Tag Archives: commitment

Which Kind of Commitment Do You Have in Your Marriage?

A group of UCLA psychologists went about determining what it means to be committed to your marriage. They found there are two kinds of commitment spouses tend to have, and only one of them predicts lower divorce rates and slower rates of deterioration in the relationship. Which type do you have?

This long-term study assessed 172 couples during the first 11 years of their marriages. After 11 years, 78.5 percent remained married, and 21.5 percent divorced. How they defined commitment early in their relationship helped predict whether the marriage lasted.

Study co-author Benjamin Karney, co-director of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, reports two definitions of relationship commitment. The first level of commitment means to the partners, “I really like this relationship and want it to continue.”  It’s easier to be committed when things are going well, and this is the first kind of commitment.

However, the psychologists said there was a deeper level of commitment that predicted fewer marital problems and lower divorce rates. The deeper level of commitment relates to when the relationship is not going as well or is experiencing problems. It is defined more like, “I’m committed to this relationship, but it’s not going very well—I need to have some resolve, make some sacrifices and take the steps I need to take to keep this relationship moving forward.” In other words, the partner is willing to take active steps to maintain the relationship, even if sacrifices are needed. He or she says, “I’m committed to making this relationship work.”

Study co-author Thomas Bradbury says this second level means that when you are struggling, you are willing to do what is difficult, even when you don’t want to. These more sacrificial spouses are more effective in solving problems, have lower divorce rates, and slower rates of relationship deterioration, say the psychologists.

This is consistent with the results of interviews I have done with happily married couples, many of whom have experience very difficult periods. In fact, one of the 12 key lessons shared in my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, by couples who have overcome adversity, is that love is sacrificial. I address how to create a cycle of giving in which both partners look out for the other’s needs, and both are rewarded.

When both partners were willing to make sacrifices for the marriage, they were significantly more likely to have lasting and happy marriages, say the researchers, who studied the couples as newlyweds then followed up with them every six months for four years, then later in their marriages.

Bradbury says relationships are vulnerable when under a great deal of stress or when there’s a “high-stakes decision” about which you disagree. “Those are the defining moments in a relationship,” he says. “What our data indicate is that committing to the relationship rather than committing to your own agenda and your own immediate needs is a far better strategy. We’re not saying it’s easy.”  He adds that successful couples are able to shift the focus away from who is “winning” to how to keep the relationship preserved. Read more about the study in this article, “Here is What Real Commitment to Your Marriage Means.”

Another strategy the psychologists recommend against is “bank-account relationships” in which each person keeps score of how often they compromise or get their way. This is not effective in lasting, happy relationships, they say. If you’re keeping score, your focus is still on winning, not on strengthening the relationship.

So, how would you define your level of commitment to your marriage on the day you married? And how would you define it today? Are you willing to communicate effectively, to sacrifice for the good of the relationship when necessary, and to not keep score when things are tough?

If you missed the previous post, read other findings in the study about the hidden forces in your marriage–genes that may affect how you interact with your spouse.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other.

Photo by salvatore vuony courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Enhance the Resilience of Your Relationship

Resiliency:  The capacity to adapt and bounce back in the face of adversity. It’s a trait we would all like to have. And we would like our relationships to benefit from the trait as well. Wherever you are on your marriage journey, infusing your relationship with more characteristics of resiliency can be beneficial.

Scott Haltzman, M.D., recently shared with me a couple of interesting facts about resiliency. The first is that one-third of our predictive ability to withstand stress is based on genetics. The second is that children exposed to moderate levels of adversity or failure are shown to better handle adversity later in life.  So, part of being resilient you may attribute to your family of origin or how you were raised. A large part is still self-determined.

This is the last post in which I will share some tidbits from the book, Healing Together, which I have recommended for couples dealing with any kind of loss or trauma. Authors Suzanne Phillips and Diane Kane say resilience is needed for couples to move forward with their lives after a loss. Resilience, in my view, is important to all of us, particularly at crisis times in our lives. In the book, Phillips and Kane assess factors that are associated with resilience and guide the reader on how to incorporate those qualities in the relationship. So these factors are discussed below in terms of relationship resilience, not individual resilience. These are only some of the factors discussed in the book.

