By: Branden Valentine
My cousin is getting married! As a married man of 10 years, I am both happy and proud of the step he is taking. Strong healthy relationships are the foundation of our community and we need more of them. As we discussed this exciting time, he asked me the secret to having a long lasting, happy relationship. I shared a practice my wife and I do every year called the commitment conversation. A commitment conversation is exactly what it sounds like. It is a conversation between two individuals to determine whether they will remain committed to the relationship for the next 12 months.
These commitment conversations are not for the weak, they can be an intense, emotional, and revealing A commitment conversation should take place annually and should happen over 2-3 days. Having this conversation puts you in a very vulnerable position because you are essentially giving your partner an “out” every year; this can be terrifying. We take at least 3 days to have this talk, but as you and your partner get better at having the conversation you will be able to cut the time down if you need to.
***Warning: Do not do this marriage exercise if you are unable to have honest dialogue and/or handle the truth.
Find a nice quiet place that you can talk uninterrupted for about 3 hours and take turns answering 3 questions:
- Do you still want to be in this relationship?
- Are you happy in this relationship?
- Do you see this relationship making it another year?
The purpose of these questions is to determine if both individuals want to be in the relationship, these questions will give each person an “Out”. The worst thing is to keep a person held hostage when they want to leave.
If the answer to question #1 is no, stop and discuss ending the relationship.
If the answer to question #2 is no, don’t stress, continue to the process outlined below.
If the answer to question #3 is no, stop and address why you or your partner feels the way they do, if the problem is something that can be worked out continue to the process below, if it can’t, stop and talk about ending the relationship.
If you made it through the questions above, congratulations! It doesn’t mean it is going to get easier, but take heart, this will be the hardest day.
At this point each person will be given 3 minutes to share all of their grievances, how they were hurt or annoyed by the other over the last year. Between sharing, separate for 30 mins to reflect and digest what was shared. During this time genuinely reflect on anyway you have hurt your partner, don’t brush it off as them “tripping” or “being emotional”. After 30 minutes, return and switch roles. When you come back you are going to continue to unpack and you are going to repeat the process above again, I know it sucks. As you get better at this you may be able to get rid of the second round
When you guys come back for a third time, you are going to have dialog about what each other has said, you can defend yourself and hopefully find a compromise on some request. Keep this conversation to an hour, it’s going to be hard but do your best to keep it to one hour.
One year my wife asked if I could clean more, I know myself and said no, my compromise was that I hired a maid service to come to the house every 3 weeks to clean the bathroom, living room and kitchen. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear at that moment, she wanted me to clean more, but this is about honesty and I honestly am a bit of a slob so the best I could do was bring in someone to help.
Try your best to not fight about what happens, your emotions are going to be tender but don’t just sit in the hotel room, get out, have a drink but don’t get drunk. Go somewhere and talk, day two will be a better day.
Follows the same format as before 3 minutes then 30 minutes, however day 2 focuses on why and how you fell in love. Reflect on the things each of you did to win the other over. Discuss also why you are committed to being together for the next year and how you plan to be present.
When you come back together after round 3 you will discuss future goals, at some point you will have a list of questions based on what fits you the best. For now, here’s a list of questions to get you started
- What are your personal goals for the next 12 months, pick 3
- How does your partner fit into these goals or how do your goals affect your partner in a potentially positive or negative way?
- How much time can you commit to giving your partner? Time away from them is important, you guys must find a balance
- How are you guys going to combine your money? Do you guys have financial goals?
- Kids, do you want them? When? How many? Are you committed to birth control if not?
- Sex life, how’s it going? Does anyone want to explore new things? Are both parties being fulfilled?
These topics are more fun than Day 1, but they are still intense trust me. By the end of Day 2 hopefully you are feeling better about things and you know that your partner loves and is still committed to being with you.
Is about learning what’s new with your partner, it is much less formal and structured. Our partners are people, they change and start to like new things. Day 3 is about going on dates, each person picks 3 things to do. Your partner shouldn’t influence these outings, they should be what you truly want or like doing. This is to see what your partner likes to do, don’t spoil their events with a bad attitude, you will get your turn to “do you”, in a relationship it’s about give and take, learn to give up control and go with the flow. Be sure to divide up breakfast, lunch and some snacks there. Dinner should be a place you both pick.
This isn’t a full proof plan to keep you in a relationship, but it does help to shine a light on existing issues and hopefully it gives you some clarity on whether or not you and your partner should stay together.
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