Part One: Commitment
Commuting with four carpool buddies, one day I posed the question: What’s the difference between commitment and faithfulness? After a few rounds of debate the jury was in: Commitment is our intent to stay in relationship with our wives; faithfulness is the practice of doing so.
That said, let’s admit that a committed spouse is not necessarily a faithful spouse. Men in particular succumb to the idea that they can have their Kate and Edith too. Kate is the stable spouse with whom they raise kids, attend church, and gray with time. Edith represents the workplace “friendship” or sexual fling. In their mind they are committed to both, but in practice faithful to neither.
So what of commitment? If it is not a guarantee for faithfulness, what’s it worth?
Commitment has much worth. Commitment is like training for a race. Training doesn’t guarantee winning, but it brings a host of benefits.
The more deeply people are committed to their spouse and marriage, the more likely they are to:
- sacrifice for the sake of their marriage
- report that they are satisfied with their relationship
- feel less trapped in their marriage
- enjoy longer-lasting marriages
They also tend not to scan the horizon for alternative partners.
Commitment transforms our talk
Commitment also translates powerfully into our marriages through our talk. Here is a practical example from Dave and Michelle:
“I (Dave) woke up at 5 a.m. and spent time with Jonas who was crying so Michelle could get an hour of peaceful sleep. I gave her a call from the office half way through the day. She e-mailed me and told me she appreciated my help around the house.”
Dave and Michelle’s manner reflects how committed couples tend be more emotionally supportive. They know when their spouse is hurt, or crabby, or elated, and they validate those feelings as genuine and legitimate. Unsupportive spouses challenge their mate’s feelings with statements such as “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “Quit feeling sorry for yourself.”
People who are committed also share their thoughts deeply. They go beyond the weather and sports, to describe what we’re thinking, feeling, dreaming, and scheming. Couples who believe that their spouses should be able to mind read (i.e., know what they are thinking without having to tell them) struggle relationally.
Committed couples enjoy “expressive interaction.” Their behavior shows affection, empathy, and the kind of warmth toward each other that translates into feelings of companionship, sexual responsiveness, and support. In other words, committed partners engage. They put down the paper, turn off the TV, offer “two-eye attention” and connect with their spouse.
Committed spouses also pay more attention to “little things” to show their love and concern. Michelle and Dave agreed that simply saying, “I love you” or phoning during the day, or going on dates affirmed their commitment. They also write notes, rub each other’s feet, pray together, and try to listen well. Conveying commitment isn’t showy, its subtle and common. But we still have to do it.
What Can YOU Do? Choose one or two ways that you can practice showing your spouse that you are committed and stick to it! You can also SHARE this post with others so that more marriages can benefit from learning about these acts of commitment.
You can also read Part Two: Faithfulness
Read another post on the topic: A Conversation about Love & God – If I asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Would you tell me your job title or refer to your relationships – husband, wife, son, daughter, friend?