Dear Neil: My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for three and a half years (we are 22 and 21 respectively). We have had a great relationship, and now we feel like we’re ready to take another step. But I am a college student still living at home, and he has started his career and lives with roommates. I am not in a position to move in with him, and neither of us are ready to get married. Is there a way for us to deepen our commitment given our situation?
Hopeful in California
Dear Hopeful: Indeed there is. Take turns talking together about your feelings, wishes, concerns and expectations regarding:
- What do you consider romance to be, and how important is it to you? How would you like romance to be expressed, how often and by whom?
- What are your expectations regarding your boyfriend’s relationship with your family? With your friends? With how to behave socially? How to behave around other women? With monogamy?
- How would you like major disagreements to be resolved? What happens when the two of you simply cannot agree? What words or behaviors step over the line?
- Are there any concerns that the two of you have regarding drug/alcohol use, or any other type of addiction? Any agreements you would like to make on this subject?
- How much effort do you expect each person to give to the relationship? How should it be dealt with if one person feels the other isn’t making much of an effort?
- What’s fun to you? What role should fun have in your relationship on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? How would you like the two of you to expand your notion of fun?
- What helps you to feel loved, valued and cared for? What assists you in feeling close and connected? What interferes?
- How important is neatness, cleanliness, physical appearance and personal hygiene to you?
- When you become crabby, irritable, short-tempered or hard to be around, what would you like your partner to say or do? What should s/he not say or do?
- What behaviors would violate trust? What would need to happen if trust were ever violated in your relationship? What would your partner need to say or do in order to repair trust?
- How should it be handled if ever there were a breakdown in communication, or if the connection between the two of you were to grow weaker?
- How important is regular non-sexual affection to you? What is the right balance between the giving and receiving of affection? How would you like it be handled if affection were to become strained or diminished?