For a relationship to culminate in a successful and committed long-term union, it must recognize, understand, and go through a five-step relationship-building process.
The five steps necessary for a long-term relationship
The path from initial introduction to a committed long-term relationship goes through five separate relationship stages: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3: The Commitment previous Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship. (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele, conscious quotes(Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008).
This article addresses the fourth step in the relationship building process, Step 4: The Committed Relationship.
The committed relationship is the time for both partners to bond
The previously completed recreational and pre-engaged stages were aimed at of the individual chemistry and logical analysis, respectively. The committed step shifts the focus to the couple as a team himself in relation to others. The focus is no longer on the “I” and the “me”. Now the focus turns to “We”, “Our” and “Us”.
a committed relationship it is one in which both partners believe that their personal individual requirements can be fulfilled in the relationship. Their attention now turns to the future, and specifically how they, as partner working together, commit to making the relationship between them work.
Goal and the motivating question. The goal of a committed relationship is to develop ways to constructively resolve problems and manage differences that arise in any relationship. The driving question behind this relationship is, “How can we as a couple make this work?”
The roles that you and your partner play. Typically, partners in a couple refer to each other as “my fiancé” and are very public about their relationship. The conversation focuses on making plans for their future together.
the nature of a committed relationship. The “feel” at the engaged stage is one of close-knit teamwork. A sense of “we’re in this together” around shared values of how each person wants to spend the rest of their lives together. This is the first time that the couple, working together, is given responsibility in the development of the relationship. Until now, the theme has been for individuals to do the work, separate and apart from their partner. Now the couple works together to figure out how WE can make this relationship work.
Both you and your partner are expected to be team players who are willing and able to compromise to make the relationship work. Please note that in the committed relationship stage, all individual requirements of both partners have been resolved in the previous pre-engagement stage. Therefore, any compromise for the good of the team is in the area of wishes, not non-negotiable requirements.
The back doors to a Engaged Relationship
The “back doors” are ways that allow “escape” from the relationship.
The back door to a transitional, recreational, or pre-committed relationship is relatively simple, even easy. They may end with some version of “This isn’t working for me,” and then you wave goodbye in the style of the Paul Simons song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I know this is oversimplifying a complex and highly emotional situation. Still, there is no legal contract to override and only a moderately strong social/psychological contract that holds the couple together.
On the other hand, ending a committed relationship is more difficult. There are no legal contracts yet, but the social/psychological contract is extraordinarily strong. Time has been spent creating plans together for a future as a couple. Expectations are deep and wide. Wedding plans are often in the works.
A client of mine ended a multi-year relationship two weeks before the wedding, causing a rift in his family. Ten years later, her brothers are still so angry and resentful that they refuse to have a relationship with her sister, who was only preventing a big mistake from being made by ending the relationship.
Potential problems with a committed relationship
The committed relationship requires that the two partners work together using their interpersonal skills to solve problems and manage conflicts. Possible common difficult problems include where to live. Who works, doing what? When, if ever, do you start a family? How many children? How and how much money to save? How much to involve the in-laws in your life? The list goes on.
But what if they can’t, or don’t want to, find answers to questions like these? The relationship suffers and failure is possible.
Among the most common ways we fail the committed step are:
(1) Taking the relationship for granted and expecting the other partner to do all the work,
(2) Try to do all the work yourself and exclude your partner,
(3) Treat a want as a requirement,
(4) Not being willing to compromise,
(5) Refusal to learn and use the problem-solving and conflict-management skills necessary to make the committed relationship work.
So what is the point?
Making a commitment to another person to live life together as an intimate partner is a serious, life-changing decision. It involves more than chemistry and confidence that the requirements of both parties can be met. In the previous three stages of the relationship, most of the development of the relationship is that each individual makes calculations about “What’s in it for me?”
However, in the committed relationship stage, the stakes are raised considerably. Now the issue is whether the two people, working together, can make the relationship successful and lasting. Equally important, do they have the Will put in the effort and learning that is required for the relationship to be successful?
Making a commitment to another person to live life together takes courage, determination, and the humility to admit you don’t know all the answers and are willing to learn. Your life is changing. Will you have the courage to dissolve your resistance to the changes that a committed relationship brings and make yourself vulnerable to another person so that you can co-create the relationship of your dreams?
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