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Commitment: The Key to Long-Lasting Relationships

Commitment: The Key to Long-Lasting Relationships

Commitment: The Key to Long-Lasting Relationships

Choosing to Grow Together

What do you think of when you hear the word “commitment?”  On a small scale, I often think of “obligations” that I would prefer to be free from, such as being committed to going to a social gathering when I’d prefer to be at home watching Schitt’s Creek on Netflix or my “commitment” to being fiscally responsible despite my firm belief in retail therapy. 

What about commitment in terms of a relationship? Currently, we live in a culture where commitment isn’t always valued. For example, we get many messages that if something or someone does not bring you happiness, you should discard it or find someone else who makes you feel [fill in the blank]. 

Sometimes we buy into the notion that the grass is greener on the other side and we shouldn’t waste time being unhappy. If we buy into these messages, we can start to view commitment as something that we only do when we feel like it. 

Commitment is Not a Feeling: It’s a Choice

And honestly, it’s much easier to feel like being committed in the beginning of a relationship when things are fun, new, easy, and exciting. It’s much harder to be committed to someone when the monotony of everyday life (and stress) sets in, or when the reality of being in the relationship is different from what you expected. So what do you do when the new relationship bliss has long worn off and you’re left wondering if maybe you’re just not as “compatible” as you once thought? 

Commitment is a major key to long-lasting relationships. Why is that? Because commitment is a choice. It’s a conscious decision to choose your partner even on the days when they’ve disappointed you, hurt your feelings, or when you feel that initial “spark” has gone away. Commitment is the choice to love your partner despite their annoying habits, their flaws, and their mistakes. 

How to Strengthen Your Commitment To Your Relationship

You can strengthen the commitment in your relationship by practicing a few key skills:

Trust

Trust is the foundation that is needed for commitment because it allows you to feel physically and emotionally safe in your partnership. With trust often comes loyalty, friendship, and a mutual respect, and an acceptance of one another that allows for the ability to extend the “benefit of the doubt” to your partner when they disappoint you.

Forgiveness

This can be difficult when you feel your needs or wants have gone unmet by your partner, which can easily lend itself to a feeling of resentment. While communicating with your partner about those unmet needs is necessary, choosing to let go of the resentment and the hurt feelings that linger after you have resolved the issue is a continuous process. Choosing commitment means choosing to let go of past hurts without holding your partner’s mistakes against them.

Turning Towards Your Partner

This means choosing to be emotionally available to your partner by choosing vulnerability and connection instead of pulling away. Part of turning towards your partner is choosing to be present in the small, everyday moments that you share with your partner. For example, say you and your partner just sat down for your usual Friday night Netflix binge (can you tell what I do in my spare time?) and you hear them let out a sigh. Turning towards your partner would be pausing and asking your partner if they’re ok. While such a moment may seem insignificant, taking advantage of the small opportunities for connection enhances your relationship. This also helps to build trust, which is essential to commitment.

In a healthy partnership, commitment is a necessary choice. Relationships naturally go through ebbs and flows, and going through the ebbs can really make the choice to continue to commit to your partner difficult. However, committing to your partner in the “ebbs” allows you to experience the fullness of your relationship.

Warmly,
Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C helps you create your very best life. She has a warm, compassionate, and gentle yet highly effective approach to personal growth work. She specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts in order to create fulfillment and joy.

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Are you struggling with grief? Maybe from a broken heart, the loss of a loved one, or even the too soon ending of a chapter in your life? Therapist and Life Coach Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C shares strategies for dealing with and working through grief. Read now…

How to Deal With Selfish People

How to Deal With Selfish People

How to Deal With Selfish People

Building Awareness and Setting Boundaries

Do you have someone in your life who consistently makes you feel like they don’t care about you, or whatever you’re feeling is not *quite* as important as whatever is happening for them?

If so, you may be in a relationship with a selfish person. This can be emotionally draining, not to mention frustrating — particularly if they’re your husband, wife, or partner. (Though selfish bosses, friends, and coworkers are challenging too).

If you’re trying to figure out how to get your needs met in a relationship with a selfish person, here are some strategies to make it work. (Or, give you the clarity and confidence to let them go).

The first step? Understanding the psychology of selfish people can help you get insight and compassion into the way they think, and why they do the infuriating things they do…

Why Are Some People So Selfish?

Emotional intelligence exists on a spectrum. Some individuals are higher in emotional intelligence than others. One symptom of low emotional intelligence is the tendency to be self-absorbed: Exclusively concerned about what you’re thinking, feeling, needing and wanting, rather than attuned to the thoughts, feelings, needs and desires of others.

