Possibly one of most dreaded conversations to have with the person you've been dating is "The Commitment Talk." You two have been having a great time together, going out, getting close and intimate. But you're not completely sure what this is that you two are doing.
- Are you officially a couple?
- Are you dating exclusively?
- Are you serious about one another?
- Is marriage in your future?
The fear is that you have a different idea of what's going on between you and your guy than he does. Your bigget fear is if you bring up the "C" word and ask him to make a commitment to you, he'll run screaming in the opposite direction and you'll never hear from him again. This is a mistake that many women (and men too) make.
They are so worried about pressuring, giving the wrong impression or hearing news they don’' want to hear, they never bring up the subject of commitment. They analyze casual comments and they look for non-verbal clues to indicate that they both want the same thing.
And this is where misunderstandings and hurt feelings usually come in.
You might assume that you and your partner are dating each other exclusively and are monogamous. This might be true...or it might not. If you don't have an explicit agreement about your relationship, you won't know. The chance of one of you breaking a rule you didn't realize was in place is high.
Making a commitment isn't only about moving in together, getting engaged or marrying. A commitment is a promise that you and your guy make to one another and it's best to make one at different stages in a relationship.
Even a couple who isn't monogamous can make a commitment to one another. That commitment might be something like, "We commit to being open and honest about the other people we're seeing and sleeping with." Or a commitment might be something more traditional such as, "We commit to being faithful to one another and to being a couple."
Commitments can be re-evaluated and changed as your relationship (and what you want) changes. What's most important is for you to first be honest with yourself. What are you really looking for right now in a relationship with this person? How fast or slow do you want this relationship to go? What are your non-negotiables — those things you will not compromise about?
Once you know, gather your courage and talk about it with your guy. The words you choose can mean the difference between him staying and listening to you and him being scared away (or pressured to agree to what he's not yet ready for). Steer clear of phrases like: "We need to talk about us" or "You need to make a commitment to me!" Watch your tone of voice and also the time and place you choose to talk about this subject. This can bring up all kinds of resistance and anxiety in both of you.
Use these 4 phrases to ask for the kind of commitment you want....
1. "Are you willing to....?"
Make sure that your tone matches the intent of this question. Find out what he is (and isn't) willing to commit to with you. If you feel yourself getting defensive or shutting down because of what he says, take a deep breath and really hear his words. You two might not be as far apart about commitment as you initially think. You won't know unless you stay open and listen.
2. "Here’s how I’d like this to be..."
Let him know that you're clear about your intentions. Talk specifically about your expectations of his and your behaviors, how you'd like to be as a couple and what your possible next steps are with a phrase like this. Speak these words as a statement of what you want and not as a demand.
3. "Do you agree to...?"
This is a helpful question to ask for specific issues you want to address. For example, if you're in a long distance relationship and you are concerned that he is romantically chatting with others online or dating others, ask him to agree to date and be romantic or intimate only with you.
4. "What are you willing to commit to?"
This question can be useful if the two of you seem to be in different places when it comes to commitment. If you know where you disagree, ask him this question to find out where what you each want might overlap. Remember, you don't have to give up on what's most important to you or just go along with whatever he says. His answers to this question will let you know whether or not what you both want is a match. Use this to decide whether you'll be flexible about commitment or whether it's time to move on.
Say what you need to say with honesty, openness and in ways he can really hear and understand. Click here to get Susie and Otto Collins’ free 7 Day Communication Magic ecourse.
More on Commitment from YourTango:
- Do You Have A Commitment Phobia?
- Get The Commitment You Want In 3 Steps
- He Might Not Say "I Love You" But His Actions Do