She says: “I noticed for some time that Michael, my husband, had been emotionally distant from me and was treating our children coldly. His behavior changed. When it’s time to go to bed, he sits in the hall with his eyes fixed on his phone. One night after the children had gone to bed, I asked what was wrong but he confessed he’s lost interest in the marriage. To make matters worse, a workmate had recently started to express a romantic interest in me too.”
He says: “Gifty isn’t who she was when we both met. I have explained how her mannerism was hurting me inside but I see no change. To make matters worse, I saw she regularly visited pornographic sites. I felt horribly embarrassed and very guilty. I thought it was the end of our marriage.”
WHAT do you think happened to Michael and Gifty’s relationship? You may think that getting fixated on phone was Michael’s main problem. But as Michael came to realize, this vice was really a symptom of a deeper issue —a lack of commitment to the marriage. When Michael and Gifty were first married, they looked forward to a life of shared love and enjoyable experiences. Like many couples, though, their commitment to the marriage waned over time, and they seemed to drift apart.
Do you feel that the bond between you and your mate has weakened as the years have passed? Would you like to reverse that trend? If so, you need to know the answers to three questions: What does it mean to be committed to your marriage? What challenges can undermine such commitment? And what can you do to strengthen your commitment to your mate?
What Is Commitment?
How would you define commitment in marriage? Many would say that it springs from a sense of duty. For example, a couple may remain committed to their marriage because of their children or because of a duty they feel toward God, the Originator of marriage. (Genesis 2:22-24) Certainly, such motives are admirable and will help a marriage survive difficult times. But to be happy, marriage mates need to feel more than just a sense of obligation to each other.
Jehovah God designed marriage to bring a couple deep-seated joy and contentment. He intended for a man to “rejoice with [his] wife” and for a woman to love her husband and to feel that her husband loves her as he does his own body. (Proverbs 5:18; Ephesians 5:28) To create that sort of bond, a couple must learn to trust each other. Equally important, they need to develop a lifelong friendship. When a man and woman earn each other’s trust and work at becoming the best of friends, their commitment to the marriage will grow. They will form a bond the Bible describes as being so close that it is as if the two people were “one flesh.” —Matthew 19:5.
Commitment, therefore, could be likened to the mortar that binds the bricks of a sturdy house. Mortar is made from a combination of ingredients, including sand, cement, and water. Similarly, commitment is formed from a combination of such factors as duty, trust, and friendship. What may weaken that bond?
What Are the Challenges?
Commitment requires hard work and self-sacrifice. It demands that you be willing to forgo your own preferences in order to please your mate. However, the concept of yielding to someone else’s wishes —of giving without asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ —has become unpopular with many and even offensive to some. But ask yourself, ‘How many selfish people do I know who have a happy marriage?’ Likely the answer is, Few if any. Why? A selfish individual will not likely remain committed to a marriage when personal sacrifice is required, especially when there is no immediate payoff for the small concessions he or she may make. Without commitment, a relationship will sour, no matter how sweet the romantic feelings were when a couple first fell in love.
The Bible realistically acknowledges that marriage is hard work. It states that “the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife,” and that “the married woman is anxious for the things of the world, how she may gain the approval of her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:33, 34) Unfortunately, even marriage mates who normally are unselfish do not always acknowledge each other’s anxieties or value their mate’s sacrifices. When a couple fail to show appreciation for each other, their marriage is bound to cause them more “tribulation in their flesh” than it would otherwise. —1 Corinthians 7:28.
If your marriage is to survive difficult times and to thrive during good times, you need to develop a long-term view of your relationship. How can you develop such an attitude, and how can you encourage your mate to remain committed to you?
How to Strengthen Commitment
A key factor is humbly to apply the advice of God’s Word, the Bible. By doing so you will “benefit yourself” and your mate. (Isaiah 48:17) Consider just two practical steps you can take.
- Make your marriage a priority.
“Make sure of the more important things,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Philippians 1:10) In God’s eyes, the way a husband and wife treat each other is very important. A man who honors his wife will be honored by God. And a woman who respects her husband has “great value in the eyes of God.” —1 Peter 3:1-4, 7.
How important is your marriage to you? Usually, the more important an endeavor, the more time you spend on it. Ask yourself: ‘Over the past month, how much time did I set aside just to spend with my mate? What specific things have I done to reassure my mate that we are still good friends?’ If you invested little or no time in maintaining your marriage, your mate may find it difficult to believe that you are committed to the union.
Does your mate think that you are committed to your marriage? How can you find out?
TRY THIS: Write on a piece of paper the following five categories: money, work, marriage, entertainment, and friends. Now number the list according to what you believe to be your spouse’s priorities. Ask your mate to do the same about you. When completed, exchange lists with your mate. If your mate feels that you are not investing enough time and energy in the marriage, discuss what changes you may need to make to strengthen your commitment to each other. Also, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to take more of an interest in the things that are important to my mate?’
- Avoid all forms of infidelity.
Jesus Christ said: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) When a person engages in sexual intercourse outside of marriage, he or she delivers a devastating blow to the union, one that the Bible says is grounds for divorce. (Matthew 5:32) However, Jesus’ words quoted above show that a wrong desire can exist in the heart long before a person actually engages in the physical act of adultery. Entertaining that wrong desire is in itself a form of betrayal.
To maintain your commitment to your marriage, make a solemn pledge not to view pornography. Despite what many may say, pornography is poison to a marriage. Note the way one wife expresses her feelings about her husband’s viewing habits: “My husband says that watching pornography spices up our love life. But it just makes me feel that I’m worthless, that I’m not enough for him. I cry myself to sleep when he watches it.” Would you say that this man is strengthening his commitment to his marriage, or is he undermining it? Do you think that he is making it easier for his wife to remain committed to the marriage? Is he treating her as his closest friend?
The faithful man Job expressed his commitment to his marriage and to his God by making ‘a covenant with his eyes.’ He was determined not to ‘show himself attentive to a virgin.’ (Job 31:1) How can you imitate Job?
In addition to avoiding pornography, you need to guard your heart from forming an inappropriate attachment to a member of the opposite sex. True, many feel that flirting with members of the opposite sex does no harm to a marriage. But God’s Word warns us: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Has your heart fooled you? Ask yourself: ‘To whom am I most attentive —my spouse or some other member of the opposite sex? With whom do I share good news first —my spouse, or someone else? If my spouse asked me to limit my contact with an associate of the opposite sex, how would I react? Would I be resentful, or would I happily make the requested change?’
TRY THIS: If you find yourself attracted to someone other than your mate, limit your contact with that one to only what is necessary and keep all encounters on a purely professional level. Do not focus on ways in which you think this person is superior to your mate. Instead, focus on your mate’s positive qualities. (Proverbs 31:29) Recall the reasons why you fell in love with your mate. Ask yourself, ‘Has my mate really lost these qualities, or have I become blind to them?’
Take the Initiative
Michael and Maria, quoted at the outset, decided to ask for advice on how to resolve their issues. Of course, seeking advice is just the first step. But by being willing to face their problems and seek help, both Michael and Maria sent a clear message that they are committed to their marriage, that they are willing to work hard to make it succeed.
Whether your marriage is stable or strained, your mate needs to know that you are committed to making the marriage a success. Take whatever appropriate steps are necessary to convince your mate of that fact. Are you willing to do that?
- What activities could I cut back on to allow more time for my mate?
- What could I do to assure my mate that I am committed to our marriage?