Leveling up, couple style
October 25, 2017 2:58 AM   Subscribe

What are the big AND small things that show a relationship is committed?

I’m looking for various indicators that a relationship is very committed (aside from the obvious, marriage/commitment ceremony).

These can range from the very practical to the very intimate.

Bigger things like:
- opening a bank account together
- getting a pet together
- being in each other’s wills

And smaller things like:
- having a key to each other’s place
- being each other’s emergency contact

Any touching stories about when you knew you were fully committed are also welcome!

For context: I think my partner of 3 years and I have been scared to fully commit. I’d like some perspective, some things to compare against, and some ideas for how to deepen our relationship.
posted by puppet du sock to Human Relations (20 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend moving in together before putting the other in your will. There’s a certain sequence habitually followed: a drawer at the other place, a key, combining residences, a partial or total merging of finances (possibly only occurring after marriage) and having the other be your beneficiary. Getting. Sort together would probably come in after moving in together.
posted by RainyJay at 3:04 AM on October 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think that these logistical things actually show commitment that well. They sound more like obligation. I mean sure, they are a SIGN of the underlying commitment, but do not show commitment in themselves. Most of it is just paperwork. Plenty of people share a lease, bank accounts, or get married who aren't truly committed to their partner.

For myself and my husband (together 8 years, married for 5) and what has been reflected in successful relationships around me are:

-Being a TEAM and best friend with your partner. In ALL things. Even if your partner is wrong, you defend their honor to others and handle your issues privately (or with a mediator.)

- Making a plan together. What are your goals for saving? Houses? Careers? Kids? Are you on the same page for household responsibilities?

-Learning to openly communicate about everything. People have differing opinions but I can literally talk about my poop and my period to my husband easily. I NEVER used to do that with any previous partner. But we're humans who have bodily functions and sometimes that stuff needs to be discussed without embarrassment.

-Knowing and wanting to take care of them even at their complete worst. Or if they are sick. I developed severe and disabling chronic illness (I'm in my 20s). My husband has been a rock. He's carried me to the bathroom after surgeries and waited for me to pee for an hour afterward, he's rubbed my back and gotten me pills with my migraines, he's listened to me talk about my shitty period. I've done similar for him when he's been sick.

-Compromise. A relationship isn't about changing the other person, it's about finding a happy middle ground. So if the person can't or won't compromise then they aren't fully committed to the team.

-Sacrifice for the team. My husband got a vasectomy. And of course it sucked and was painful but we don't want kids and that was the easiest path. I do a lot of the cleaning, budgeting, planning, etc. It's also not the most fun but it's what I contribute.

If you are still wanting logistical signs of underlying commitment, which again, all came as a natural process as our relationship progressed and weren't like a game achievement:
-Signing a lease together, joint car loan, joint bank accounts, access to credit card accounts, access to billing accounts, medical info and emergency contact, memorizing their social security number, marriage, engagement, moving across two states together, joint health insurance, kids (or not), scheduling appointments for each other...
posted by Crystalinne at 3:29 AM on October 25, 2017 [39 favorites]

Committing to be at events together, checking in with the other before making plans.

Being silly together. Crying together.

Putting each other down as emergency contact at work.
posted by freethefeet at 5:07 AM on October 25, 2017

Crystalinne has mentioned a lot of important stuff: acting as a team and sticking with your partner even if you think they are wrong, compromise and even sacrifice, sitting besides them when they are sick, smelly and holding a bucket of puke (sorry...).

I would add that the relationship with your family changes, sometimes drastically, when you are in a committed relationship. For example, my partner had a hard time finding a place within my tightly-knit family and had a strained relationship with my mother in particular. I had to (and wanted to) stand up for her and insist she was there to stay, and that 'I' would be 'we' from now on. Looking back, that was a big marker on the path towards commitment, and you can tell a lot from the way your partner deals with your (maybe future) 'in-laws' in matters that involve you as a couple. Other than that, long-term decision making about your dreams and plans: how much do you keep each other into account? Also very telling.
posted by Desertshore at 5:29 AM on October 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Natalie Lue of the ever-wise Baggage Reclaim blog, has an interesting take on this: the hallmarks versus the landmarks of a relationship...

