What If My Spouse isn’t Interested
Creating a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner
Lesson 2 – Commitment
In the last installment of our e-course What If My Spouse isn’t Interested- 6 Things You Can Do to Create a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner, you learned how to get conscious about your relationship, understanding the inevitably of conflict and its growth potential. In this installment of 6 Things you Can Do to Create a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner, we will discuss the 2nd thing you can do to create a happy marriage with an unwilling partner- commit.
#2 Commitment- The Secret to a Happy Marriage
This seems pretty silly. If you subscribed to this e-course you have shown some level of commitment to your relationship. Yet, how far will you go in your commitment to your spouse? As I reflect on all the couples I have seen over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the ultimate secret to their success depended on one thing: commitment. In fact, studies have shown that the number one reason for divorce is not money or infidelity but lack of commitment. The couples that successfully get through crises are the ones who are committed to their marriage.
While you may have committed to getting married, you were in love. It was easy! Although you may have been told that marriage has its ups and downs, you were too blind to see reality at the time. “ No, we will be different, we won’t fight, and we will have a happy marriage.” Now, five, ten, twenty years down the road you realize how right they were. You weren’t prepared for this, and when you pledged to love each other “for better or for worse”, you did not commit to something this “worse”. This means that if you want to save your marriage and to enjoy a happy marriage, it is time to commit, but this time it is with the full knowledge of what that entails.
How does Commitment create a Happy Marriage?
What does it mean to commit? Is it a decision, an attitude, an action? Commitment is a combination of all of the above. It requires a decision to be dedicated to the relationship, making it a priority in your life. That decision is followed by an attitude that your marriage comes first and you are willing to do what it takes to improve it. Finally, your actions for your marriage are the manifestation of your decision and your attitude.
It has been my experience, that the couples that successfully get through crisis are the ones who are committed to their marriage and the commitment to creating a happy marriage. In our disposable society, a marriage is as expendable as a computer. You buy it knowing that you will have to replace it within a few years. A marriage is not a computer. It is a serious commitment that requires work and while it may seem much easier to leave the relationship, the truth is that it won’t necessarily be so. The potential damage divorce does will make you think twice about throwing away your marriage.
The Two Forms of Commitment
Studies show that there are generally two forms of commitment- constraints and personal dedication (Stanley, S. M. (2005). The power of commitment: A guide to active lifelong love. San Francisco:Jossey-Bass). Constraints are things that keep us in the relationship even if things are not going well. These include pressure from family and friends, financial concerns, children, negative beliefs about divorce, and fear of the future. While these constraints may be fear-based, they assist in keeping us from bolting when the going gets rough. However, these reasons are usually not enough in the long run.
What is needed for your relationship to endure is personal dedication, a real desire to be together with your spouse. It means making your relationship a priority and the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the relationship. When this dedication is present, we feel safer and are more willing to give for the relationship to succeed. It helps us not get overwhelmed by the day-to-day challenges, as we have a long-term view of the marriage.
Personal dedication is the key because it will allow you to be focused on the long-term goal of relationship success with your spouse. Do you ever wonder why marriages used to last much longer? While divorce may have been taboo, people married with the intention of it lasting “’til death do us part”. Today, there are many spouses, particularly women, who feel like they do all of the work in their relationship. They are often miserable and are thinking constantly, “what if”. What if I had married someone else? What if I get divorced and find someone better? These questions are not helpful and display a lack of commitment to making their situation work. They are constantly looking at other marriages and comparing their situation. Unfortunately, if they come to counseling they are so down and out on their marriage, harping on past failures, that they won’t give themselves a chance to succeed. This self-sabotage can be avoided by unwavering commitment.
Even in a case where only one spouse is committed, the changes he or she can make on their own can have a ripple effect and shift the inertia of the relationship. While it will be much harder than if both are committed, when one spouse begins to change and create safety in the relationship, it often allows for the other one to let down the walls of resistance and leads towards greater connection.
Are you committed? Are you determined to invest the time and energy to make your marriage work? If the answer is, “yes”, you are already halfway to your goal!
Summary of what you learned in Lesson 2:
- Commitment is the secret to relationship success
- Commitment is both a decision, an attitude, and an action
- Two Forms of Commitment- Personal Dedication and Constraints
- Personal Dedication helps you stick it out when times get tough
- Your commitment alone can have a ripple effect to change your relationship