12 Steps for Cementing Relationship Commitment

by Denise J Charles

shutterstock_116979841We’re always talking about commitment in marriage but do we even know what it should look like? Follow these 12 steps to strengthen your level of relationship commitment. 

  1. Accept human imperfection in both yourself and your spouse and see it as a gateway for personal development and change
  2. Choose loving confrontation when unhappy or dissatisfied with some aspect of your relationship; this means that talking about how you feel is always critical; decide from the outset that you will not choose easy escape routes like emotional detachment or affairs
  3. Protect your relationship from negative external influences (friends, family, cohorts) who encourage you to bail out at the first sign of marital stress
  4. Set realistic goals for your marriage and work together at making them happen
  5. See love as a choice, not a feeling that is based purely on sexual chemistry or attractiveness
  6. Choose significant moments like birthdays, anniversaries or any day for that matter, to relive the memories of how you met, got engaged or got married; keeping alive the magic of your early relationship is still significant to the health of your marriage but understand that while this may be a tool to enhance your commitment, it should not be the basis for it
  7. Develop relationship loyalty by actively demonstrating that you and your spouse are on the same team; practice “having each others back” instead of competing
  8. Never neglect your sexual relationship; keep this “one-flesh” reality of your relationship going to demonstrate how exclusive and set apart your relationship really is from all others; this means actively working to make your sex better which will in turn strengthen your levels of intimacy
  9. Strive to demonstrate a “higher-order” love that is unconditional and loves “in spite of”and which also includes the practice of forgiveness
  10. Deal with relationship issues in a timely manner, before they have the chance to fester into deep-rooted anger or bitterness
  11. Never share your  marital challenges with someone you feel sexually attracted to; this represents the antithesis of commitment and loyalty
  12. If you sense your relationship  is becoming unglued and you both seem unable to handle it on your own, choose a reputable counselor, coach, pastor or therapist to help you get your marriage back on track

Dating The Married Man? Know the Consequences

By Ken Pile

What should you do when you find yourself connected to a married man?

What should you do when you find yourself connected to a married man?

Many women find themselves involved with married men. If you’ve found yourself in this relationship rut, then please, pause and take this advice to heart.

Dont take his word for it and think of his wife:

Despite all that he would have told you, remember you’re only hearing his side of the story. And he is allowing you to see what he wants you to see. Consider his wife who has been married to him for however many years, took care him when he was ill, made sacrifices for him and so forth. What are your actions doing to her? Moreover, he is allowing you to intrude in his marriage, which is really “HER TURF.” That doesn’t say anything about her, but speaks volumes about what he ultimately thinks of you.

There are no guarantees:

Even if your married man decided to leave his wife and family for you, that doesn’t guarantee relationship success. If he is willing to have an affair with you, he will also do it to you. If he’s living this deception with you today, how could you ever trust him if you did get into a legitimate relationship with him? You already know he’s a liar, because he’s living a lie with his wife. How can you be sure whether you’re the only “other woman” he has? Entertain the possibility that he is lying to you, and that you are being used.

Think about STDs – Youre not the only one:

Many times, married men still have sexual intercourse with their wives and or other females as well. And of course, they are not going to let you know this. Now, let’s say one of his other women has an STD, and unknowing to him, he has sexual intercourse with her, guess who’s next in line for it? Understand that because he’s sexing you, doesn’t mean he’s staying away from others.

Bring the relationship to an end

You will hurt, you will feel broken-hearted, but ultimately, you’ll be better off for this decision. Take some time to get really clear with yourself about who you are and what you want. The most important relationship you’ll ever have in this world, is the one you have with yourself. And eventually, you’ll fall in love again with someone who’s willing to make you first in his life

Ken Pile is the Editor of ASK THE LOVE DOCTOR 246; a blog and online community, designed to give women a better insight about love and relationships from the point of view of a man. Find him on Facebook at Ask The Love Doctor 246

Surviving Infidelity

Surviving infidelityIn my experience as a counselor, I’ve come across a variety of cheaters and cheating styles. There are those who cheat with one-night stands where there is a one-off never-again-to-be-repeated episode (hopefully) of infidelity. There are those who have long-standing, deep emotional and sexual affairs, where very often the individual fancies himself/herself to be in-love with someone else. Then there are those no-sex affairs ; those close friendships and soul-ties which can prove lethal to the marriage or primary relationship even when they remain only at the emotional level. There is also serial infidelity, as in, sex with a different person every time even when trying to maintain the semblance of a primary relationship. Flirtatious infidelity, describes the behaviour of one partner which is inappropriate either through language, touching or looks, even when this never leads to sex; the problem here is that the affair is alive and well in the heart. Finally, there is cyber-sex or techno-sex; sex that is aided and abetted by the use of technology and or the internet.

If you’ve been cheated on, chances are you may not be interested in an intellectual or academic discussion of the thing. So much has already been said and analyzed as to why people cheat and many of us already understand that cheating occurs for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the cynics among us will say that as long as there are relationships, there will be cheating. As long as there are rules, boundaries or parameters for relationships, people will break and defy them; that’s just human nature. If this is at all true, how then does a victim of infidelity cope? How does such a person live with the reality of betrayal, especially since cheating is evidently here to stay?