One thing that I have found to be helpful is to conceptualize the way that people are functioning in the context of their life experiences. People who are “selfish” (have little awareness of the thoughts, feelings, or needs of others) tend to have been raised in environments in which their feelings, thoughts and needs were not recognized or valued. In contrast, highly empathetic people had — from earliest childhood — their feelings and thoughts reflected back to them, and at least respected.

In this way, thoughtful and compassionate people are not born: they’re made. Likewise, people who have arrived in adulthood without the easy ability to understand or value the emotions of others are products of their environment. The good news is that everyone can learn how to become more other-focused. However, this work is long and slow.

Can Selfish People Become Less Selfish, Over Time?

While emotional intelligence is different than cognitive abilities in that it can be strengthened and increased through deliberate learning and practice, it requires the person who is lower in emotional intelligence to 1) recognize that there is an issue, 2) have an interest or desire in improving the situation 3) learn specific skills and strategies to increase emotional intelligence and then 4) commit to practicing these skills regularly.

Unfortunately, in this situation the question “can we ‘train’ self-absorbed people to take more of an interest and listen?” is describing the central problem which is also creating barriers for the solution. People with low emotional intelligence generally have zero awareness that their relational focus is creating distress or annoyance for others…. Because they often fail to pick up or consider how others are feeling. “Being trained” would require them to pick up on cues given by others and then respond by doing things they struggle to do: containing their inner experience to the point that they’re able to focus on the other person, listening, etc.

All of these activities, though they seem simple, actually require a complex emotional intelligence / emotional regulation / communication skill-set that is developed over time. Expecting that someone who doesn’t do these things should be able to if they only cared enough is a recipe for disappointment and resentment.

Should You Call Someone Out on Selfish Behavior?

You certainly can point out when someone is being self absorbed or inconsiderate. But, consider this: 

When you (naturally) react negatively to someone with low emotional intelligence (again, someone who may have little to no self-awareness around how they may be impacting others) they will often feel genuinely surprised, offended, and even attacked and victimized. For this reason, enerally speaking, more often than not, attempts to directly confront self-centered behavior and ask for improvement results in defensiveness, minimization and often an unproductive conflict.

It is therefore extremely difficult for others to create change in a self-focused person.

The person doing the calling out is usually just going to get dismissed by a self-centered person as being hostile, difficult, “selfish” (ironically), or a variety of other things. It usually takes a self-centered person to experience consequences in multiple relationships as well as in the occupational domain in order for them to entertain the possibility that they themselves are the common denominator.

Now, what CAN work is to “assist” the other person in experiencing natural consequences for their relational patterns. For example, it’s normal and natural to not want to spend as much time with someone who is self-centered and a poor listener. Over time, they may notice that they don’t have that many friends, or have short-lived relationships, aren’t advancing in their careers, or often feel lonely and disconnected. They may start to feel badly about that and wonder why. 

This type of self-reflection can lead them to enter into a personal growth process, ideally with the assistance of a therapist or coach who can help shine a light on the relational blind-spots that have been causing others — and ultimately themselves — so much pain. This can lead to a transformational new level of self-awareness and personal responsibility, particularly when it’s coupled with effective direction around how to learn emotional intelligence skills.

How To Become Less Selfish

People committed to the process of increasing their emotional intelligence can then begin learning how to understand their own feelings, and use that as a starting point to develop empathy for others. Often, learning how to name and manage their own feelings feels like new territory for them. 

They can shift away from the “mind-blindness” that may have characterized their relationships in the past, and begin deliberately focusing on what others are thinking, feeling, or wanting. Often, learning how to actively and empathetically listen, ask open-ended questions, and slow their process down to incorporate the perspectives of others are central to developing stronger relationships going forward.

However — and this is key — no one can do this work for them. The selfish person has to be motivated to do this work for themselves. If you try to “help” a person grow in this area by confronting them, nagging them, or pushing them towards personal growth work it’s just going to make YOU angry, and THEM defensive. (And less likely to do the work).

Should You Stay In a Relationship With a Selfish Person?

The  answer to this question depends on what type of relationship you’re hoping to have with a self-focused person, and how committed you are to supporting them through their growth process.

Dating Someone Who is Selfish

If you’re dating, it may be wise to let this person go sooner rather than later so that they have time and space to continue to develop themselves personally. You’ll be saved the frustration, hurt and resentment that you’re certain to experience if you continue attempting to get your needs met by them before they are able to do so.

