This took you by surprise. One day you go out with just another guy…then a few weeks later, things seem to be getting serious. But is it a committed relationship? What IS a commitment at this point in your life?
At one point, you knew what commitment looked like, but now that your dating this new guy…you’re questioning what “forever” even means in regards to love. It is real? Should you just hope for someone to spend a few months or years with? What’s the deal with commitment??
Commitment Looks Different For Everyone
Ask 100 people “what is a commitment,” and you’ll get 100 answers. The important thing is that your definition matches up to the definition of the man you’re dating. And that might not be the way you saw commitment however long it was ago when you last had a boyfriend!
Commitment can involve:
Whether you see other people or not: In some relationships (most, I’d say), commitment means being exclusive. Not seeing anyone else romantically. However, the opposite isn’t necessarily true: agreeing to be exclusive doesn’t automatically mean that you’re committed to a relationship. You’re simply only going to date one another for the time being. But a commitment takes things to the next level: you’re ready to dedicate yourself to being a good partner and seeing where this relationship can go.
How much time you spend together: Obviously, the more time you spend together, the more likely it is that you will become committed. It’s hard to have a commitment when you see each other just a few times a month (with the exception of the long-distance relationship). If you want things to be serious, you need to spend more and more time together. You’ll find the balance point between being together enough to satisfy both of you…and spending too much time together.
How you talk about the future together: People in a committed relationship are forward-thinking. They’re not only planning what activities they’ll do together in a few months, but they’re also thinking about those bigger-picture things like moving in together, getting married, buying a car together, et cetera.
Being willing to change to be a better partner: Another difference between dating and commitment is how willing you and your partner are to be your best selves for one another. When you date, it’s short-lived, and there’s little reason to change or work on yourself. But when you’re in a committed relationship, you should want to work on those things that maybe hold you back from being the best partner possible.
Being devoted to one another: Couples who are committed spend a lot of time together. Not because they have to but because they want to. They can’t get enough of one another and they fully support one another’s endeavors.
Being okay with some compromise: No one said that commitment meant getting your own way all of the time. In fact, it means letting go of your ego and letting him have his way occasionally. There’s always a balance between your wants/needs and those of your partner…and you’ll be okay with that if you love him.
It’s important to talk to your partner about what commitment means to him and to you and how important it is. The DTR conversation — Define the Relationship — should come when you feel like (for you, anyway) things have shifted away from just casually dating. You may feel more emotionally invested in this guy and want to know if you’re both on the same page.
And there’s nothing wrong with bringing up commitment before you even go out with a guy…just do it the right way. Simply asking him what he’s looking for (something casual? a relationship?) before you even know if you’re compatible can take the pressure off. If he wants casual sex and you don’t, you know this before you go out with him and fall into those deep blue eyes. Don’t make him feel pressured (“I’m looking for my next husband!”) but do let him know that you’re clear about what you’re looking for so there’s no ambiguity.
What is a Commitment? 14 Signs You Have One
Now that you’re a little clearer in answering “what is a commitment to me,” let’s look at some signs that things have evolved with the guy you’re dating and that you’re now moving into Commitment Territory.
1. You Call Each Other Boyfriend/Girlfriend
If he’s introduced you to anyone as his “girlfriend”, you’re more than just exclusive. What that means to both of you is that you’re really into each other and hope that things work out between you. There’s a new level of commitment that you’re excited to explore.
2. He Introduces You to Friends and Family
A man who’s just casually dating a woman will keep her far away from his friends and family. He knows what bringing a female around them communicates: that he really likes (or even loves) her and sees the relationship as being fairly serious. If he’s not ready for that, it’s not happening.
Meeting friends is a little less serious than meeting his family, but you should still be flattered. After all, he probably doesn’t bring every woman he goes out with to spend time with his closest friends. And if you meet his family? You better believe he’s committed to you!
3. You Make Far-Off Future Plans
You’re not just buying tickets for a concert six months from now…you’re planning a monthlong overseas trip. And talking about next New Year’s…in February. There’s no fear of talking about too far off in the future because you can both see that you will be together when these events happen…and beyond.
But you’re not just making plans for activities and trips. You’re also talking about life plans. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of traveling the world for a year when your son graduates. And now this guy is totally on board with that plan and talking about renting out his home while the two of you explore the world and find where you want to settle down permanently…together. You’re talking about the logistics of moving in together (and whether your kids will get along). Maybe of getting married.
Being committed means being assured of a solid future together, both in the short-term and the long-term.
4. You Are Okay With Not Always Getting Your Way
Like I said earlier in this article: being in a committed relationship requires a little give and take. If you’ve been single for a while, it may be harder for you to compromise…or even occasionally give up your needs in favor of his.
But know this: being willing to compromise can make you happier. In a study published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers found that people who had high partner-specific communal motivation — that is, who were willing to care for and support a romantic partner — had high levels of well-being. So not only are you being a great partner when you’re committed to your man, but you’re also doing great things for yourself when you support and compromise for him.