"A relationship with hallmarks isn’t an automatic precursor to a relationship with the landmarks of healthy relationships – intimacy, consistency, progression, balance, and commitment."
posted by doornoise at 5:33 AM on October 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

Here are some very basic things, which I, as a person Bad At Commitment, find alarming. Hopefully they’ll be useful as examples of landmarks already crossed.

Making your relationship public on Facebook
Appearing in photographs together
Doing the thinking on, and reaching a view about, “what if this is the last person I ever sleep with”
Having them meet parents, traditionalist friends, or other people likely to become invested in the idea of you-in-a-relationship (meeting the other party’s parents is fun and easy and doesn’t count)
Knowing the other person’s salary, or having them know yours

I’ve been married without doing several of these things. If you’ve done them already, you’re doing great!
posted by piato at 5:49 AM on October 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

In particular I would like to echo what Desertshore had to say about I vs We as it pertains to family. This was something I struggled with in my relationship, particularly because my family and significant other didn't jive at first. It feels like a real step forward in commitment to make the mental transition from I to We with regards to my family and to deal with life first primarily with my partner rather than with the support of my family. Not to say that I don't still value the support of my family and include them in my life, but my partner and I together form a new family, and it is this family that I chose for myself.
posted by masters2010 at 6:00 AM on October 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

first thing I thought of was my husband taking care of me post-op, including the step of carefully pulling a long plastic drainage tube out from the flesh of my abdomen. We were committed already at that point, of course, but it still felt like a landmark.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:02 AM on October 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Moving to a new, faraway place together.
posted by ewok_academy at 6:05 AM on October 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've known a bunch of young people who very much want to have the signifiers of a committed relationship, so they have a kid (because what symbolizes a committed relationship more than a child, right?). But of course the underlying relationship wasn't actually solid, so they are shortly back to being single, just with a kid. I think this is also a factor in the people I've known who repeatedly divorce and remarry -- the symbolism of getting married is really important to them, even though they are not selecting and creating actual long-lasting, committed relationships.

The point being, don't mistake the symbols of a committed relationship for the substance of a committed relationship. Things like kids, pets, and joint accounts are all symbols, but the substance comes from more intangible things like trust, mutual respect, and mutual compromise.

Or to turn that on its head, if you are being reluctant to take on those symbols (sharing keys, say), it's worth exploring why you have that reluctance. Is there a lack of trust in the relationship? Or just a reluctance to change the way things are, maybe?
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 AM on October 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

I wouldn't attach Significance to financial things necessarily. Money can be such a personal thing, that it's almost better to treat it as a separate thing in and of itself. there are a lot of committed couples that still have completely separate finances because that's what works best for them.

Instead of "joint bank account" I would look at joint goals. These can be financial, perhaps, but don't have to be. Like, collaborating on a blog or something.

I also have a touching story - I know a couple that's been together for over 15 years now, and still aren't married; they're two of those "we don't believe in marriage as a necessary signifier" types. But when they'd been together for two years, they decided to buy a vacation house together upstate. They spent a lot of time upstate camping and skiing, and figured that they could use it themselves now and then, and when they weren't there, they would post it on AirBnb. When they found the house, they had a couple of "fix up the house" weekend parties upstate, where a bunch of us would spend half the weekend painting (and half the weekend drinking beer and hiking with them).

One of their friends, who I hadn't know before and just met that weekend, found ourselves painting a bedroom or something, and started talking about the couple. And he said something that blew me away: "You know, I have a feeling that C and N aren't going to get married becuase they're not like that. And so in a way, this house is actually like their wedding instead. So in a way, everyone who's here helping with the house is actually at their wedding reception."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on October 25, 2017 [31 favorites]

For me the biggest thing (and the hardest one to get used to!) is consulting the other person and taking their needs and opinions into account when making decisions, and thinking (as EmpressCallipygos suggests) about our joint goals and how bigger decisions fit into those goals. Like, I wouldn't change jobs without talking to my partner about it - obviously since we live together and we both get our health insurance through my job that might be necessary from an immediate financial perspective, but also my career trajectory is part of our shared life together and I would want to talk to him and make sure he was on board with the change, and I would expect the same from him.
posted by mskyle at 6:44 AM on October 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

The most commitment-like things my partner and I (coming up on 18 years together, intentionally and delightedly unmarried) ever did together were definitely moving in together, buying a house together, and getting a pet together (as opposed to the pets we each brought into the relationship.) Those were the things that specifically felt like Holy Shit We Are Taking A Big Step, Here for me.

