“The successful person makes a habit of doing what the failing person doesn’t like to do.” – Thomas Edison
Marriage! Can you think of a relationship commitment that is under more pressure, requires more intentionality, more work and even sacrifice in order for it to endure? We have all heard the quote about the difference between involvement and commitment being like an eggs and ham breakfast; the chicken was involved-the pig was committed. Today we appear to be committed to an abundance of things like work, church, working out, our favorite team or club, being healthy and many others. These things can be good for us of course, but commitments to people or a specific person are the most important commitments we make; and also the most challenging! Maybe part of the difficulty is in how we generally view commitment in our relationships, especially marriage, versus God’s perspective and His intention for it!
Research and theory by Stanley & Markman (1992) show two components to commitment: personal dedication and constraint. Personal dedication speaks to how intrinsically committed partners are to one another whereas constraints are the things that might keep couples together when partners would rather leave (such as children, finances or lifestyle). They say dedication has four important parts including a desire for a future together, a sense of “us” or “we,” a high sense of priority for the relationship, and more satisfaction with sacrificing for the other. They also believe important aspects for marital success, in view of commitment, are for a couple to develop and maintain a long term perspective to marriage and to make choices to give up choices! “We end up with much less in life when we try to hang on to everything rather then being more devoted and dedicated to a particular path or partner.” The escalating divorce rate today would certainly point to a view of marriage as a contract. A contract says “I will do my part and you do your part. If either of us does not, we are no longer obligated.” It’s easy to see how a lack of a long term commitment, lack of giving up choices and lack of making sacrifices leads couples to giving up and getting out of the marriage.
There is also another perspective on commitment-covenant! Nelson’s Bible dictionary says it well: “A covenant, in the biblical sense, implies much more than a contract or simple agreement. A contract always has an end date, while a covenant is a permanent arrangement. Another difference is that a contract generally involves only one part of a person, such as a skill, while a covenant covers a person’s total being.” In the Bible, a promise by God was a covenant; God actually bound himself. Relationships were bound by a covenant as seen in the relationship between God and Abraham, Christ and the church and husband and wife.
Everett Worthington says it well: “Today there is an emphasis on personal liberty, rather than communal responsibility. This shows up in marriages today as an emphasis on rights to the exclusion of responsibilities, and on contracts to the exclusion of covenants. A covenant says “I’ll give you 100% forever, even if you never give me anything back, because I love you.””