Saturday, May 05, 2007

Five Recommendations Regarding “Consistency” in Romantic Adult Loving Relationships

Generally speaking, it is very helpful if our behavior (i.e., what we do as well as what we don’t do) is consistent. More pointedly – in romantic adult loving relationships, especially if the behavior is desired, preferred and important to the other person – the consistency of behavior tends to be very comforting to the other individual. The primary reason for this is that consistent behavior is predictable, and whenever we can predict and anticipate what a person will and will not do we tend to be less nervous, less anxious and more at ease.

In one of the two, companion, self-help books I currently am working on, My Adult Loving Relationships, I discuss this phenomenon and say the following:

Generally speaking, my experiences suggest five recommendations in this area:

1. think about, and give careful consideration to, the extent to which your loved one believes you, trusts you, and is invested in you and what you say when you tell him or her what you will and will not do;

2. be sensitive to when you say you “will do” something versus when you say you “will try to do” something;

3. remain appreciative to the extent to which your loved one becomes emotionally invested in your commitments and statements of what you will do and what you will not do;

4. anchor your commitments and statements with specificity-- for example, if you truly plan to take someone to the movies and you know that he or she will be genuinely excited and looking forward to it, if at all possible do not say “I will take you to the movies next week”, but rather “I will take you to the movies next Saturday night”; and,

5. be consistent at the micro level – i.e., do what you say you’re going to do and don’t do what you say you will not do, as well as at the macro level – try your best to keep your behavior consistent throughout your relationship.

It also is important to remain aware of what the consistent behavior is. For example, in my recently published novel, Fear of Feeling Loved, Marcia ended her relationship with her ex-boyfriend – not because he was inconsistent, but because he was consistent – consistently verbally and emotionally abusive. (Interestingly, laugh, one of my graduate students once said, with a laugh, during a class discussion of this aspect of relationships, “My ex-boyfriend was consistent – consistently inconsistent.”)

Question: Have you ever had difficulties in a romantic adult loving relationship because of your (or is or hers) inconsistency?



Cole Reising said...

Hi Bill! The one about how you say something, like 'will do' to 'will try to do' is something I learned or rather remember an incident clearly in my mind from about the second year of our marriage. I said, 'I will' and meant it... but sometimes that means it might be a while and generally speaking we all 'know' when this rule applys to things.. ;) It took me longer then he expected... ok, a lot longer but I often think of that when I go to say I'm going to do anything now... do I truly intend to do it in the next day or so OR am I thinking I'll get to it... and as long as it gets done in the next 6 months I'm fine with it. *grin*


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Cole,
Thanks for the excellent example of "being specific" when making commitments. I also see in your example the importance of being clear and specific with yourself in the first place.
Thanks for the visit and insight,