Focus on the Family

Strengthening Marital Commitment

Marriage requires the same kind of thoughtful planning and deliberate investment that we give to our physical health and financial portfolios.

by Mitch Temple

Marriage requires the same kind of thoughtful attention, planning and deliberate investment that we give to our physical health and financial portfolios.

Considering Your Level of Commitment

A good way to start taking inventory of your marriage, assessing its strengths and weaknesses, is to consider your level of commitment.

Ask yourself the following:

The Three Levels of Commitment

Commitment is something many claim to have, yet few seem to understand. It is a concept that has been used, abused and improperly modeled for so long that we've lost sight of what genuine devotion looks like.

Where marriage is concerned, commitment is the decision to continue in the relationship. Dr. Michael P. Johnson, Sociology Professor at Penn State University, views the decision to continue in a relationship as a function of three different experiences, or levels, of commitment — personal, moral and structural. These three types of commitment can be described as follows:

  1. Personal Commitment, a.k.a. "I Want To." If you have a high level of personal commitment to your marriage, you may find yourself saying or thinking, "I want to continue in my marriage. I take pleasure in being married. I enjoy being committed to my spouse."
  2. Moral Commitment, a.k.a. "I Ought To." Those with a high level of moral commitment might say, "I believe staying in my marriage is the right thing to do. I'll stick it out because of my values and beliefs. I made a commitment before God and I should keep my word."
  3. Structural Commitment, a.k.a. "I Have To." If you have a high level of structural commitment, the following statements may apply to you: "External constraints are keeping me in my marriage. I have to stay married. I can't afford the negative consequences of divorce on my finances, my social relationships and the way others might perceive me. Divorce would also be detrimental for my children."

Although one facet of commitment may sound "better" or more virtuous than another, our relationships benefit from having all three. The active presence of multiple facets, or layers, of commitment makes one's marital resolve stronger than if only one facet were present. Consider the words of Ecclesiastes 4:12 in this light: "A threefold cord is not quickly broken" (NKJV).

Strengthening Your Level of Commitment

Another important aspect of commitment is that it must be made, or re-made, on an ongoing basis. There's more to it than just saying you're committed to your marriage or simply "feeling good" about your relationship. Commitment must be played out in your actions. Instead of allowing yourself to drift away from your spouse, make a deliberate move toward closer relationship. Strengthen and nourish your marital commitment.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

If you're struggling in the area of commitment or you're unsure how to begin strengthening the level of commitment in your marriage, try the following:

Don't just wish you or your spouse were more committed to your marriage; take action today to make it happen!