Relationship Fitness

S8: Integrity E6: Integrity Obligations

In “Relationship Workout for Men” Season 8 Episode 6, titled “Integrity Obligations,” Vince delves into the nuanced responsibilities that come with maintaining integrity through the stages of a relationship. He discusses the critical importance of reliability, faithfulness, and honest sharing, emphasizing that the obligations tied to these aspects evolve as the relationship progresses from open dating to exclusive dating, and finally to partnership. Vince highlights that, from the outset, managing expectations and setting clear boundaries are key to fostering a trustworthy bond. He also poses reflective questions about when certain obligations become paramount, urging listeners to consider how transparency and commitment should adapt to the different phases of a relationship, thereby ensuring that integrity remains a cornerstone of their partnerships.

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner, and being a better partner for the person they choose.

Season 8, Episode 6: Integrity Obligations

Okay, so we understand the ideas of reliability, faithfulness and sharing honestly. However, there’s another question that also needs to be asked when discussing these three Integrity Strategies. 

When are you both obligated to adhere in action to these three Integrity Strategies?

For instance, on the first date, are you obligated not to be dating other people? Likewise, are you required to be faithful to her?

Clearly, on the first date, there aren’t any exclusivity obligations. For all you know, you’ll find on that first time together that you have absolutely nothing in common. One hour at the coffee shop, finished off by a handshake, a polite smile, and a toss of the phone number. 

So, when do your honesty, reliability and faithfulness integrity obligations kick in? Before the second date? The tenth? The hundredth? Never?

To help answer this question, it’s helpful to remember that Dating as a Process as discussed in Season 1, Episode 6. Dating is a process that starts with a first hello. After that, who knows what will happen between you two. You both must go through the process of dating each other to find out.

Therefore, Integrity’s obligations vary depending on where you are in the dating process. Let’s explore each one.

First, Integrity Obligations when it comes to being reliable

So, when are you obligated to be reliable and dependable? Are you obligated to show up on time, or even at all, to that first date? Are you obligated to call if you’re running late?

Clearly, if you say you’re going to meet at the local coffee shop at 6 p.m., then simple good manners and respect say that you need to show up by 6 p.m. or call if something has changed. 

As you two continue to date through the various dating stages, does this obligation change? Once you’re partners, can you now be late or just not show up? Sounds rather absurd when put that way. 

But it’s interesting, though, how sometimes (too often, one might say) we can take the person we’ve been dating a bit for granted. Running late, no phone call. He or she will understand, right?

What does change in the dating process? Well, for one, the level of promises you make to each other increases. On that first date, you may be just obligated to show up on time. By the time you’re partners, however, you may be living together, agreeing to clean the bathroom every other week. 

Bottom Line: To stay strong with reliability implies to only promise what you can deliver and continue to deliver what you promise.

Second, we have Faithfulness Obligations

Clearly, on the first date, you’re not obligated to be faithful. However, it seems pretty obvious that if you commit to being exclusive, then by definition exclusivity means you’re not dating or sleeping with other people. 

The exception? An “open” relationship. Just make sure when you have the “are we exclusive?” conversation that you make sure you’re both on the same page with what exclusivity really means.

Third, there are the Honest Sharing Integrity Obligations

Honesty has one gray integrity area; when are you obligated to share what?

On that first date, are you obligated to share details about the date you had the previous night? Are you obligated to share all the juicy details about the last woman you dated? 

When you’re dating exclusively, now are you obligated to be sharing everything? What happens if you want to have lunch with a female friend, but the woman you’re dating exclusively gets madly jealous? Do you tell her you’re going to have the lunch and incur the wrath of jealousy, or do you just keep this one secret?

In other words, is there a stage in dating when it’s acceptable to not share everything? This one takes a bit more dissecting.

Let’s start with Honest Sharing in Dating Process Step #1: Open Dating

In this first stage I think it’s reasonable to say you’re not obligated to share everything. You’re both still in the dating scene with the right to be casting a wide net. Until you’ve agreed to be exclusive, you can still be dating other people (by definition).

In this stage, you’re obligated to share what’s appropriate to get to know each other. Of course, only you two know which topics fall into this category.

