Doing Family Right

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Marriage: Commitment—The First Pillar of an Amazing Marriage

Commitment—The First Pillar of an Amazing Marriage

There was a time not too long ago when “till death do us part” meant just that. Divorce was rare and considered taboo. Okay, so it is one generation ago. Then, couples entered marriage with the full understanding and real expectation that it would last a lifetime.

In the last few decades, however, there has been a significant shift in the way many people view and approach marriage. So many couples now don’t understand how critical commitment is to the marriage relationship. They don’t realize that in most cases, the success or failure of a marriage does not depend upon feelings or fate, but upon the serious determination of both husband and wife to stick it out and make it work, regardless of what happens along the way.

It’s a sad commentary on our generation that people don’t understand the nature of the decision to get married. Too often it’s a shallow, selfish decision based on convenience. Though a couple may vow to stay together forever, there’s an underlying assumption that, “I’ll stay with you if it feels good, if it works – but if it doesn’t, I’m out of here.” Divorce is left as an option for when things go bad. It’s almost assumed these days – no thanks to the modeling of the “minute marriages” of Hollywood.

But commitment is something very serious. It’s selfless, and it is costly. It requires us to put our spouse, and the health of our marriage relationship, ahead of selfish desires. In a culture that encourages us to get what we want when we want it, to look out for #1 above all else, people don’t understand the deep level of this kind of commitment. And as each successive generation fails to practice it, it becomes more elusive to the next.

Commitment is at the heart of God’s design for marriage. In fact, it’s so critical that we have made it the first pillar of an amazing marriage. To state it clearly: it is impossible for any marriage to survive, let alone thrive, in the absence of wholehearted commitment from both spouses. That being the case, what does commitment in a marriage actually look like?

Choose to Keep Your Promise

First of all, you have to settle this issue in your own mind once and for all: I will be faithful to my marital vows. I will make it work. Divorce is never an option.

God designed marriage to be permanent. In Matthew 19, when Jesus had a discussion on the permanence of marriage, He said,  “what God has joined together, let no man try to separate.” Keep in mind that God is not some kind of ogre up in the sky, or some kind of cosmic killjoy who’s trying to really screw up your life. On the contrary, His design for marriage is to make it sacred and healthy and positive – it’s a good plan.

To live committed, you must not only be devoted to your spouse, you must also be committed to the idea of marriage. The person you are married to will disappoint you – that’s a guarantee. The question is, how will you respond when that happens? If you don’t have genuine commitment, you will slide easily into selfishness, whether that means living for yourself within the marriage or turning your back on it entirely.

On the other hand, if you have firmly decided that you are in this for the long haul, you will be motivated to work through the disappointment and see things improve. What a gift to be able to say to your spouse, “Whatever the problem or issues between us, no matter how insurmountable or difficult it seems, I want you to know something. I’m not going anywhere. I’m committed to work this out with you.”

Keeping your promise also means making the marriage a priority. To build into your marriage, it needs to actually be in your weekly schedule. It’s far too easy for life to take over and for your relationship to be shoved to the backburner. If you see your marriage as being very valuable, not something to be taken casually, your life priorities and time need to reflect that.

Put Hedges Around Your Marriage

At the heart of marital commitment is the idea of faithfulness. When I married Donalyn, I promised to always be faithful to her. That includes sexual fidelity, of course, but it goes far beyond avoiding having an affair.

Faithfulness means not allowing anything to come between you as a couple. It means, in a world that’s full of compromising attractions, that we will clearly say, “I will be exclusive to one; I will not look outside; I will have eyes focused only on one person.”

There are those who will say the idea of one man and one woman for life is just not realistic, practical or relevant any longer. Well, what are the options?  We have a generation that’s falling apart when it comes to its marriages and families. If you want something better, it begins with faithfulness.

We need to put boundaries on this thing called marriage, to help us remain faithful. For example, I choose to have mate-centred eyes. That means refusing to get gratification by looking at pornography or by scoping women as they pass by.

Some couples think boundaries aren’t necessary if they trust one another. I would argue that boundaries actually build trust. Donalyn and I have an understanding that neither of us will ever have lunch alone with a person of the opposite sex. This guideline removes the possibility of temptation arising in that kind of a situation, and it demonstrates our commitment to one another. We never have to question or wonder where the other person is or what they are doing, because we know there are boundaries that we don’t cross.

Start a New Legacy

Our kids desperately need a model of what commitment in a marriage looks like. They aren’t going to get it through the media or by following most sport or movie heroes; they need to get it from you.

Understand the stability it brings to the kids’ lives when they grow up in a home where mom and dad are fully committed to each other. When you can look your child in the eye and tell them, “I’m going to be committed to your mom or your dad forever,” it’s an amazing gift to your kids. It gives them confidence to face the world, knowing their family will always be behind them. They are anchored by your relational security.

It is never too late to start a new legacy. No matter what your family of origin has been, or how many difficulties you’ve had in the past, you can start to have faithfulness as a characteristic of your family. God can help you make that change. You do that, and it’ll make a great difference. To make your marriage as good as it can be is a super thing, because strong marriages build strong families, strong societies and a strong nation.

People who have experienced the tragedy of divorce, and even those who have just resigned themselves to a mediocre marriage and family life, are full of regrets. But you will never regret putting your marriage and family first. Believe it.

Go to Pillar 2 … Communication

Go to Pillar 3 … Companionship

Go to Pillar 4 … Closeness

© Dr. Dave Currie – March 2006

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