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  • Writer's pictureTerrell Pugh

What Is Marital Commitment: The Core Elements


What is commitment

Commitment is the bedrock upon which enduring partnerships are built. This deep-seated vow goes beyond mere words, encompassing a series of deliberate actions and choices that reflect both a couple's devotion to one another and their shared faith. Marital commitment is rich with layers of sacrificial love, unconditional giving, and personal responsibility, all of which are vital for a thriving, God-centered relationship. Here we explore the multifaceted nature of commitment in marriage, integrating research-based insights with biblical teachings to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of what truly defines commitment.


1. Commitment Removes All Other Alternatives


The principle of commitment emphasizing the exclusion of all alternatives is well-supported by the Investment Model, which posits that commitment is strengthened when individuals perceive their relationship as highly rewarding and view alternatives as less attractive. This model suggests that a high level of commitment is essential for the stability and satisfaction of the relationship, as it implies a deliberate choice to focus on and invest in one's current relationship over any potential alternatives.


From a biblical perspective, the concept of forsaking all others in favor of one's spouse is deeply ingrained in the teachings on marriage. Matthew 19:5-6 articulates this, stating, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh... Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." This passage highlights the exclusive nature of marital commitment as designed by God, where marriage is intended to be a lifelong, unbreakable union between two people.


This underscores the importance of a focused and exclusive commitment in marriage. The psychological understanding of commitment as excluding alternatives aligns with the biblical commandment for spouses to forsake all others, underpinning the foundation of a secure and lasting marital relationship. This dual approach not only enhances relationship satisfaction but also adheres to God's design for marriage.


Example:

A couple decides to cancel their individual social media accounts to spend more quality time together and eliminate potential sources of jealousy and distraction. This decision to prioritize their marriage above online interactions exemplifies the commitment to remove all alternatives, reflecting the principle of exclusive devotion.


Commitment is Unidirectional vs Bidirectional


Unidirectional commitment refers to giving and loving without expecting anything in return. Research suggests that this form of commitment, characterized by altruism and selflessness, contributes significantly to the depth and resilience of a relationship. It fosters an environment where partners feel valued and supported purely for their being, rather than for what they can offer in return, enhancing emotional intimacy and connection.


The concept of unidirectional commitment is exemplified in the unconditional love that Christ shows for the church. Ephesians 5:25 commands, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." This scripture not only sets a high standard for how spouses should love each other but also models a love that is self-giving, sacrificial, and expects nothing in return.


Integrating these insights, it's clear that unidirectional commitment is a powerful force in marriage, combining psychological principles of altruistic love with the biblical mandate for selfless, Christ-like love. This approach encourages spouses to cultivate a deep, nurturing love that transcends mere transactional interactions, enriching the marital bond.


Example:

Despite her own busy schedule, a wife takes on additional household responsibilities to support her husband through an important work project. Her willingness to give unconditionally, without expecting immediate help in return, embodies the essence of unidirectional commitment. This act of love strengthens their marriage, mirroring the sacrificial love Christ has for the church and highlighting the psychological benefits of altruistic behaviors in deepening marital connections.


3. Commitment is Sacrificial vs Superficial


The concept of sacrificial commitment is identified as a key factor in deepening and sustaining intimate relationships. Sacrifice within this context is understood as the willingness to forego personal needs, desires, or comforts for the sake of one’s partner or the relationship. Studies have shown that such sacrificial actions, though they may entail personal discomfort or pain, significantly contribute to the overall health and satisfaction of the relationship. This form of commitment underscores the depth of one’s dedication, distinguishing genuinely profound connections from more superficial associations that avoid discomfort and sacrifice.


Biblically, the nature of sacrificial commitment is epitomized in the relationship between Christ and the church. John 15:13 states, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." While this scripture speaks to the ultimate sacrifice, it also illustrates the depth of love and commitment expected in marriage—a willingness to endure hardship and make personal sacrifices for the well-being of one’s spouse, reflecting Christ’s love for His followers.


The synthesis of psychological and biblical perspectives on sacrificial commitment presents a compelling framework for understanding marital dedication. It suggests that the essence of true marital commitment transcends mere convenience, involving deep, sometimes painful, giving for the sake of nurturing and preserving the relationship. This commitment is not about the avoidance of hardship but about embracing it when necessary to support and uplift one's partner.


Example:

When one spouse faces a serious health issue, the other takes on extra work, manages household duties, and provides emotional support during the treatment process. This significant personal sacrifice, borne out of deep love and commitment, exemplifies the essence of sacrificial giving in marriage. It demonstrates a profound dedication that goes beyond superficial expressions of love, embodying both the psychological understanding of sacrifice for relationship satisfaction and the biblical model of selfless, Christ-like love.


4. Commitment is Choice Driven vs Response Driven

Commitment as a choice rather than a mere reaction to circumstances is critical for the development and maintenance of a healthy marital relationship. This viewpoint is supported by decision theory, which suggests that the quality of decisions, including the choice to commit, significantly impacts relationship outcomes. A choice-driven commitment is characterized by a deliberate, intentional decision to love and remain loyal to one’s spouse, independent of external pressures or immediate emotional states. This proactive stance on commitment is crucial for fostering a resilient, enduring bond that can adapt and grow over time.


