A friend of ours is fond of saying in relation to successful marriage, ‘it’s a matter of being committed to being committed.’ In other words, we have to be serious about our marriage commitment, willing to tough it out when it’s difficult and put to the test.
There’s a great deal of wisdom to this statement.
It’s easy to be committed to the relationship when everything is fine between us. We easily prioritise time together because we enjoy each other’s company. We speak kindly and respectfully to each other because neither is pushing the other’s buttons or being cantankerous. We happily surrender social opportunities because frankly, it’s just more fun to be together than with anyone else.
Being ‘committed’ in an environment like this is so easy it’s difficult to tell whether it’s genuine commitment or just enlightened self-interest. In terms of a short-term cost-benefit analysis, the relationship delivers more instant happiness than the effort it takes.
On the other hand, when things are stressed between us, when we’re not good company or easy conversation, our ‘commitment to being committed’ is put to the test. At these times our moments together are often draining rather than life-giving. Speaking kindly and respectfully takes a herculean effort in self-restraint and those social invitations outside the relationship are more appealing than being with the other. Even working late can seem more pleasant than the other’s company!
The thing about genuine commitment is that unless there is a willingness to make personal sacrifices, it really isn’t commitment. Commitment costs. It costs time; it costs opportunities; it costs comfort; it costs personal independence.
But commitment – genuine commitment – pays real dividends… particularly in the long-term. It pays in spiritual growth; it pays in relational stability; it pays in personal integrity and self-respect. Being willing to make the sacrifices necessary to honour our commitments in our relationships not only is a practical expression of our love for the other, it is a powerful way to practice our life-long mission to grow in maturity and holiness as individuals.
This willingness to sacrifice has been identified by social scientists as one of the critical indicators of authentic relational commitment. Without evidence of sacrifice, commitment is largely hypothetical.
This is not to say that our relationships are supposed to be all hard work!! Rather, it’s about learning to approach challenges in our relationship with resilience and optimism rather than dread. Yes, it will be hard today, but the benefits will follow. It is also an opportunity to grow personally and spiritually for both of us. If we change our perspective towards these difficult times, not only can we reframe them from potential disasters to growth opportunities, we are also more likely to recover from them more quickly, returning our relationship to positive dividend status.
So the next time your relationship is going through a rough patch (and we all have them), resist the temptation to be overwhelmed by hopelessness or defeat. Reframe your perspective to make it an opportunity to grow and to demonstrate your ‘commitment to being committed’!