This past weekend I attended the wedding of one of my wife’s best friends. It was a beautiful day of celebration for the young couple and their love for each other was evident. I am not an expert on relationships or marriage, but if I was to give one piece of advice to the newlyweds it would be this – the most important word in your marriage is commitment.
So much of our western focus on marriage is around love, which can cause us great confusion. Love is a big part of marriage, not only the feeling but the attitude; the sacrificial, accepting and unconditional love that is key to any intimate relationship. Since we often think of love as a feeling, when it fades, we think we have “fallen out of love” and can now discard the relationship as it is no longer meeting the emotional need it once did.
That is why I think commitment is a better word to have as the focus of a marriage. I am not talking about eliminating love, far from it! I am suggesting that if the focus is on all the parts of love that are in common with commitment, it will serve you well in the long run. Words like patience, self-control and humility. Commitment doesn’t carry the same romantic sway as love, but when you boil it down, it is what marriage is all about. Love (the feeling) will fade in and out to varying degrees over time. Love (the commitment) will always grow and run deeper and deeper over time.
There are a couple of benefits to thinking this way. First, if you focus on commitment, the waves of emotion won’t buffet your marriage with the same force. The focus stops being “how am I feeling about this relationship” to “this is tough, but we can get through it”. Strong marriages are not easy marriages; they are the result of relationships that have come through trials. Being committed to your spouse and willing to sacrifice for the betterment of each other is at the centre of a strong relationship.
Second, when your commitment is front and centre, you act and make decisions based on the consequences of doing the wrong thing. You don’t say things you can’t take back. You work out the problems and don’t let them fester. You avoid temptation because the temporary joy is not worth the long-term pain. Your focus is on what is important and not what is easiest in the moment.
Whether you have been married for a few days or many years, my prayer for you is that commitment rules your relationship. That is the kind of love everyone deserves. That is the kind of love that makes great and special marriages.