Sunday, January 14, 2007

Question of the Week #21: Your Shield Against Relationship Adversity

Today's question is all about commitment, which I think of as the force that shields your marriage against all the challenges the two of you must endure. Every relationship involves adversity from time to time. A truly committed couple responds to the hard times by asking themselves, "How are we going to get through this? What will get us to the other side?" Someone who lacks commitment, though, might ask, "Should I stay or leave?"

Don't get me wrong; I realize some challenges overwhelm even the strongest commitment. When a relationship is toxic and abusive, sometimes the only possible path is to save yourself by ending it.

In many cases, however, I believe commitment can spell the difference between fighting hard to save the marriage versus bailing out over problems that could be worked out. As John Beecher once said, “Strength is a matter of the made-up mind.” If you both make up your minds that this marriage is forever, it's amazing what the two of you can find the strength to accomplish.

I'd like to hear your views about commitment in marriage. Why do you think commitment is important? Do you have a personal story in which commitment was all important in making a relationship work? Or perhaps you know of a situation where a lack of commitment was one of the major problems.

Do you agree with my assessment of commitment, or do you think the whole concept is outmoded and old fashioned? How does it apply to dating relationships or people who are living together but not married?

This question is more than just a passing fancy on my part. I am currently putting together a book proposal and one of the chapters is about commitment. I would love to quote your opinions and stories in the book, so write as much or as little as you wish. No response is too long or too short. Feel free to answer all of the questions I posed, or just one; it's up to you. I am eager to hear what you have to say.


  1. With the assumption that a relationship is neither toxic nor abusive--sorry, but even "commitment" has to end somewhere--I'm afraid I don't see what the point is of getting married or maintaining a serious relationship without commitment. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, too, but if you're going to quit on a whim, why bother?

    My mother's health fell apart about ten years ago and my father picked up the slack--and there was a lot of slack, since Mom was very nearly bedridden--without a peep. He's never complained. I've heard of men bailing on marriages for much less than this, but there was never any hint of "I can't handle this" or "She should be doing more for herself" or any excuses. It was just a given that they would go through whatever she went through, together. (She's doing much better now.)

    Even in my last relationship, which I admit was short and failed pretty badly, we both took it seriously and wanted it to work out. As it turned out, we didn't have the experience or the emotional resources to pull it off, but we did try.

    I'm always a bit shocked when I hear someone make the argument that "monogamy is not a natural state". It's not? Clearly there is more than one type of human, then, because I cannot imagine myself treating an established relationship so casually.

  2. Just saying hello and thanks for the comment. I've been guilty of lurking more than commenting over here.

  3. the very act of taking marriage vows should reflect a deep commitment and spiritual conviction, unfortunately, marriage seems to have become more of an "event" than an enduring commitment as the divorce rate so adequately demonstrates.

    the real commitment begins after the intense attraction wears a bit and two people work daily as a team to build a life together and help their children grow in this world.

  4. nope not touching that topic with a 10 foot pole right now! lmao! Interesting site. I will have a look around and if you get me in a weak moment... I might even share my thoughts... they are warped... I warn you now! hehehe jk

    cheers! Kate

  5. Without mutual committment, how can one grow, change, and heal past hurts? or even be themself?
    You'd always have to worry about whether you'd done something that would drive the other away. That doesn't mean that because of mutal committment that you'd stop doing good things for the other, but you wouldn't have to "be good" out of fear that the other would leave.
    The knowledge that "we will get through this together" when things are hard is incredibly comforting and empowering.
    We've been through physical illness, mental illness, jobs lost and new ones found, all of the usual sorts of things that people go through. As we go through them together, we are strengthened in our committment to eachother and our self is strengthened too.

  6. Graet graphic, Andrew !
    Your caveats were important. As long as a relationship is neither toxic nor abusive, committment combined with love is everything. It's the glue of trust, of respect, and of understanding. It isn't old-fashioned at all. What it says is that two people think enough of themselves -- and of each-other, to try to salvage (and perhaps even deepen) something they thought was precious originally.

  7. I think commitment, whether in marriage or other relationships, is a seminal concept if one hopes to be stable. I don't think close, meaningful relationships can exist without it. Therefore, only if one is content to have a string of relationships that disentegrate at the first sign of conflict, is it possible to go through life without commitment.

