Conflict Resolution Training

Want Relationships That Last?

Answer This One Question


February 14th, Valentine’s Day, is a time for hearts and flowers, a time to express our love and commitment to another, a time for feelings. On Valentine’s Day, we may promise to love one another “forever.”

But what happens on February 15th after the emotions have passed and the “work” of a relationship begins? Will your relationship last forever?

The answer to that question lies in your answer to one, additional question: Does the person you are in a relationship with make and keep his/her promises?

A marriage begins with “vows” (promises) of undying love, eternal support and firm commitments. Marriages end with broken vows.

Conflicts occur in a relationship when promises are made but not kept. 

I’m not referring here to the big stuff where it’s clear that promises must be kept or the relationship will be in jeopardy: Having sex outside of the relationship without the consent of the person you’re in relationship with. Someone promising you to leave his/her husband/wife “any day now” and “any day now” has been going on for years.

I’m thinking rather of the day to day promises that, when broken, contribute to a reduction in trust, a feeling of betrayal and eventual loss of vitality and excitement in the relationship.

Most of these “betrayals” are minor and occur because of a failure to answer a simple question: “When?”

“I will call you.” (When?)

“Let’s have dinner (breakfast, coffee) together.” (When?)

“I’ll do the laundry.” (When?)

“I’ll help with the housework.” (When?)

“I’ll go shopping with you.” (When?)

“I’ll pick up the kids.” (When?)

“I’ll be home from work soon.” (When, specifically)

“I’ll do the yard work.” (When)

When these kinds of things occur day after wearying day without a firm promise or a promise being kept, the relationship suffers and may even go out of existence.

From broken promises that may be forgiven easily (the laundry) to those you struggle to forgive (your partner had sex with someone else), trusting, long-term relationships depend on promises being kept.

We would avoid an airline that was consistently late. Yet we may accept broken promises in our relationships then wonder why we don’t completely trust the other person. It’s not really a wonder. It’s inevitable.

We may sometimes be reluctant to ask for a firm promise because we fear the other person will say “no.” But if the other person won’t promise and keep the promise, then you must question the value the relationship has to that person. Isn’t it better to know that sooner (when you’re dating) than later (after two kids are in the picture?).

So this Valentine’s Day, have all the stars in your eyes that you want. Let yourself be on cloud 9. Be in love.

Then, on February 15th, begin to notice if the promise of love the day before is still in existence the day after. Don’t be left in the middle of the road where “maybe” lives. Get either a “yes” or a “no” to your request for a promise. Therein lies happiness and trust in any relationship.


Permission to reproduce is granted as long as the following citation is included:

Reprinted by permission of the author, Larry Barkan: