Press people to explain TO YOU what it is that they mean.
I feel very much in the same position, trying to understand what my poly bf means when he says he's committed to his wife (their agreement is they'll stay married as long as they both feel like it) and to me.
He CAN'T tell me what commitment means to him. He gets flustered and defensive and says, "Can't you see
how much you mean to me? Can't you see how I feel about you?"
Originally Posted by Octopus
Me: To me, commitment means being honest, supportive, loving. It means being respectful and invested in a relationship.
I don't see most of that as commitment. Good things, but not commitment, because I'm honest, supportive, loving, and respectful to all my friends. I'm invested in those relationships. I hope I'm honest and respectful even to strangers. Honesty is vitally important, but it's not commitment.
What does it mean to be invested in a relationship?
To me, commitment means promising...pledging...obligating oneself to...a future together, mutual obligations, trust (trust with oneself, one's home, children, health, money, etc), a promise to share life's trials and joys, ups and downs, to continue being there
...promising to make the necessary sacrifices if the other person needs you in sickness or financial crisis.
It means knowing you will still be there for the other person, waiting if their job sends them away for a time...being able to have reasonable expectations of and obligations to and frome one another, having someone you can count on no matter how bad things are--loss of home, job, health. Knowing the two of you will jointly make decisions for the sake of the couple, each other, or the family unit...rather than making decisions based one individual desires.
For instance, one thing that makes me feel there's no real 'commitment' as I understand it between my BF and myself is knowing if he gets a promotion, he and his wife are packing up and moving. He's not going to pay to move me and my children. It wouldn't even occur to him, whereas it wouldn't occur to him NOT to move his wife. He's going to make the decision about accepting the promotion based on what is best for himself and his wife and their marriage, not on what's best for himself and me.
He and I have no mutual obligations to one another. If my house burns down or I lose my job, a committed partner would be there re-building with me, minging finances, supporting me in every possible need. I would fully expect to do the same for him. I have no such expectations from or to my BF.
I say none of this in a spirit of criticism. He's a wonderful person, I have loved every minute with him, he and I have both grown and become better people as a result of our time together, and it's a wonderful relationship. But I don't fully consider it a 'committed' relationship because of these things.
From my BF's perspective, he does
see himself as committed to me. In part because he actually has
made some dramatic changes for my sake (things I didn't ask him for, things he gave to me as a gift, one which I treasure by the way.) In part, I think he considers himself committed because he fully intends to stay with me as long as I'm willing.
I don't discount those things. I suppose what I would conclude is they're different definitions of 'commitment' and different levels of commitment. And I suppose as long as I don't expect what he's not offering, and as long as it suits me, that's fine.
I would love to hear from those with primary relationships if they regard themselves as in a committed relationship with their secondaries or non-primaries, and what that commitment entails.