Being Friends With a Selfish Person

Likewise, casual friendships with people who relate to others this way are rarely satisfying. You’d do better to invest your time and energy into friendships with people who you can have a more balanced and mutually generous relationship.

Married to a Selfish Person

Now, if you’re neck-deep in a marriage / kids / mortgage situation with someone who you’ve come to realize is a self-centered and lacking in emotional intelligence skills, it may be worth working on things with them. In these situations “working on things” tends to look like one person getting really angry with the other person for doing what they usually do — being thoughtless and self-absorbed — which leads to defensiveness and withdrawal.

A better solution is to bring this party to a good marriage counselor who can help you both understand what is happening in the relationship in a neutral and productive way that’s more likely to generate real and lasting change. The person who struggles with emotional intelligence skills needs guidance around how to be a more emotionally present partner. However, the person on the other side of the dynamic may also need to work on having acceptance, compassion and appreciation for their partner as well.

A particularly difficult relationship to manage is when you have a parent or a close family member who is very self-centered. The best strategy here may be to 1) lower your expectations dramatically 2) limit your time together and 3) look to other people to meet your emotional and relational needs, because you’re not going to get them met here. 

Early Warning Signs That Someone is Selfish

You can save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache by avoiding getting entangled in relationships with selfish, self-absorbed people from the get-go. When you’re getting to know someone new, observe how they relate to you, and other people too.

When you’re dating, take self-centered behavior extremely seriously, and do not make the mistake that too many people do (especially women) which is to “date optimistically.” Optimistic dating is thinking that behavior / personality / values / life goals will change in response to how much someone cares about you or how committed they are to the relationship. 

A lot of women take selfish behavior on their new boyfriend’s part to indicate that they should work harder to be more loveable because then their boyfriend would treat them better. This is not true: The guy is being self-centered because that’s actually who he is. If you want better, cut them loose. 

Furthermore, remember that the way people do small things is generally a microcosm of the way they do big things. Not taking five seconds to text you back all day “because they were busy” implies that your needs are actually secondary to theirs, in their mind. Pay attention to that, especially early on.

A great way to test someone’s generosity vs. tendency towards selfishness is to say no to them when they ask you for something. A generous person who is capable of having empathy for your feelings will understand and respect your boundaries. A selfish person who struggles to understand and prioritize the feelings of others sometimes will likely get upset, “hurt” or even angry with you. 

A fantastic and very reliable way to prune self-centered people from your life is to get good at saying no. Expect that they’ll get mad at you, and stay the course. If you set a new expectation for the relationship — that this is a two-way street — they’ll either have to do some important growth work, or the relationship will self-destruct. Win – win, either way.

How can someone break a cycle in which the selfish person in their life frequently asks them for favors or time, without reciprocation?

Having Compassion For Selfish People

If you’re navigating a challenging relationship with a self-centered person, it can help you to hold on to empathy and compassion for them. Keep in mind that the self-centered person really has no idea how off-putting their way of relating is, and that the origins of their selfish behavior are in their own unmet needs for emotional support. These ideas can help you stay in a compassionate place when dealing with these types of people. 

Remember that they just want to be loved too, and they are also doing the best they can with what they have. They got dealt a crappy hand in the supportive family department (OR they are on the autism spectrum, which we have not touched upon, but which is also very real).

All of the above can help you be patient, but also manage your expectations so that you don’t find yourself getting hurt, disappointed, or resentful when they don’t behave differently. 

Until they discover that the way they’re relating to other people is pushing them away, and decide to get help for this, they’re unlikely to change. That’s not your fault, but it’s also not your problem. You can be kind to self-centered people, but knowing who and what they are will also help you set healthy boundaries for yourself and invest your energy and attention in people who can love you back.

Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Have you had to develop boundaries with similar relationships in the past? Share with us your suggestions in the comments section!

 

 

 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

Are You A Good Listener?

Listening with intent and genuine interest is a skill that, unfortunately, most of us are not born with. This skill is what ultimately builds connection and develops a reassurance in our relationships (romantic, platonic, and professional!). Did you know that most toxic relationship issues (no matter what the topic) come from a disconnect in communication? It’s true! As a Couples Counselor, I have worked with many couples who are going through these exact same disconnects in their relationship, and I want to offer you practical listening skills that you can practice to become a better, more effective listener.

The wonderful thing about diversity is that we all come from unique backgrounds. These different backgrounds make up different cultures, values, and ideals we hold as individuals. However, when you bring two (often very different) people together, there sometimes is a sort of tug-of-war into whose values are more authentic and which ideals the relationship will hold. Since we all have distinct and very personal views of “right and wrong”, this makes hearing other opinions often challenging.

