What Are the Signs and What Do They Mean?

In today’s dating scene, there is a great deal of confusion about commitment and what it means. Scott Stanley*, one of the foremost thinkers on commitment, suggests that the old ‘commitment phobia’ explanation doesn’t fully explain the dilemma in which dating couples find themselves. One reason for this is the confusion between ‘public displays of affection’ and ‘public displays of commitment’.

We’re very used to public displays of affection: couples holding hands, walking arm-in-arm, even making out on the park bench! However, many people, including the couple themselves, are prone to misinterpret such public displays as evidence of the partners’ dedication to each other. Really, all such gestures prove is that they are attracted to each other.

Looking Ahead

On the other hand, public displays of commitment are much more telling. Public displays of commitment include gestures that indicate exclusivity, fidelity and long-term thinking about the relationship.

Simple examples include introducing the dating partner to one’s parents, choosing not to pursue a liaison with a third party, a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the other and to reconsider personal plans.

Public, Lifelong Vows

Of course, the most powerful public display of commitment is the wedding ceremony itself. When a couple publicly pledges before friends and family to love each other exclusively for life, they not only enter a formal legal contract; they also obtain the support of all those present.

There is a certain gravity that comes with this form of public display. We know intuitively that a promise made before witnesses carries more weight than one either never formally voiced or made only in the privacy of the cohabitors’ bedroom. Marriage and cohabitation can thus never be equal in the game of relationships; the commitment of marriage puts it in an entirely different class.

Law of Commitment


Originally published at SmartLoving. Photo by Media Lens King.

Published On: February 1st, 20230 CommentsTags: , , , , ,

About the Author: Byron and Francine Pirola

Married for 25 years, with 5 children, Byron & Francine Pirola are the founders and co-authors of the SmartLoving Series – marriage enrichment and marriage preparation courses designed to help build successful and resilient marriages. International speakers and authors of numerous articles on marriage, more than 3000 couples have attended their programs, workshops and conferences in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain Byron & Francine are Executive Directors of the Marriage Resource Centre from which they run SmartLoving programs and produce digital resources. Francine graduated from Fordham University with a Masters in Religion and Religious Education. Byron is a founding partner of the strategic consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners Limited, and a Director of both listed and unlisted companies. He holds a PhD from the Commonwealth Centre for Gene Technology, Adelaide University.

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