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Why Talk About Commitment



    We always learn from JacoPhillip Crous, our resident advisor on gay long-term relationships. He is full of so much wisdom and advice when it comes to bettering our own long-term relationships through communication. Getting to know your partner's wants, needs and desires through effective communication and feedback improves our relationships. Communication and commitment are extremely important and having a consensual, committed relationship will not only lead to a healthier love life but you will also have a firm foundation to let your relationship grow.

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    Actively communicate

    Communication is the buzz word for most relationship counseling, whether it comes from your BFF or your very expensive couples therapist.  The language of love, sex, and relationships is always changing.  It is important to recognize that "communication" is not just a catch all word for making your relationship better. Communication is a means for people to address wants, needs and issues so we can be happier in our exploration of our selves.

    Often times, one or both halves of a couple will decide they want to experience something new or to try something different. The problem is, what “new” or “different” means to one person may bear little or no resemblance to what it means to the next.  Even if you have developed your own couple’s-telepathy, lovers still need to actively communicate dialogue with feedback and explanation of meaning or emotion.

    For example, when one person gets around to using the word "new" in a relationship, to the speaker “new” means something that they have probably thought of for a while, but haven't had the ability to express it to the other person.  The listener or recipient of the message may find the actual idea “new” because, until now they have probably not thought of it at all before or the couple hasn't spoken of the thought previously. For another couple, "new" can mean something that both the speaker and recipient have been thinking about, but neither partner had the means to articulate and initiate the conversation.  My advice is to explore your foundations of communication and commitment before adding the "new" or "different."

    Understand where you and your partner are coming from

    In a committed relationship, there are many aspects of communication that have to be addressed so that both partners can understand each other.  If either party doesn't understand their own needs, wants, and desires, holding a conversation about adding a new idea will be difficult.  Either party may not realize what they are consenting to or what is expected of them.  To use a metaphor, you have a very detailed treasure map for the island, but if you don't know where the island is located you won't get very far.  Understanding where both you and your partner are coming from is essential in communicating your ideas to each other.

    So how do you figure out what you want, what you may get, what is wanted of you, and what you would consent to give?  Let's try to acknowledge that some of the psychobabble and self help literature doesn't give you straight up answers, again it gets lumped in with the word communication as if we inherently understand what that entails.

    What is Alpha communication?

    Alpha communication is a trusting communication motivated by care for one another. This is based on both partners being honest, real, and transparent with one another about your needs, wants, and desires to benefit your consensual commitment to each other. For some couples, this conversation is the proverbial deal breaker for the relationship; to what depths/heights of commitment are the two of you willing to consent to now. The relationship doesn’t need to accommodate any specific changes in the moment, but there must be consensus on the commitment capacity of your relationship.  Then you can start to add new strategies and approaches to be able to understand what each other is trying to say.

    What are Alpha topics?

    Consent to what are “Alpha-topics” for your particular partnership needs to be acknowledged and communicated clearly, here in the Alpha-conversation. This consent to your commitment is necessary if consensus is to be achieved in future communication on how such topics can be addressed and made practicable.  Consider this a framework for understanding the other person and where they are coming from.  It is like a foundation to a house being built.  Many of you probably have already spoken about some of these topics: ideas and feelings on marriage, children, religion, respect, lifestyle, and finances among other fundamental values.  Once you have expressed your concepts on these points and your belief structures, your partnership has a basis for understanding how to evolve and change through active communication.

    If you’re not talking about the things that actually make partnership consensus and consensual commitment, you may as well consign your relationship commitment to an individual monologue.  Your message recipient will not understand nor be willing to actively listen.  There are an infinite number of websites and self help books out there that will tell you communication is key, but very few that explain how to get there.  Starting with these main ideologies and determining what "language" you and your partner are speaking will help guide the conversation and communication actively.

    Relationships that dissolve supposedly because of “unrealistic expectations” in regards to Alpha topics such as the ones mentioned above, actually may have come apart anyway.  Getting real – honest and transparent – about consensual and commitment expectations in Alpha conversations may only accelerate dissolution because any impurities (dishonesty and nondisclosure) and flaws (insecurity and lack of transparency) that might be allowed to persist in your relationship, will only become more pronounced as you add more misunderstanding to the mix by adding secondary or new conversations.

