Who Cares About Commitment?
Part 2 - Marriage
by Martha Nelson
In the previous article I mentioned the lack of commitment in our society today – especially to other people. Many of us feel we live “busy lives” and don’t have time to look after our own needs, let alone those of others.
Could that be one reason why more than fifty percent of marriages end in divorce?
How Society Values Marriage
Marriage is one of the most important commitments that we can make. It’s why most societies and religions require vows and the witness of family and community to ensure that this union is taken seriously and not abandoned when things get tough. The traditional Christian marriage service says marriage “is not by any to be taken in hand lightly or thoughtlessly, but reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God.”
Whatever your own situation is – married, single, separated or divorced – if you can stand back from the emotion of it all for a moment, we might agree that at least on a social welfare level, marriage is good for society and good for children. Statistics show this and maybe that’s why we have held on to saying those marriage vows – and have created laws to ensure that marriage is protected the way we feel deep down that it should be.
Love is Blind
However, if we’re really honest, most of us looking for a marriage partner are thinking foremost of what’s in it for us. If we can’t imagine “getting along” with this person and loving them, we’ll never take those vows. But “love is blind” (maybe there’s a benefit in this!) and we go into marriage believing we CAN meet those vows. Worse yet, we see the faults and think we can change the other person. (Or maybe we opt out for a live-in partner if those vows may be broken anyway. Why set ourselves up for trouble with a binding commitment if we don’t have to? )
When love is blind we don’t see the imperfections so clearly – but eventually we discover that the person we married is not perfect – and of course neither are we.
Beyond the Romance
The old adage “familiarity breeds contempt” does not apply just to marriage. We also see it in relationships with family, friends and work colleagues. A verse in the Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. “ (Proverbs 27:17) It’s referring to the development of character that sometimes only disagreements can allow.
Dealing with the same person day in and day out can either deepen or divide the partnership -- depending on how we react to the differences we will inevitably discover in each other over the years. It’s all intensified in marriage. And we’re also committed to agreeing on bigger issues like shared finances, where to live, and raising children.
But sticking with each other (be it through marriage or friendship) when the going gets tough does deepen the relationship in a way that easy times can’t. Isn’t that true? So perhaps commitment through those tough times is necessary to allow us to grow as people – and to depend on something or someone (God?) who is bigger than ourselves to make it work. Maybe those “irritating differences” aren’t always a bad thing. And maybe marriage vows are given such importance in our society (even if not in practice) because marriage is meant to be something deeper than just the fulfilment of a romance between two people.
Love is Commitment
Someone once said, “Love is commitment to an imperfect person.” Commitment to another means putting their needs or wants before your own. And imagine the tremendous comfort of knowing that this person you married is committing himself or herself to you for life. Choosing to embrace these realities is where any marriage (or friendship) really begins or ends.
If you’re interested in exploring more about the Purpose of Marriage, here's a video on this subject.
In the next article I’d like to write about the path that 50 percent of marriages take: Divorce.