This is a common feeling when commitment levels are not equal. I will explain the five levels of commitment, how to move from one level to another and how to increase and decrease involvement in a healthy way for both parties.
Understand Commitment Levels
Having different commitment levels is a deal breaker in any relationship be it with friends, family or a partner.
Firstly I will explain the five types of commitment and what is expected at each level.
- Acquaintances - These are people you know either socially, in your community or at work. You may or may not know their name and you don’t really know much about them. The only time you meet them is by chance at events, in the streets or at work.
- Casual Friends or if you are dating you are dating them and others at the same time. These are people who you have a conversation with at events like parties, you may have a coffee date with them or meet them at your friends parties. However, you don’t see them much otherwise. In a love relationship you are dating them and others at the same time.
- Good friends/"Going steady" - These are friends that you occasionally invite to your house or you will support each other at times. You invite them to your parties or you may let them know when you have a problem — however, mostly you would call a closer friend instead. In a love relationship, in the old days this was called “going steady” where you are dating them exclusively.
- Engaged/Close Friend - In a love relationship you are planning a long term relationship together. With a friend you both feel free to drop into each others homes without an invitation. These people include you and you them at parties and you ask them for support when things go wrong.
- Married/Your Best Friend. This is someone you trust to be your next of kin or your Trustee in a will. You may give them the keys to your house so that when you lose your keys you ring them. In a love relationship this is when you are married or living together. Either way you depend upon each other to celebrate when things go well or support each other when life gets tough.
For example; some people believe that they can be married yet, still have other sexual partners. When both people want this it is OK and can work. However, is one person believes that being married means being sexually exclusive then the genie is out of the bottle regarding pain, disconnection, distress and a building resentment.
Always discuss this with your partner or friend when you move from one level to another. You can ask them exactly what they believe is true for that next stage of commitment.
Different commitment levels is a deal breaker. Either change your commitment level to match theirs or move on.
Later in this blog I will explain some skills that could make them choose a new level and they will only do this if they care for you enough.
If not, then they too will choose to move on and you will not waste more of your life wanting something that you can't have.
Increased involvement — How to Commit to a Relationship.
I well built house has a great deal of planning and time put into the foundations.
This is because if the foundations are rushed and not well planned eventually the building will lean, topple or crack up. The building doesn't have longevity.
If you want longevity in your relationship you will take your time and move from level one to level five over a period of 18 months or even longer.
When you and your partner feel secure and loved at your best and at your worst that is when you have a good chance at a long term lasting and committed relationship.
If you have not seen your partner under stress it is important to wait until you do.
We are all charming and lovely when we are relaxed and feeling loved in a new relationship.
This stage — as wonderful is it is — has a short life span and then the real person with normal human faults and fears will be shown.
Wait until you have shown your partner your faulty, fearful side and see if they are supportive, kind and allow you to take responsibility for your own stuff.
If they are then it is OK to move forward. If not, then either get some therapy together and learn to communicate or;
Wait until your partner has shown their faulty fearful side and see if you can handle it.
Again, either do some therapy so that you can hold that space for them when they are fearful or move on, if their faulty side is not your thing.
Of course, their faulty side will not be your thing!
Just make sure that you work on yourself so that you don't judge them.
This will give them the space and kindness so that they have the opportunity to feel safe enough to take responsibility for their faulty side and if they don't only then move on.
Decreased Involvement — How to move On in a healthy way.
It is just as important for a long term relationship to gently move down the levels over a long period of time so that both parties have the opportunity to be heard or change as required.
When a relationship has this opportunity many people commit again and they return back up the scale to level five.
It is a recipe for drama to jump levels in or out of a relationship.
When a married person is unhappy in the relationship they usually try to talk about it for years and the person who wants the relationship to stay the same — the one in denial — will ignore them.
Finally the unhappy person moves out of the house and often hardly speaks to them.
Mostly the person in denial will be shocked! Even although the unhappy person has been frustrated and trying to get them to wake up for years.
OK, this is not about blame this is simply that the person in denial is too frightened to face change.
The person in denial doesn’t realise how important it is to communicate, and when the unhappy person suddenly goes from Level five to Level two (Casual friends) they become even more fearful and that is when they can do really stupid things.
To wake up a person in denial the unhappy person can choose to initially move out of the bedroom. This can be enough for the person in denial to actually take them seriously and start to communicate or do counselling.
If the unhappy person is not taken seriously at this stage then they can negotiate living in different homes (going steady).
If the person who is in denial still doesn’t communicate then the unhappy person can go back to being friends with them. (Dating them and others) and so it goes on.
This approach will allow the person in denial to slowly get use to the idea that they too are responsible for creating the relationship.
The person in denial will not get so bitter and twisted and do silly things to “get back” at the — in their eyes — disloyal, demanding and unhappy partner.
In their view of the world they were happy with the way things were and don't want the relationship to change.
There is one exception to this rule and that is when one party is a psychopath/sociopath. If this is the case then the partners life can be in danger. In this case the unhappy partner has to be very quick and intelligent about how to escape and make sure that the other party doesn’t know where they went.
However, for the vast majority of relationships it is important to be able to grow the trust, love and friendship as the relationship changes levels of involvement either way so that you enter and leave your relationships in love.
Commitment Levels so that your Relationships Thrive
Differing commitment levels in a relationship are sure to create pain and suffering for both parties. Different commitment levels are a major incompatibility that can not be overcome. Just don’t do it.
Increase and decrease your commitment levels over a period of time so that you can grow trust together.
Don’t skip levels of commitment or you will end up with pain and suffering resulting in bitter resentment and unkindness.
Be kind to yourself and allow a relationship to grow or wane gradually so that you can understand each other.
The next blog is about assessing the compatibility of your partner and assess if it has the capacity to have the five to one rule that is required for a happy long term relationship.
That is five positive events for every negative event. These events need to be of equal intensity.
You will then learn how to choose people who have the capacity to have long term healthy relationships with you.