With the wedding season now in full swing, many people in the Bedfordshire and Luton area will be contemplating whether it is time to take their own relationship to the next level. Whether this means tying the knot, moving in together or simply choosing not to date other people, it all comes down to one three syllable word: commitment.
For some couples, commitment is just something that happens naturally, but for others, fears about commitment can lead to feelings of anxiety and even drive a wedge between them. Of 238 people who took part in a ‘commitment quiz’ on Relate’s website, more than a third (34%) listed ‘worrying that we may get bored of each other’ as their biggest fear about taking the next commitment step. Nearly as many people were most worried about ‘having more rows and arguments’ (28%), with ‘losing freedom and making things permanent’ being less of a concern (19%).
Counsellor Diane Whitmore at Relate Bedfordshire and Luton said: “It’s completely normal to have fears about commitment and the chances are your partner may be having them too. Boredom is a very common fear but you can keep your relationship alive with regular dates or activity nights, outside interests, and not taking each other for granted.
“Commitment can mean different things to different people and talking to your partner about your fears and needs can help to avoid disappointment and misunderstanding further down the line. This doesn’t mean putting pressure on them in any way but rather being open and honest about what you both expect from a relationship.”
Avoid commitment woes – Relate’s top commitment conversation starters
- What do you both mean by ‘commitment’? A basic understanding of what you want in a relationship and what your boundaries are is an important place to start.
- When’s the best time to talk? When it comes to talking to each other, is your partner a morning person or an evening person? How about you? Try to keep important conversations for times that naturally suit you both. Your relationship will thrive if you aim to grow in your ability to share with each other, and work on developing good listening skills.
- Your views on money and finance. Where you each stand on spending can cause major conflict later on if it isn’t properly discussed. Do you like to save whereas they’re happy splashing out a bit? Unsure of whether or not to get a joint account? Tackling these issues early can help avoid nasty rows.
- How you spend your time. How much time do you want to spend together and apart? You may assume your partner is happy spending every waking minute with you, but they may have different ideas. Talking about how much space you each need can help avoid resentment or misunderstanding.
- Are you ready to take the next step? The fact that all your friends have started to move in together isn’t a reason to do it yourself. You should only move forward with the relationship if you’re both happy to do so.
- Relationships over time. Having a good understanding of your partner’s needs, fears and expectations can help you to build a strong and fulfilling relationship that stands the test of time. Why not take a moment to tell your partner which of their qualities you most admire. Small, thoughtful comments have a big impact.
Try your hand at the Relate commitment quiz
It can be tempting to simply slide into what seems like the next logical step: you’re in love, you have so much in common, you spend most of your time with each other – why not just set up home together?
But without some kind of understanding about what you’re getting into, you may end up in a situation that you feel obliged to stick with – and without a clear understanding of how you or your partner really feels.
The good news is that, by taking a moment to really consider what you both want, you and your partner can ensure that you’re making positive and realistic choices.
This quiz is designed to help you both to start that process by focusing on you and your partner’s values, hopes or concerns, and figure out what may be getting in the way.
Q1. To me, living with my partner…
a) Means having someone to keep me company. I don’t like being alone.
b) Means that the relationship is now on a more secure footing.
c) Makes practical sense. It’s expensive to live alone.
d) Is part of a deeper commitment toward creating a future together.
Q2. When it comes to handling money as a couple…
a) I want to keep things separate. It’s important to have financial independence from one another.
b) We hardly ever discuss money these days as it tends to end up in an argument.
c) We tend to take spending money on practical household stuff in turns.
d) We discussed it and agreed on a workable plan that we are both comfortable with.
Q3. When I think of a deeper commitment at this point in our relationship, it means…
a) An open relationship but living under one roof.
b) A trial run before marriage/civil partnership.
c) I am with someone with whom I can share my future.
d) A monogamous relationship that lasts a lifetime.
Q4. I want to make a deeper commitment because…
a) My partner is putting me under pressure to settle down.
b) All our friends are settling down. Why shouldn’t we?
c) We think that we are at the right age and stage of our relationship to do so.
d) We’ve discussed this together and we are on the same page about our future.
