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Commitment: What Does it Really Mean?

Updated on February 8, 2013

Until Death Do Us Part?

Like a lot of things in life commitment means different things to different people.

Some believe it means once you make a decision you stick with it (no matter what) you learn along the way. There are others who go to the other extreme by stating; “I meant it when I said it.”

A commitment is a pledge or agreement to dedicate one’s efforts to insure a desired result.

Good Intentions

The majority of people on their wedding day have no thoughts of getting divorced or cheating. It’s easy to be happy when the sun is shinning and the sky is blue as one embarks on a new adventure. In essence on this day no one is lying about their intentions or desires.

Know Thyself Above All Else

One common mistake people make is signing onto something without knowing their tolerance for stress. Not everyone can withstand the same amount of pressures in life. This explains why a multi-millionaire might commit suicide over a stock crash while someone barely existing in a third world country continues to forge on. Some people are “clock watchers” and can’t wait to run out the door at 5PM and others don’t leave until the project they’re working on is complete. Before giving your word to someone it’s important to know your vices or limitations. Biting off more than you can chew does not make you a "bad person". It makes you an "irresponsible person".

Due Diligence

The care “a reasonable person” exercises to avoid harm is part of the “due diligence process”. Basically it’s the process of uncovering important details before making a decision to move forward. In relationships we call this the dating or courtship phase.

Aside from spending time together and having fun, dating is a phase for gathering information and making observations in order to determine if a person is someone we want to have an exclusive relationship with or possibly marry. Does he/she want the same things as me? Do we agree on strategy as to the best way to reach our goals?

Making promises or commitments before you have important facts is a recipe for both disappointment and failure. It takes more time to get to know someone than most people are willing to invest these days.

Beat the Clock

Another common mistake that leads to breaking promises or discovering one’s inability to follow through on a commitment is having relationship goals tied to a specific time frame. Within 6 months we should be saying “I love you” to each other. At the one year mark we should be discussing our lives in terms of building a future together which includes moving in together or getting engaged. Some couples literally go from the “infatuation phase” to becoming engaged without ever having a major disagreement! They have no idea how their mate handles stress. They don’t know if the person they’re seeing is living under a mountain of debt. Last but not least they don’t know if the person they are dating is being their “authentic self” or simply working hard to “impress them” in order to forge an emotional commitment.

Once the “Save the date notices” are mailed any doubts or trepidations are either dismissed or attributed to having “cold feet”. Venues are selected, flowers are chosen, lining up bridesmaids, groomsmen, photographer, videographer, DJ, honeymoon destination, bridal shower, bachelor & bachelorette parties consume the majority of time for the couple.

Stick a fork in it!

For many people after the wedding day is a period where they ‘relax”.

Vows have been exchanged and at long last they have someone who is “committed” to spending the rest of their life with them. Mission accomplished.

“Before marriage, many couples are very much like people rushing to catch an airplane; once aboard, they turn into passengers. They just sit there.” – Paul Getty

Getting past New

Whether we want to admit it or not most of us look forward to getting to a place or time where we can "relax" and "take things for granted".

We can’t wait for the “probation period” to end at a new job. There is an element of stress that comes with trying to hold onto something. We look forward to a time where we don’t have to put in our best efforts to “maintain our position”. Some people see this as the time where you don't have to "worry" about what you "say" or how you "act" because their mate is not going anywhere. In their mind "love and commitment" means "forever" regardless of what happens.

In reality there is no such place or time! Marriage like a job is an "at will" contract. Being in a committed relationship does not mean you can stop being good to your mate and they won't go anywhere. No one is "stuck" with anyone. You have to keep "impressing" someone to keep them. Competition never really goes away. A garden must be nurtured to remain alive.

Commitments are not written in stone

New information changes everything. If you agree to follow someone heading East to watch the sunset and along the way you discover their strategy is flawed. You realize you should be headed West…You are not under any obligation to keep going in the wrong direction just because you agreed to stick with them. Relationships are living evolving things. Communication is your GPS navigational tool to keep track of where you are heading.

A commitment is only good for as long as both parties agree on a strategy to reach a desired goal. Being committed to someone does not mean you “turn off your brain ”. You are still entitled to have “deal breakers”. In fact if you don’t have them odds are you don’t love yourself or you have low self-esteem.


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