In past articles I suggested that while it’s common to think that the essence of commitment is staying together no matter what, this is a pretty superficial interpretation. More meaningful is a commitment to a certain quality of relationship. What’s the value in saying “forever” if you’re not going to make it a wonderful forever?
If you’re in a committed relationship and are interested in improving it, it’s valuable to write about and discuss with your partner the qualities you’re committed to. If you’re not in a relationship but would like be in an ecstatic one, it’s useful to define these qualities beforehand. Below are some ideas to get you started.
Note that when I say “both people” in these examples, of course you can request that your partner agrees, but it’s important to begin with yourself. You and your partner are different people. If you’re fully participating and your partner isn’t on board with everything you’ve requested, let them explain what exactly they are willing to commit to. Then you can decide whether that works for you.
Be patient with them if you’ve never discussed ideas like these before. They may have some learning and catching up to do. Be tactful to help them understand that your interest in leveling-up the relationship doesn’t mean they’ve done something wrong.
Kindness – A basic starting point for a mutually beneficial relationship is that both people treat each other (and themselves) with kind words and actions. This includes being flexible, forgiving, and striving to understand. To start, take a single day to be acutely mindful of the kindness – or lack thereof – in your words, thoughts, and behaviors (with regard to your partner). This may help you to recognize the potential breadth of kindness.
Honesty – Honesty means more than not telling lies or keeping secrets. High level honesty in a relationship designed for growth and synergy entails a great deal of self-awareness. You must know what’s actually going on within you in order to be honest with your words and actions. Otherwise there’s dissonance. Dissonance doesn’t feel good. It may cause you to subconsciously blame the other person or resent the relationship, and your partner will likely perceive it as a lack of closeness.
Engagement – It’s natural to have times when we’re wrapped up in our work, family responsibilities, or personal pursuits, with little left to invest in the relationship. A healthy relationship can withstand this, though not indefinitely. In order to get the most out of a relationship, both people must routinely (and enthusiastically) invest time, energy, and presence in it. If you’re finding yourself averse to doing so, return to Honesty and figure out what’s actually going on.
Mutuality – It may sound obvious that both people should aim to see and include the other as an equal, conscious being, but it’s exceedingly common to relate to a partner (or anyone else we know) through the internal mental representation we’ve created of them based on past interactions and judgments. In this way, we may treat each other more like objects than vessels of consciousness, light, and love. We may unconsciously regard them as an obstacle, or a thing that serves to give us something or make us happy. (Refer to last week’s article for some direction on authentic relating.)
Maturity – Living in an adult-size body doesn’t have much to do with maturity. Relationships can be great facilitators of growing up (which, by the way, doesn’t mean being serious, rigid, or boring). A commitment to maturity in a relationship might mean that both parties endeavor to show up as responsible adults; doing our best not to let our inner child run us (and being honest about when it is); not blaming the other for our own stuff; not playing parent to our partner; being transparent, brave, and communicative.
Integrity – In a relationship of integrity, we aim to keep our agreements with ourselves and our partner. We are consistent. We are trustworthy. We strive to maintain harmony between who we are and who we say we want to be. Finally, we do these things not out of a feeling of obligation but with a spirit of rising to the occasion.
I hope this article has given you some ideas of the sorts of qualities you wish to commit to in current or future relationships. I can barely imagine the great ways the world would change if we all made such conscious commitments.