Reid Mihalko from and Cathy Vartuli from discuss commitment and the value it may or may not add in relationships.

Cathy: Commitment can be useful at times, but it can also get in the way. Reid, you’re looking at me — you’re the one that told me that.

Reid: You’re the one that wanted to talk about commitment.

Cathy: You’re not very committed to talking about it.

Reid: You always say that. So your thoughts on commitment?

Cathy: I was taught that you make a commitment and you stick with it no matter what. My mother stayed in a relationship that was really not good for her because of that commitment. I saw that model and I’ve actually done the same thing, I’ve stayed in relationships that I probably shouldn’t have stayed in because I made a commitment. It can be really powerful to know that someone’s committed to working through stuff, or having certain discussions and agreements in place can be powerful and help be reassuring, but they can also create a lot of chaos in people’s lives. And have us doing things that are not yeses for us.

Reid: Yes, there’s a difference between being committed and allowing yourself to be abused.  And there’s a distinction between integrity — keeping your word — and understanding where you need to change your word to be an integrity. What I would say, having grown up in New England, in New Hampshire, where being a New Englander is just you die you New Englander. Live free or die is where I come from. That’s our state motto, it’s awesome. There’s not a lot of gray there. You live free, or you die.

I think the big thing for me around commitment is it’s really a commitment to your integrity and to checking in with yourself, and then communicating to the people that you’re in some sort of agreement with what’s changed for you when you’re present to it. Sometimes you think something needs to change but you need to test drive it a little bit before you’re sure. That’s not being out of integrity, that’s just getting more information. But the idea, especially in relationships, that we’re going to measure the success by duration, by the length of how hard we stuck it out.

Cathy: Yeah, “We were married for fifty years and we hated every minute of it, but we’re a success.”

Reid: But we were successfully married.

Cathy: But people do.

Reid: That’s real, that’s how we were trained. You’re going to declare a major in college and graduate with that major.

Cathy: And work at it for the next forty years whether you love it or hate it.

Reid: Yeah, and now life is less about survival and getting the next crop through the drought, now happiness is a part of the equation, which is kind of confusing because happiness isn’t always about steadfastness. And you need to be able to balance that with some sort of ability to be committed and continue to choose what you’re going for, even if it’s tough. My mom and dad tried their best to teach me those values, but no one’s really — Dr. Phil’s not sitting there on his show saying, “This is how you change your mind, this is how you teach your kids to change their minds.” No, he’s like, “You married her, you stay with her.” That was my bad Dr. Phil impersonation. Sorry Dr. Phil if you’re watching this.

The cultural messaging is shifting but no one’s starting to talk about it. Looking at what feels good for you, what doesn’t feel good for you, and then being able to speak up and talk about it to the people that you’re in agreements with, that alone for most people is a black belt level communication technique, but that’s what we need. If you want to be happy, if you want to have integrity with yourself, feel good about yourself, you need to start developing those muscles to be able to communicate like that, even when it’s scary.

Cathy: It is frightening. And it can raise so much doubts to a connection. All of us have gone out with friends and we could kind of tell they didn’t want to be there. It was kind of miserable the whole day, you were really looking forward to it and then it wasn’t what I wanted anyway.

Reid: And they were a little dark cloud on your parade.

Cathy: If they had called and said, “Listen, I committed to going with you, I was looking forward to it, and something came up, I’m powerfully changing my mind,” both of you could have had a much better day and you would have had more depth in the relationship, more connection.

Reid: Yes. And that kind of honesty and transparency and commitment to honesty and transparency, that’s what I think commitment’s supposed to be these days, not this you choose and it’s written in stone, it’s cast in iron, and your success is based on how long you can hold out and do that.

Cathy: Thank you.

Reid: You’re welcome.


More articles on improving your communication and relationship skills:

I Want Commitment, My Partner Doesn’t… What Do I Do?

How Can You Tell If You Should Pursue A Relationship Or Not?