Factors like relationship philosophy, personality, and even gender will to a large degree significantly influence the way we choose to respond. The following represents some of the options which victims may have at their disposal after an experience of infidelity. Please note that these do not refer to initial responses but to the ongoing or long-term way an individual chooses to handle being cheated on.

Going It Alone

Some decide that they want out of the relationship that has caused them so much pain. The hurt from the betrayal has lodged in such a deep place that a separation or divorce seems like the only viable option. For such an individual, infidelity has already sealed the deal on the question of loss. Since in their books their partner is already lost to them, walking away is just a formality.

Deciding to “go it alone” has the distinct advantage of giving individuals the option of starting over again in the future. It can also provide a vital space for clearing the head and soothing the emotions. The down-side can be seen when the decision is based on unresolved anger and bitterness.

While being alone is sometimes a good thing, it is seldom a permanent state. Failure to deal with the why and the how of the infidelity as well as failing to forgive can be lethal to the victim’s sense of self and can affect the “peace” of future relationships. At the same time, a decision to distance oneself from any romantic involvement and to take the time to reflect and regroup, can lead to an amazing experience of self-discovery, especially when victims grow to understand their own self-worth.

Infidelity in a pre-marital arrangement can and perhaps should halt or delay wedding plans. It provides a window of opportunity for the engaged couple to re-evaluate their choice of a life-partner before a serious covenant vow is made. Of course deciding to leave an already established marriage is serious business and should be well thought out from all angles before a separation or divorce is finalized.

Seeking Revenge

Deciding to do a “tit-for-tat” is perhaps one of the more common and understood responses to cheating. This can be a well thought out and premeditated response or it can occur almost inadvertently because the victim’s hurt causes him/her to more readily let their guard down with another. Those who themselves pursue an affair in response to being cheated on, have decided to maintain their primary relationship but seek to exact revenge for being hurt.

Such individuals are intensely angry and seek to salvage their own hurt by inflicting pain on the one who caused it to them. Some pursue an affair in an attempt to repair damaged self-esteem and to assure themselves that they are still desirable. While some will themselves keep their affair secret and allow it to function more as a psychological boost, others will deliberately engineer a discovery in order to inflict a similar wound on their partner.

More often than not, however, the satisfaction obtained from revenge is short lived, since it is built on a faulty notion that causing pain eases pain. The retention of anger and bitterness which motivates this behaviour means that the source of the first affair is never exposed and dealt with. Such a decision of revenge is likely therefore to be counter-productive and simply ensures that the cycle of pain and disappointment continues.

Staying Depressed

A decision to stay in a state of depression usually exposes a significant problem with low self-esteem. There are admittedly different types and levels of depression and this is not meant to trivialise the issue. It is obvious that an incident or incidents of cheating cuts at the core of a marriage or of an exclusive relationship. Because we look to others for love, acceptance and affirmation of our worth, we can misguidedly take on the opposite message when infidelity occurs. We can believe that we are undesirable and unlovable. Many women especially blame themselves when their spouses cheat and this can be debilitating to the psyche. Dwelling in self-pity encourages depression and a feeling of powerlessness. This can rob victims of the belief that they have the power to act on or change the challenging situation in which they find themselves. Victims find it easier instead to focus on their pain, to own it and to repeatedly re-live the details of the affair in their minds, until the effect is emotionally crippling. This response spells disaster for the future of the relationship.

Flying Free

In Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, the main character played by Kimberly Elise describes herself as being “mad as hell” after her husband turns her out of their house so that he can finally be with his other woman. Although she subsequently meets a very charming guy who turns out to be everything that her husband was not, she is unable to totally relax in this new love. Instead she discovers that she must process her anger, hurt and pain, articulate it to the one who hurt her and then choose to forgive. Her decision in fact “frees her” to love and live again.

Forgiveness is an act of ultimate self-empowerment. It reflects the choice to extend grace towards an individual who has done us wrong. This should not be interpreted as weakness or as an act of cowardice which condones what was done. Instead it reflects an inner resolve to be free from the hate, anger and bitterness which places the victim under the emotional power or control of their partner.

Forgiveness in fact places victims of infidelity in a psychological and spiritual space where they are better able to assess what happened to them and make the right choices. Forgiveness should never be rushed prematurely. Although it is an act of the will, it is a process and not an event. This means that it involves the articulation of anger and hurt and individuals must believe that they are “ready” to forgive, before they can actually attempt to do it.

Many individuals are unable to arrive at this place on their own but often need the intervention/assistance of a counselor, therapist, pastor or friend to help them through the process. Because women are socialized to articulate emotion, they tend to be more comfortable with the expression of anger and pain through sharing, crying and journaling. This often makes forgiveness an easier process for women than it appears to be for men. Men who have been cheated on are in fact more likely to hold on to anger and bitterness because they see expressing pain and hurt as a sign of weakness. This affects their ability to ever be free from the effects of the cheating and this baggage they take to subsequent relationships.

