You’ve probably heard the jokes. Commitment is a “bad word.”
We are led to believe that these three syllables alone can cause an alarming spike in blood pressure or a fainting spell in certain people. Typically rather sexist in nature, these jokes portray men as commitment-phobic children who can’t settle down. Forget all that. Commitment is no joke, and neither is it a joke if you are NOT ready for it. Also forget gender stereotypes… there are plenty of women and men who simply are not interested in or ready for commitment.
There are some things you can think about to help you figure out where you are on the continuum of “commitment readiness,” from “it will never happen” to “what are we waiting for?” and everything in between.
Let’s look closer at what might be tripping you up in the form of a check list for commitment readiness.
- Compatibility. This is the most basic of basics. If you are hesitant to take the next step because you are not sure they’re with the right partner, it’s time to get some clarity, ASAP. To co-create your best love life for the rest of your life you must be compatible with your partner in terms of values and aspirations for your lives together. That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything and be clones of each other, but your essential non-negotiables need to line up. Do you “get” each other on a basic level? Do you both have similar visions of what life should, and will, be like? If one of you loves children, animals, and cozy nights by the fire and the other craves urban living, is unsure about becoming a parent and staying home for an evening is a his or her idea of a nightmare… you are not compatible.
- Loss of Personal Freedom. Let’s say you’ve established that you are compatible. Why do you still squirm at the mention of a mortgage or sharing a closet? Maybe you don’t want anyone to have any sort of control over your decisions and behavior. Loss of personal freedom is a huge stumbling block for many singles looking at making a serious commitment to their significant other. Do you see commitment as obligation and constraint? Does the idea of spending more time with your significant other’s family and circle of friends feel like a jail sentence? If so, you are not ready. But realize that you can share lives while retaining individuality, and that checking in with someone does not mean “getting permission.” A healthy relationship is co-created with growing love and respect where both partners support one another to be, do, and have their best.
- Baggage. Everyone has it. Previous relationships, previous break ups. The fear of repeating the past can translate into fear about the success of a new relationship. You may have a family history of divorce and your faith in the possibility of successful long term relationships is tainted. Does this mean you will never be ready to commit? Not at all. Learn from the past but don’t let it prevent you from seeking your own happiness. Evaluate your past relationships, what worked, what didn’t work, where you were in your development at the time, and what it all means to you now. Doing so can give you great insight to what you want and need in this relationship, or the one after that.
- Financial expectations. This can be huge for a lot of people. You are financially independent and like it that way. You know the buck stops with you because you make the money decisions in your family of one. The monetary possibilities inherent in relationship commitment can be daunting. So think about some of them, like buying a house, taking out a mortgage, helping a partner get through school or pay off student loans, or in any way feeling like the answer to someone else’s financial problems. Can you handle it? Money issues between partners can cause a lot of conflict. It is a big mistake to leave this conversation for later, hoping it will “sort itself out.” It won’t. But money may not be such a stumbling block if you just agree to a plan before combining households and finances.
- Status quo. You are comfortable just the way things are. Your motto is, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Start by identifying why you are dating. Is it for fun and recreation or is a serious relationship part of your long range, if unspoken, plan? What do you want from the experience? Whatever your reasons are, being clear about what you want and why is the key to feeling satisfied with the result of your dating journey.
Your concerns, desires, hopes, and fears are not only legitimate, they are of paramount importance. Be easy on yourself.