You have probably heard the old joke about the man who writes to his girlfriend along these lines» Darling, I love you more than words can say. I would climb mountains and swim shark infested rivers to be by your side.
PS. As it’s raining tonight I won’t be coming over».
To bring the joke up to date the communication would be an email rather than a letter. However the principle is just the same. There is a huge chasm between what this man says and what he does.
This is a frustrating situation that many women encounter he says the right words but does not follow them up with action. Or he may say loving words but otherwise seem indifferent to your needs and desires. The women with whom I share the insights of dating psychology frequently ask this question «how do I know if can trust him?» Or «will he keep his promises?»
The answer is simple – look at what he does rather than listen to what he says.
The man writing the above letter or email is clearly only in love with himself. That’s the person he cares about. People who genuinely care for each other are prepared to put themselves out for each other’s needs. This doesn’t mean that he should become your unpaid builder, car mechanic or general handy man anymore than you should become his unpaid cook or seamstress. Friends put themselves out for each other. So do true caring lovers.
Will he keep his promises-how to check
Ask your boyfriend/potential life partner to pick up a small item for you when he is next on his way over to your place such as a newspaper, loaf of bread or can of dog food. You’ll give him the money for this when he arrives. If he can’t be bothered to do this small thing for you or simply forgets it’s unlikely that he will keep bigger promises. If he fails the first time give him a second opportunity, he may have been having a particularly pressured day. A second failure is a negative indicator to this man caring about your needs or keeping promises big or small. If this is so the sooner you know the better. The positive reverse side of this coin is that you will get to know who you can trust quickly using this method. Psychologists know that we need to judge people by what they do not what they say. We know also that how a person behaves in small everyday ways is a very clear indicator of how he will behave in really important situations.
There are two types of promises that are unlikely to be kept. These are the promise made in response to frequent requests to your boyfriend or life partner to change his behaviour. The conversation would go something like this» you will stop drinking, spend more time with me, do your share of the housework/cooking won’t you?» He responds to whatever change you have requested by agreeing but nothing changes. Or the «I’ll make it up to you» promise, this is one that you never want to hear. There are three reasons why the first of these promises will probably not be kept. None of us like arguments. An easy way for your boyfriend/life partner to avoid an argument is simply by saying, «yes» to your request. If this has occurred several times already of course he will say «yes». He has learnt that simply saying «yes» will buy weeks or months of your silence on this topic. He may have no intention of changing and simply be saying «yes» to keep you quiet. Or he might genuinely intend to change but never quite get around to it. Here’s how this happens, a person has a genuine intention to change lets say improve her fitness level. What she does not have are action steps to make her goal a reality. People often try to make changes in their lives based on general principles such as I will make more effort to get on with my teenage son or see more of my parents. Weeks and months into the future nothing will have changed without an action plan, a series of steps moving the person from where they are to where they want to be. So for example the person wanting to improve her fitness might have a plan with action steps such as a 30-minute walk each day or swimming twice a week. If your boyfriend/partner’s behaviour is really going to change you’ll need an action plan. You can work on this creating the steps together. For example if he currently can’t cook he could wash up or bring home a take away twice a week whilst you help him learn. It’s a case of negotiating something that you can both live with. A promise by its very nature is an agreement to do/or not do something in the future. So when does the future begin, the person making the promise can always say, «He will keep it just not yet». The promise that a person is not prepared to take some action on now is not really a promise. It’s an attempt to buy time. If he has promised to do his share of cooking/housework when you move in together or move house why not now?
«I’ll make it up to you» this promise suggests that the person making it is behaving unreasonably. He knows he is behaving unreasonably which is why he is making this promise. Wouldn’t it be better just to stop behaving unreasonably? Yes, of course it would. The person making this promise wishes to continue behaving unreasonably whilst his partner suffers in silence. By making this promise he hopes that she will allow the negative situation to continue for more time. This is clearly to his advantage but not hers. The least we should all expect of and give to each other is fair and reasonable behaviour. If your partner is behaving unreasonably it should stop now. Waiting passively for negative behaviour to end at some unspecified future time in the hope of some unspecified reward will lead only to more negative behaviour. A discussion of why your boyfriend/partner feels the need «to make it up to you» and what changes are needed in his behaviour now to make this unnecessary would be a productive way of handling such a promise. Arriving late/or not at all due to the unavoidable such as a delayed train or cancelled flight is not what I am referring to. Nor occasionally having to put in more hours at work and spend less time with you. Caring couples don’t blame each other for things beyond their control. They show a level of flexibility when plans are changed due to illness or work commitments.
«I’ll make it up to you» isn’t good to hear or say but sometimes its good to do. If you feel that you have been neglecting your partner, parents or any important person in your life don’t say you’ll make it up to them. Take action. Action steps could be a romantic dinner for two, taking your Mother to the cinema or watching your teenage son play football. You’ll know what to do and they’ll love you for it.