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What Commitment Looks Like

What Com­mit­ment Looks Like — we con­tin­ue our look at the actions nec­es­sary for a rela­tion­ship to thrive

The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

Note: If your present rela­tion­ship needs work, well… check out The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever. It’s my rela­tion­ships book… you’ll find all the help you need!


Last article, I proposed a “commitment list” — things that make for an excellent relationship:

• I can only com­mit to an action — to some­thing I will do.
• I com­mit to being in rela­tion­ship with you. Here is what I com­mit to:
• I will be open, hon­est and vul­ner­a­ble in my dai­ly com­mu­ni­ca­tion with you.
• I will tell you, today, who I am and what I am think­ing.
• I will tell you, today, every­thing I have done, and what it meant to me.
• I will lis­ten to you with curios­i­ty and inter­est, today.
• I will accept that you are who you are today, and will inte­grate who you are today with my pic­ture of you from “yes­ter­day.”
• I will make myself ful­ly avail­able and present to and with you, today, and engage in clear and con­cise com­mu­ni­ca­tion with you for not less than 30 min­utes, today.
• I will own all of my thoughts, feel­ings, emo­tions and inter­pre­ta­tions, work­ing to take full respon­si­bil­i­ty for each and every one of them. If I slip and go into blam­ing, I will stop myself, apol­o­gise, and return to self-respon­si­bil­i­ty.
• I will active­ly encour­age you to lis­ten to me and to active­ly hold me to the per­for­mance of what I have com­mit­ted to.
• I will com­mit to all of these things, with­out any expec­ta­tion of any­thing from you, as all I can ever com­mit to is to what I can and will do.


I drew por­tions of what I wrote from my excel­lent rela­tion­ship book, The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever. I decid­ed to expand a bit on the items on the list, above.

Let’s begin by talk­ing about one of my favourite words – integri­ty.

Integri­ty (noun)
Def­i­n­i­tions:
1. pos­ses­sion of firm prin­ci­ples: the qual­i­ty of pos­sess­ing and stead­fast­ly adher­ing to high moral prin­ci­ples or pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards
2. com­plete­ness: the state of being com­plete or undi­vid­ed
3. whole­ness: the state of being sound or undam­aged
from: Encar­ta

Read­ing the first def­i­n­i­tion is an exer­cise in futil­i­ty; we must ask: what are high moral prin­ci­ples? The answer depends upon whom you ask. So when I describe integri­ty, I pro­vide an exam­ple.

Integri­ty, for me, is demon­strat­ed by how I act.
For exam­ple, “My word is my bond” is one of my integri­ty state­ments.
As a state­ment, it means noth­ing. It just sounds good.
The proof is this: I say I will do some­thing, and then I do it, with­out excuse or equivocation.

Now, notice I did not say that my integri­ty is depen­dent upon the behav­iour of oth­ers. My integri­ty is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of me and my behav­iour, and only that.

So, how does this fit in with the list I proposed? I hope it’s obvious. Here’s the first statement:

I can only com­mit to an action — to some­thing I will do.

Many are noto­ri­ous for try­ing to escape respon­si­bil­i­ty for their actions and the results they get from those actions. Our cul­ture teach­es us to blame oth­ers when things go wrong — for exam­ple, blam­ing the teacher for your kid’s bad grades. 

And most peo­ple are unwill­ing to make any­thing oth­er than con­di­tion­al com­mit­ments. “I’ll do this if you will do that, and you get to go first, of course.”

Where this goes off the rails is when I think that I “should” be able to demand what anoth­er per­son is per­mit­ted to do in rela­tion to me. It’s as if I think that my opin­ion ought to dic­tate another’s behav­iour. This is faulty logic.

It’s a variation on an old theme – “If you love me, you’ll behave the way I want you to, so that I don’t make myself miserable or have to work at this.”

When such state­ments are made, they demon­strate noth­ing more than a com­plete lack of integri­ty.

You are nev­er going to meet one per­son who will do every­thing you want them to, act exact­ly the way you want them to, or treat you exact­ly as you want to be treat­ed. On the oth­er hand, what you can have, all the time, is a life of integri­ty: where the way you act match­es what you say you will do.

You’ll notice that all the principles at the top of this article are statements of what “I” will do.

My lev­el of integri­ty is sole­ly deter­mined by how and whether I live up to what I have com­mit­ted to.

This is not the same as being judged for not liv­ing up to some­thing some­one else wants me to do. I am not oblig­at­ed to do some­thing just because some­one wants me to. I am oblig­at­ed if I agree. It’s just that simple.

So, I hear you asking, what do I do when someone promises me something and then fails to deliver? This is a good question!

I plan for such even­tu­al­i­ties by hav­ing stat­ed what I will do if there is an “agree­ment fail­ure.” In oth­er words, in my, case, my response would be to sim­ply point out the “agree­ment fail­ure,” and then to ask the oth­er per­son to enter into dialogue.

Let’s pro­pose a state­ment that has integri­ty: “I will always tell you the truth about me. This is so impor­tant to me that if you lie to me, I will leave.”

This is dia­met­ri­cal­ly the oppo­site of, “If you love me, you will not lie to me,” or “I’ll stop lying when you stop lying,” or “Don’t you know you shouldn’t lie.”

Some peo­ple would argue that the exam­ple state­ment, above, is a threat. It is not. It is a state­ment of:

  1. what I will do about telling the truth, and
  2. what I will do if you lie to me.

The sec­ond state­ment is not about “you” at all. You can do what­ev­er you want to (about, in this case, lying) and I am clear with you what I will do if you lie to me.

In other words, lying has consequences.

This is dif­fer­ent from erro­neous bound­ary set­ting, which typ­i­cal­ly is a vari­ant of, “You are not allowed to lie to me,” or, “If you love me you won’t lie to me,” or, “You can’t treat me that way.” Any­one can treat you any way they choose to treat you. Your choice is always lim­it­ed to what you will or will not do in response.

Most peo­ple wimp out right here. I hear a lot of, “You do that again and I’m leav­ing,” and then, “what­ev­er” hap­pens again, and the per­son does not leave. This is a mon­u­men­tal lack of integri­ty on the part of the “threat­en­er.” Threats are stu­pid and child­ish. If I say I will do some­thing, I do it. This is not a threat. It’s a con­se­quence.

I do what I say I will do. No excus­es. No wig­gling out of it. No try­ing des­per­ate­ly to make it the fault of the oth­er person. 

This is Integrity.

Get this: a lov­ing rela­tion­ship is not one in which anoth­er per­son does what you want them to on com­mand, is not one in which the oth­er per­son puts you first, is not one in which every­thing is a con­test and every­one is keep­ing score.

A lov­ing rela­tion­ship is one where mutu­al respect and hon­esty is played out in integri­ty and forth­right­ness. No games, no manip­u­la­tion, no try­ing to force the oth­er per­son into a mold of your making.

You are either in the rela­tion­ship whole­heart­ed­ly and unre­served­ly, or you are gone. No half-heart­ed, con­di­tion­al commitments.

Being an adult (and there are so few of them) means being a per­son of integri­ty. Plain and simple.

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