The word commitment seems to have lost its integrity over the years It is no surprise that lack of commitment was listed as the number one response in a poll * about the main causes of divorce. But when one dissects the meaning of the word commitments — dedication, devotion, loyalty and faithfulness, it’s easy to see just how important commitment is to keep a relationship healthy and thriving.
If we can commit to checking our email regularly, tuning in to our favorite TV shows, or even squeezing in that 5 AM workout, why can we not commit to investing the time needed to keep our relationships healthy? And furthermore, what happens if we cannot delegate the same commitment we do to work, chores and children, to our own spouse?
Realizing that a lack of commitment can lead to divorce or drifting apart from your spouse, is the first step towards taking action in repairing this concern.
Researcher Scott Stanley from the University of Denver identifies two types of commitment that may be present in a marriage. The fist type of commitment is “constraint commitment.” This refers to the external parts of a relationship that may seem binding within the marriage. For instance, constraint commitment can range from children, finances, or even the length of time you have spent with your spouse.
This can be contrasted with the second type of commitment, “dedication commitment.” Dedication commitment embodies valuing and honoring your relationship, and having a sense that you are a part of something larger than yourself. Dedication commitment takes more than just two individuals living life near and around one another. This commitment takes putting your marriage as a top priority, and a willingness to work together to make your marriage work.
When one or both of these types of commitment is lacking in a marriage, the result is typically growing apart. However, with effort, time and a willingness to change, commitment can be restored. It is important to remember that two individuals in a marriage, should always be evolving and developing. In a healthy relationship, two people never remain stagnant over a long period of time, but are expected to change in many ways. By embracing your partner for who they are and where they are in life, you can begin to re-commit and invest in your marriage once again. Remember that lack of commitment is a perception, and the view you have of that perceived commitment can grow and change over time.
Where to Begin
A renewed sense of commitment to your marriage can begin by being honest with yourself and your spouse. Ask yourself questions such as:
“How can I invite more commitment?”
“What might I do to engage my partner more?”
“How can we grow together? “
“What was different in our past?”
“How can I better understand my partners needs, and they better understand mine?”
“What are important values and goals we still share?”
By asking yourself these questions you invite the first step towards understanding where you and your spouse are at in the marriage. From there, you can begin to take further steps towards repairing the commitment that was lost.
There are many healthy ways to increase your commitment over time. By initially assessing where you are in the marriage with the above questions, each spouse can begin to acknowledge if they feel the marriage is worth fighting for. Couples therapy can be an excellent way to restore commitment. By taking time from your busy schedules, to openly communicate and engage one another, you are already investing time back into the marriage. Couples therapy also serves as time to be completely honest with yourself and your spouse, and to discuss where you both are, away from life’s distractions.
Additional steps towards restoring commitment could be:
- Spending quality time together, such as a date night to reinforce time and dedication to the marriage.
- Greeting one another in a personal or physical manner each day.
- Creating goals, and future plans to work towards together.
- Staying connected through open communication of wants, hopes, dreams and fears.
- Becoming friends and confidants with your spouse, that root for one another.
- Remembering and expanding upon traditions that were once significant in the marriage.
- Taking time to connect by sharing activities that are important to one another, even if outside of your comfort zone.
- Finding ways to do small acts of kindness for one another that show affection and respect.
- Using intimacy as a time to connect with your spouse, with no interruptions.
Remember that restoring commitment in your relationship is attainable, and that by dedicating time and effort, you could save a relationship that is worth repairing.
* conducted by The National Fatherhood Initiative survey (2005)
Michael Winters is a Psychologist in Houston focusing on marriage counseling and therapy. Michael received his PhD from the University of Memphis and has been practicing since 1991.