When you first got together, what did the word “commitment” mean to you?
It’s a multifaceted concept, and if you got married decades ago, you may not have thought much about it. Many of us took our vows without reflecting much on the pledge we were making. That’s because marriage was generally seen as a given – not a choice we made after mulling a full range of options.
If you’re a member of Gen X or younger, you may have heard the notion that you and everyone your age is afraid of commitment. I don’t agree. Instead, I think couples of all ages now view commitment as something very serious that is negotiated and renegotiated over time.
DOING “SLOW LOVE”
One study shows that younger couples hope to create balanced relationships governed by mutual respect, whether or not they marry. They came of age in a time when marriages were becoming more fluid, with both parents working. Many endured the divorce of their parents and then lived with one or more new couples who eventually married or split up.
If this describes you, then you may wonder if it’s even possible to have an enduring marriage with mutual trust. This means you might feel unready to jump right in – preferring what many couples therapists are calling “slow love.”
Slow love gives us time to have many lovers, including friends with benefits, even live with different partners before we consider marriage. This is the way we can address our fears and learn directly from our experiences of commitment in all its different forms. It doesn’t mean we’ll never marry. It means we want more self-understanding and relationship experience first.
RENEWING YOUR COMMITMENT OVER TIME
Whether you’re young and wondering about marriage or eyeing a second or even third union, it helps to think of commitment as an ongoing thing. Some couples can identify the rough patches that caused them to recommit to each other in a big way. I believe that the happiest couples realize they need to renew their love and commitment to one another every day.
Keep in mind that you cannot foresee all the tough times you will face in your marriage. This means being ready to go deeper with your partner – essentially bringing more love, energy, and commitment to the situation as challenges rise up.
It’s all right to be cautious in thinking about commitment. Listening to people who tell you that you “should be ready” will only make it harder for you to hear your own authentic voice.
At the same time, if you let your fears take over, you might miss out on the joy and strength gained from being in a committed relationship. So listen to yourself and each other, and help each other through the fears. We all have them, and it’s so much easier when we take them on together.
As an experienced couple’s counselor, I have worked with hundreds of couples who were seeking answers about marriage, love, and commitment. Working with a seasoned therapist can enrich your conversation and create a new sense of closeness and mutual support.
If you’d like to discuss commitment or any other issue in your relationship, get in touch with me today.