Uncategorized What Is Commitment

March 28, 2020by Bose Fawehinmi0

The question of when a relationship is committed is a source of much confusion and debate. We live in a time when the marriage rate is going down, the co-habitation rate is going up, and many first-born children are now born to unmarried parents. Yet, when I ask an unmarried couple “Is your relationship committed?” almost always one or both will energetically answer “Yes!”

Commitment vs. Promise

I recently had a conversation with a woman who told me she had just broken off a “committed” relationship. A few questions later I learned that she had been dating this person for a year, they were not living together, and the reason she broke it off is that he “cheated.” We talked about pre-committed vs. committed relationships, and she agreed that it was a pre-committed relationship but insisted that they had made a “commitment” to each other. OK, things were getting clearer. On the one hand is the status of the relationship- pre-committed vs. committed, and on the other hand are commitments made within the relationship. Two different things, right?

In our conversation, it occurred to me to make a distinction between a “Commitment” vs. a “Promise.” They made a promise to each other to be exclusive within the context of a relationship that was not committed. That distinction seemed to help her make more sense of things. The consensus is that when you make a promise you are making a commitment. Well, I agree that it is a question of semantics, and here is my definition of terms:

PROMISE: Verbally stated future intention to perform a specific act.

– I promise to pick up your dry cleaning and not forget this time

– I promise to be exclusive in our relationship

COMMITMENT: Both a FACT demonstrated by behavior, and an ATTITUDE consisting of thoughts and beliefs.

– I am committed to keeping my promises

– I am committed to our relationship

In short, a promise is something you say, and a commitment is something you do.

A promise is a small commitment. If a potential partner doesn’t keep promises, I would question their ability to keep commitments, as they are related.

Confusion About Commitment

I see a lot of confusion about the status of today’s relationships. What is commitment?

When you are married, it is clear you are in a committed relationship. Your commitment is a legal contract and a publicly witnessed FACT. However, it is common for couples in trouble for one or both partners to have an uncommitted ATTITUDE. I have talked with many unmarried people, as the woman above, who have described themselves in “committed relationships.” They clearly have the attitude, but often have nothing but verbal promises (and sometimes not even that!) to demonstrate that the relationship is committed.

In My Opinion, You Are Not in A Committed Relationship If:

  1. Your partner is not aware your relationship is committed
  2. You are wondering if this relationship is committed
  3. You and your partner have differences of opinion about the status of

your relationship

  1. Your family and friends have different perceptions about the status of

your relationship

  1. You and your partner have not acted to explicitly formalize your

commitment in some way

  1. You are relying on verbal promises without a significant track record of

them being kept

A commitment is explicit and unambiguous. A commitment is a formal event of some kind between two people. A commitment is something you DO over time. A real commitment is usually legally enforceable and there are consequences for breaking it.

And, for a relationship to be truly committed, there are no exits- mentally, emotionally, or physically. When the going gets rough, you make it work.

Continuum of Commitment

Commitment is not a light switch that goes from “off” to “on.” When building a relationship with someone, the level of commitment gradually increases.

Then you have all the shades of gray… living together, dating exclusively for more than a year, even engaged to be married, that might look and feel like commitment, but is it really?

Defining Commitment

So, when is a relationship committed? –When there is an alignment of fact and attitude.

I propose these three criteria:

CRITERION #1: Promises made to each other about the permanent nature of the relationship that are kept

CRITERION #2: Explicit, formal, public declaration

CRITERION #3: Unambiguous to partners and others in today’s world, if all three of the above are met, I would say it is a committed relationship, whether legally married or not.


Bose Fawehinmi

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