The Oxford Dictionary states that COMMITMENT means an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action. Translated into practical terms this looks as follows: • If I am committed to truth I choose not to exercise the freedom to lie. • If I am committed to a healthy lifestyle I make a choice to forgo the freedom of eating pizza every night of the week, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or eating huge slices of chocolate cake. • If I am committed to fitness I ignore the freedom to snuggle up in my warm bed rather than go for a chilly morning run. So, how does this work in the relationship realm?
When I commit to my partner - at the point of marriage or other binding partnership agreement - I make a conscious choice to say “NO” to any other love relationship. I choose not to look over the fence where the grass might appear greener. I decide to deal with difficult partnership issues when they arise rather than letting them build up to explosion point, or worse, to the point where I can no longer stand the sight of my partner. I share my concerns with my partner rather than taking them to my friend of the opposite sex who may appear to understand all my woes. I don’t entertain thoughts of how uncomplicated, wonderful and easy my life would be in another relationship….perhaps with soandsowho is super sexy or suchandsuch who is a real SNAG (sensitive new age guy). Instead, I remind myself of the fact - when temptation strikes - that I have made a binding agreement that restricts my freedom to take any action that would irreparably damage the relationship with my partner.
I can just hear some of you think: ‘That’s easy for you to say….you aren’t married to MY husband!’ or ‘You have no idea how hard it is…you don’t live in my circumstances!’ And you are right. I don’t know what it is like in YOUR shoes. But I have, for 29 years, remained in a marriage that has had its own share of ups and downs as those of you who’ve read my book would know. So, let me assure you that I know it isn’t easy but I also know that it can be done.
I would point out, however, that in order for a couple’s relationship to work, grow and thrive a similar level of commitment MUST be present in both partners. I also want to make it very clear that I do not endorse anyone remaining in a marriage, de-facto relationship or any other partnership that is abusive or a total nightmare.
Commitment in a couple’s relationship means:
Till death do us part, through sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer we choose to work together in making our marriage the best it can be; we deal with issues as they arise; we talk about our concerns, worries and grievances with one-another; we move closer together when the going gets tough; we give each other respect and honour even when we don’t particularly feel like it. Commitment means that I support my partner (without expecting anything in return) when he or she is in need of special attention and that I can rely on him or her to support me in a similar way when it is my turn to need some extra help. When the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence I ensure that I make an extra effort to nurture the grass on my side so that it will be more luscious than any other.
Finally, let me say that without commitment you have nothing. Without commitment your relationship house is built on sand and will NEVER withstand the many challenges life has in store for you.
With Valentine's Day around the corner you might ask yourself: "What can I do for my partner?" On my website you'll find 50 Ideas of how to make that day a special one. More importantly, though, you can read through this article and give thought as to what role RESPECT takes in your relationship. Giving respect (especially) to your loved one as well to all other people with whom you are in relationship is a gift that will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
RESPECT is a vital ingredient for any successful relationship and is particularly important for the creation of a happy, healthy and satisfying marriage, de-facto relationship or, in fact, for ANY relationship.
Respecting your partner means acknowledging and accepting them as an individual with their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, strengths and frailties, all of which may be very different from yours. Respecting your partner does not necessarily mean agreeing with their beliefs and values. It does mean, however, recognising those things as belonging to them and as being an important part of what makes them an unique individual.
It's essential to acknowledge these aspects as valid even if we fail to understand them. We must not belittle them, should never make fun of them and resist any urges we may have to punish our partner for them. This, by the way does not mean that we should never challenge our partner’s attitudes or behaviour if it negatively impacts on us. However, for this kind of challenge to be effective it needs to be made in a respectful manner that separates our partner’s actions from who they are as a person and to do so in a way that leaves their dignity intact.
For a love relationship to thrive respect needs to be mutual. Being treated with respect is vital to a person's internal well-being. Respect tells us that we are a valuable and worthwhile. It increases our self-esteem and fulfills our need for relational security. Mutual respect is also essential to effective conflict resolution, which is a particularly important aspect in blended families.
To illustrate this point, let’s look the following scenario:
Sandy’s partner Tom believes that in order to retain a good relationship with his children from his first marriage he best let them to do as they please. After all, they only visit every second weekend and only spend one week-night at Sandy and Tom’s house. Sandy strongly disagrees with Tom’s views and feels that by not creating any limits for his children he is not only doing them a disservice but is also demonstrating a lack of consideration and love for her.
Sandy and Tom have had many heated arguments about this issue. They’ve had angry confrontations during which they’ve called each other hurtful names. Doors have been slammed, tears have been shed and a variety of ‘punishments’ have followed these run-ins from Sandy giving Tom the cold-shoulder treatment to Tom refusing to come home until the early hours of the morning. Despite the fact that Sandy and Tom love each other dearly they often are miserable and plain unhappy.
How could this be changed in an atmosphere of mutual respect?
Sandy would acknowledge that whilst she definitely disagrees with Tom’s view on how to deal with his children she accepts there is a reason for which he has this view that, no doubt, makes sense to him. The moment she demonstrates this kind of respect for him Tom no longer needs his wall of defence. In the safety of knowing that he won’t be ‘attacked’ for his view, he can now explore the whys and wherefores of the belief he holds regarding his children. Doing this without his defences in place there is a good chance that he recognizes, and is even able to admit, that his views are based on fear and are neither wise nor helpful to his relationship with his children or with Sandy. Recognition leads to understanding. Understanding leads to acknowledgement. Acknowledgement opens the door to change. Alternatively, Tom could ask Sandy why she feels so strongly about this issue and why she interprets it as a lack of consideration and love for her. If this is asked in the spirit of ‘I really want to understand what’s going on for you’ Sandy is able to verbalise her thoughts and feelings with honesty and without getting too fired up in the process. She is able to tell him how she sees his unwillingness to place limitations on his children impacting their sense of safety, security and emotional health; how this is making any weekend planning impossible; how frustrated and powerless she feels when he gives the children permission to do as they please whilst in their home; how it feels as though she has no rights and, in fact, has no place in her own home whilst the children are there. In an atmosphere of mutual respect these comments are made without acrimony and are received without the walls of defence going up. Tom accepts that Sandy’s feelings are valid and that in order to retain their relationship he will need to make some changes.
Can you see the importance of mutual respect as a foundation block for your relationship? If you can and feel that this is not yet in place or perhaps isn't not strong enough to withstand the stresses and strains of everyday life, it's vital that you make the all-important decision to, together with your partner, work on this issue. It is never too late to implement new ways of relating and it is the kind of investment in your future that will pay rich dividends.