Part One in a Two Part Series

Do you make commitments? If so, to whom do you make commitments? What do you make commitments about? What does making a commitment mean to you?

Do you honor the commitments you make? Do you expect others to honor their commitments? Absolutely? Mostly? Nearly always?

I have recently been rudely awakened to the unfortunate reality that commitments made by partners in committed relationships may not mean what they used to. I am outraged and alarmed to say the least!

Last week I had the great pleasure of interviewing Shirley Glass, Ph.D. on my radio show. Dr. Glass is considered one of the world’s leading experts on infidelity and the author of the groundbreaking new book NOT “Just Friends”: Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal.

Dr. Glass explains that there is a new crisis of infidelity occurring in the workplace. “In the new infidelity,” she says, “one doesn’t have to have sex to be unfaithful, and infidelity is not between people who are intentionally seeking thrills, as commonly believed. Good people in good marriages — men and women who say they are happily married — are unwittingly forming deep, passionate connections before realizing that they have crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love.”

In the May 2003 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, Carol Lynn Mithers reports in her Special Report, Looking For Love 2003 Style, “If anything, workplace romance may be as much of a marriage buster as a happy hunting ground. In an on-line survey of 30,000 people done last year, nearly half said they had dallied in an office romance even though they were already in a relationship or married.”

And if all this is not enough, the subject line of a recent e-mail newsletter from Smartmarriages®, July 22, 2003 read: Online Dating Irresistible to Some Married Folks. The newsletter reports a study of in-depth online interviews with men and women who use Yahoo’s "Married and Flirting" or Microsoft’s "Married But Flirting" Internet chat rooms geared specifically for married people.

What is happening to honoring commitments and agreements in committed relationships today?

Perhaps in this new world of high tech information, instant gratification and instant messaging, we have misplaced the art of creating and honoring commitments and agreements.

What is Commitment?
When we talk about love and commitment we are really talking about attaching to or connecting with people and things. We connect to ideals, institutions and beliefs; to our families, pets, circle of friends, acquaintances and co-workers; to our community and the planet; and, if we are really blessed, to one very special love.

When we are able to connect we feel joyful and content. Poor connections can make us feel angry, sad and truly miserable. And the lack of meaningful connections or attachments in our lives can make us feel despair and empty inside ourselves.

What Does It Mean to Make a Commitment?
When we make a commitment to another person we are making the agreement to be present and available … physically, mentally and emotionally.

We make agreements by exercising our personal choice. We communicate directly to others about what we will do, how we will behave and what they can reasonably expect from us, and we are willing to be held accountable.

We honor the agreements we make by choosing the behavior that is driven by our values. A colleague of mine once said, “Our personal values are the set of principles we live by and continually develop as we live our life. Principles are like lighthouses — we can either use them to guide us or we can choose to go against them and smash into pieces on the rocks!”

What is Accountability?
Being held accountable means we accept responsibility for the results of our choices, decisions and behaviors instead of blaming others or external factors. Individuals who believe they are in charge of the quality and direction of their lives, rather than victims of circumstance, are empowered to move forward. They focus on solutions, not problems, and they move forward towards the goals and commitments of their shared vision and purpose, both as individuals and as a couple.

Why Are Some Couples Successful Making Commitments and Agreements?

Couples who have clarified their own personal values, and individual and couple visions and purpose have a stronger foundation from which to commit to their agreements and achieve more consistent and satisfying results. Their overall effectiveness in making and honoring agreements is greatly increased. Success is an almost certainty when both partners keep their agreements and most certainly can be at risk if one person doesn’t keep his or her agreements.

Next time we will talk about crafting elegant agreements that accurately reflect the nature and structure of a couple’s unique relationship and that serve to inform the foundation of their commitments.

Until next time remember…

Only YOU can make it Happen!

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