By Naomi Mwamba, Family and Parenting Practitioner, Reducing Parental Conflict Programme
Tavistock Relationships’ Naomi Mwamba lists aspects of couple commitment that you may want to give some thought to, before you say ‘I do’.
What conjures up in your mind when you hear the word ‘commitment’?
Do the edges of your lips curl into a sheepish smile as you picture a strong partnership between two adults where happy, healthy children grow, each individual’s life ambitions are cultivated and pursued, and the couple gracefully negotiate the tensions between autonomy and intimacy’?
Or does the mere mention of this word twist your stomach into a knot as you imagine a life sentence of unrelenting monotony, stifled dreams and clipped wings?
Whether the question is ‘shall we buy a bicycle together?’ or ‘will you marry me?’ commitment is an inevitable part of the trajectory of lasting love for most of us, so:
Take time to get to know yourself
An exciting yet terrifying aspect of intimate adult relationships is the prospect of being seen and accepted in our truest, most honest form by someone other than ourselves. Trickier to navigate than the hard-to-love parts of ourselves, are the parts of ourselves that we do not know, our ‘blind spots’ that are hidden in our unconscious.
This pandora’s box contains the clue to why we sometimes behave the way we do and, left untackled, you may find yourself projecting the unwanted parts of you – like feelings of anger or envy - onto your partner, or sabotaging the relationship without knowing why.
Couples counselling could offer help
So it might be an idea, before you make a deep commitment, do some soul searching, perhaps with a therapist or counsellor, to help discover the whole you - and perhaps become friendlier with those hidden parts of you.
Additionally, taking time to discover yourself may bring to your awareness your values, personal axioms and hopes for the future.
Having a sense of these will give you an idea of what you might be willing to compromise on, and what is immovable for you. Your partner will have an equivalent set of ‘norms’ that may look very different to yours and, before committing to each other, it might be an idea to compare notes?
When working with separated parents at Tavistock Relationships, we sometimes advise them to treat co-parenting more like a business relationship, not an emotional one.
Perhaps there are virtues to this way of thinking for those yet to make a formal commitment to one another? Intimate relationships are not just about romance; the personal decisions you make will affect the other. Perhaps you may want to do your due diligence in the same way that you would before committing to a new business venture or job; understand each other’s values around money, family, culture, career choice, religion and other things that are of importance to you. How do you like to schedule Christmas Day can be an interesting one as couples can vary hugely on a running order of the day – and sometimes find it a shock that Christmas isn’t on the agenda at all for their partner, when in their own families of origin it has been central.
And what about money? If you meticulously plan your finances but your partner likes to blow their cash on pay day, will this become a bone of contention in your relationship? Similarly, if you know for a fact that you want children and they know for a fact that they don’t, is making a deeper commitment the right thing? When doing your due diligence, a good question to ask is ‘if [a particular aspect or value of my partner] did not change, could I live with this relationship for the rest of my life?’
If you and your partner have been struggling with issues concerning commitment and compatibility and it is causing stress in a relationship, couples therapy offers a ‘safe space’ and an expertly trained third party who can help you both work to explore your problems and communicate. Book an appointment to see us here
Please note all scenarios, concepts and references to individuals in these blogs are composites from a variety of typical real life situations, as examples only.