As a general rule, I’d say certainly by the third date or so, you probably want to share any big potential deal-killers. Married? Smoke? Have kids? Planning to move out of the country anytime soon? Drugs a big part of your life? You get the picture. 

Don’t waste each other’s time by not sharing the big stuff. And who knows, you might find it’s not the deal-breaker you’re so worried it might be.

Honest Sharing in Dating Process Step #2: Exclusive Dating

During exclusive dating, you have the highest potential for honesty ambiguity. In this stage, you’ve narrowed your net to one, but you’re not yet committed to being partners either.

One rule of thumb is to share what feels safe to share, and then pay careful attention. Any topic that doesn’t feel safe to share can be a warning flag. Why doesn’t it feel safe? 

Is there mistrust from the very beginning? Perhaps she was burned in the past and has trouble trusting men now? If this is the case, then perhaps her mode of operation is any new guy must first earn her trust; you’re not granted trust from the beginning. In other words, you’re guilty until proven innocent.

The challenge with this scenario is that any young relationship has all sorts of room for ambiguity and misunderstandings. 

Let’s say one of your best friends is a very attractive female. You two have been “just friends” for years. There’s nothing going on between you two. As has been your custom for years, you like to get together for dinner and catch up every once in a while.

How does your girlfriend react? Is she supportive? Is she jealous? Does she accuse you of keeping in touch with your hot friend as a backup plan in case your relationship doesn’t work out? Are your lunch dates always met with conflict from your girlfriend? Does it feel a lot safer just to keep dinner with your hot friend on the down-low?

On the other hand, are you being untrustworthy? Although you’ve agreed to be dating exclusively, are you keeping a few Plan B’s around just in case? Only you really know for sure.

A major point here is to Set Expectations Appropriately

When having the “are we exclusive?” conversation, it’s key to make sure you’re both on the same page about what exclusivity really means. And if you agree to be exclusive, make sure you both mean it.

A huge area of potential ambiguity is maintaining “relationships” with exes and friends of the opposite sex. Best to agree on where each of you stand on this one. Is continued contact with an ex still allowed? Note: if you can’t come to agreement, then this might be a big red flag that perhaps something weak is on the horizon. 

That said, honestly ask yourself: Why do you want to keep in contact with your ex in the first place? Put another way, is keeping in touch with an ex worth potentially more to you than the potentially new relationship standing in front of you right now?

Also, being exclusive doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be spending less time trying to impress each other now that the catch has been made. Some people go all-out to get the girl or boy, only to settle in on the couch once the catch has been made. 

As discussed in Season 1, a high-quality relationship has way more fun than drama, with a stable relationship having five moments of fun to each moment of drama. Constantly, sitting on the couch drinking beer, while your lady is in the other room doing her own thing, isn’t necessarily going to chalk up many fun moments together, and could spark moments of drama as she begins to resent you just sitting on her couch watching TV and drinking her beer.

Next we have Sharing Honestly in Dating Process Step #3: Partners

At this stage, you two best be sharing everything. In fact, one can say that being partners means you’re now comfortable, able and willing to share everything. All walls are down.

Yes, as partners, you’ll still need to resolve any outstanding issues. However, you two come to those discussions from a place of commitment toward each other. Handling life situations doesn’t carry the threat that one or both of you will leave if either of you don’t get your way. 

Put another way, when you two are committed partners, with a commitment to not quitting the relationship, you carry an air of smugness; of course, you’ll resolve any and all issues. After all, you’re partners now, working together for the common good of the relationship. There really isn’t any reason to be dishonest as you both understand neither of you are perfect. Be honest, fess up to whatever inevitable imperfections and get back to maximizing the fun you have together.

That all said, it also can be helpful to have a short memory, quickly let go and learn to move on. For instance, when I look at the drama my wife and I have had over the past 2-years through my Relationship Workout Journal, it becomes really clear that most if not all of the drama we’ve had together over those two years are over topics unimportant in the medium to long run. 

So why do people behave with weak integrity when the risk is possibly destroying the trust you have together? Can you say temptation? The topic of our next episode.

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