  8. I think commitment is extremely important because in any endeavour, people must be dedicated in order to succeed, but those who give up too soon--oh forget it, I'm going to bed.

  9. I think a marriage without trust and mutual committment to each other, the family and the marriage is doomed from the beginning. In our day and age, where divorce is as common as ordering a cosmo in NYC, if you want your marriage to last, then step up and make that choice. I want YOU. Forever. I pledge myself to you- always. Not, until the new wears off and I don't get my way.

    My husband and I are rounding our first anniversary, so there are many who may say I don't have room to talk, yet. But, enduring a separation in Iraq (first Korea) and stress of military moves, career changes, new directions, there were points in our first year where we were both ready to strangle the other one. The year apart when he was in Iraq was the hardest thing I'd ever gone through. I felt isolated. waiting for him, thinking of him, praying for him, and for me. Male "friends" tried their best to step in... offering dinners, MIX CDs (lol), fun fun fun. Obvious attempts at romance. But, I had the ability to see through all of that, and despite my lonliness, I continued to wait for those calls and stay committed to our relationship.

    It's the only thing that can keep you afloat!

  10. Commitment is essential to maintain any relationship. But (there's always a "but"), it will only work if the level of commitment is equal or nearly equal. If either party is not fully, completely and entirely committed, eventually some adversity will spotlight the shortcoming, and risk undermining the entire relationship.

    At least *as* important as commitment, if not more so, is communication. You cannot be "partners" if you can't share your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly.

    Now, I need to go communicate with my husband that I think he needs to be committed. LOL!

  11. This is a subject that stinks with me.
    I beleive commitment is at the very core of a relationship.
    It binds love and trust together.
    Without commitment you're only room mates and free to see others as well when you please.
    I'll stop here before I say to much.
    Have a nice one Andrew

  12. Anonymous8:31 PM

    As a man who has been married (and faithful) to the same woman for thirty years, I can honestly say commmitment is the only thing that really mattters when things get sideways. Through illness, loss, being flush and broke, our commitment to each other helped us be partners in life, never alone through whatever life handed us. I can't imagine not being with my wife, nor would I want to. She is my life partner, lover, soulmate and best friend. Anyone who finds true love and throws it away for the sake of anything else is a fool and does not deserve it. The day we married I promised I would be with her forever and intend on keeping that promise.

  13. I've seen commitment make a way where there seemingly was no way, more than a few times in my marriage. My husband is the anchor that holds this woman full of buoyancy down. I have wanted to dart on numerous occassions, and always my husband has stood solid.

    He has never threatened to leave me. He has never angrily taken the keys and raced away in a rage. He has never called me names. He has never vented his hate at me right out loud.

    What he has done is shown me a better way. A better way to communicate. A better way to deal with my anger and my frustrations. A better way to honor our vows.

    And do you know where that has gotten me? I have quit looking for the 'exit' sign. I have quit storming away in flights of rage. I've quit calling names. I've quit threatening our relationship. I've quit being a victim, but more of a solid partner in our mutual committed relationship.

    Just tonight I told my husband a line that I used to tell him when we were newlyweds. "You would miss me." I would say. Then I got to a point in our relationship that I wouldn't dare tell him that he would miss me because I knew that it wasn't true. I wasn't anyone to be missed and I knew it.

    Tonight I was playing when I told him that he would miss me. It felt good to be able to once again word that silly phrase. But do you know what felt even better? It was what I said next. "But I would miss you more."

    Through his patience and commitment I have been married for almost twenty years. Had I had my way I would be without a really great guy.

    So sometimes a person would think that for a relationship to work it takes an equal dedication to the commitment, but I am here to say that if one chooses to lead and is fair minded and level headed then the not so fair minded or level headed mate might just stick around.

    Through the years I've been frustrated at times that I am a writer and my husband hates to read. What a combination! But you know what? I've learned that he supports me anyway. How do I know? He's still my husband! I gave him plenty of chances to bail I assure you! And all he did was love me in spite of me.

