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Communication, Conflict & Commitment

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Intro   ::   Communication   ::   Conflict   ::   Commitment  ::   Resources

Commitment

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
- Thomas Edison

"Real giving is when you give to your partner not what you want or need but that which your partner wants and needs."
- Michele Weiner Davis

"Be presidents of each other's fan clubs."
- Tony Heath

Introduction

Marriage is much more than a legal contract. It is a commitment or promise between two people to faithfully stick with one another through the good times and the bad times. Commitment is a quality of strong, healthy, and enduring marriages and it is a key to any intimate, emotionally satisfying, and meaningful relationship. Commitment is the glue that holds marriages together when many stressors try to rip it apart.

Human beings have a need to be a part of secure, stable, and long-term relationships. That requires commitment. In strong marriages, couples are committed not only to the welfare of the relationship but also to the growth of one another. Commitment to the marriage is the basis for a husband and wife giving their time and energy to couple-related activities. Couples who have not thought through or are unsure about their commitment to one another will have difficulty staying married because when the tough times come they will be quick to run the other way.

Commitment is just as important to a successful marriage as communicating and managing conflict well. In fact, recent research shows that 85% of divorced couples indicated a lack of commitment to the marriage and to each other as their reason for divorce. Thankfully though, there are many ways to strengthen commitment in marriage.

Strengthening Marital Commitment

Here are some ideas on how to build and strengthen your commitment to one another in marriage.

Put Your Relationship First

Of all the pressures, responsibilities, and commitments you have in life, make your marriage relationship a top priority. In the grand scheme of things, your marriage has the potential to be longer lasting and have a greater impact on society than any other endeavor you may pursue. Here are six ways to put your relationship first and increase your commitment to your partner.

  1. Greet One Another - This is pretty simple but couples sometimes get lazy about it. When you wake up in the morning acknowledge that your partner is their and alive. When you see each other at the end of the day greet each other warmly. It's even a good idea to stay connected by calling each other at least once during the day for a brief check on how each others day is going. Greet each other verbally and physically. Give your partner a hug, a kiss, or a quick shoulder massage when you greet. It is also a good idea to use your partners name instead of just talking at them. Consistently and warmly greeting one another will help you feel connected.
  2. Small Talk - Small talk is different than the business type talk that we often do in our marriages. Small talk means talking to your partner about what they want to talk about. Your hopes, dreams, and goals can be wonderful topics. When couples are dating they seem to be able to small talk for hours on end. Once couples get married and things get busy they may not dedicate as much time to small talk. Small talk with your partner every day for 10-15 minutes. It works best if you choose the same time everyday so you get in the habit of doing it. The idea is to stay connected through enjoyable conversation.
  3. Praise - We all love to be praised. It makes us feel valuable and worthwhile. Don't take your partner for granted. Let him or her know how important they are to you. Be genuine and generous in giving praise. We are more committed to people that we like and who like us. Don't let your partner feel like they have to find praise and acceptance elsewhere.
  4. Have A Purpose - Know why you are together and married. Love is undoubtedly a part of it, but there is more to it than that. What do you hope to do together? What are you about as a couple? You may want to come up with a family motto. For example, "We are the (fill in the blank with your last name) family and we are all about (fill in the blank)." Having a sense of marital purpose will help you stay committed to the marriage. When children come along it will also help them feel like they are part of a family that matters. If they feel a sense of purpose and belonging in the family they will be less likely to look for acceptance in negative places outside the family (e.g., gangs).
  5. Do Fun Stuff Together - Continue to court one another and date when you are married. Having fun together is a key to commitment. Doing fun stuff does not have to be expense either. Make one list of things you enjoy doing as couple that are free (e.g., walks, bike rides, playing in the park, playing board games, etc.). Make another list of things you enjoy doing that are relatively inexpensive (e.g., movies, eating out). Make a final list of things you enjoy doing that are a little more expense (e.g., vacations, plays or concerts). Keep your lists handy and you will always have some fun dating ideas to fit your budget.
  6. Build and Expand On Memories and Traditions - When you do fun stuff together as a couple, don't let the fun end there. It can be a lot of fun to reminisce and talk about fun things you have done together in the past.

Make Your Partner Your Best Friend

John Gottman, a professor and marriage researcher at the University of Washington, believes that friendship is the key to lasting marriage. Most secure marriages are built on a base of strong friendship that serves as the support for other aspects of the relationship. Knowing your partner well leads to a strong friendship.