While forgiveness will not cause an automatic erasing of painful memories, it at least robs those memories of the power to control an individual’s pursuit of happiness or peace. If individuals are to survive infidelity and live to tell the tale, this means getting in touch with a well thought-out response which should be in their best interest. For those who choose to walk away, without forgiveness, all future relationships will suffer the effects of the infidelity. If both parties value the marriage and want to make it work again, then choosing the path of forgiveness is the better option.

And They Lived Happily Ever After . . . Or Did They?

ImageWe all have our own expectations of what makes a great relationship. While there may be a few women holding to the position that marriage is not for them; for the vast majority of us, marriage still represents that ideal which is the pinnacle of commitment. Yes, any two people can decide to live together in a house but I guess a public promise of love, unswerving devotion and fidelity is as good as it will get for most of us.

For many, marriage is superior because it signals a willingness to be held legally accountable for how we feel about the one that we love. To top this off, we usually spend enough money and work enough romantic symbolism into our wedding ceremonies to last a lifetime; or so we think. Very often, we hope that these will be enough to sustain the ideal of what we think a great marriage relationship should be. But this is usually where our problem lies; our expectations don’t usually match our individual realities. This discrepancy can actually push us at least to a lifetime of disappointment or at worst, towards the divorce courts if we’re not careful.

While not shooting down the idea of having standards or marriage goals, many of our idealistic expectations represent our childish or immature beliefs about what our marriages should look like; all the time. Without necessarily articulating it, we expect that “true love” will always bring with it fulfillment and easy transitions. Because we’ve been sold on romance, ά la the fairy tale and Hollywood, we’re often not prepared for the grueling reality that marriage is indeed hard work laced with its fair share of the mundane. But this is where fantasy ends and commitment kicks in. Whether or not we are living happily every day, are we prepared to stick it out for the long haul? Because this is where the commitment we made at the altar is actually put into operation.

When the sex is fresh and new and regular, when our partner is still bending over backwards to please us and when he/she still looks really sexy and well-kept, commitment is not so much an issue. We’re usually enjoying our happiness on auto-pilot and can’t imagine another life; of course we imagine we’re really committed! When change comes to our marriage, however, as it invariably will, this is when we have to decide daily to live the commitment we promised.

Practically, this will involve re-framing how we see the changes which come, as well as revisiting how we respond to them. For example, our partner lets himself go physically and begins to take our unswerving attention for granted. How should we respond? The easy way out may be to ignore his sexual advances, fume inwardly even as we give in or worst yet, check out the new cute guy at the office.

While these responses may be very human, knee-jerk reactions for many of us, none of them speak of commitment. Firmly and clearly communicating to our husband what we need from him, is going to be critical at this point. In another popular example, a husband may enjoy his new wife’s sexual and emotional availability for a season. When baby enters the picture, however, he experiences a significant change as he seems to be no longer the centre of attention at home. He can choose to sulk, spend more time with the boys, have an affair to ensure his needs are met or he could ditch his self-centred attitude and pitch in to ensure his wife gets adequate rest.

Again, this is where our understanding of commitment should influence behavior. Commitment is not about settling for any old thing in marriage but involves our active efforts to make the relationship work, as opposed to kicking it to the curb at the first sign of trouble.

Since I’ve been married for quite some time, I’m convinced that “happily ever after” is an individual reality born out of how we choose to handle our unavoidable marital challenges. If we do want to stay married, learning how to operationalize commitment is not an option. The following eleven tips should help us to gain some perspective on the issue of living out our marriage commitment in practical ways:

  • Accept human imperfection in both yourself and your spouse and see it as a gateway for personal development and change
  • Choose loving confrontation when unhappy or dissatisfied with some aspect of your relationship; this means that talking about how you feel is always critical; decide from the outset that you will not choose easy escape routes like emotional detachment or affairs
  • Protect your relationship from negative external influences (friends, family, cohorts) who encourage you to bail out at the first sign of marital stress
  • Set realistic goals for your marriage and work together at making them happen
  • See love as a choice, not a feeling that is based purely on sexual chemistry or attractiveness
  • Choose significant moments like birthdays, anniversaries or any day for that matter, to relive the memories of how you met, got engaged or got married; keeping alive the magic of your early relationship is still significant to the health of your marriage but understand that while this may be a tool to enhance your commitment, it should not be the basis for it
  • Develop relationship loyalty by actively demonstrating that you and your spouse are on the same team; practice “having each others back” instead of competing
  • Never neglect your sexual relationship; keep this “one-flesh” reality of your relationship going to demonstrate how exclusive and set apart your relationship really is from all others; this means actively working to make your sex better
  • Strive to demonstrate a “higher-order” love that is unconditional  and loves “in spite of”
  • Never share your  marital challenges with someone you feel sexually attracted to; this represents the antithesis of commitment and loyalty
  • If you sense your relationship  is becoming unglued and you both seem unable to handle it on your own, choose a reputable counselor, coach, pastor or therapist to help you get your marriage back on track