Marriage is not a casual agreement. It is a covenant made before witnesses and God. Jesus tells us that God is the one who joins the husband and wife together “and what God has joined together let no man separate. Scripture says, “It is better to not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
So let’s think about the commitment it takes to keep our vows. I have adapted a good bit of the following from Scott Stanley’s excellent book, The Heart of Commitment.
TWO KINDS OF COMMITMENT
- Constraint Commitment: The external pressure to stay together.
Constraint commitment involved the outside forces that compel couples to stay together. They include
- Social Pressure: If we split up, our family, friends, and community may disapprove.
- Morality of Divorce: Most Christian couples know that God hates divorce.
- Children: Parents don’t want to hurt their children by splitting up.
- Finances: Divorce is expensive and may well alter your lifestyle.
- Termination Procedure: There are several steps in ending a marriage that take time and money.
- Alternative Quality: Most people want to be married, even if they don’t want to stay married. There is great concern if others will be interested in them as a future mate.
- Dedication Commitment: The internal state of devotion to a person.
Dedication commitment is the inner longing of a person to stay in a relationship. It is evidenced by the desire to not only continue in a relationship, but also make personal sacrifices to improve it. Here are some sources of dedication.
- Relationship Agenda: This exists when couples build mission and purpose into their relationship. They plan for the future; in essence, saying that they are committed to be in their spouse’s future.
- Primacy of Relationship: This is demonstrated by couples making regular times for each other, establishing the priority of dinner together, scheduling dates, and scheduling meetings to work through problems and issues.
- Couple Identity: This refers to the degree to which a husband and wife view themselves as a team. One way this is demonstrated is when couples use plural pronoun (we, our, us) instead of singular (I, me, mine) in referring to their relationship. Words mean something. They express our hearts.
- Satisfaction with Sacrifice: The degree to which the couple takes pleasure in doing things for their spouse’s benefit and enjoyment.
Dedication and constraint commitment are not mutually exclusive. Dedication commitment increases constraint commitment. And constraint commitment provides a foundation for dedication commitment to grow and flourish. The experiences of a relationship like buying a home together, having children, the death of parents, are significant investments into a relationship that increase both dedication and constraint commitment.
At the end of the day, these two types of commitment work like epoxy glue. You need them both to keep your vows…that you made to God.