With special thanks for J. A. Vas for sharing!
By Focus on the Family Malaysia
A fridge, a washing machine… Have you and your spouse bought any such household item together lately? Believe it or not, a recent study on relationship commitment shows buying decisions like these can be a significant pointer to your ability to stay together!
Have you recently thought about what it will take to stay together for a lifetime? Love, of course, will keep you together, but the problem is that love tends to evaporate from most relationships after a while. Relationship experts agree that very, very few relationships remain consistently satisfying when the only adhesives holding them together are romance and sexual attraction.
Fortunately, there is more to love than just emotional flutterings. The type of love that lasts is a decision rather than a feeling. The really good news is that when you hold to that decision, you can fall back into love again as well.
Like it or not, we live in a divorce culture. I believe the most basic cause is the short supply of the most central ingredient that makes our significant relationships work – commitment.
I had to counsel two friends who were considering separating. Sadly, they parted in the end. As we explored together what was missing in their relationship, something startling began to emerge. The husband wanted OUT, with a capital O!
Probing into his reasons, it became clear he had had his fingers crossed as he made his vows on his wedding day, figuratively speaking. He had told himself that if it didn’t work, he could always get out. Not a great start to what is supposed to have been a lifelong commitment!
There is no doubt that commitment is a major source of security in relationships. Love is not love without commitment. However, with commitment comes a certain amount of grieving – when we commit to one, we have to give up the possibility of others. If one commits to a course in chemistry, then you may have to miss out on some wonderful and stimulating history lessons.
In an intimate relationship, a true commitment to one person means you are saying “yes” to that person and “no” to every other contender for that position in your heart. And it’s “no”, not just to current and past contenders but to every potential future contender as well, even if that person is more exciting, richer and more gorgeous than your current partner.
But this is a generation that is skilled in keeping their options open, often fuelled by the underlying fear that if I commit, something better might turn up.
Individualism has taught us to look out for ourselves. “What I want” rates far more highly than the sacrifices it takes to build a life with another person! But “what I want” may be incompatible with the “wants” of another – even the person I am passionately attracted to.
To dredge up a psychological term, we are experiencing the fruits of the privatisation of conscience – a phenomenon distinct to our culture and time. We tend not to care what others – even our significant others – think and feel.
Our culture actually encourages us to believe that only our point of view is correct. But think about it: is it at all likely that you are the only arbiter of truth, particularly if your truth is eroding your relationship with someone you love and need?
But to build significant, loving and faithful relationships, commitment must be the cornerstone.
Commitment involves a decision of my will, a fair amount of altruism, keeping my promise, and a long-haul view.
My will – in that I decide to buy into the relationship and not just walk away for ease of convenience.
Altruism – in that I am prepared to seek the good of someone else, even when there’s no immediate pay off for both of us.
And finally, a long-haul view – because a vision for the future gets me over the speed bumps of today. In the absence of a long-haul view, as humans we are apt to go for the immediate pay off.
In relationships where the commitment picture is unclear, neither party will tend to invest. We don’t invest in banks that are shaky, and we tend to apply the same rationale to our relationships.
There is also a principle that whatever we invest in and give energy to, we bond with. That’s why talking about your life together in the future is so important today! This increases the shared bond and nourishes your commitment.
Say “yes” to your marriage. Make your spouse part of your ‘life plan’. Make your investments in your relationship a regular thing. Get in there and show love, warmth, care, affection and verbal appreciation.
Acknowledge that marriage and ‘buying in’ is risky, but the statistics clearly show that in terms of long-term satisfaction and contentment, it’s the best investment you can make.
Trust is the glue of relationship. Show your commitment by investing; this makes it easier for your spouse to trust you and to invest heavily as well. That in turn will feed commitment and trust. (Trust, by the way, is the rocket fuel of passion – particularly for the spouse! Need to say more …?)
Here are some tips on building a happy marriage.
- When you arrive home, greet each other first, even before the children or the dog. It will give your children the wonderful message that Mummy and Daddy love each other. This is the best message about security that you can give your children.
- Set aside a time to connect each day and to hear each other’s heart. Ask “What three things happened today and how do you feel about them?”
- Try opposing selfishness and practising thoughtfulness. Three times a day, do something you don’t want to but you know your spouse loves (remember altruism!). That could be tidying up or saying ‘I love you”. Be team-centred – remember you are building a life together and you’re in this commitment together.
- Tell your spouse often why you love him/her. Be specific – I love the way you are so organised. I love your optimism and how you care for our children…