A deep emotional connection and sense of relationship security can only grow in the soil of mutual commitment.
Without commitment, you can never fully feel emotionally secure in your marriage/relationship. Yet for many couples, numerous expectations of commitment often exist that have not been articulated and only become apparent until something goes awry—until an expectation for a particular type of commitment has been challenged or violated.
Marriage/Relationship Help: 4 Areas of Relationship Commitment
1) Sexual and Emotional Monogamy
The most obvious commitment centers around faithfulness—the expectation that you and your partner will be emotionally and sexually exclusive. Frequently, couples find that the criterion for emotional monogamy is more difficult to define then sexual monogamy, and this clearly is an area of commitment that should be discussed. Don’t wait to feel betrayed to make emotional monogamy a part of the communication landscape of your relationship.
- What would constitute a violation in emotional monogamy for you and your partner?
- What does emotional monogamy mean to you and your spouse/partner?
2) Communication, Transparency and Emotional Sharing
Couples assume that keeping secrets is not part of the relationship commitment package; whether spoken or not, each person usually holds the expectation that emotional sharing will occur, that each will speak their truths even when difficult to do so. This is what is meant of transparency—you each become an open book for the other to discover. But often this expectation is violated when communication falters, when one or both partners disengage from their commitment to open communication and, as a result, emotional isolation takes hold of the marriage/relationship.
- What are your relationship expectations about emotional transparency and sharing?
- How often do you and your partner discuss this area of your relationship?
3) Emotional and Sexual Intimacy
Couples want emotional closeness and a fulfilling sexual relationship despite too often acting in ways that undermine these types of intimacy. Whether spoken or not, we all have expectations about what intimacy is and what it looks like—and often these expectations are the result of what we observed/internalized from our caregivers growing up. Commitment to this area of your relationship doesn’t always naturally flow from a commitment to emotional and sexual exclusivity. Frequently, couples expect monogamy while simultaneously failing to nurture what they insist cannot be met outside the relationship. This is both unfair and a set-up for dissatisfaction.
- How does your commitment to meaningful emotional and sexual intimacy manifest?
- What are the specific commitment expectations that you each hold about intimacy?
When you love someone, an emotional (and for some, a spiritual) interconnectedness develops. You remain separate beings, but you also become deeply engaged with one another, a “we” that opens a pathway to each other’s love and influence. So if your partner/spouse acts in ways that are self-neglectful or destructive (pick any excess as an example), you are negatively impacted. As one wife said to her husband in a couples counseling session, “When you hurt yourself, you hurt me!” True commitment to the health and well-being of your relationship also involves a commitment to self-care, to treating yourself well. After all, if you continuously deplete your own emotional, physical or spiritual resources, how can you give anything meaningful to your partner or family?
- What are your commitment expectations about self-care?
The above list of relationship commitments is in no way exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point for meaningful communication. (Can you think of other areas of commitment that are important to you and your partner?) The goal of this discussion should be lifting the expectations you each hold out of the darkness of silence and into the light of mutual understanding. And hopefully, your marriage/relationship will be stronger as a result.
Wishing you love and peace,
Dr. Rich Nicastro