HOW DO WE KNOW WE ARE IN A COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP?
This is something I’ve noticed in my work with couples. It seems to cause conflict, tension, and a disconnection between partners. The dark cloud that creeps slowly into my sessions is usually a result of sensitivity around “commitment.”
What is a committed relationship?
No matter whether they’ve been dating for a few months or 25 years, it doesn’t really matter. Couples often report feeling off-balance in their relationship. This is usually due to the absence of a label or event.
This can lead to insecurity, resentment, and, in some cases, even separation. As a [Millennial], we wait longer than other generations to “settle down,” get married, have children, and dive into “ultimate commitment” with a partner. First, we want to be able to focus on ourselves and our dreams. We want to achieve the best possible relationship and future.
Although we may have goals and expectations, we can get confused when we enter a relationship with gray boundaries or if we assume agreements about the future of our relationship or the security of the current one. The independence we seek (while empowering) can also have a huge impact on our ability to be open with one another and how comfortable we feel relying on each other.
We then establish a relationship with a partner who is interested in the person we portray without having> any/em> issues. Still, to get closer, we can find ourselves requiring a higher level of “commitment” to feel secure fully. Then, we establish a relationship without any problems with the person we present. But then, in order to get closer to that partner, we may need a higher level of “commitment.”
It can get complicated, and our relationship could be set up on a foundation of deep insecurities. We can then become so focused on a higher “commitment level” (e.g., label, event, or making plans) that we forget to take the time to build intimacy and vulnerability, which are required to maintain any genuine commitment. We feel that these events will fill in all the voids or worries we have within us, creating a sense of “natural security” when you know your partner won’t be leaving.
This issue has arisen in different couples at various stages of their relationship (i.e.. They are going through a major rupture, which has destroyed their trust, or a relationship that has been together for several years. Still, one partner needs a proposal or threatens to end the relationship. I’ve noticed that people don’t feel secure in their relationships because they’re not aware of their insecurities or are unwilling to address them. It may sound harsh, but I believe that for a relationship to be secure, fulfilling, and passionate, both people must be willing to be vulnerable. Also includes that person who is perceived to be less invested in the relationship. It is also important to dig deeper within to find out the reasons these labels, events, and feelings are causing them discomfort.
We all have our attachment stuff coming up from childhood, previous experiences/relationships, trauma, emotional insecurities, etc, that tend to affect our needs and fears. We can bring our “stuff” into a relationship, knowingly or unknowingly. This can lead to a lot of emotions and behaviors that we’re not proud of. We don’t want to admit this to our partner. We don’t want to accept it about ourselves. We want to avoid and create a quick solution.
“So… what about that ring?”
If we don’t take the time to sit down with our emotions and understand how they impact us and our relationship, we will eventually run into this issue, whether this partner is it or not.
The avoidance of unpleasant emotions and lack of self-acceptance can manifest themselves in many different ways, which can lead to conflict within a relationship. Even after the committed event has taken place, we can still feel confused and insecure because our “commitment’ didn’t appear or last.
I believe that when you are able to dive into yourself and reveal your fears, insecurities, and feelings, you will be able to communicate more effectively and vulnerably. When your partner feels safe, they will be able to hear you and not react to your perceived demands and defenses. It will allow you to work together to resolve issues and discomfort (which will then foster the intimacy and safety that you crave). No wedding, no number of anniversaries, or downpayment for a house can give us that feeling authentically.
(…To be clear, I’m not saying these events don’t represent commitment. But, if you feel that you require a greater level of commitment in a relationship and you are experiencing backlash, you might be digging the wrong hole to try to find it. We need to be comfortable with ourselves before we can appreciate and respect these life events (which are perceived as a higher level of commitment).
Before we can expect a flow, we need to take care of our lawns and gardens.
A relationship needs to develop, grow, and sustain. The ultimate level of safety comes from finding acceptance and security in yourself. This will create the safest environment for a relationship that is mutually committed, fulfilling, and growing.