Long-term commitment usually seems like the next natural step when dating someone with whom you get along well. However, transitioning to that lengthier, and deeper, commitment can be tricky. Dating partners who take the process too casually may be unprepared for the fresh challenges of commitment. By readying yourself for this next step, you can make certain that you and your significant other enjoy the more satisfying rewards that also come with commitment.
Commit to the Process
While many people focus on relationship outcomes -- such as happiness and emotional intimacy -- it's every bit as important to concentrate on the process of how to achieve these results, suggests psychotherapist Mel Schwartz in the "Psychology Today" article “What Do We Mean by Commitment?” He suggests that commitment in and to a relationship relies on consistent, ongoing efforts such as planning romantic dates and communicating about difficult issues.
Talk About Boundaries
Stepping up to the next level of commitment typically involves establishing boundaries to safeguard what the two of you have from would-be intruders. When moving away from the more casual arrangement of dating, it's important to be explicit about what each of you feels regarding faithfulness. Shirley Glass, a psychologist and author of “Not 'Just Friends': Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity,” suggests that opportunity is one of the primary pieces of infidelity. Therefore, deciding together to limit exposure to circumstances that could be a little too convenient, such as out-of-town conferences without one another, can create a secure framework that allows you two to experience deeper levels of commitment with one another.
Examine Its Worth
A long-term relationship requires investment on the part of each participant. That requires that each person find the relationship to be a good investment, according to social psychologist Caryl E. Rusbult's research published in the "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology" and titled “Commitment and Satisfaction in Romantic Associations: A Test of the Investment Model.” Now is the time to initiate a conversation about what the relationship is really worth to both of you. When you both deem it to be of high value, you will both naturally start to feel safer investing more of your time, effort and trust in the union.
Early in the relationship, it's easy to focus on what's working while skimming over areas of potential discord; moving into deeper commitment, though, necessitates facing issues head on. If you're concerned about distancing your special someone, fear not. Broaching topics that are sticky yet relatively minor prevents major problems from developing as your relationship grows, say Monmouth University psychology professor Gary Lewandowski and peer adviser Miranda E. Bobrowski in “Relationships 101: Having Healthy Relationships in Your First Year of College” for the "Science of Relationships" website. As you commit more deeply and practice forthright communication, you can rest assured that your problem-solving skills as a couple will continue to mature.
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- Psychology Today: What Do We Mean by Commitment?
- Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity; Shirley Glass
- Journal of Experimental Social Psychology: Commitment and Satisfaction in Romantic Associations: A Test of the Investment Model
- Science of Relationships: Relationships 101: Having Healthy Relationships in Your First Year of College
- Jim Arbogast/Digital Vision/Getty Images