5. Not Every Night Together is Exciting (Or Out of the House)
One of the enjoyable things about dating is that you’re always doing something fun or interesting. Trying tapas at that new Spanish restaurant. Listening to a jazz band. Attending a street fair. But as you settle down with someone, those exciting nights are fewer and further between. You don’t mind because you’re more interested in just connecting with this guy rather than constantly being entertained (and his checkbook thanks you for that shift).
A night curled up on the couch watching documentaries may be just as fulfilling or even more so than going to see the latest superhero movie at the theater. And the conversations you have are better than any comedy show you could sit through.
6. You Feel More Whole With Him in Your World
Okay, so you don’t need this man (or any man) in your life…but you feel like your life is better for having him in it. Everything just feels a little bit more wonderful because you can tell him about it at the end of the day.
He’s the one you turn to when you need to cry, vent, laugh, or scream. He’s the one you think about when you wake up and when you go to bed. This isn’t a mere crush. It’s something more. Whether you’re ready to say it’s love or not…it’s definitely commitment.
7. You Don’t Rely on Him for Your Happiness (But He Brings You Joy)
One common mistake I see with my dating coaching clients is when they rely on someone else to make them happy. Then they wonder why things fall apart. The fact is: YOU are responsible for your own happiness. No one else. If you expect a man to make you happy, you will always be let down.
Yes, he can bring you happiness. He can make you feel incredible. But if he were to go away from your life (after mourning the end of that relationship), you could still find happiness. Being happy and being with this man are not inextricably linked.
When you can find your own happiness, he can only enhance what you feel. When you only rely on yourself to be happy, you take the pressure off of him. That’s when commitment begins.
8. You Can Completely Be Authentic with Him
If you’re like many women, you’ve struggled to be authentic with men you’ve dated before. Maybe you were afraid you’d come off too quirky or assertive and worried that they’d run at the first whiff of your true self.
But over time in dating this guy, you’ve slowly let him see more and more of who you really are…and he’s not running. You’ve gotten to the point where you’re so relaxed around him that you don’t feel that shield you used to put up. And that feels pretty freaking amazing, doesn’t it?
When it’s right, the man you fall for is 1000% okay with who you really are. He will care for you — not in spite of your funny habits and quirks, but because of them.
9. You Talk About Everything
Just like you’ve shown him your authentic self, you’ve also discovered that you can tell him anything. He doesn’t judge.
You can tell him that you feel fat…
…or that you don’t really care for Politician X’s actions…
…or that you secretly love 90 Day Fiance…
…or that you have a terrible secret.
When you’re in a committed relationship, you open up in every way possible. You can confide in him (and vice versa) because you can completely trust him.
10. You Know He’s There For You
It’s nice to have someone in your corner, isn’t it? You haven’t felt like you had someone who was there for you in a while (romantically, anyway), and it’s a strange but wonderful feeling.
Whether you need someone to install a new sound system…
…listen to you vent about your mean boss…
…or get his opinion on a big decision in your life…
…you know that this man is ready and willing to give you what you need. If he wasn’t ready for a commitment with you, he wouldn’t be.
11. You Only Have Eyes for Each Other
Before you started dating this man, you were a flirt. You didn’t miss a single good-looking guy who walked down the street. But now…as cheesy as it is…you only have eyes for him. And you know he feels the same. It’s like you’re in this bubble with just the two of you and the rest of the world is just background noise.
12. Arguments are Productive
When people ask me, “what is a commitment,” this is one of the best ways I can explain what one is. When you’re dating someone or even think you want a relationship with them but the arguments are just useless screaming and fighting, it’s not going to last.
But when you’re serious about being together and really care about one another, arguments look a lot different. Its important to quickly get past the initial irritation to get to the heart of the matter.
When you can walk away feeling better after an argument…when you have actually dealt with what’s bothering you or him and come to some sort of understanding…that’s when the magic happens.
13. He Knows Your Kids (if You Have Them)
I know for women who are divorced and have kids, they are fiercely protective of their offspring. They don’t want to introduce every man they date to them. And that’s understandable.
But maybe you’ve decided that this guy is worth an introduction. That’s great! It means you trust him enough to be in your life long-term and to get to know your kids.
14. He’s Changed His Facebook Status
Okay, this one might seem silly as a way to identify that you’re in a committed relationship, but some people are really serious about their Facebook relationship status!
If he’s changed his status from Single to In a Relationship, then thumbs up! He’s not hiding his relationship from anyone, and he knows that people will congratulate him when they see the status update.
So you asked me, “what is a commitment.” I hope I’ve answered the question for you and given you some signs that things in your relationship have moved to the next level toward commitment. I certainly hope so. Because you deserve to be happy and in love, even if you’re not quite there yet.
Let’s get a conversation started. What signs of commitment has your guy demonstrated? Leave a comment below.
And if you’re not quite to the commitment stage, here’s a training program that will help you. It’s designed to help you attract a great guy and get him to commit to only you. Sign up today!