Commitment cannot be a single-minded decision, with one partner issuing all the rules and conformities. It has to be a mutual agreement of needs and requirements in a future you want to share together, with commitment levels you present to each other open to compromise and discussion. Pre-conceived ideas or fears about commitment is understandable and is essentially preparing you to understand the difference between promise and commitment.
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Assess and judge the relationship's progress with an honest appraisal, before you attempt to discuss any commitments or the future of the relationship's development. Only then can you have the desired deeper level of relationship and share honest and fulfilling commitments to each other and nurture the relationship's values. Commitment in a relationship has to be a pathway that is mutually acceptable to both of you and at levels that you can both honour and fulfill.
1. Love and respect – for each other and your individual philosophies on life and love. Ignoring your partner’s hopes and dreams just because they may differ to yours, or trying to cancel or absorb someone’s personality, is neither love nor respect. A progressive growing of love and respect between two people sharing their lives but retaining their individuality, is more healthy and fulfilling.
2. Loyalty – to each other and the relationship, promises of exclusive dating – some couples see this as the only commitment needed within a successful relationship. It isn’t a stand-alone commitment, but it still remains an ultimate commitment. Any commitments made with the absence of loyalty will appear to be nothing but hollow, broken promises. What if your partner has hinted, or even made it obvious that they have known other partners better than they know you? This could be an admission of not being sure about the depth of the relationship or a criticism of your role and actions, prompting the outspoken comparisons. If he/she has talked about, or admitted wanting to get to know other different partners better, this issue needs to be addressed to discover what has instigated these comments and desires.
3. Honesty – about your feelings, fears and insecurities, honesty about the relationship and your expectations. Revelations about your past, what you want to achieve in life, job prospects and career prospects that could affect your future together. Financial burdens or financial expectations, the issue of children, are all important decisions that you both have to make regarding the future. It is unacceptable and selfish to arrogantly think that someone can be compromised into radically changing their beliefs to suit you at a later date. This is dishonest and will be seen as outright dismissal and betrayal of individual views and feelings.
4. Spending time together – This also encompasses your personal levels of acceptable commitment to each other's feelings and needs in the relationship. You may be perfectly happy to spend every waking moment with each other; alternatively, you may be just as happy and comfortable with a more relaxed amount of time you spend in each other's company. It does not mean that the relationship is any less intimate or meaningful. Don’t be tempted to use time spent together as a template to compare with other relationships. What makes you happy is the only important issue and how much you desire to retain your independence and individuality inside the relationship.
5. Being there for each other – supporting each other through different stages of your lives, emotionally and physically, through good times and times of crisis. Emotional, practical and financial support should be a natural evolvement in any relationship and not a hardship to deliver as a commitment, strengthening the relationship with unparalleled protection and support for each other.
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6. Trust – Without trust no relationship can survive. Do you feel comfortable enough with the level of trust in the relationship, to admit to other relationships and why they failed, without any fear of backlash or recriminations? Trusting each other when you are not together is a huge area for differences of opinion as to what is the appropriate level of trust before it becomes suspicious and obsessive jealousy. Trust levels need to be tested and established with practical aspects of the relationship: trust with finances, with children, with secrets, with family decisions and personal choices.
7. Living together - This is a big, decision making, forward step in the relationship. Deciding to move in together, even though you know it was a comfortable mutual decision, a temporary assimilation period is inevitable, but this will be a passing phase. Hopefully, before you instigated this commitment, the pros and cons of moving in and living together have been discussed, and the shared financial implications and responsibilities should, sensibly, have been decided before moving in together, not later on, when it will be the cause of unnecessary arguments.
8. Buying property together – By the time you get to this stage in discussing further commitments of this scale, you must be comfortable with other commitments in your relationship that have been established and which are already working well over a long term period, because this is a big financial commitment to embark on, a joint venture that is one of the major commitments.
9. Getting engaged - Another major commitment decision, a promise of engagement used to be liable to legal consequences of a breach of contract if the engagement was broken or withdrawn. Engagement announcements are a public mutual admission of your intention to commit to each other by taking the first step towards announcing marriage intentions. Newspaper announcements make it a public notification and celebrating with family and friends confirms your commitment to each other.
10. Proposal of marriage – This is a proposed intent of the ultimate future commitment to a life together. This is proposing a legally binding contract of commitment and has legal consequences if rules are broken or abused. Marriage is a public declaration of your commitment to one person and both of you committing your life together in a ceremony of confirmation.