by Neil Rosenthal
Note: This is the first of a two-part series.
My wife and I have been married twenty five years, but every so often I talk about separating and/or divorcing because I am unhappy with our relationship and the way my wife acts. Does commitment waver for couples depending on the issue? Are there degrees of commitment which are dependent on getting your needs met? – Unhappy in New Zealand
Dear New Zealand: Take a soul-searching look at your commitment by pondering the questions that follow. Be thorough in your responses in order to get a clear picture of your current commitment to your wife:
• What would you be willing to do for your wife (that she has said she would like) that could change the way your wife sees you?
• If somehow you inherited $50 million dollars, would you stay in this relationship?
• If you knew that you could be in a relationship with any other person who would love you undyingly, is this the partner you would choose?
• If you knew for sure you were going to live to age 100 and be in good health, is this the person you would want to spend the rest of your life with?
• Are you a person who generally keeps commitments?
• When you look at other couples, do you compare your relationship favorably?
• Have the two of you combined your money?
• Are you completely honest about your spending?
• Do you consult each other on important matters?
• Have you closed your mind to pursuing attraction to others?
• Do you see yourself with this person throughout life?
• Do you automatically think as a couple?
• Do you weigh personal decisions against implications for you and your partner?
• Do you and your partner consult with one another on a regular basis?
• Do you compare your partner favorably with others?
• Are large possessions viewed as jointly owned?
• Do your friends support your relationship?
• Does your family support your relationship?
• Do you speak favorably about your relationship to your closest friends?
• Do you wear a wedding ring?
• Do you have a joint will?
• In the case of death, have you made arrangements together?
• Do you think of your wife as your soul mate or the best match you could find?
• If you had a chance to start over, would you start with this person?
• Do you and your partner treat your relationship as a priority?
These questions were borrowed from Pat Love’s book The Truth About Love (Fireside). She says that commitment means that you have the right to expect your partner to meet some of your needs some of the time. The above questions may assist you in understanding your reluctance to be fully committed to your wife, and where you might consider expanding your commitment. You don’t have to answer “yes” to all the questions, but love is hard to grow if you are on the fence about whether you wish to be in the relationship at all.
I will continue this discussion in next week’s column.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, CO, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303.758.8777, or e-mail him from his website, www.heartrelationships.com.