September 25, 2008

Commitment Holds It All Together


My boyfriend and I have been living together for three years.

I am ready to get married, but he isn't sure he is ready for such a big commitment. Is commitment really that important in marriage?

L. S.

Commitment is very important in marriage. It is the glue that will hold your relationship together even when you do not feel like loving your spouse.

The first 18 months of marriage are usually highly charged physically because of the release of endorphins and other chemicals. The physical attraction is very strong in the beginning stages of a relationship. After the initial adrenaline rush, the physical excitement may slow down a bit. That is when commitment takes over.

Love is a decision, not an emotion. It may feel very emotional at times, but over a lifetime, loving decisions and actions need to be practiced with our spouse. Feelings will grow into mature decisions and actions. Marriage skills might need to be learned in order to have effective ways to resolve conflict.

Commitment means never even saying the word "divorce." It should not be a part of your marriage vocabulary. Threats of leaving or temporary separation are not a part of commitment. When you dedicate yourself to a lifetime marriage, you are devoted to your spouse. You make your marriage relationship a priority. You remain faithful to one another.

In marriage, you pledge yourself to your spouse and put his or her needs ahead of your own. Our culture struggles with this kind of dedication. It is a true mark of maturity to enter marriage as a responsible spouse who is committed to the relationship for a lifetime. That means working through difficulties, taking time to enjoy one another and respecting each other.

Are you looking for a lifetime spouse, or are you willing to settle for just living together?

Your current situation is not legally binding and has many dangers financially, emotionally and physically. This is a good day to examine your current situation and decide where you think you will be a year from now.

According to "The Case for Marriage" by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, "Our attitude toward marriage and not just about our partners in particular, either nurture marital success or inhibit it. To put it in plain English, for many people, commitment produces contentment; uncertainty creates agony."

They further state that, "the data clearly show that commitment increases sexual pleasure for both sexes."

A study from Blumstein and Schwarz found, "Only couples who are committed to the institution of marriage, not simply to each other, feel safe enough to be able to trust their resources to one another."

Ann Gries is executive director of Community Marriage Builders. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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