From a biblical standpoint, the commitment in marriage is similarly depicted as a conscious choice, echoing the decision to follow God’s commands and honor Him in one’s personal and shared life. Joshua 24:15, which says, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," highlights the deliberate choice to uphold one’s commitments, including those made in marriage. Joshua demonstrates the importance of actively choosing to remain steadfast in one’s marital vows, reflecting a commitment to God and each other.


Merging these insights, choice-driven commitment emerges as a foundational principle for a strong marriage. It underscores the importance of actively choosing to commit daily, beyond the initial feelings of love or attraction. This commitment is rooted in a deep, intentional decision to prioritize the relationship, demonstrating both the psychological benefits of a proactive approach to love and the biblical encouragement to choose faithfulness.


Example:

Faced with the monotony that can accompany many years of marriage, a couple decides to renew their relationship by embarking on new hobbies and activities together. Their mutual decision to choose commitment and actively work on revitalizing their marriage illustrates the principle of choice-driven commitment. This approach not only enriches their relationship but also aligns with psychological and biblical teachings on the power of conscious, deliberate commitment in fostering a loving, enduring marriage.


5. Commitment is "My Responsibility" Thinking vs "Not My Responsibility" Thinking


The perspective that commitment in marriage is a personal responsibility reflects an understanding that the health and success of the relationship largely depend on the active participation of both individuals. This concept is supported by literature in the field of relationship psychology, which emphasizes the significance of personal agency and ownership in nurturing a committed relationship. Adopting a "my responsibility" mindset involves recognizing one's role in contributing to the relationship's well-being, actively addressing issues, and making efforts to meet the partner's needs. It contrasts sharply with a "not my responsibility" attitude, which can lead to neglect, blame-shifting, and a lack of engagement in the relationship's growth.


Biblically, the principle of personal responsibility in marriage can be seen in passages that call for mutual support and accountability, such as Galatians 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." This directive encourages individuals to take active roles in their relationships, supporting each other in love and taking ownership of their contributions to the marriage. It underscores the idea that commitment involves not only a responsibility to one's partner but also a spiritual duty to uphold God's design for marriage.


By viewing commitment as a personal responsibility, individuals are more likely to engage in behaviors that promote the health and longevity of their marriage, embodying both the scientific understanding of effective relationship maintenance and the biblical call to love and support one's partner actively.


Example:

A husband notices a growing distance between him and his wife due to his long work hours. Instead of attributing the issue solely to external circumstances, he takes personal responsibility for his role in the situation. He initiates a conversation with his wife to discuss ways they can improve their connection, suggesting regular date nights and quality time together. His proactive approach to addressing the issue and his willingness to make changes demonstrate a commitment to taking ownership of the relationship's health, reflecting both psychological principles of relationship satisfaction and the biblical encouragement to bear one another's burdens.


6. Commitment Gives vs Taking


From a psychological standpoint, the aspect of giving versus taking in a committed relationship is closely associated with the concept of generosity, which research has found to be a significant predictor of marital satisfaction and stability. Giving in this context refers to the act of selflessly contributing to the relationship, whether through emotional support, acts of service, or other forms of love and care. This generous approach to commitment focuses on the well-being of the partner and the relationship rather than on what one can receive in return. It fosters a positive cycle of mutual support and understanding, enhancing the overall quality of the marital bond.


The emphasis on giving over taking in relationships is clearly articulated in Acts 20:35, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." This principle underscores the value of generosity and selflessness within marriage, encouraging spouses to adopt a giving mindset as a reflection of Christ's love and sacrifice. By prioritizing the act of giving, couples can cultivate a deeper, more meaningful connection that mirrors the sacrificial love called for in Scripture.


The synthesis of these insights underscores the transformative power of generosity in strengthening marital commitment. By focusing on giving rather than taking, couples can create a loving, supportive environment that not only aligns with psychological research on relationship satisfaction but also embodies the biblical ideal of selfless love in marriage.


Example:

Recognizing his wife's exhaustion from balancing work and family responsibilities, a husband decides to surprise her with a weekend getaway, handling all the arrangements and caregiving duties to ensure she can fully relax and recharge. This thoughtful act of giving, motivated by a genuine desire to support and care for his wife, exemplifies the essence of commitment as giving versus taking. It not only enhances their relationship but also reflects the psychological benefits of generosity and the biblical principle of selfless love in action.

How Arise and Live Christian Counseling Can Help

Arise and Live Christian Counseling stands at the intersection of psychological research and biblical wisdom, offering a unique approach to strengthening marital commitment. With a track record of helping thousands of couples navigate the complexities of marriage, our counseling services are designed to help partners rediscover and deepen their commitment to each other, guided by both scientific insights and spiritual principles.


Our counselors are skilled in identifying and addressing the specific challenges that couples face, from communication breakdowns to issues of trust and infidelity. By integrating psychological concepts such as the Investment Model of commitment and the importance of sacrificial love, with biblical teachings on marriage, Arise and Live offers a holistic approach to marital counseling. We believe that understanding and applying the elements of commitment—such as choosing to remove all alternatives, embracing unidirectional giving, and recognizing the value of sacrificial actions—can transform relationships.




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