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Relationship commitments

wordweaverlynn has an interesting discussion going about relationship promises. I made these comments:

I've never been legally married, because if I want to make legal agreements with a person, I want to write them myself, not get the government's package deal that they might change at any time.

But I did have an Outlaw Wedding with my OH. We didn't make absolute promises about the future, because neither of us is comfortable with that. We talked about what we want, what our relationship is like, and what we do in the present to maintain the relationship as one that we will continue to want.

With the OH and also my other committed partners, my main hope (not a promise but an intention) is that we stay in each other's lives for as long as we both live. My main promise to them is that I will talk about conflicts that arise and try to resolve them. I promise that in specific because my tendency is to drift off if there is conflict, rather than talking about it.

I'm finding it hard to answer "what kind of promise would you want from your partner(s)." The way it seems to work for me, in order to interact with someone in a certain way and to hold them in a certain position in my life, I need for both of us to be doing certain things (to show caring and affection regularly, to respect, and to follow through on most agreements we make). If those things don't happen, then the relationship doesn't hold its position.

But I don't want promises to do those things, because promises don't substitute for the actions, and because I don't want someone to do those things if they don't mean them but are only doing it because they promised at some point in the past. I want someone to do those things because that's important to them in the present.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
innerdoggie
Aug. 29th, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)
I really agree with what you say here: "promises don't substitute for the actions, and because I don't want someone to do those things if they don't mean them but are only doing it because they promised at some point in the past. I want someone to do those things because that's important to them in the present."

One of my main fears about marriage (or other committed relationships) is to have a partner who is motivated by duty. They don't love me, they don't even like me, but they made a promise and by gum, they will stick with it! They'll be very proud of their sexual fidelity and think it makes up for the long faces, heaving sighs, grumpiness and outright contempt. And I won't be able to leave because they aren't abusive or a cheater, and the contempt has worn me down so much I can't move.

I think I would appreciate somebody who came through with practical help in a crisis (schlepping me to the doctor if I were seriously ill), even if they were only doing it from duty. But I wouldn't want a whole marriage like that!
firecat
Aug. 29th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
Exactly.

I have proven myself willing to leave people who are contemptuous of me, though. I do consider that abusive when it's an ongoing thing.

And I will leave someone who is unhappy all the time. Because I have depression and it's a matter of survival for me not to be around other people who have it, at least not all the time.
wild_irises
Aug. 29th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
As so often, you are bang in the center of something important. "Promises do not substitute for actions." I think that one thing promises are, for me, is a guideline for actions. In a complicated world, we have to make choices and set priorities: if I have promised a person something, then that's a priority-setting guideline. And yes, in the final analysis, the actions are what matters.
firecat
Aug. 29th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
I think that one thing promises are, for me, is a guideline for actions.

I agree. And being very nitpicky, I'm more likely to call guidelines for actions "agreements" and to say "I will do my best" or "I intend" rather than "I promise."

Another factor: I've been in many conversations about poly agreements where people talk about how Teh Evil "rules" are. So I also call my poly agreements "guidelines."

I don't expect other people to be skittish about those particular words though. And it's not as if "not-saying" certain words and phrases gets you out of jail free, where jail = emotional pain. I learned that the hard way.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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