Any commitment whether it is to a relationship, to a university for four years or to an employer, it will involve a change in lifestyle. Any and all commitments involve some element of change, periods of insecurity, feelings of loss of control over your choices and anxiety about your ability to follow through successfully. Properly preparing for a commitment may help you with some of the changes involved.
Have a plan for naysayers about your commitment
When you decide to commit to a relationship or any other big change, you are not always met with support and approval from others. Others may not understand your decision and may try to persuade you to rethink what you are planning to do. ‘You shouldn’t get married. My friend did and he had to sell his muscle car.’ Maybe you are prepared to sell the car.
Maybe the car does not mean as much to you as your friend’s car or potential fiancée meant to him.
Other folks do not know everything that is going on in your mind and therefore they do not see how the benefits of commitment outweigh some of the changes that may occur. Yes, it is difficult to be poor for four years going to university! Yes, it will be worth it to increase the chances of having a high salary in the future! For someone, who needs instant gratification (such as a paying job right now), committing to four years would be an impossible task.
Perhaps a friend did not marry the right person or put in the time and effort to make the marriage work and were devastated when it ended. Maybe the friend is simply trying to protect you from experiencing a similar disappointment in the future. The person is projecting their negative emotions onto you with the intention of ‘saving’ you from a similar mistake. There is no malicious intent involved but their perception is skewed by their past experience.
The bottom line is you are the one choosing to make the commitment (right person, right time). A commitment of any kind is perceived differently by you and an outsider. The outsider’s perception is affected by their experiences, values and beliefs. You are the one making the commitment!
Have a plan for managing setbacks
When you make a commitment, you will experience many setbacks, some small and some large, especially in the beginning. When a setback occurs, true commitment involves reviewing what is happening, gathering more information about what and why something is happening and adjusting your plan and approach so you can remain committed and evaluating what you have learned that is helpful.
For example, look at problem solving options for the first disagreement between newlyweds. The disagreement occurs. Some options are: one person stomps out of the room, the silent treatment may begin, one person may internalize what hurt their feelings and let it fester or one or both may decide to talk it out and clear the air. The more you practice nipping challenges in the bud, the easier and quicker it is to identify and deal with the next one.
Have a plan for balancing your new commitment and old behaviors
Obviously if you are committed to a new relationship, old friends are not going to play as big a part in your life as they did previously. Note I said not as big a part – I did not say no part! A commitment that recognizes the value of independence of both parties thrive more than one where one partner monopolizes all the time of the other. Granted some couples thrive on doing everything together but personal independence is a must for many.
The lack of space can turn an otherwise great commitment into a feeling of suffocation. Jealousy, suspicion, nasty comments or interrogation techniques should not be attached to ‘Girls night out’ or ‘Guys night out.’ A relationship commitment that successfully balances the new commitments with some old behaviors has the best chance of survival.
The same goes for a commitment to school or an employer. The commitment is a priority, yes. However, your dedication to the commitment can seem like a never ending burden if you do not take a break once in a while and get a taste of your old ‘normal’ life!
Have a plan for managing feedback or lack of feedback
Feedback for any commitment you make is usually not as on-going as you would like or feel you need. Have a plan for how you will manage your emotions if you are not being acknowledged for all the work you are putting in. You may have worked relentlessly on a university course and receive a C+ on your midterm. Naturally you are disappointed. Pre-planning for a tutor or extra help from the professor helps the management of negative setbacks that may occur.
In a relationship, partners often forget or do not realize the importance of or actually do not realize they have not said ‘thank you, you are so thoughtful’ or ‘you saved my day by anticipating the help I needed.’ Be cognizant that they too are trying but are not able to meet your need for acknowledgement without a simple reminder once in a while. It is not intentional; they do appreciate and acknowledge your work. The relationship has not yet developed to the level where knowing how important mutual appreciation feedback is.
Have a plan for staying committed
Keep your focus on regular time outs from your daily routine. If you are in a committed relationship, have regular romantic date nights and regularly remind yourself and your partner how much you value the relationship.
Keep your focus on balancing your pre-commitment activities with new relationship commitments.
Keep your focus on the advantages of the commitment. If you are in school, remind yourself that you will experience positive and happier financial and lifestyle changes when you get your degree.
Keep your focus on external resources that can help if you run into commitment challenges. In a relationship commitment, a trusted confident or a professional is a good way to re-focus on your commitment and strengthen strategies to maintain your commitment. If you are in a school or work situation, an open-minded professor or manager is a great resource. If this approach does not revive you and your commitment, outside professionals can be a great sounding board for your concerns and anxiety and help get you back on track.
My message to the commitment ‘phobes’ is that your identity does not disappear with a new commitment, your identity expands with every new commitment you make.