I recently waited for Daniel in the park, and my eyes caught sight of an elderly couple sitting together with happy smiles on wizened faces as they fed the birds. It was clear these two people had been together since the flood, and they’d probably be together until the very end.
This was commitment. A lasting dedication to stick it out, work at it, and never give up.
Why is it that so many couples don’t have this kind of commitment? (Or so it seems, right?) Certainly, the divorce statistics are frighteningly high – especially in the U.S.
What is this couple’s secret (the one from the park)?
I wandered over and struck up a conversation with Hein and Ulga. Daniel soon joined us, and we spent the afternoon talking about life, love, and lasting commitment.
Here are the secrets to powerful commitment in a relationship – Daniel and I already do many of these, but you should too.
Why Trust Doves-of-Love
What Is a Relationship Commitment?
Relationships are about partnership, and if you have a lasting relationship, you also invest commitment into that relationship. Commitment means you don’t slack or take it easy in your dedication to the unity you have with your partner.
Commitment is what keeps the relationship together; it’s what creates long-term memories together. When you and your partner have commitment to each other and to your relationship, you place each other first.
It means you and your partner don’t have to look out for your own interests as you are looking out for each other. Instead, you both look after the relationship you share, which is what commitment is all about.
Signs of a Committed Relationship
How do you and your partner know you are in a committed relationship? Here are a few signs that can point you in the right direction.
1. You Talk About Everything
A committed relationship requires that you and your partner have great communication skills. You have to learn to talk together, to listen to each other, and to speak freely (but not hurtfully).
Hein and Ulga have this beautiful way of listening deeply to each other, not interrupting, and just giving each other the space to articulate their thoughts. In a world where we’re so often told couples finish each other’s sentences, it was refreshing to see the tolerance and respect in their way of communicating.
2. You Make the Effort
A couple does things together, and while you may not be interested in doing what your partner is doing, you make the effort to support them.
Hein said that he used to work the night shift for many years, and Ulga would always be awake when he got home and also when he left for work. She built her routines and habits around him since she had a more flexible day.
In return, he always set aside weekends to travel with her or help her with chores around the house.
3. You Decide Together
When Hein and Ulga were tired, they both asked the other if they were ready to leave the park. Neither told the other they were tired and were leaving. Instead, it was a joint decision.
Making joint decisions is how you commit to your partner, always valuing their input, and respecting their needs.
4. Your Future Plans
When you think of tomorrow, do you see only yourself in that view or is your partner right there with you? And in this future vision, are you and your partner doing something you both love, or do you see your partner as your “supporter” in doing what you want?
Daniel and I had always dreamed of having children. We planned where we would live, how we would raise our children, and even what we would do for a living. Our plans always included each other.
5. You Are Always Together
Do you long to be with your partner? If you and your partner want to spend every waking moment together, you are in a committed relationship.
Oh sure, you both understand that it’s not always possible to do everything together but you want to. The point is, you never tire of each other.
Secrets to Forming a Committed Relationship that Works
Hein and Ulga are a wonderful example of commitment in a relationship, but they’re the first to admit they’re not perfect.
So what’s their secret? They have a few great tips that help them remain committed, and these also helped them form commitment when they met.
1. Commit to Yourself First
Before you can become committed to another person, you first need to commit to yourself. Discover what you stand for, what is the worth of your word, and the values you stick up for.
When you know yourself, you can give your word and keep it, know what it is you are saying when you promise something, and appreciate the values you promote.
2. Align Your Actions and Words
So few people say something and then put in the necessary actions to make it happen. In a world where people change their minds like chameleons, it’s important to prove to your partner you aren’t just another push-over.
Ensure your actions always follow what you’ve said. Words are cheap, but actions speak louder than words. It’s comforting and reassuring to your partner when your words and actions are the same.
When you have integrity and do as you say, your partner will trust you.
3. Talk Often and Honestly
Communication is vital to the success of your relationship, but it’s also how you show commitment and sincerity. Speak honestly to your partner, never try to hide the truth – even if you think it’s an ugly one.
Build open channels of communication so when you get into trouble, you can always speak words of endearment, know they are true, and find your way back to each other.
Make sure you listen more than you speak and respect what your partner says to be their truth, which then makes you their confidant and advisor. They will respect you more, and you’ll have the power to make them feel safe and seen. This is what commitment is about.
4. Grow Yourself So You Can Grow Together
Every relationship changes and we shouldn’t fear change. But to ensure that it’s healthy growth, encourage your partner to engage in personal growth and work on your own personal growth. When you both grow together, it’s the human equivalent of companion planting.
In gardening terms, it means you plant two plants together that support each other, take nothing away from the other, and grow strong because of it. This companion growth is what ensures your relationship is long-lasting and that you are both dedicated to each other.
5. Set and Respect Boundaries
We all have things that we don’t accept. Your partner should respect this, and you need to find out where they draw the line so you can ensure you never cross it. This is where communication comes in.
Talk to each other openly. Explain what you don’t see as negotiable, help your partner understand why a boundary exists, and encourage each other to stick to the lines.
Whatever your boundary may be, it’s important to you. Perhaps you don’t want your partner discussing your relationship with outsiders or behind your back. Maybe you won’t do certain things under covers, or perhaps they don’t want to have children for personal reasons and they don’t want you to talk about kids and having kids.
Commitment Checklist - When Your Relationship Drifts
Of course, it’s not always as easy as being committed and that’s it. Life happens, and your commitment can become tested by stress, responsibilities, and the world. It’s good to do a little check in with your partner to see if you both still feel committed.
Use these questions to help you find your path back to each other and rebuild commitment when it starts to crack.
- Do you talk honestly to each other?
- Have you kept your word to each other, and do your word and your actions match?
- Are you working on self-growth and are you creating space for your partner to do the same?
- Have you maintained your internal boundaries in your relationship? If you’ve crossed any, or your partner has, did you both honestly talk about it to rebuild trust?
Ultimately, your commitment to your partner, to yourself, and to your relationship is what will determine whether yours is also a partnership, like Hein and Ulga’s, that will last until the end of time.
To be really committed to your relationship is about having both feet in your union, never keeping a foot out the door. In a world of disposable culture and commodities, it’s rare and precious to find a partner who is equally committed to your relationship.
Learn more about the stages of a relationship, from dating to commitment in my handy guide.