successful relationships are those that your partner wants to be with you long-term and also wants you to be happy, honoring the commitment to be in a healthy and satisfying relationship-- whatever the arrangement may be. When the desire is shared to create mutually beneficial solutions that bring fulfillment to both parties, the relationship can be truly satisfactory. In this kind of environment, true expression of love can be nourished.
As always, if you would like to learn how to identify what your man is thinking about commitment and other things or are generally interested in better understanding your own desires for a relationship, it is time that you work with me. Sign up for "Your New Love Life Program" and begin your individual coaching sessions today. Your desires are too precious to wait another day to be fulfilled.