Hardiness—This quality is essential for thriving under stress. Hardiness is made up of commitment, control and challenge. As a couple you actively work on the addressing the situation and express commitment to one another during the recovery. (“I’ll be there for you no matter what it takes.”) Each person recognizes what they can and cannot control. (You cannot control an illness, but you can face it together.) Together, you view the event as a challenge, reframing it for the opportunities it presents in your life. You find inner resources you didn’t know you had.

Positive Outlook—Resilient people don’t just put a smile on their faces. They use positive coping strategies, including seeking the benefits of a situation, using humor, or finding a positive meaning.

Positive Affirmations—I’ve previously shared research on how celebrating positive events in one another’s lives can boost our relationship bond. When going through a trauma, particularly a loss of someone close, the tendency is to avoid celebrations of your own life and happiness. Our loved ones would not want that for us. “Celebration of life and each other gives you the strength to recover as well as to hold on to the memories of those you have loved,” say the authors. Couples should take time to affirm one another’s successes (even small ones!) and positive experiences. Celebrate the joys and pleasures that you experience in life, and share them with your spouse.

Social Networks—Meaningful, supportive connection with others, including a spouse, is the most important component of recovery. Discuss as a couple how you can benefit from the support of others while maintaining your privacy and boundaries of confidentiality.

Laughter/Humor—Being able to laugh together during tough times can be very healing. “Humor has been reported to promote intimacy, belonging, and cohesiveness,” say the authors.

The Capacity for Hope—After a trauma, people often can’t see the future as anything positive. There are no dreams for a better life, only pain. “Hope is the ability to have options” according to trauma expert Yael Danieli, who adds that the greatest source of hope is the feeling of belonging. Thinking of others who love or need us gives us hope.

Problem-Solving Skills—Assess the problem, brainstorm solutions, evaluate pros and cons, decide on a plan, including who is best suited for what part of the plan.

Couples going through a crisis often take turns being resilient, supportive and hopeful, while the other is struggling. It may help to remind your partner of the resilient traits they possess, such as a great sense of humor.

Hope is such a strong concept for me. It’s the hopes and dreams for ourselves and our loved ones that make life so exciting. This blog really is dedicated to providing hope to couples that they can experience what marriage is meant to be. My hope for you is that whether you are healthy and happy this year or recovering from illness or loss, that you can remain hopeful in your relationship. Share your hopes and dreams with your spouse, and support one another as you move toward those dreams.

Which of these factors do you think are most important to resiliency? Do you come from a resilient family? Do you believe your relationship is resilient or not? Why?

Photo Credit: ©TEA/PhotoExpress.com

Pour Love on Your Spouse

 Love Everyday is on a blog tour! This week, it’s my turn to share with you the section I contributed called Pouring on Love, which offers details on how to truly invest your energy into your spouse. The e-book version offers 26 other great posts for you to enjoy.

 Last Week: In case you missed it, Television and Relationships was posted by Stu at The Marry Blogger.

What you are about to read is only one piece of a 27-page collaborative e-book written to help you learn how to make your marriage extraordinary amidst the chaos of life.  After reading this post, be sure to download a complete copy of LOVE EVERYDAY absolutely free!

How to Pour Love on Your Spouse

While we can’t control the amount of happiness produced in our relationships, we can control the amount of love and effort poured into them. Gaining a little more happiness is like gaining a little more money; you always want more. But giving and receiving love generates fulfillment. There are myriad ways to show love, but we know love when we see it, hear it, read it, and feel it. Love is in the details, the thoughtfulness, the caring.

