The “C” word – Commitment – elicits a wide range of beliefs, feelings and potential confusion for many couples. Commitments and agreements are foundational to any healthy partnership, yet many people struggle with clearly communicating their values and preferences. For some, Commitment = Forever = “Yikes, there goes my freedom!” while others view their life as incomplete unless they’re in a “committed relationship.” But what exactly does that mean?
Before reading further, I invite you to take a moment and “try on” the word Commitment. Actually stop what you’re doing, take a few centering breaths and just say the word out loud to yourself … and notice how your body reacts.
This exercise raises a gamut of feelings for people, depending on their beliefs and past experience with the topic. “I feel like I have cement blocks on my feet” or “my solar plexus is pulsating and energy is rising up and out of my heart,” are not unusual responses to this exercise. Whatever your experience, consider it a valuable clue as to how commitment operates in your life. Staying curious is key. I invite you to stay connected to your breath, periodically taking a moment to check-in with your inner-body awareness as you continue to read this article.
Here are a few “secrets” to reflect upon as you consider the power of making commitments – or not.
Commitment Secret #1:
Every relationship you’re currently engaged in ALREADY involves commitment of some sort. My favorite definition of this potent word is:
Commitment is a way of organizing your energy in a particular direction.
How I relate to this definition is that true commitment involves all of me – my head, my heart and my gut – being in alignment. If my head thinks something “is a good idea,” but my heart or gut is not in agreement, then I am participating in wishful thinking and not true commitment. It is valuable for couples to clearly name what they are already committed to, which sometimes surprises them. “Naming and claiming” your current commitments requires an honest appraisal of your life, and taking responsibility for what you’ve created.
The good news: There are many commitments already shaping your current relationship that ARE WORKING FOR YOU! For instance, you and your partner may have a commitment to create and maintain a clean, beautiful home environment together. Or perhaps you support each other in eating a healthy breakfast … or taking family vacations every year, no matter what.
To get clear sense of how commitment is working for you, take an inventory of what’s going well in your life. For instance, are you both committed to enjoying simple pleasures together? Having quality time with your children? Supporting each other in your careers? Sharing chores? Making time for social events or personal time? Make a list of ways that you and your partner are already in agreement around commitments.
Relationship Tip: If you’re interested in vitalizing your relationship, take time to appreciate your partner – and yourself! – for all your mutual commitments that are currently working for you!
Commitment Secret #2:
If you don’t make conscious commitments with your partner, you leave room for UNconscious commitments to rule your relationship. If you’re curious to know what your current unconscious commitments are, simply look at where your attention perpetually gets directed in a negative way; in other words, what are your biggest complaints?
Here are a few common issues couples complain about – along with some potential underlying unconscious commitments:
- Complaint: “You don’t see/understand me.”
Underlying Unconscious Commitment: We are committed to not telling the whole truth to each other, especially in the area of_______________ (e.g. money, sexual feelings, addictions, personal aspirations).
- Complaint: “I don’t trust you.”
Underlying Unconscious Commitment: We are committed to blaming each other and holding each other responsible for the difficulties on our relationship.
- Complaint: “We never have enough quality time together.”
Underlying Unconscious Commitment: We are committed to making our children’s (or family’s or animal’s or work…) needs more important than caring for ourselves and/or our relationship.
Commitment Secret #3:
Clear agreements are born from clear commitments.
Agreements are the result of having taken the care to name what is most important to you in your relationship (read: what you’re committed to) and creating specific ways to track and support that commitment. For example, if you both commit to living within your financial means, you might make specific agreements about your spending plan: We agree to spend within our agreed-upon budget. If any expenditure arises that might exceed our budget, we agree to check-in with each other and decide how we will pay for it before any money is spent. Clear agreements become a loving, powerful way to support your mutual commitment.
[sws_blue_box box_size=”580″]Joy will be facilitating a “Relationship Basics” workshop for couples in Mt. Shasta on Saturday, March 24th. For more information, contact the Mt. Shasta Community Resource Center at (530) 926-1400.[/sws_blue_box]
Next month’s article will explore why we break our commitments and more about creating commitments that really work!