Have you ever wondered if your partner is at the same level of commitment as you? How do you know if they are really as invested in your relationship as you are? Or if they see the same future as you envision? Sometimes the question can feel like an insidious thought probing at you, or flare up when your partner chooses a night out with friends over a night in with you. I’ve sat with many individuals (and couples) where I felt like we could cut through the tension of uncertainty about the relationship like a knife through cheese.
Just to be clear: It goes both ways. There seems to remain a social stigma that men have more issues committing than women do. Commitment issues really depend on each individual and the context of their life and past experiences. I’ve sat with men devastated about harsh breakups from women who who weren’t ready to take the plunge to forever, and women who swear they ended up with a jerk who chose the single lifestyle over them. The same experiences occur in same-sex couples as well.
Here are some important things for you to consider if you are wondering if your partner is “all in”:
If you’re feeling something about this, you’re probably right.
Trust your gut. If you find yourself wondering about your partner’s commitment levels, chances are this is reflective of something that is missing in the dynamic for you. What might that be? Listen to yourself and see what comes up. If you trust that internal voice, you will better navigate through uncertainties in life and you will feel more confident in bringing up thoughts or issues to your partner.
How do you know this is the right person for you?
What is leading you to feel so committed in this relationship? Is it because of your partner’s actions and contributions to the relationship? Is it because of who they are, how they treat you, and how they prioritize you? Or…is it because “the time is now”? Is it because YOU are ready for the next steps? Are the wedding bells ringing and the family beginning to ask when you’re going to settle down?
The latter would not be a true reflection of your commitment as much as of the external pressures telling you that the clock is ticking. Relationships aren’t a race to the finish line. Being on the same page as your partner about your relationship will always surpass the importance of special events (like getting engaged, getting married, having a baby). When I ask clients how they know their partner is the one for them, I’m looking beyond “because I love him/her”. I’m listening for mutual love and respect, confidence about values, and an intimate trust in themselves and one another.
Communication isn’t key
If your partner is struggling with their commitment to the relationship, communication may not feel like it’s key. By this, I mean that they may be unresponsive to your bids to communicate with them (don’t respond to your texts, take days to call you back, don’t seem focused when you are talking together). This is something very important to bring up early on. We all have something to learn when it comes to effective communicating, so express when you don’t feel that your partner is present and try to understand where they are.
Your partner seems apprehensive to take natural next steps
If they seem content with the relationship “as is” and don’t seem interested in taking more commitment-esque steps (like meeting your family, looking at rings, talking about the future) at time appropriate stages, there may be ambivalence about committing to the relationship. This isn’t necessarily something to fear, but to explore with your partner openly. Pressure never made anyone more willing or ready to do something. But openness, respect, and understanding may.
Your partner says they aren’t ready for marriage
While this may not necessarily mean that your partner will never want to get married, it is important to respect this boundary if they declare this to you. First of all, appreciate their honesty. Secondly, explore what this means for you individually and as a couple. Is this a deal breaker for you if they aren’t ready now? If so, this may not be the person for you. Do you have patience in you to wait longer? If so, when would you like to revisit the conversation?
Couples therapist David Schnarch explains that “no one is ready for marriage. Marriage makes you ready for marriage”. It may be less about your partner feeling that you are “the one” for them and more about the uncertainties about life beyond the wedding (child-rearing, filing taxes and dealing with money issues, handling debt, or other understandable fears).
Here’s the thing about commitment. You have to LEARN how to do it. You may feel ready to take the next steps in your relationship, but your partner might not. This doesn’t mean you aren’t the right fit. It also might mean you aren’t the right fit, which is not necessarily a bad thing (wouldn’t you rather know now?). How you choose to handle those differences is what will potentially make or break your relationship. Patience, respect, trust, and open communication will take you far if you are willing to explore the dynamics on both ends of your relationship.