Focus on the Family

Commitment in Marriage

Photo of two hands, a man and woman, with their pinkie fingers interlocked in a promise commitment, symbolizing marriage.
What does commitment have to do with marriage? Isn't love supposed to be easy?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

“If you really love someone, you shouldn’t have to work at it.”

That’s what High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens told CosmoGIRL! for its August 2008 issue. This young celebrity was speaking out loud what millions of people privately think: Loving feelings should come naturally in a relationship, so if you have to work at it, something’s wrong. But the truth is exactly the opposite: If you truly love someone, you will work hard for the relationship. That is what commitment means in marriage.

Is Your Marriage Built on Rock or Sand?

Jesus spoke of a house that was built on sand and shaken by storms, while another house was built on rock and remained unmoved.

One of my greatest surprises as a relationship analyst is just how many of us build our marriages on the sand of feelings instead of the rock of commitment. But I’ve felt encouraged to see that truly committed couples, with God’s help, thrive even through the inevitable storms.

Over a five-year period, a close friend sent me emails sharing about her struggles with her marriage. She went from daily messages that read, “I can’t take this anymore!” to emails saying, “He is such a gift to me.” What accounted for the change? Her determination.

As she now says, “A successful marriage has little to do with circumstances and a lot to do with determination — taking the word divorce out of your vocabulary and replacing it with commitment.”

What is Commitment in Marriage?

Commitment is a decision to have the abundant marriage God desires. That’s regardless of circumstances or whether you think your spouse is doing his or her part.

This includes these five elements:

Commitment Is Honoring an Unbreakable Covenant

Realize that marriage is an unbreakable covenant before God. At weddings, Atlanta minister Barry Grecu explains how the ancient Hebrew culture understood marriage covenants. They aren’t contracts, which could be broken, but are binding, permanent agreements — just like the covenant God makes with us.

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Commitment Requires Perseverance

Choose to “do it until you feel it.” We often let our feelings guide our actions, but God actually built us to do the opposite. Our Creator has designed us so that when we love another person with our actions, our feelings inevitably follow. Commitment is the key to lasting love in marriage.

Commitment Is Positive About Marriage

Focus on the good in your spouse and the sin in yourself — instead of the other way around.

If you feel dissatisfied with your marriage, try this challenge: For the next 30 days, don’t say anything negative about your spouse — neither to him or her nor to someone else.

Every day, find something you appreciate about your spouse, and verbalize it. This marital application of Philippians 4:8 (which instructs us to focus on whatever is praiseworthy) has the power to transform a marriage.

When we examine and work to change ourselves, we often bring out the best in our spouse as well.

Commitment Is Spiritually Grounded

Engage in Christian community, prayer, and discipleship. These three aspects of the Christian life help sustain every believer, but they are particularly essential for those going through a difficult season.

Commitment Is Selfless

Rely on God to help you act selflessly toward your spouse. As Grecu puts it, “We are incapable of living out our covenant promises in our own human strength. Jesus says, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing‘ and calls us to engage with the Spirit of God being lived out through us.”

Is Commitment in Marriage Even Possible?

The often-cited statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce — even among churchgoers — can make commitment seem fruitless. But that statistic is misleading.

Dozens of studies distinguish between couples who claim a nominal faith and those who prioritize church attendance. Couples who have a strong commitment to faith and attend church regularly are far more likely to have lifelong relationships.

One recent study shows that those who go to church and pray together have a much lower divorce rate. The University of Virginia’s Brad Wilcox found that regular church attendance cuts the likelihood of divorce by 30 percent to 35 percent. Another study by Annette Mahoney of Bowling Green State University, which independently came to a similar conclusion, supports Wilcox’s work.

While that rate is still unfortunately high, when you add prayer into the mix, thoughts of divorce plummet. A 1998 survey by the Georgia Family Council found that among couples who prayed together weekly, only 7 percent had seriously considered divorce. Conversely, 65 percent of those who never prayed together had considered divorce.

The abundant marriage that God has designed for us is not only possible but also likely. The journey there starts with one word — commitment.

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