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Maintaining Lifelong Commitment

Commitment and faithfulness are the foundation of a lasting, thriving marriage; honour your marriage and you will be richly rewarded with security, stability and satisfaction.

When two people say they are committed to a lifelong marriage, they are declaring their marriage takes top priority in their lives and are willing to do everything to make it work. Healthy couples believe marriage is permanent and that divorce is not an option. They look forward to their future together, love each other and invest in their relationship. In strong marriages, couples expect to face challenges together and are willing to give up their personal rights to make their marriage last. How does all this play out in everyday life? Let's take a closer look.

1. Marriage is a priceless gift
Lifelong commitment reflects and grows out of a realisation that marriage is a priceless gift that is best enjoyed in the security of permanency. Couples who stick together over the long haul understand that marriage is not merely a contractual partnership or a sexual liaison between two people; it’s a sacred and solemn union of two souls who find their completeness in each other.

2. Love is a decision
Lifelong commitment also implies that you love your spouse enough to make a decision to stay married ‘until death do us part’. In other words, divorce is not an option in your mind. At some point, a husband and wife need to "decide" to love – even when they don't feel like it. The word "decide" comes from a root word meaning "to cut." You cannot make a commitment without deciding to cut off other options that compete with what is most important.

Burn the ships! This phrase refers to one of the most dramatic incidents in the history of the Spanish conquest of the New World. In 1519, conquistador Hernando Cortés landed in Mexico on the shores of the Yucatan, intent on claiming the treasures of the Aztecs. Knowing that he and his men faced incredible odds, he changed the terms of the entire campaign by giving the order to "burn the ships." With no way out and no fallback option, his men had no place to go except forward.

Successful married couples "burn their ships" by taking the word "divorce" completely out of their vocabulary. It's a simple matter of commitment (although commitment is no simple task). So, cut off the divorce option because retreat is easy when you have the option.

3. You like your marriage relationship
Another aspect of lifelong commitment is the ability to say, "I really like this relationship and want it to continue." And to make the marriage continue, you’ll have to give it the highest honour and regard. Making the decision to stay together is one way to honour your marriage. But honour and commitment also involve emotions and feelings. If you can say, "I value and like this marriage," and really mean it, you're on the road to building a relationship that will go the distance. Here's what some of our seminar participants have said in answer to the question "What do you love about your marriage?"

  • Having fun and laughing with each other
  • Synergy – 1+1=3
  • Shared values
  • Raising our children together (tag team)
  • Making memories
  • I have someone to celebrate with
  • Sharing the deepest levels of intimacy
  • Sex
  • Serving the community together
  • Loving and being loved
  • Married to my best friend
  • Riding life's roller coaster together (adventure)

4. You take action
Last but not least, commitment isn't simply a matter of "deciding" to stay married (will) or "liking" the relationship (feeling). On the contrary, commitment is primarily about taking active steps to grow your marriage. You don’t just pay lip service (all talk, no action); you demonstrate how important your marriage is by proactively investing time and money to make it better. During difficult seasons you fight for your marriage. In season and out of season, you show yourself willing to do whatever it takes to keep your relationship strong.

Putting it into practice
Research shows a marriage commitment yields a more satisfying relationship on all levels. Women respond when they know their husbands are willing to put their egos aside for them. Men hesitate to invest unless they know there's a payoff. One researcher concluded that "a man tends to give most completely to a woman once he has decided, She is my future."

How do you make these concepts real and practical in everyday life? You might begin by trying a Date Night activity that highlights the excitement and adventure of mutual commitment. Come up with some activity that simply won't work unless the two of you decide right up front that you're both going to stick it out to the very end. Dancing naturally comes to mind – after all, "It takes two to tango" – but there are other games and sports – tennis, handball, or rowing, for instance – that might fit the bill equally well. An art project might also serve the purpose.

From the Focus on the Family website at focusonthefamily.com. © 2016 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was it that brought us together in the first place? What attracted us to each other?
  2. How can we re-ignite the spark of that attraction and bring it to life again?
  3. What was our vision for our marriage when we were just starting out? Where did we see ourselves going together? How can we recapture those original dreams and reaffirm our hopes for a shared future?
  4. What were the vows we spoke to each other at our wedding? Why did we make those vows and how are we doing in terms of keeping them? Has anything happened to change our commitment to pursuing those goals? If so, what can we do about it? How can we renew and reaffirm our vows to each other at this point in our relationship?