Relationship Stress And Issues Of Control (Commitment)

by Doc Orman, M.D.


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Another very important aspect of our relationships, that we also have total control over, is our commitments.  When you strip away all the lesser aspects of what really makes or breaks relationships, purpose and commitment remain as two primary, essential, foundational elements.

The Anatomy Of Human Relationships

When you get down to the essence of all human relationships, what you find is that they are literally nothing more than a series of specific commitments.  If you and I are friends, for example, there are a series of understood commitments each of us is expected to follow.  Friends don’t lie, cheat, or steal from one another.  Friends are supportive and offer to lend a helping hand, or express concern, whenever they can. Friends are expected to communicate with you, and do things with you, that are mutually agreed upon and are mutually satisfying.

If you and I were married to each other, or if we were equal business partners, the specific commitments that would either be spoken between us, mutually understood, or even sometimes written down on paper as legally binding contract terms, might be different from the promises that we make to our friends.

The important point here is that both the quality and the longevity of our relationships often comes down to the commitments we choose to make, and then how we choose to honor (or not honor) those specific commitments.  Our commitments, in turn, are directly related to the underlying purposes we adopt for our relationships, and this choice was discussed in my previous post.  So while purpose is very important to the health of our relationships, commitment is even more so, since it is our purpose translated into meaningful actions.

Commitment And Relationship Stress

I probably don’t have to remind you that breaking certain key promises in a marriage, friendship, or even a business relationship can lead to unwanted relationship stress.  However, many people are not clear that commitment is a choice, and as such, it is always within our direct personal control.

If you misunderstand the nature of human commitment, or if you choose to make your commitments in half-hearted ways, you are making certain choices (either consciously or unconsciously) that can greatly determine the amount of relationship stress and heartaches you will have.

Feelings And Circumstances

If you choose to make your relationship commitments based upon your feelings or the circumstances in your life, you are choosing to set yourself up for failure.   Commitment is independent of your emotions, your circumstances, and even your fleeting thoughts, that come and go, and change over time.  Commitment is a choice that you make (or fail to make) to always strive to honor your promises, regardless of your momentary thoughts or feelings, and regardless of your immediate circumstances.

So, not only is having the right purpose a choice that you control, but making the right commitments is something you also control.  And it doesn’t stop there. Because how you think about, understand, and act with regard to your purposes and commitments is also another very important relationship factor that is entirely within your personal control.

Much too often, we get caught up in less important aspects of our relationships, such as how we are feeling day-to-day, or how others are behaving, or how the circumstances of our life might not be exactly as we hoped for.  And we tend to lose sight of the most critical elements, like:

  • Do we have a good purpose for our relationship?
  • Did we make the right commitments to have it succeed?
  • Does the other person have an equally good purpose?
  • Has the other person make the right commitments for the union to succeed?
  • Are each of us aware of the other’s purpose and commitments?
  • How do we each view the nature of human commitment, once we have entered into a committed partnership together?

If you get the answers to these questions right, your fleeting feelings will not be of concern to you, nor will it matter all (except in extreme situations) whether the circumstances of your life are exactly as you desire them.  You relationships will be strong and will bring you lots of value, joy, and satisfaction.

On the other hand, neglect these issues entirely, or get them very wrong, and you will likely experience relationship stress, much of which you could have avoided.

In my next and final post in this three-part series about relationship stress and issues of control, I will talk about another important aspect of our relationships—choice of approach—where we also have a high degree of control.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

How-To-Be-Happy-Again May 30, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Nice article! Many of us with relationship stress and issues of control could take some pointers from it! Thanks!

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