Q5. When we have problems as a couple, I tend to…
a) Bury my head in the sand and hope things will get better on their own.
b) Get very distressed as things tend to end up in a big row.
c) Try to talk things through, but don’t always feel heard.
d) Nip things in the bud as we are pretty good at regularly communicating our feelings.
Q6. When my partner disagrees with me about important matters like when to start a family, get married/have a civil partnership or how to manage money, I tend to…
a) Feel like running away.
b) Get anxious that if we can’t resolve things it means the end of the relationship.
c) Worry that my partner isn’t really that happy, but I do try to talk it over.
d) Try to resolve it by sitting down and talking through our concerns and differences in order to understand where we’re both coming from.
Q7. When it comes to spending time with my partner’s family I usually feel…
a) Judged. I don’t think they like me, and I’m no fan of theirs.
b) Frustrated. They treat me like I’m not good enough to fit in with them.
c) Comfortable. However, my partner and I do have an exit plan whenever family tensions arise.
d) Relaxed. We do get along on the whole, and we all enjoy each other’s company.
Q8. When my partner and I discuss the future…
a) I tend to avoid it. I prefer to focus on our relationship right now.
b) We get into a row as we don’t seem to be on the same page.
c) I sometime feel a bit anxious as we don’t always have the same ideas on this.
d) It’s an on-going conversation that we have with each other.
Q9. My biggest fear about taking the next commitment step is…
a) Losing my freedom and making things permanent.
b) Having more rows and disagreements.
c) Worrying that we may get bored with each other.
d) I have no real fears as we both recognise that our relationship is a work in progress.
Q10. My biggest hope for taking the next commitment step is…
a) Keeping things as they are.
b) Finally feeling secure.
c) Spending more time together.
d) Being able to continue to work as a team.
If you answered mostly As
Communication with each other may not be as open and frank as it needs to be. This could be as a result of underlying fears about what making a commitment means to you or your partner, particularly if either or both of you are carrying any pain or unresolved baggage from previous relationships. This may lead to a tendency to bury your head in the sand rather than deal with challenging feelings.
Not communicating enough about concerns for the future can leave relationships vulnerable because this often leaves negative feelings bubbling under the surface. In the short term, it may be easier to assume that things will continue as they are, but the reality is that all relationships at some point face challenges. If you haven’t been open and honest about feelings, worries and concerns, then you could be in trouble when the time comes to make important decisions.
Breaking the cycle of avoidance is key to moving on. Sitting down and talking things over with a relationship counsellor can help you both to have clarity about how you and your partner see things progressing.
If you answered mostly Bs
Security is very important to you in a relationship and sometimes this may cause you to feel anxious when discussing issues. Rows and disagreements may mask underlying worries about whether you are really heading in the same direction as your partner.
The way forward is to look at whether you both have shared goals for the future – and, if you do, what they are. Discussing this in a neutral environment can enable you to focus on whether making a deeper commitment is what you actually both want – and how you can work towards being honest, realistic and open about the way forward.
If you answered mostly Cs
You have the practicalities of your relationship nailed down – but you might benefit from communicating more openly. You’re great at weighing up the pros and cons of a future together and capable of discussing how a deeper commitment could work well for both of you.
However, what you may need to pay attention to is improving emotional communication. Life has a habit of throwing emotional curve balls – from job losses to pregnancies – and being able to handle the unexpected can help build emotional resilience in your partnership.
If you answered mostly Ds
You’re communicating openly and effectively about commitment. You have an open and honest communication style with your partner, giving you the greatest chance of maintaining a strong emotional connection with them.
For you, making a deeper commitment is about being on the same page, being realistic that relationships are a work in progress and keeping lines of communication open so that you can nip any problems in the bud.
Relate Bedfordshire and Luton offers information, advice and counselling for all stages of your relationships. Call us on 01234 356350 or explore this website for more information.
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