At the Centre of a Successful Relationship… there is insulation from temptation and boredom.
Commitment is an action that encompasses a short-term decision that one loves another, and a long-term decision to maintain that love. This action is more clearly a matter of the ‘head’ rather than of the ‘heart’. Saying this is not meant to detract from nor diminish the emotional, or aspects of the ‘heart’. However, it is often possible to develop the emotional elements of the heart, such as intimacy and passion, in the pursuit of commitment.
I observed an example of commitment on my walk the other day. An elderly couple, who had just found the ‘exercise bug’, were walking on the trail. He, several paces ahead, stopped at the top of an elevation on the trail and took a much needed rest. She, at the bottom, was walking very slowly, obviously fatigued having negotiated several challenging grades prior to this one. He, knowing that he would need to wait, chose to be encouraging in a very quiet and respectful manner as she moved very slowly up this hill. ….I am not likely to see this couple in therapy.
For most people, building a committed relationship is an incredibly difficult challenge. It requires a high degree of focus, a willingness to learn, and a giant supply of motivation. And why would this not be the case given that any committed relationship requires the weaving together of two complex individual identities to form a new enterprise with its own identity and form.
The ‘high degree of focus’ that is required in developing this relationship enterprise translates into dedicating time to the task. Committed relationships are based on integrating the goals and needs of two independent people. Clearly the survival of the enterprise requires a close monitoring of the integration process with respect to individual goals and needs. And, as a consequence, only mature people can build and maintain a committed relationship.
Another element in commitment, which is critical to the survival of the relationship enterprise, is in the dreaming about the future ‘relationship’ and setting goals to achieve these dreams. A prominent marital therapist made the following observation “…too often people wander into relationships with a totally inadequate dream. Without a guiding vision, they become easy targets for disappointment, temptation, conflict, boredom, and confusion”.
It is clear that a couple with big dreams for their relationship, that are based on consideration and sensitivity to each other’s needs, will be able to build and sustain a committed relationship. The dream that is constructed guides the commitment and the process of developing the dream builds the relationship. Without a dream, the enterprise becomes bankrupt.
Originally published in the ‘Tri-Cities News’ as a voluntary contribution to the community from Arthur Rathgeber.
The contents of this article are the property of Willow Grove Counselling, Inc. and further reproduction is given through written permission only. Copyright © 2012