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!
Recently, 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."
The subject line of a recent e-mail newsletter from Smartmarriages® 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. Someone 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.
Successful 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.
Crafting Elegant Agreements
Life is an ongoing process of creating agreements with others. An effective agreement means more than getting another person to do what you want. It means buy-in and true commitment from both people.
Most couples have hopes and dreams, and desires and expectations. They establish goals and make commitments that are developed from a joint visioning process; a process that expresses an inclusive vision of desired outcomes; their road map to success!
Another way to look at this is that we join forces with others by forming agreements. Agreements are expressed in writing or verbally during very intentional conversations. Most of us have never learned how to craft effective, explicit agreements. It is a skill we were never taught, even though it is fundamental to all relationships and a basic life skill.
While this is a method offered for committed partners, any two or more people who wish to make agreements can easily adapt it. So here goes!
Here is a straightforward 15-step method you can use to craft elegant and effective agreements:
1. Create and clearly articulate your joint vision with as much rich detail as possible. Be sure that both of you participate with eagerness and passion;
2. Be sure that both of you are creating the agreement with intention and with a belief that you are well served making and honoring the agreement;
3. Make a list of each person's strengths, gifts, skills and talents that are available to be drawn on by each of you.
4. Identify, with as much detail as possible, all the aspects of what it is you are coming to agreement about. A joint plan works best when you are both working toward the same joint vision;
5. Be certain that each of you understands and acknowledges the actions (behaviors), attitudes, and responsibilities that are associated with the agreement for yourself and your partner;
6. Decide together if the actions and attitudes are sufficient to result in the desired outcome(s). If no, identify what additional actions and attitudes must be included and by whom;
7. All agreements must have specific time deadlines for each part of the agreement to be completed or finalized. These are "by whens"--by when will you do this, and by when will you do that. In addition, the time period the agreement will be in force must be specified.
8. Does the agreement as a whole and do all the parts of the agreement forward the joint vision?
9. Clearly identify the evidence or positive outcome(s) that you expect to result for each person from making and honoring the agreement;
10. Does the agreement as a whole and do all the parts of the agreement truly satisfy each person and result in each person being whole? Being whole refers to being sure that neither person experiences a loss or losses as a result of pledging their time, attention and commitment to the agreement;
11. Bring all your concerns and fears to this discussion. This can often minimize the disagreements that may occur during the process of crafting the agreement. This discussion will deepen your commitment to the agreement and to your partner or reveal a problem that might already be brewing in the relationship.
12. No matter how optimistic and clear you both are when you craft an agreement, one or both of you will likely come back to the table and ask for the agreement to be renegotiated or changed in some way at some time. This is not a personal failure or a failure of the process! This is an expected, anticipated part of crafting and honoring agreements!
It is critical to include a mechanism that will take into consideration the many changes that normally and naturally occur over time in a couple's relationship. Being realistic about this at the beginning enables the relationship to evolve and prosper. It is imperative to provide each person with a way to accommodate change -- an exit strategy you can both follow with dignity. Anyone who feels imprisoned in an agreement, commitment or relationship will not be his or her best self or offer all possible personal contributions to forward the joint vision.
13. It is inevitable for conflicts and disagreements to arise, and perhaps, one of you will not honor the agreement. Establish an attitude of good will and good intention and a plan to repair hurt feelings and disappointments;
14. Both people must be responsible to ensure that the agreement is honored;
15. Unless and until you are satisfied, do not move into action. Do not agree. Be sure each person is satisfied, ready to take action, and that outcome will be worth it and the joint vision is becomes more a reality.
Now that you have a solid model for crafting elegant agreements your work is to decide what you want to agree and commit to and to whom. This work starts by becoming more and more aware of who you are, what you want, what you value, and how to get your needs met respectfully and responsibly.
· Are you a committed couple who is strengthening your bond and deepening your intimacy and trust day-by-day and year-by-year?
· Are you engaging in meaningful family and work relationships and friendships, and asking for what you want, saying your real yes and your real no and hearing others who may be asking you for something?
· Are you crafting agreements consciously and with intention?
· Do you expect others to honor their agreements and commitments and do you intend to honor yours?
One of the best books I have ever read by an extraordinary couple for extraordinary couples is Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment. Drs. Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks wrote this timeless book and they talk frankly about what it takes to create co-committed relationships complete with exercises to guide couples who are courageous enough to be on the sacred journey of committed "coupleship" together.
Whether you are a committed couple or an amazing singleton, as they call it in the UK, let's educate ourselves about agreements, commitments, boundaries, conflict, and fidelity. Let's start risking being our deepest most magnificent selves! Join me and let's start today!
Only You can make it happen!
Copyright Dr. Jackie Black 1999-2005
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