Healthy Marriage Traits

Maintaining Lifelong Commitment

Choose faithfulness; divorce is not an option. "Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage." Hebrews 13:4

By Focus on the Family

“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

(Ruth 1:16-17)

What does it mean when a person says, “I am committed to my marriage for life?”

It means, among other things, that marriage is created by God and meant to be honored by everyone (Hebrews 13:4). Healthy couples believe marriage is permanent and that divorce is not an option. They look forward to their future together and see their marriage as one of the most important parts of their lives. They love each other and invest in their relationship. In strong marriages, couples expect to face challenges together and are willing to do whatever it takes to make their marriage work. How does all this play out in everyday life? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Marriage is a priceless gift

Lifelong commitment reflects and grows out of a realization that God created marriage and gave it to men and women as a priceless gift. Malachi 2:15 says, “God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage…so guard the spirit of marriage within you.” (MSG).

Couples who stick together over the long haul understand that marriage is not merely a contractual partnership or a sexual liaison between two people. It’s a sacred and solemn spiritual mystery in the eyes of God. Of all the human relationships we could name, it’s the one used most frequently by the biblical writers to symbolize and describe Yahweh’s covenant with His people and Christ’s relationship with the church (see Ephesians 5:31, 32; Revelation 21:2).

2. Love is a decision

Lifelong commitment also implies that you love your spouse and make a decision to stay married “until death do us part.” In other words, divorce is not an option in your mind. At some point a husband and wife need to “decide” to love – even when they don’t feel like it. The word “decide” comes from a root word meaning “to cut.” You cannot make a commitment without deciding to cut off other options that compete against what is most important.[1]

Burn the ships! This phrase refers to one of the most dramatic incidents in the history of the Spanish conquest of the New World. In 1519, conquistador Hernando Cortés landed in Mexico on the shores of the Yucatan intent on claiming the treasures of the Aztecs. Knowing that he and his men faced incredible odds, he changed the terms of the entire campaign by giving the order to “burn the ships.” With no way out and no fallback option, his men had no place to go except forward.[2]

Successful married couples “burn their ships” by taking the word “divorce” completely out of their vocabulary. It’s a simple matter of commitment. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6). Remember, retreat is easy when you have the option.

3. You like your marriage relationship

Another aspect of lifelong commitment is the ability to say, “I really like this relationship and want it to continue.”

Marriage should be honored by all…” (Hebrews 13:4). Making the decision to stay together is one way to honor your marriage. But honor and commitment also involve the emotions and feelings. If you can say, “I value and like this marriage,” and really mean it, you’re on the road to building a relationship that will go the distance. Here’s what some of our seminar participants have said in answer to the question “What do you love about your marriage?”

  • Having fun and laughing with each other
  • Synergy – 1+1=3 (Tower of Babel; Genesis 11:6)
  • Shared spiritual relationship
  • Raising our children together (tag team)
  • Making memories
  • I have someone to celebrate with
  • Sharing the deepest levels of intimacy
  • Sex
  • Serving together
  • Loving and being loved
  • Married to my best friend
  • Riding life’s roller coaster together (Adventure

4. You take action

Last but not least, commitment isn’t simply a matter of “deciding” to stay married (will) or “liking” the relationship (feeling). On the contrary, commitment is primarily about taking active steps to maintain your marriage. As the Bible says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17). It’s the same way in personal relationships. You demonstrate how important your marriage is to you by proactively investing time and money to make it better. During difficult seasons you fight for your marriage. In season and out of season, you show yourself willing to do whatever it takes to keep your relationship strong.

Putting It Into Practice

Research shows a marriage commitment yields a more satisfying relationship on all levels.[3] Women respond when they know their husbands are willing to “die to self” for them.[4] Men hesitate to invest unless they know there’s a payoff. One researcher concluded that “a man tends to give most completely to a woman once he has decided, She is my future.”[5]

How do you make these concepts real and practical in everyday life? There are a number of ways you can start working toward that goal. You might begin by trying a Date Night activity that highlights the excitement and adventure of mutual commitment. Come up with some activity that simply won’t work unless the two of you decide right up front that you’re both going to stick it out to the very end. Dancing naturally comes to mind – after all, “It takes two to Tango” – but there are other games and sports – tennis, handball, or rowing, for instance – that might fit the bill equally well. An art project might also serve the purpose.

Questions for Discussion

You can also drill down deeper into the meaning of marital commitment by discussing the following questions together:

  1. What was it that brought us together in the first place? What attracted us to each other?
  2. How can we re-ignite the spark of that attraction and bring it to life again?
  3. What was our vision for our marriage when we were just starting out? Where did we see ourselves going together? How can we recapture those original dreams and reaffirm our hopes for a shared future?
  4. What were the vows we spoke to each other at our wedding? Why did we make those vows and how are we doing in terms of keeping them? Has anything happened to change our commitment to pursuing those goals? If so, what can we do about it? How can we renew and reaffirm our vows to another at this point in our relationship?

[1] https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/strengthening-your-marriage/commitment/the-half-hearted-marriage

[2] https://opisina.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/burn-the-ships/

[3] Scott Stanley, “The Half-Hearted Marriage,” accessed July 3, 2015, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/strengthening-your-marriage/commitment/the-half-hearted-marriage, originally published in Focus on the Family magazine, January 2007 © Scott Stanley.

[4] American Psychological Association, “Religion or Spirituality Has Positive Impact on Romantic/Marital Relationships, Child Development, Research Shows,” news release, December 12, 2014, http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/12/religion-relationships.aspx.

[5] Stanley, “The Half-Hearted Marriage,” Focus on the Family magazine.

Copyright © 2016 Focus on the Family.

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