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Commit or Leave?

April 19, 2021


Let’s begin by clarifying what it means to “commit” as it relates an intimate relationship as it can mean different things to different people.

For some, commitment means a serious long-term romantic relationship. For others, commitment may also denote exclusivity, in other words, emotional and sexual fidelity.  Commitment might also mean a lasting partnership that ultimately leads to marriage or a legal partnership of some sort.

So it is important for you to be clear about what it is that you want to have or create with this person when you use the term “commit”. It is equally important that your lover has the same picture in their mind when you use that term.

I say this, because it is rather meaningless to tell someone to “commit”, or more properly “ask” them to commit, when they don’t really know what you are asking for.

So let’s get started.


Your first job is to sit down and have an open, honest and respectful discussion about what it is you are wanting with your lover, including any expectations you have for your life together.

This will be a sensitive conversation so it is important to pick the right time for it. By the right time, I mean a time when neither of you is agitated, upset or angry — nor in a hurry.

Plan what you’ll say ahead of time. Frame your words carefully using respectful, caring language. Avoid threats and ultimatums because they are counter-productive. Speak in terms of what you need, what you would like to have with them with no demands. Importantly, be specific about nature of the commitment are you looking for.


Now that you’ve had your say, it is time for you to listen to what they have to say. I mean truly listen  to them with no interruption or argumentation. When they have finished you can ask for any clarification needed.


Now that you know where you stand with your lover, you will probably be left with two outcomes– you will know if you can make a life together or if it’s time to go your separate ways. Let’s explore both of these.

Staying together

As a result of your discussion, let’s suppose you are both in agreement about what commitment means to each of you, that you both want that level of commitment with each other and you wish to go forward with your relationship. You can then begin to make plans for a life together, hopefully, with a clearer understanding of both of your needs and expectations. If there are matters about which you are still unclear or that you are in conflict about, then it would likely be helpful to seek professional assistance e.g. from a relationship professional.

Breaking up

There really isn’t much you can do if they do not want what you want. Threats, demands and ultimatums will not work and will only sow the seeds of bitterness in your hearts. That’s a heavy burden for both of you to carry.  What you can do is to end things with as much care, dignity and respect as you can muster.

Breakups, no matter how you manage them, are painful. But there’s no need to add to the pain with poor behavior, e.g. histrionics, threats and hostility.   What you both should be aiming for is a dignified breakup that is marked by mutual regard.  It begins with:

An honest discussion about how to begin the process of separation. No pressure, no over-the-top demands. Just an honest, kindly discussion of the best way to effect the separation. If they become angry or spiteful, no need for you to respond in kind – no need for you to up the ante, no need for you to add to the pain. It’s for you to take the high road by behaving in a courteous and dignified manner.

Mutual listening. You don’t have to agree with each other to “hear” each other. Consider it an honoring of what you’ve had with each other over the months and years of your time together.

An candid discussion regarding the nature of any relationship you might have with each other into the future.  For example, you might opt to remain friends or you might opt for a clean break. However, if you have children together or joint property including pets, then you will likely have an on-going relationship of some kind. In this instance, it might be helpful to obtain professional advice as to how to manage custody, dissolution of property etc. A relationship professional’s assistance might also be useful to guide you through the process, especially if you are finding it difficult to deal with any tricky emotional issues. If no future relationship is needed or desired by either of you, then it is time to wish each other well and then gently, gently let each other go.