When you act in a loving—even sacrificial—manner, you experience The Paradox of Giving. This is the secret your grandparents knew about:  It is in giving that we receive. The joy and love you give returns to you. Yes, it is risky to invest yourself fully. If you have chosen your partner well, the return is often much higher than expected. A couple who focuses on the other’s needs experiences joy and deep satisfaction that makes fleeting happiness look like leftover casserole—fine, but nothing to write home about.

How can you pour on love? Voraciously study your spouse. Put as much energy into that research as in your career and hobbies. Try to understand and participate in their interests as they change over time—recreational, musical, romantic, sexual and culinary interests. Ask about your partner’s hopes, preferences, desires, dislikes, and fears. Encourage their dreams. Communicate your needs and desires as well.  Be the one who knows them best, and help them to know your heart. Learn new things together. Express how important he or she is to you. Have fun together. Show at least one act of kindness each day—send a short email, cook a meal, give a backrub.

Give your respect, vulnerability, time, undivided attention, intimacy, patience, fidelity, commitment and devotion. Do it without keeping score. Do it without stopping. Do it with love.

Individual freedom and personal happiness are two of the highest American ideals. The pursuit of happiness takes up most of our time and energy, while learning to be loving is perhaps an afterthought. The success of all our relationships depends on how we love.

How do you pour love into your relationship and make your spouse feel truly cared for?

Do You Have Agape Love?

Why do you love your spouse? Because he is a good provider or has an amazing sense of humor? Because she is talented, kindhearted or generous? If your love is attached to some behavior or personality characteristic, it is a conditional love, not agape love, which is unconditional.

Many writers have written about agape love, said to be the highest, truest, most all-consuming love. Whereas the types of love called phileo (friendship) or eros (sexual) are important to a great marriage, its foundation should be the unconditional agape love, according to the book The Love Dare. In fact, the romantic and friendship aspects of a marriage are able to be enjoyed at a deeper level when agape love is present.

Unconditional, unselfish agape love is a difficult thing to strive for. It doesn’t mean you allow yourself to be mistreated or abused, or even that you shouldn’t speak up if your needs are not being met. It means you can love your spouse even when he or she is acting unlovable, or is sick, unemployed or depressed. When you are not “getting” as much as you’re “giving” (if you are keeping score as many couples unconsciously do), it’s agape love that keeps you committed to the relationship nonetheless.

Agape love isn’t destroyed by time or temperament, by rough patches or seasons of sadness, by old age or illness. Agape love is a choice to be committed come what may. Is that the kind of love you possess? Do you love your spouse, or do you love what you get from your spouse?

Love Is Important, but Not the Main Reason People Stay Together

What can be more important than love in keeping a couple together? It’s not a rhetorical question. In fact, a couple of other factors are more important, according to a study of premarital relationship development by the American Psychological Association.

With the passage of time, love does indeed grow in relationships. However, love is not enough to keep many couples from breaking up. The study, lead by psychologist Susan Sprecher, PhD, of Illinois State University, concludes, “Couples break up because of decreased levels of satisfaction in the relationship—not because they stop loving each other. “

Sprecher says in her four-year study of 101 Midwestern, heterosexual couples, satisfaction and commitment were as important–or more important—than love in deciding whether to stay together.  For couples who remained together, love, satisfaction and commitment levels all increased. The largest increase was in commitment levels.

For couples who ended their relationship, love was unchanged (did not grow or decline), but satisfaction and commitment both declined. The researcher suggests dissatisfaction may cause love to stop growing.

What do I think we learn from this?

1)      It’s not enough to keep the status quo. If your love is not growing, you are moving backward in your relationship, putting it at risk. Complacency can be a relationship killer.

2)      Perhaps more importantly, both partners need to recommit themselves and work toward meeting the needs of one another. Is your partner satisfied? Why or why not? (If one or both of you is not satisfied or has unrealistic expectations, counseling is recommended.)

Commitment, satisfaction and love are three critical factors in your relationship. What are you doing to encourage their growth? Are you putting your hobbies, job demands or child rearing responsibilities above your spouses’ needs? Or are you working daily to cultivate these important traits?