In relationships there are two kinds of commitments: behavioral and temporal.
Temporal commitments have to do with time.
- We’ll be together forever.
- Let’s spend x hours of y days each week together.
Behavioral commitments have to do with how we’ll be with each other and interest me a lot more. If you can’t commit to certain kinds of behavior then there is no way we will be together forever (or perhaps even next week.)
Here are some of the kinds of behaviors to which I’m interested in committing with a woman:
- Being and supporting vulnerability
- Processing our lives in the world
- Encouraging each other to follow their dreams
- Helping each other uncover who we are
- Creating a safe, nourishing and grateful space
- Being gentle
- Moving closer
- Sexual exclusivity and monogamy
Since we are in a relationship from our first contact, we need to start behaving these ways from the very beginning. Of course, they’ll deepen as we go further, but they do build on themselves. So don’t start off the first coffee date with sarcasm and figure you can undo it if a relationship develops because it already has.
Here are some of the stages I think a relationship goes through and it would be good to talk about our behavioral expectations for them:
- Pre conversation
- Pre coffee
- Pre first date
- Pre kiss
- Pre heavy petting
- Pre intercourse
- Pre unprotected sex
- Post unprotected sex
It’s not easy to talk about things like this, so it would be good to establish that behavior early on. And to agree on the relationship stages and the importance of acknowledging those transitions.
How are some thoughts about what to do and how to do it:
- Bringing it up.
I know we’ve both been hurt in relationships that turned out not to be what we thought they were.
- Talking about the next stage before you get there
When we kiss, what will that mean to you?
- Generously (“I’m looking forward to kissing you”)
- Assume the best – no blame game
- Reciprocate (“What do you want to feel confident about”)