- Is Commitment
Enough? Part 1
- By Barrington H.
Brennen, February 21, 2002, 2017
Dear Sir: Iíve discovered that too many of my friends are not really committed
to making their marriages work. Is commitment all you need? What is commitment
Commitment is a positive and powerful ingredient in healthy relationships.
However, if a spouse is not totally committed, or is committed to the wrong
thing, then the marriage will not be healthy.
Marriage specialist, Dr.
Jeannette Lauer states in her book "Til Death Do Us Part" that
"commitment provides each spouse with the sense of being able to survive
all kinds of problems without being emotionally or interpersonally
crippled." In a deeper way, we can also say that committed couples seek to
avoid creating painful situations that will destroy marriages. "Commitment
involves a promise of dedication to a relationship in which there is an
emotional attachment to another person who has made the promise." The
problem is if one spouse does not make the same promise as the other.
- WHAT ARE YOU
- Let us explore further the meaning of
commitment. After working with hundreds of couples and studying the
meaning of commitment, Iíve discovered that there are at least three
kinds of commitment. The first is a commitment
to a happy marriage. This may sound good on the surface, but
the problem is that this type of commitment only lasts as long as the
happiness. When the happiness goes away, the commitment is over and the
Secondly, there is a commitment
to marriage itself. Spouses who are prepared to stick to the marriage
no matter what. They have been taught to ignore their pain and misery and to
endure the relationship. Many Christian wives mistakenly have this type of
commitment. They would remain in a relationship even after contracting sexually
transmitted diseases as a result of their husbandís unfaithfulness. They just
"rough it out" because "it is the Lordís will." I call
this blind commitment.
Thirdly, there is a commitment
to both marriage, happiness, and the spouse. This is healthy
commitment. I call it total commitment. This is the kind of commitment found
between happily married couples. Being committed alone to the marriage vows
itself is not enough. There must be a blend of the two other types of
commitments. When both spouses are totally committed, the marriage can make it
through the rough times because both partners are seeking to make it better and
have a commitment to not give up in the face of pain. It is imperative to note
both partners need to have this kind of commitment.
Unfortunately, there are too many
marriages where partners are going through constant struggles, pain,
torment, and frustration. I call this a "bootcamp marriage" where
the survival of the fittest seems to be the philosophy. There are too many
spouses who are taught that "endurance" should be the most
sought-out ingredient in marriage. This is sad. As I have mentioned in
earlier articles, marriage is not an endurance test. God does not require
any spouse to just endure a relationship. On the other hand, I am not
suggesting that a spouse should easily give up on a marriage when there is
pain and disappointment. Persons in painful marriages should seek
professional help. The real challenge with "bootcamp" marriages is
that the partners are not really allowed to admit the pain, to themselves,
or anyone else.
I have met many spouses
who thought God expected them "put up," "endure" or
"rough it out" in order to be a good spouse. These marriage are
characterized not by their joyous times, but instead by the selfish demands,
painful put downs, and unrealistic expectations. One or both partners refuse to
shape up nor shake out. Either they are too shameful to leave the relationship
or they fear God will strike them if they "disobey" Him. Bootcamp
marriages are that way because the partners are only one-sided in the
commitment. A commitment to the marriage vows, each other, and happiness is
needed for a satisfying as well as a long-lasting relationship.
- HOW TO BREAK OUT
OF BOOTCAMP MARRIAGES
- Is it possible to change a bootcamp
marriage into a vital or total marriage where both are mutually
supportive, happy, and understanding? Yes, but it requires honest personal
examination and mental adjustment from both partners.
are suggestions that may help free a "bootcamp" marriage:
Write a letter. When
one partner is awaken to the reality of the state of the marriage and
wants to save it, write a letter to the other partner expressing how you
feel about the pain in the relationship. Hold the partner accountable for
his or her behavior by stating your willingness to work on the
relationship if he or she will seek professional help, go to a marriage
seminar, or read a book, etc. Remember, this letter is to focus on the
writerís feelings by using the "I" instead of "you
always" and "you never."
Find a good marriage counselor who is aware of the dynamics involved in
Stop nagging and
criticizing. Focus on the positive and the good. Take the time to praise
even the little things.
Each partner should
accept the role they played in bringing pain to the relationship.
Read the book
"Boundaries" by Dr. Charles Whitfield.
self-talk. Tell yourself:
- a. That you have the right to
express your opinions and have them respected.
- b. You have a right to have
your needs be as important as your partnerís needs.
- c. You have a right to change
- d. You have a right to not be
physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.
- e. You have a right to not take
responsibility for your partnerís behavior.
- f. Accept your spouseís
personality as a gift to the relationship. Accept the difference
between both of you as an opportunity to grow and learn.
- g. Tell your self that
you are somebody special, unique, and with a purpose.
These are only a few of
the things that may help a bootcamp marriage become a vital one. Remember, total
commitment in marriage means the willingness and determination to work through
troubled times. That means also that commitment involves patience and acceptance
to be complete. Dear friends, be totally committed.
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and family
therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist,
USA. Send your questions or comments to
firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box
CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit
www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980.