There comes a time in every relationship when you need to make a significant decision or commitment together.
You might be considering increasing your relationship commitment, or making a decision together which requires a big emotional, financial, or psychological commitment.
Some significant relationship commitments you might make together include:
- deciding to move in together
- getting engaged or married
- buying a pet
- buying a house or investment property
- permanently moving interstate or overseas
- choosing to have a child or additional children
Many couples rush into big decisions
If you’re considering making a big decision or commitment in your relationship, it can be helpful to take your time to make sure it’s the right decision for you.
Don’t fall into the trap of making a premature decision if it doesn’t feel right for you. Your feelings are a valuable indicator that you may need to hold off on making the decision.
For any successful relationship, there needs to be a strong sense of safety and security that you create together. If your relationship is entirely new, this does take time and constant work on the relationship. It doesn’t happen in a few months.
If you rush into a decision before allowing enough time to understand your partner and how they operate in the world, the consequences can be disastrous.
Watch out for these red flags in the decision-making process
Some warning signs indicate you’re not ready to make a big decision or commitment in your relationship.
The most common red flags include:
- your partner is pressuring you to make a significant decision before you’re ready
- your partner is not listening to your reservations or concerns about a significant commitment
- you and your partner are continually arguing or fighting about the possible decision without any resolution
- you’re feeling stressed, worried, or highly anxious about the potential commitment
- your partner is not interested in exploring all the possible problems or issues that might arise from making a significant commitment to each other
If you’re noticing any of these issues, it could be a sign you need to put the brakes on and slow down the decision-making process.
Tips for making a successful relationship commitment
1. Get to know each other.
One of the most common mistakes I see in my relationship counselling practice is couples that rush to make major life decisions before they have had time to get to know one another.
No matter how strongly you feel about somebody, the fact is it takes time to get to know your partner honestly .
When you first meet someone and fall in love, you’re seeing your new partner through rose-tinted glasses. Love and the rush of hormones temporarily blind your brain, so you’re unable to see your partner’s quirks, annoying habits, and personal limitations.
First of all, make sure you take the time to get to know your partner. Nothing can replace the value of slowly getting to know someone and not rushing into a relationship or big decisions.
2. Vet your new partner with friends and family.
If you’re in the early stages of dating (within the first six months), one of the things I often recommend to my clients is that you vet your partner with close friends and family. Close friends and family are not in love with your partner and have more objectivity than you do. They can see possible problems on the horizon that you may not be able to see in your beloved.
When you’re ready to introduce your partner to close friends and family, let them know you’ll be asking them some questions afterwards. Ask your friends to answer these questions as honestly as possible to help you form an accurate opinion about your partner.
I recommend the vetting questions from the book Wired for Dating: How Understanding Neurobiology and Attachment Style Can Help You Find Your Ideal Mate, by Stan Tatkin.
Here are Stan’s vetting questions you can ask your family or friends after meeting your new partner:
- What did you like about my date?
- What did you like about me when I was with my date? Was I myself? Was I different? (If so, how?)
- How did you think my date treated me? (Please give specific examples)
- Did we look comfortable and relaxed with each other? (Please give specific examples.)
- Can you picture me with this person long term? (If so, why? If not, why?)
- Did you notice any red flags? (Please be specific.)
- If you had to vote now, would it be thumbs up or thumbs down?
3. Explore the pros and cons.
Like anything important in life, it’s essential that you evaluate all the pros and cons of any big decision. Take time to have an honest discussion about all the possible issues that could arise in advance. Discussing potential problems is not a ‘doom and gloom’ approach, but rather a practical and sensible acknowledgement that problems and issues do come up. When you flag possible issues in advance, you’re more able to deal with them if and when they come up.
4. Take your time.
If you have any doubts, take time to sit with the decision and continue to explore and discuss the issues with your partner. It’s hard to do this in our instant gratification culture, but a lot of good things can come waiting. Situations can change, new ideas can emerge, and your feelings can also change with the passage of time.
Ultimately, when it comes to making a significant commitment in your relationship, you both have to feel that the decision is in the best interests of both of you. If you make unilateral decisions in your relationship, it will often end in disaster, so make sure the outcome works for both of you. It will get your commitment off to the best possible start.
Are you engaged or about to get married?
If you’re about to make the most significant commitment of your life, make sure you book in for our pre-marriage education program before your big day. Prepare-Enrich is the world’s #1 pre-marriage program that has been taken by over 3 million couples. Visit our pre-marriage counselling page to read more and to book your online assessment and feedback sessions.
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.