Everything else (emergency contacts, keys, wills/beneficiaries, registering as domestic partners at work for insurance reasons, vacationing with family, dealing with a job loss together, doing some couples therapy around a specific issue, helping each other through serious health issues, renovating the house together, blah blah blah) didn't feel like a Symbol of Commitment, it was just the stuff that you do when you're sharing a life, to make that life work better. For me, the commitment's in the day-to-day of the shared life and the teamwork it takes to keep it running in a way that lets you both breathe and grow, not the paperwork.

I can tell you the moment I knew I was in love with my partner, but not the moment I felt we were seriously long-term committed. It was probably something to do with the buying of the house, but I don't think there was one specific moment of that process that shouted "commitment!" to me.
posted by Stacey at 7:12 AM on October 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think your two lists exactly reversed in terms of big/small indicators. I was going to joke that a 20 yr anniversary is a pretty good indicator, and it's not actually a joke, having a shared intimate joke about each of you just barely remembering an anniversary might be a quiet almost wordless moment that is a stronger indicator than a big overt party. Other than the traditional ceremony I don't remember any "indicator" and have been a couple somewhat longer. Just NOT making a standard mifi-green "omg should I leave" post is a pretty good sign. :-) (make that a big "hope this flip comment isn't taken bad smilely)
posted by sammyo at 7:17 AM on October 25, 2017

Your question doesn't go into your fashion choices, but I knew that two of my good male friends, who had been dating and living together, would definitely get engaged when I noticed they were sharing their Toms on a tropical weekend away we all took. Later I asked one of them about it and they told me 'oh, we just took one of the Toms (not my! not his! THE Toms) because we wanted to save space!' Toms do not take up any space.

I mean, flip-flops I can see - washable, you wear them in the sea, rubber is pretty impermeable to grossness, your feet are going to get a bit dirty anyway, size isn't a huge deal - but sharing an enclosed shoe which many people wear with socks without socks just seemed like a level of intimacy unimaginable unless you were 100% committed to the other person's entire microbiome.

It was over two years ago and yet I can still hear myself thinking, walking a bit behind them:

wait are those-
why is P wearing the red Toms?
wasn't B wearing those yesterd-
wait that stain is the SAME as on-
wait are they shari-
I mean OK? I guess?

posted by mdonley at 7:41 AM on October 25, 2017 [18 favorites]

A lot of what Crystalinne wrote resonates for me. Especially the Team Us part. Not Team Me. Not Team Finances. Not My Family vs Your Family.

Team Us. All actions stem from there.
posted by like_neon at 9:05 AM on October 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ordering for each other at diners if one is late or in the bathroom or something, and the corollary to that, knowing how the other one takes their coffee/tea.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:35 AM on October 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

3 moments stand out for me when my now husband and I were firmly settling into being "a family."

1. He read a book that had inspired me to pursue my career, because he really wanted to understand what I loved.

2. As we were in the discussion phase of moving in together, we were in a record store one day. I picked out a CD to buy and he stopped me and said "I have that one. We don't need two copies, right?"

3. Shortly after we were engaged, my car blew up spectacularly. I was a grad student at the time, was driving into campus for the first day of a semester I wasn't looking forward to, stressed to the max and smoke started pouring out from under the hood. It was not reparable, I was broke, was couldn't imagine how I was going to get all the places I needed to, and I got back home in tears. His immediate response was "You know we can buy things like that together now. I have the money for a down payment." It wasn't a second thought for him. We were in this together now.

And there are all the big and little things from there, but it's never been a question for a second that he's in my corner. That was how I knew we were building something different than my previous relationships.
posted by goggie at 10:24 AM on October 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

Most social media usually has a place to post your relationship status. Getting around to updating the social media.
posted by aniola at 1:57 PM on October 25, 2017

(This is people I know, not me)

A said to B, I hope you die first.

A helped during the slow terrible death of B's first spouse, A's good friend.
posted by clew at 10:26 PM on October 25, 2017

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