Listening to your partner without judgment is essential to building connection, rebuilding trust, and fostering an environment where a relationship can grow and thrive! We all want to be heard, and when we aren’t we feel as though our emotions and needs are often overlooked. Not listening to your partner can result in power struggles, negative behaviors, resentment, and ultimately…separation.

You don’t want to wait for things to “just get better” in your relationship, because they won’t without intentionally taking the steps for improvement (both personally and as a couple). The good news is, you can start today! Here are six practical and mindful ways that you can improve your listening skills while making yourself a more responsive and connected partner.

TAKE BEING RIGHT OR WRONG OUT OF THE EQUATION

Your values are no better or worse than your partner’s values. An active listener will work hard not to judge his or her partner’s emotions.

Needs and emotions are never “correct” or “incorrect” they simply just are. Discussions that lead to black and white thinking, right or wrong, are usually about asserting control. Control then leads to blame, anger, and resentment, not connection. A partner who feels judged or is “wrong” in an argument will feel invalidated and unheard. A listener’s job is to listen, not judge. If a listener intends to hear and not control, then the result is better connection.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE ALL THE TIME

Our culture has taught us the fallacy that a healthy couple never disagrees or gets into arguments. In reality, many healthy couples disagree about important topics regarding their relationship, and no couple will ever agree entirely about everything.

Authentic listening comes from hearing and validating ideas you don’t agree with, as this shows respect for your partner. The goal is to listen and accept, and not necessarily agree, which can lead to the compromise that’s needed for couples to navigate difficult times and topics together.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS FROM THE CONVERSATION

For most of us, this means putting the cell phone down, turning off the TV, or walking away from the computer screen. Non-verbal cues are incredibly important as a listener. If you are distracted and disengaged, then clearly you cannot validate your partner (who may feel they’re talking to a figurative wall).

To get even more real with your partner, use non-verbal cues such as touch, eye contact, and body language(as well as the verbal cue of vocal tone). These cues are what babies learn in their early development to feel safe. These same cues will calm an adult’s limbic system – allowing more safety in sharing emotions and needs. Your non-verbal cues of acceptance and security are not just a crucial listening skill, but also a critical skill for building any relationship.

CONTINUALLY PRACTICE EMPATHY

Empathy is being able to understand another person’s experience, and it’s the opposite of judgment. Your partner’s emotions and needs are real and often come from painful, deep experiences. Just as you have your own needs and emotions based off of your experiences, so does your partner.

Try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes to feel and understand their pain, or access your pain and examine how you’ve dealt with it. Everyone at some point will experience a difficult situation or circumstance, your partner included, and showing empathy and understanding will allow for more in-depth conversations and connection between the two of you.

LISTEN FULLY BEFORE FORMULATING A RESPONSE

Few behaviors invalidate more quickly than interrupting. Interrupting usually involves fear or a lack of emotional safety on the listener’s part. This behavior, however, will cause your partner to believe that you feel your opinion has more validity than theirs. Try not to rehearse a response in your head while your partner is sharing, as that disengages you from empathy and feeling what your partner is trying to share with you. Let the conversation happen organically and without distraction or interruption of preplanned responses (that could ultimately cause more pain than healing).

VALIDATE YOUR PARTNER

Many of my clients in couple’s counseling have revealed to me that feeling unheard is one of their biggest triggers to pain and anger.  So how do you show your partner that you genuinely have heard their emotions and needs?

One way that has been proven to be effective is to repeat (in your own words) what you think you heard your partner say to you, and to ask if you heard them correctly. Be careful not to infer your interpretations into what your partner said, as those may be incorrect and invalidating – simply repeat what you heard. If you don’t get everything, that’s okay! You can ask your partner to repeat what you may have missed. This is even more effective when using your non-verbal cues for safety.

IT TAKES PRACTICE…

Listening can be a difficult skill to learn, and you won’t perfect this skill in just one conversation. If you continue to practice these six steps to improve your listening skills you will see improvement overtime (and it will get easier and more natural too!).

Self-care and general happiness are also tied to helping with the development of listening skills, as well as therapeutic techniques such as thought stopping and grounding activities. However, those who have suffered from trauma may have difficulty accessing these skills, and individual therapy to process and heal from the trauma may be needed to listen safely and with compassion. It’s true, listening can be difficult, but the rewards of being able to do so are numerous: clarity, understanding, emotional honesty, and better connection. You have the power to make changes with your listening skills and to show your partner that you can take that next step and truly hear them with empathy and understanding!

All the best,
Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC

Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences, and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.

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Read More By Seth Below!

