Ask Dr. Tracy

The Steps To Commitment

True Love leads to commitment in steps. The first step is stating your love to each other.

But how can you be sure that, when you hear "I love you," it's the real thing? Obviously, if the words are only murmured in moments of passion, they don't count. Even if spoken in the sober light of day, they don't mean much if the other Steps To Commitment (see below) aren't happening.

The Steps To Commitment

You begin dating every Saturday night.

You miss each other whenever you're apart.

You agree to make your relationship monogamous

You make future plans together.

You begin seeing each other all weekend and during the week as well.

You sleep together almost every night.

You're happy with your relationship 90 percent of the time.

You spend vacations and holidays together.

You give each other little gifts.

You meet each other's families.

You discuss finances.

You move in together.

You seriously discuss having children together, or not.

You start to acquire property together (anything from a VCR to a house) and co-mingle monies in some way.

You marry or make some other form of lifelong commitment to each other.

Few couples, of course, follow this sequence exactly. Some would never dream of moving in together before getting married. Nevertheless, these steps show how a typical sound relationship grows closer and progresses toward marriage. If your relationship is more or less following this pattern, it's healthy.

How Long Should It Take?

A typical and reasonable time to progress from meeting to marriage is two years. If your relationship has stalled somewhere along the progression or has slid backwards, you'd be wise to look for a cause. It's natural for relationships to progress. Conversely, it's very rare for both parties to remain satisfied with a partially-developed, uncommitted relationship which just goes on and on.

After You Commit, Protect Your Relationship

Once you've reached the commitment stage, stand together. Act as if you're husband and wife and it's the two of you against the world. Friends and family, not knowing him or her as you do, may subject your relationship to some buffeting.

Assuming he or she has passed all the checklists in "Qualifying Someone" with flying colors (if not, none of this applies!), forget other's opinions. Even well-meaning friends can plant seeds of doubt that can poison a new relationship if you let them. They don't necessarily understand what's best for you, and they often have their own agendas. Unconsciously, some would rather have you stay single as a drinking buddy or a girlfriend to go shopping with than see you happily settled down.

So ignore friends who say things like, "I'd let her know who's boss," or, "You can find someone better than him," or "Oh, I wouldn't put up with that." Who knows what your friend would really put up with for True Love?

Also, be cautious when introducing your new love to your family. Everyone's family has their own ideas of what's best for you, and they may not instantly take to him or her. Or vice versa. While your family may seem lovable to you, they may be off-putting or intimidating or otherwise hard for someone new to warm up to.

Expect some buffeting, share the surprises with a sense of humor, and make the commitment to stand by each other and protect your relationship no matter what. If you do, your love will endure.

Related Keywords: Commitment, Making Love Grow

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