In our lives there is a great deal of pressure on being committed in a relationship. But what does commitment really look like for a couple as the years go by? In 2011, Carlyle Jansen, a sex educator and founder of Good For Her, spoke at the TEDxToronto Conference on the subject of redefining relationships, delving into what kind of commitment is crucial to sustaining happiness and respect between partners. While her talk was a few years ago, her message still resonates quite strongly today. Jansen explains how after helping an older couple overcome difficulties in their sexual relationship, she was able to evaluate her own relationship and began to grasp how important it is to define commitment as time goes on (and not just on certain occasions). Looking back at her own relationship, Jansen admits that “ninety percent of the challenges and the risks that [she] had taken were in the first year of [her] relationship.” All the adventures, spontaneity, and exchange of intimate thoughts are what characterized the thrill of the beginning of her relationship. What happens to couples over time, she explains, is that with distractions like work and children, it becomes harder to be those same vulnerable people. Partners feel “settled,” and are less inclined to act on their desires and share their fears. Anniversaries become markers of how far a couple has come rather than moments to get excited about the dynamic of that couple now and what is to come in the future.
Carlyle Jansen has met many couples who feel as though their relationships are not all that they wanted them to be. Instead of just waiting or hoping for things to change in a relationship, Jansen advises a couple must go beyond communication and let go of their fear of judgements. “It’s about bringing all of yourself to the table and to the bedroom,” she says. Jansen suggests that couples may want to try re-defining what commitment means.
Perhaps commitment should focus on being present in the now, embracing things like freedom and authenticity as opposed to solely associating commitment with memories of vows and the beginnings of a relationship. While this is much easier said than done, there are people to help you through this process. PARC offers the possibility of working with such couples who feel they want to or are having difficulty redefining what their commitment means.
Danielle Adam, PARC Blog Editor