A while ago a friend of mine told me a story – she was dating a nice man and she was rally in love with him. She said everything was going very well. He had planned a trip before they met and so, when the time came, he went away for a three-week holiday. My friend did not consider this a big drama at all, just a new partner following through with previously planned commitments. They had spent a couple of nights together and she considered it to be the beginning of a serious relationship.

On the first day of his trip he sent a long and loving text. Then she didn’t hear from him until the third day she heard from him. Again it was a text – shorter and cooler in tone though. Then she never heard back from him.

He kind of left the face of the earth. Well, he could be in an area with little or no internet she thought. But the longer the silence lasted the more upset she became.

On the day he was to return she even went out of her way to pick him up from the airport – he wasn’t there. So she called him – he was already home – the flight came in early.

The next time they met she obviously asked him “You have been away for three weeks, wasn’t there any Internet, wasn’t there any way to connect with me?” and he replied “I am not interested in a long-term relationship”

My friend was devastated.

She was committed, he obviously was not.

Let’s look therefore at the question – when can you consider your relationship to be a committed one, and at what point can you safely say that you are committed?

Is it the first kiss or the first night together?
Is it after a month of exclusively dating the one person?
Is it when you have slept together a couple of times?
Or is it when you move in together?

For some it might be only after they’ve got married.

The answer to these questions are different for everyone and can easily cause a lot of friction and stress between you and your partner if it is not clear.

What you can do

First you need to ask yourself what it is that you want, especially when it is at the start of a new relationship. Do you want a partner for a night, a month or a year? Do you want to settle down and plan a family and have kids? Do you just want to have fun?

Maybe you want to start a serious relationship and at first want to see how it might pan out. This gives you a clear understanding and allows you to focus on your new relationship – without the need to organise your nuptials after your first or second date.

Once you are clear for yourself, it would be a good idea to find out from your partner. Where does she or he stand? What do they want to get out of your encounter?

In most cases, at the start of a relationship, you won’t be able to see or determine whether your relationship has the potential to be a life-long relationship, but you can at least be committed and treat your new relationship as being exclusive – meaning you won’t date others at the same time.

Over the years

You might think this conversation is all well and good for those who are starting a relationship or that discussions of commitment are only relevant for the first few months for a fledgling couple.

But it is not.

You need to constantly ask yourself and your partner “How committed are you?”

I see so many relationships where one partner is looking for ways to improve their relationship because they sense that something is not right, while their partner often times is totally oblivious to their feelings and concerns.

But the feeling of disconnection might turn into a real relationship problem. When one of you is constantly unsure about the relationship; when one of you is feeling misunderstood or not being heard; when one of you is in fear of losing the connection . . . this all can easily lead to a drop in commitment.

What you can do

Now, if you would take a moment during your next active appointment and ask your partner “on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being high) how committed are you right now?” you could get an understanding of where you are at together.

And don’t freak out or call the divorce lawyer if your partner says “seven out of ten”. Rather ask yourself “does this come as a surprise?” And in any case, ask your partner, what would need to happen so that they are back on to a 10/10 commitment.

You know, a 5, 6 or 7 out of 10 does not mean the end of your relationship. But left undetected or unattended, it could drop even further and leave your relationship is in danger.

Maybe you and your partner should (individually) take my Relationship Performance Indicator test and find out for both your RPI-score. It is quick, it is fun and it is remarkably accurate.

As for my friend and her disappointing story – she responded to me when asked, “How do you feel?” with, “Luckily it wasn’t too far into our relationship that it happened, it would have happened anyway, and I am fine now.”