Dating Advice, Happiness, Love, Relationship Advice, Self Improvement / Personal Growth, Seth Bender, SethBender

How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

Listening with the intent to talk with your partner versus talking at your partner is a skill that we all need in order to build better connection with our significant other. Here are six tips from a marriage counselor that you can start practicing today to improve your listening skills! Read More

How to Be a Force of Good in The World

How to Be a Force of Good in The World

Your efforts matter more than you know…

In the special space that exists between the end of one year and the start of another, we have time to pause. To rest. To reflect. For many, it’s the time of year when we think about who we were and what we learned in the previous year, and set our sights on who we want to be and what we want accomplish in the next. We’re releasing our old selves, and getting ready to embrace fresh, new incarnations.

As a life coach, I’m all about helping you achieve your goals and make great things happen in your life. But today, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast I’m taking advantage of this “quiet time” to tell you a little story about the kinds of powerful and amazing things that can happen when we set our intention on something even larger than our own personal gain: being a force of good in the world.

I believe that everything we do reverberates into the lives of others, to a greater extent than we even know. When you are radiating compassion, empathy and kindness, it has an impact. As you reflect on your life this past year, and set your goals for the next, I hope that this personal story inspires you to also never forget how important you are and how even the littlest things you do can have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of others.

As you create your intentions for this coming year I hope that you carry this idea with you, and that it helps you become a powerful force of good in this troubled world.

Wishing you all good things in 2017…
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How To Be a Force of Good in The World

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music: “Cappriccio Stravagante: Adagio,” by Carlos Farina from the album “Celestial Christmas”

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Free Dating Advice: Vegas Buffet Style

Free Dating Advice: Vegas Buffet Style

Everything you ever wanted to know about successful modern dating. And so. much. more.

Curious to know the best Tinder lines?
Or how to be interesting (but not weird) when you’re starting an online conversation?
What about how to gracefully brush off a mis-match in the early stages?
Look no further than DatingAdvice.com. This website has over a million monthly visitors, and brings together free advice from dating experts all over the world (including my pal Dating Coach Julie Spira). It is the dating advice website equivalent of a Las Vegas buffet: Everything you ever wanted, including information you didn’t even know you needed until you saw it in front of you.

Anticipating the needs of another is elevated to an art by the very best curators, chefs and editors who seem to know your needs better than you do, always bringing you exactly the right thing at the perfect time. So when the prescient editors of the site recently reached out to me, interested in doing a feature piece on Growing Self’s approach to Love, Life and Career Coaching, I was beyond flattered.

Our holistic approach to coaching is being noticed because we offer comprehensive help to our clients in much the same way: anticipating their needs in various domains of life. We believe that good coaching involves a whole person approach that supports people through all stages of their lives. From figuring out who you are, to identifying (and overcoming) unhelpful patterns in the way you approach life, to establishing healthy relationships, to keeping a marriage healthy and strong, to performing at your highest levels in your career, and negotiating major life transitions like letting go of an unhealthy relationship, getting married, or becoming a family... we’re here for you.

We do so much because we know that you don’t climb the peak of one mountain and then stop. You climb to the top, and look around to see what’s next– a new adventure, a new goal, or a more actualized level of being. There is always the next level: after the engagement, after the move, after the promotion, or after the birth, life shifts — and you shift with it. You are constantly growing and evolving.

More importantly, you are not a one dimensional, singularly-focused person with only one important thing in your life. You are a fellow traveler on the path of a fuller, richer, happier life and we both know that your “success” is much deeper than a title or a paycheck. You care about the quality of your experiences, the legacy you leave behind, and are willing to invest in a life worth having. When you don’t have all the answers (and who does?) you’re smart enough to enlist the support of a wise guide who has gone through this particular patch of terrain before.

I just wanted to say thank you for trusting us to help you competently, with the most important things in your life: Your marriage, your relationships, your career, your family, and yourself. We work hard every day to make sure that our clients have great experiences with us — in the easiest, most convenient, and affordable way possible. My goal is for every client who ends their work with us to say, “That was one of the best things I’ve ever done.” And I’m so pleased to be recognized for our efforts by the internet powerhouse DatingAdvice.com.

I sense a kindred spirit in DatingAdvice.com. The breadth of the information they have to offer is enormous, and it’s all free. They have authors, experts, and columnists who give their best advice on all things dating. Whether you want tips on how to take a better profile photo, or how to craft a personal statement that is truly you, or how to negotiate the delicate first steps of what may be the most important “dance” of your life — you’ll find it at DatingAdvice.com.

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
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