Relationship expert Dr. Scott Stanley’s definition of commitment is twofold. First, he says, commitment involves constraints. Constraints are those forces that keep you and your mate together: kids, in-laws, money, friends, value systems, faith, even the threat of a divorce. But the constraint aspect of commitment is not strong enough to keep couples together and happily married forever. For that, Stanley says, a couple must also have dedication. Couples with dedication not only plan to stay together, they have a constantly evolving plan to stay together. They rededicate themselves to each other regularly through planning events and talking about the future.
If you’re interested in discovering more on this important topic, read Dr. Stanley’s book on this, The Heart of Commitment. For now, here’s a guideline for you to recharge your mate’s need for a lifetime together, a way for you to implement your dedication and show your commitment to your relationship:
We agree to enter the fourth and fifth levels of intimacy whenever the other one so desires. We will do this by deeply listening to each other, not defending our own opinions, but striving to love, understand, and validate the other’s feelings and needs.
We agree to highly value each other and consider each other as more important than anything else on earth, except our relationship with God. If gold could describe our honor for each other, we would each be married to a 24-carat person.
We agree to communicate with each other regularly. This will be accomplished by speaking to each other by sharing truthful loving information and listening carefully to understand and validate each other’s uniqueness. Our preferred method of communication will be drive-through listening. Our everyday conversations will include the safety necessary to share opinions, concerns, and expectations.
We agree never to go to sleep at night without resolving our major differences or conflicts. We will forgive each other as needed.
We agree to find creative ways of meeting each other’s deepest relational needs. As we each grow older and change, we will strive to stay current with our understanding of each other’s needs and ways of meeting those needs.
Now, back to our guideline for recharging your mate’s needs:
Express your lifetime commitment in words. Print it on a plaque, say it with gifts, just plain say it. “I will be with you forever and keep loving you until death do us part.” Write a poem and print it for the whole family to see.
Become a student of your mate. Find out all you can about who she or he is. What are your mate’s favorite foods, activities, clothes, dreams? Treasure your mate’s special differences.
When conflict arises, employ the three skills that can take you to the deepest level of intimacy. Write down how you plan to implement each of these skills in your relationship. Remember the three skills: (1) Keep honor alive daily; (2) use drive-through listening after you have a serious argument and have given yourselves time to calm down; and (3) lovingly recharge your mate twenty minutes per day in the areas in which your mate needs your care.
Another type of commitment that couples need from one another is a willingness to keep searching for solutions to problems between them. Thousands of couples have expressed the need to feel that each has a working plan to resolve personal problems or conflicts. After thirty-five years of marriage, my wife and I have discovered that we feel secure and included in all aspects of our relationship because of the establishment of a simple plan for solving disagreements. Here are the steps:
Used with Permission.
By Gary Smalley, the National Institute of Marriage.