Relationship expert Dr. Scott Stanley's definition of commitment is twofold. First, he says, commitment involves constraints. Constraints are those forces that keep you and your mate together: kids, in-laws, money, friends, value systems, faith, even the threat of a divorce. But the constraint aspect of commitment is not strong enough to keep couples together and happily married forever. For that, Stanley says, a couple must also have dedication. Couples with dedication not only plan to stay together, they have a constantly evolving plan to stay together. They rededicate themselves to each other regularly through planning events and talking about the future.

If you're interested in discovering more on this important topic, read Dr. Stanley's book on this, The Heart of Commitment. For now, here's a guideline for you to recharge your mate's need for a lifetime together, a way for you to implement your dedication and show your commitment to your relationship:

• Plan several activities and dreams you'll be doing together over the next twenty years. Where do you want to travel? What goals do you both have together and separately that your mate can help you accomplish? What do you want to do together with your children? What projects do you desire to finish? Any future educational paths that might be mutually enriching? How about buying a boat big enough to live on for a while? My wife and I sat down recently and made a plan to follow our dreams of taking two major trips per year. We decided that one of the trips would be with our three grown children and grandkids; the other will be reserved exclusively for the two of us.

• Write out an agreement on what you plan to do for the next twenty years to keep your love alive. Here's a contract for you to consider for lasting love:

We agree to enter the fourth and fifth levels of intimacy whenever the other one so desires. We will do this by deeply listening to each other, not defending our own opinions, but striving to love, understand, and validate the other's feelings and needs.

We agree to highly value each other and consider each other as more important than anything else on earth, except our relationship with God. If gold could describe our honor for each other, we would each be married to a 24-carat person.

We agree to communicate with each other regularly. This will be accomplished by speaking to each other by sharing truthful loving information and listening carefully to understand and validate each other's uniqueness. Our preferred method of communication will be drive-through listening. Our everyday conversations will include the safety necessary to share opinions, concerns, and expectations.

We agree never to go to sleep at night without resolving our major differences or conflicts. We will forgive each other as needed.

We agree to find creative ways of meeting each other's deepest relational needs. As we each grow older and change, we will strive to stay current with our understanding of each other's needs and ways of meeting those needs.

Now, back to our guideline for recharging your mate's needs:

• Express your lifetime commitment in words. Print it on a plaque, say it with gifts, just plain say it. "I will be with you forever and keep loving you until death do us part." Write a poem and print it for the whole family to see.

• Become a student of your mate. Find out all you can about who she or he is. What are your mate's favorite foods, activities, clothes, dreams? Treasure your mate's special differences.