Couples and Relationships: How do you make the decision to commit (to your partner)?

Relationship commitment – how does the process work?

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of couples coming to my psychology practice for relationship counselling, stating that their problems centre around relationship commitment, where one or both partners are ambivalent or confused about where they want their relationship to go (if anywhere!).

One, or sometimes both, members of the couple report that they are unsure about either:

a) whether their current partner is the person they ultimately want to marry.

and/or

b) whether they actually really want to enter into a lasting and binding commitment with anybody.

Most of the couples who find themselves in this situation are not in their teens or twenties, but are usually in their early to late thirties. They see their friends getting married and having babies, and they often report that they feel that they are out of step with their friends, and that their families are often putting on the pressure (sometimes in less than subtle ways) for their offspring to get marriage and to produce some grandchildren.

Invariably, when I talk at length with these couples, I get a sense that they  feel “stuck” , to the extent that they can’t even enjoy their day to day lives together because of the presence of this “elephant in the room”. If one partner is not ambivalent and is ready to commit, this can cause immense feelings of frustration and there is also a great deal of ambivalence. In this case the ambivalence is around whether or not to hang in with their partner to wait for him/her to come to a decision, and how long they should hang in there before moving on with their lives. This question becomes even more pressing when one of the partners is also aware that their biological clock is ticking inexorably, and that the possibility of future parenthood is also hanging in the balance.

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