Guard Your Couple Time

Don't let outside pressures keep you from the most important person and responsibility in your life. Undoubtedly there will be times when work may require you to be away or work longer hours than you would prefer, but make that the exception rather than the rule. People often say it's not the quantity of time but the quality of the time that is important in building relationships with your partner or your kids. Unfortunately, it's just not possible to build great relationships without spending quantity and quality time with your partner. Just like you cannot neglect a vegetable garden and expect a great harvest, you cannot consistently spend small amounts of time with your partner and hope to harvest a great relationship. Guard your couple time by scheduling blocks of time on certain days to spend with your partner. If it is not scheduled it becomes easier to let other things creep in to that time.

Start Connection Rituals

Rituals are traditions or things that we get in the habit of doing. They usually have some special meaning and significance for us. In a marriage we should get in the habit of connecting with our partner frequently and in a variety of ways (spiritually, emotionally, and physically). Here are just a few ideas of rituals that you and your partner may want to get in the habit of doing in order to stay connected.

  • "Find The Glory Of Your Marital Story" - John Gottman tells couples to "find the glory of their marital stories." As a therapist, I have met with many couples who seem to have forgotten the reasons they got married in the first place or why they even liked each other. One of the most powerful interventions I use to get these couples thinking positively is to have them tell me the story of how they met, fell in love, and decided to get married. Usually by the time they are done, their hearts have changed and they have a renewed desire to preserve and strengthen their relationship. Even if you are not having trouble in your marriage, sharing stories of your love and courtship with one another and with others will help you stay connected and committed to one another.
  • Five-Minute Connections - Families today are very busy and couples often have little time to spend with one another. When quantity time is not available, John Gottman recommends making five-minute connections with your partner as often as you can. Here's how.
    • Cuddle at the most important time of day . - Set the alarm five minutes early and cuddle with your partner in the morning. It will help keep you feeling close all day long.
    • Before you leave in the morning ask your partner if anything special is going on that day - This lets your partner know that you are interested in them and care what's going on in their life. If something special was going on for your partner, check in with them during the day or in the evening.
    • Share what you like about each other - Do this daily and do it frequently. Look for excuses to praise your partner. Don't take each other for granted. Your partner will know they are loved and they will be more willing to work through any differences you may have.
    • Do small acts of kindness for one another - Send your partner a card or e-mail letting them know you love them, bring home a special treat, or do a 5-minute chore that your partner usually does. The kindness you show to your partner will almost always be returned and serving your partner will strengthen your marriage bond.
    • Talk about the stresses of your day - Spend 5 minutes when you get home from work talking with your partner about the stressful things you may have experienced that day. Don't attack your partner with it, just share it with him or her. If you get the stress out of the way first, you will be able to enjoy the rest of the evening together.
  • Share Spirituality - Shared religious or spiritual activities are a wonderful way to grow together as a couple. The way you express your spirituality is up to you, but you may want to consider praying, reading inspiring religious books, attending church services, and celebrating religious holidays together.
  • Share Intimacy - Plan romantic and intimate times with your partner. Spontaneity is great, but planning a date or other romantic event with your partner can be just as much fun as the date itself, and it creates something to look forward to.
  • Happy Anniversary! - Anniversaries are a big deal. Remember them and make them special. In addition to the day you got married you can also celebrate the anniversary of your first date, the first time you kissed your partner, or the day you fell in love. Be creative with the anniversaries you celebrate and the ways you celebrate them.

Set Dating/Marital Boundaries

We are surrounded by rules and laws, most of which are there to protect us. Our dating/marriage relationship should be no exception. We need rules and boundaries to live by and guide us in our dating/marriages - boundaries that will strengthen us and keep us safe. The great thing about dating/marriage is that we get to make the rules and set the boundaries for our relationship together. The easiest way to do this is to sit down with your partner and talk about what's okay and what's not okay in your relationship. Here are some examples of boundaries you may want to have in your relationship.

  • Don't flirt with other people.
  • Always wear your engagement or wedding ring.
  • Don't keep outside relationships with anyone a "secret."
  • Don't confide in others about things you dislike in your partner.
  • Consult before spending.
  • Don't yell.
  • Violence is unacceptable.

Together with your partner, make your own list of boundaries that will keep your relationship safe and strong.

Assessing Commitment

For couples considering marriage it can be difficult to tell exactly how committed your potential partner will be to your relationship. Look for patterns of willingness to make and keep commitments. Here are some questions to think about. The more committed your partner is or has been in these areas, the greater his or her chances of being committed to you once you are married.

  • Has your partner been committed to you during your courtship?
  • Is your partner committed to family?
  • Is your partner committed to friends?
  • Is your partner committed to work or education?
  • Is your partner committed to church activity or activity in other positive organizations?

Examples

Exercises

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, December 09). Communication, Conflict & Commitment. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/Family__Consumer____Human_Development/Marriage___Family_Relationships/Communication__Conflict___Commitment_9.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License