    For many other couples, Alpha conversation will only deepen and enrich the consensual relationship commitment you already have and enjoy. I am not saying saying it will always be smooth going, but knowing what you each want to maintain and what to develop in your relationship as you move forward will give you solid ground to stand on when things feel shaky.  Even a little bit of time spent on self-examination here will help down the road when challenges come up. By confirming a consensual partnership foundation in Alpha conversation, and making sure you’re on the same page about the relationship, you’ll have smoother Beta (secondary) conversations leading to a more satisfying partnership and easier communication.

    Regardless of your partnership, gay/straight, open/poly/monogamous, various power dynamic structures, clarifying your message and giving feedback to your partner based on an understanding of their communication style and language will assist in a healthier relationship.  We can all empower ourselves with the variety of information on communication via the Internet or knowledgeable professionals. But being able to assimilate and use that information appropriately is the difference between successful communication and eventually giving up and walking out the door.

    Relationship example

    Malcolm, 28, and Dean, 29, are a couple that has been in a relationship for the past three years.  Dean was committed to Malcolm yet felt that the traditional/straight model of monogamy as the marker for loyalty, commitment and fidelity didn’t match his experience. He wanted to be a cock-tease; able to flirt under his lover’s supervision, and sometimes, with the consent of Malcolm, bring such spoils home for both of them to share in.

    Malcolm was somewhat open to this idea, but worried that Dean wasn’t really committed to him and was just using something “new” and “different” as a way to avoid commitment. Before encouraging them to explore “new” and “different” with anyone else, I spent some months with them helping the couple sort out how they felt about their own relationship as it stood, and what it meant in the life of each man in the here and now.  Forming a foundation for consensual commitment and understanding helped confirm the couple's relationship and gave them a basis for making the additional changes for a happier, healthier commitment to each other.

    Each partner in Malcolm and Dean's relationship had to determine what the term "commitment" meant to himself.  Both examined how committed to the other he was and what level of commitment each had for the other.  They determined if they were in the "pre-commitment" stage of the conversation where they determined if they were in a long-term relationship, somewhere in the middle, or had something else completely.  To be on the same page to communicate effectively, Malcolm and Dean examined their own beliefs in the Alpha-conversation and had to be honest about what their need, wants, and desires were.

    Ask yourself questions


    Alpha conversation opens up a steady flow of considerations for you and your lover.  Communication starts with self-examination and understanding of where we are coming from and where our partners are coming from.  Some other questions we should ask ourselves when looking for effective communication in a relationship are:  What else is going on in our life? Do you have space and time to devote to exploring consensual commitment and sexual development in your relationship? How much time and energy are we willing to put into this exploration? How will we handle different levels of resources, energy, attention, etc. practicably, as a couple?

    Do you have the self-knowledge and communication skills to keep your existing relationship (the romance and the friendship) healthy and thriving? Can you anticipate some of the challenges that might emerge ahead of time? Where do you see room for yourself to grow?

    Do I know what makes my partner feel happy, secure and loved? Am I willing to put extra attention on nurturing my existing relationship even as I make my way through the world? Where do I want to be sure to put that extra attention? Do I know what makes me feel happy, secure and loved? Am I willing to put extra effort into self-care and self-discovery? What opportunities do I see for myself here?

    This understanding of what a good foundation for communication of our commitment to our relationships, will be further explored in a later GetLusty article.  My goal here is to help our readers get the most lust, sexy, satisfying, healthy relationship by offering tools for understanding each other and learning to be on the same page in our communications.  My last word of advice...in all of our endeavors, do It well; do It safe. And GetLusty!

    He studies and writes about men and masculinity in MSM relationships, and gay couples getting lusty is JacoPhillip’s cup of tea. Our resident advisor on gay long-term relationships, JacoPhillip Crous is also known as Jacsman. A sex life educator, Jacsman consults in-person, on Skype, and by telephonic private sessions with couples and solo clients on ecstatic and intimate psycho-sexual lifestyle and development.

    Jacsman promotes male2male dialogue that furthers understanding of masculine sexuality and MSM relationships. A research psychologist, he explores and investigates male psycho-sexual self-development phenomena, behaviours, experiences and knowledgeability. Find out more about JacoPhillip at: http://about.me/Jacsman.
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