Contemplation is a very difficult state to be when it comes to romantic relationships. In therapy, these sessions are regular occurrences and can cause not only stress on the relationship but also individual internal turmoil. Contemplation can take on different meanings. The most common one refers to non-committal contemplation, where one partner is frustrated or confused as to why their partner won't take the next step with them such as engagement, buying a house, or moving in together. Usually one person is ready to move at a faster pace than the other partner. Common questions and complaints I hear are:
- Why won't he/she commit to me?
- When will they know?
- I feel like there are always excuses such as finances, spending more time on their career, etc.
- Is there something wrong with me?
- The thought of forever scares me
- I love them so much but I can't see me continuing on like this forever
- It is not getting any better
- I wish there was a sign on what is best for me
- Am I supposed to give them an ultimatum?
Therapy can help both partners get more clarity on where they stand or what might be standing in the way of creating a future with their significant other. Here are a few of the ways therapy can help specifically.
Using an Attachment lens to discover why commitment issues may be an area of concern. Attachment styles include Secure attachment, Ambivalent (or anxious-preoccupied) attachment, Avoidant-dismissive attachment, and Disorganized attachment. Our attachment style is established in childhood between parent and infant. Once identified we can discuss how it shows up in your life and may be impacting your romantic relationship. We can work on creating separation between what we were brought up with and how we want to operate in our relationship.
Exercises such as Gottman's Dreams within Conflict can explore and reveal what the fears and hesitations around commitment are. This often helps individuals pinpoint their anxieties and share with their partners. In turn, partners can respond to those fears and in many cases alleviate them as they may be hypothetical and inaccurate. Furthermore, we get to understand our partner's dreams and see if we are included in them.
Spending time discussing personal values and seeing if there is value alignment in the relationship. Unfortunately, all relationships are not meant to last. We may be compatible in some areas but have deep intrinsic values that differ from each other which can cause perpetual problems in the relationship. Compromise is expected in relationships however if you feel like you are compromising your authentic self and your values that can be extremely detrimental to one's wellbeing.