As adults, whether we realize it or not, our lives are governed by the agreements we make– and while not all of them are necessarily legally binding, that doesn’t make them any less important. Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to over-extend themselves; very few I believe are outright trying to be deceitful. I think what happens, especially with people-pleasers is that they want so much to make their loved ones happy that they just make promises that later on they come to realize they just cannot keep.
In the legal world, if you don’t pay per your contracts, the remedy is pretty simple: we seize your assets. So for example the mortgage company will take your house, the car company will repose the car, credit card companies close your account and go after your bank accounts, etc. And if you don’t pay your child support, Child Support Enforcement has the ability to garnish wages, intercept tax refunds, and revoke your driving privileges, among other things. As you can see, we don’t kid around when it comes to fulfilling legal obligations. But what about breaches that happen outside the courtroom?
More and more I find that people seem to have lost the concept of a social contract- the one we make with each other as part of a society. Despite what some may think, our community is not here to serve us, but rather I believe we are here together to share our gifts and help each other. And if you share this view, then our personal commitments are just as important (if not more so) as the legal contracts we sign. Perhaps with this in mind going forward we can all be more mindful before making promises to those we love.
It is inevitable that we will find ourselves at times with conflicting obligations. For example, we all have a commitment to work and to be with our family. Precisely because these two interests often compete with each other, work/life balance is such a big issue. We also have a lot of blended family situations these days, and that means many of us have pre-existing obligations to children from prior relationships, and these have to be balanced with our new family commitments. The key is to know your own limits and not over-extend yourself.
Now, with our significant others it is important to recognize that we have made a commitment to love that person, be supportive and loyal. We are agreeing to help meet each other’s needs and work together as a team. To make sure you stay on track, you need to connect on a regular basis. Here are some questions to clue you in that you are on the right path:
When you wake up in the morning and again in the evening, do you touch base with each other?
Do you greet each other with a kind smile, warm hug, or loving kiss?
Do you share stories that help you understand what’s going on in each person’s life?
Are you satisfied with your level of connection/intimacy?
Do you have fun together/do sweet things for each other?
Do you feel each person is making an effort in the relationship to keep things alive?
Hopefully, well beyond the honeymoon phase you will continue to building a bond with your loved ones, and in the meantime do everything possible to honor whatever commitments you have made to each other, as well as your community. We are all here together, let’s try to make the best of it!
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.