8 Things to Consider When Making a Long-Term Relationship Commitment
When you reach the stage of life when you are seeking relationship commitment, a partner with whom to settle down for a long-term committed relationship the questions of when, where, and how get debated with lots of opportunity for clarity and misunderstanding.
It is important to consider why you want to live together and to honestly explore the hopes, dreams, and possible internal and external obstacles to relationship bliss. You need to ask yourself the hard questions, self examine, ask people who care about you and know both of you for their support and reality testing, and spend time exploring and planning together.
Qualities and Capabilities: The first step is to determine if this the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Some helpful qualities to consider are generosity, kindness, responsibility, cooperation, etc. Capabilities such as the ability to communicate, be verbally, physically, and socially supportive matter. If you want children, are they the father/mother you would choose?
Shared Interests: What interests and life goals do you share? You don’t need to be perfectly matched, but you do want to have mutually enjoyable activities to share. One of the major reasons couples grow apart is a lack of fun/interesting/playful connections to each other. Beware the trap of thinking that lust will last – it is a hormone that rarely lasts more than one year, so you need a more solid foundation for a long-term commitment.
Annoyance and acceptance: Next, what annoys you most about them? Pay attention to daily routines, handling money, interacting with family and friends, listening, sharing, chores, health and well-being practices, spending leisure time, and personal hygiene. What annoys them about you? Will they be able to accept yours for the rest of their life? Are you willing and able to accept their annoyances for the rest of your life?
Carefully assess problematic behaviours like drinking, drugging, gambling, use of pornography, and unsafe driving. Will they have your back through thick and thin? To make a life-long commitment to someone you have to be willing to accept them at their worst, every day. The idea that your partner will change for the better over time is not guaranteed and is often a recipe for disaster.
Conflict Resolution: Do you both take ownership of your contributions to problems in the relationship and life? Are you reliable and truthful? Can you talk things through in a supportive way? Do you fight fair? Or do you attack and defend rather than hear each other’s genuine concerns? Unresolved conflict is corrosive to a committed relationship.
Money: Work out a budget before you move together – who pays for what? What happens if someone loses their employment, makes more or less money, or children are born? It's helpful to have a plan A and B and C. What are each of your strengths and challenges, beliefs, and values about money? What is the meaning/value of money in your lives? What’s your family’s history about finances? Never lend more than you can afford to lose. If the person asks for loans of money be extra cautious as this may indicate poor money management.
Abuse: If there is any control; physical, emotional or mental abuse; attempts to isolate you from family or friends, or an attitude of contempt, do not move in together. If these dynamics are already occurring during courtship they will NOT go away, and research shows that they escalate in frequency and severity over time. See my previous blogs on domestic violence.
Full disclosure: Do not make promises you might not be able to keep. Do not lie about your actual financial and other circumstances. Relationships rely on trustworthiness and once trust is lost, it is too hard to re-establish, so get the skeletons out of the closet before you settle down together. It can be hard to do, but if you don’t, future disclosures can ruin all the goodwill that you have created. Selling a false bill of goods now guarantees future heartache.
Congruence: Do their words and actions match? Do they keep their commitments? Do all the dots line up? Trust your bullshit meter. Beware of good intentions without actions. In the end, it’s the actions that count. Also, what you do in courtship is what your partner fell in love with, so you must continue to do those things for the rest of your life together, if you want relationship happiness.
In making a decision about committing to a long-term relationship, I encourage you to use your head and your heart in deciding. Neither can make the right decision without the other. Moving in together can often make logical sense, but if your heart or body doesn’t feel safe, continue to work on creating that emotional and physical safety together. That will be the foundation for a successful love partnership.
If you are struggling to decide, I offer a relationship decision-making matrix to explore in counselling or discernment counselling to help you make a clear decision.