    Here is my dedication to my husband that he has never even read... It's in my second book of memoirs that I wrote as a personal challenge to myself and self published on I'm still believing for representation for my novels to go mainstream with traditional publication, but for now I'm happy to have the peace of mind that I have found in the arms of a man that I had tried my best to chase away. I'll leave off with my dedication to my husband, whom I love dearly, even if he doesn't read what I write. What he does read is me, and loves me anyway.

    ~ Dedication ~

    I dedicate this second book to my husband whose silent support speaks volumes. He is the shoulder that I lean on, and his are the arms that hold me strong. He’s my ever steady stabilizer and the keeper of my peace, as he always directs my sometimes not so peaceful path back to Jesus and His perfect peace.

  14. Anonymous1:13 PM

    When I was 19, my parents divorced after nearly 25 years of marriage. My dad just decided that instead of trying to fix what was wrong in their relationship, he'd just start again with someone else. My mom was willing to attempt to forgive his indiscretions and work it out, but not if he wasn't willing to try as well.

    Living through that experience as an adult, I processed it much differently than stereotypical "children of divorce." The biggest thing I got out of it was that, for me, divorce is not an option. It's a four-letter word. When I get married, it's going to be "for keeps." I want to reach that 50-year anniversary. I want to be that old couple walking down the street holding hands, or kissing and making the grandkids say "ew!"

    I know that relationships are not just fun and games, but they are hard work. People go through ups and downs, and so do relationships. In this instant-gratification world we live in, it's easy to think after a few months of "bad times" that bailing is an option. But the bad times could be years. It doesn't mean that the relationship is doomed (though I'll agree with the above comments that there are times when you must get out). Patience and commitment and being willing to work through the tough stuff is a huge part of marriage.

    And it has been absolutely crucial to me that anyone I was in a serious relationship had this same view of marriage. That it wasn't something we'd "try and see if it works," I wasn't looking for a "starter husband," and that this really was a big deal. I am so... happy, relieved, consoled, comforted that my boyfriend has this same view of marriage.

    The article in the NYTimes (that was most-emailed last month) about 15 questions you should ask before getting married included "are we both as committed to this relationship at the same level?" I don't think everyone asks this question before getting married.

  15. Someone once told me "isn't it funny how some parents will stick to their kids through thick and thin for the only reason that they are their kids but just let their spouse go on a whim?"

    Almost no matter what, family will always remain family. That's commitment. If it doesn't work, you make it work.

    I believe that when you marry somebody, that person becomes your family, and only something terrible should ever break up that relationship (like abuse, etc...)

    Many people break up their relationships because they "realize" that their spouse wasn't "the One", but it was actually somebody else. Perhaps that somebody else has more chemestry with you, perhaps you have more in common, but I believe that you can almost always find someone "better" for you on some accounts, and when your relationship is rocky, you don't see that your spouse is actually better on other, perhaps more important, accounts. The grass is always greener on the other side.
    When you get married, you're basically saying "you are the One" and you stop looking for "the One" - and if you find someone who you feel closer to, you RUN in the other direction because that's commitment.

  16. I have to say that commitment is crucial in holding on to a relationship. Not only during arguments but during times when the attractions wanes or you just can't stand the person. My dad gave me that advice you have to work on the relationships but there are times when you will just be friends or you will not like each other. Commitment is staying and "stoking" the embers alittle. It comes back perhaps differently but it always comes back with some creativity and effort.

    Also I am a believer and truly believe that a covenant marriage helps during tough times. We had been having troubles and started going to a married class at church that really looks at a christian marriage. (I know this might start a barrage of comments)

  17. Anonymous2:55 AM

    I have diverse views on commitment. Commitment to a monogamous relationship is certainly the basis for a relationship. I don't think anyone can be truly secure in a relationship without that commmitment. But, what if the other person's insecurity is out of control? In that situation, it may lead to abuse. Why? Because the commitment is so consistently challenged--"You don't love me"--that the other party will go to extreme lengths to prove the commitment. (Commitment here being to love and monogamy). The one party's insecurity can be a source of escalating demands that the other party will never be able to meet.

    On an other note, commitment is what allows us to be settled and peaceful in a relationship. It is one of the three parts of love (the other two being caring behaviours, and loving/tender feelings--N. Branden's view). But, it should not be used as a cover or justification for unacceptable behaviour.