We place a high value on commitment. Whether it be in our churches, our relationships, our ministry, or our marriages, commitment is a trait we applaud. Perhaps this is because it’s a necessary ingredient for long-lasting relationships! We can see this played out most clearly in marriage relationships.
Traditional marriage vows echo a line of “forsaking all others” when it comes to committing to a spouse. But what does that mean? What does it look like practically? Beyond the things forsaken, true commitment in marriage is about the things chosen. It’s a life-long pursuit and process of choosing your loved one again and again, regardless of how you feel or if he or she deserves it.
We can pinpoint the power behind successfully loyal relationships. According to commitment researcher, Carol Rusbult, it’s the daily choice of your loved one over and over! We as humans in long-term committed relationships are interdependent. We value the committed relationship to find and share love and trust. And losing the relationship would be traumatic.
In healthy committed relationships, couples cherish one another. There is a fondness when thinking of the other, especially when apart. There is a sense of gratitude for what the partner brings to the relationship. So the idea of “forsaking all others” becomes less of a duty and more of a sacrificial desire, based on love.
In marriage, commitment promotes emotional safety, and emotional safety promotes intimacy. We can find so many metaphors for God’s covenant with us when we look closely. That’s why we’d like to camp on this idea of commitment and provide five thoughts to consider about commitment to those you love. As Paul writes in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Let’s take a practical look:
- Examine your heart. What kinds of words and stories come into conversations with others when it comes to your loved one? Do you speak about his or her positive traits? How often do you make negative comments? The Bible has a lot to say about the words we use and the power of our mouths for good or evil. One helpful prayer to pray in regard to examining your heart is inviting the Lord into the process. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” A regular examination of your heart will be beneficial in making sure you’re aligned with God’s heart when it comes to the commitment in your relationships.
- Express appreciation, admiration, and gratitude. Cultivate an attitude of cherishing the positive qualities of those you love instead of complaining about their qualities that annoy you. Express your appreciation, admiration, and gratitude for those you love to those you love. Which mindset – cherishing or trashing – seems to predominate your thinking? Guess which one promotes love, trustworthiness, and commitment? It’s almost embarrassing to think of how easy it is to express appreciation for others. Oftentimes we may be thinking it, but the action of expressing gratitude will go a long way in your committed relationships.
- Begin relationship building conversations. This step alone takes commitment! You will need to carve out and protect time in your busy week to open your heart to your loved one. But it’s so worth it. Making time for each other is a huge part of showing commitment. Even if you have to start with some help or prompts, make sure you’re devoting time to quality conversation with each other. Eventually, you’ll come to crave this time and depth, and the process of going deep will be second nature to you.
- Do “little things.” While the intentional deeper conversations have their place, so do “little things” throughout the day to show your love and commitment. You can start by making a long list of small actions you can take that, when you do them, your loved one actually feels loved. What communicates love to your spouse may not be the same thing as what communicates love to you. Find the small ways to “outserve” the other. It becomes a fun challenge when you’re both participating. But even if it starts with you, you’ll find it’s worth it!
- Revamp your calendar. Commitment building behaviors will take time. But the ways we spend our time will show what we value. The truth is, your calendar reflects your commitments. What does your calendar say about your commitments? What can you put in your calendar today that will reflect your commitment to those you love?
It’s not news to anyone that this kind of commitment takes time. It takes effort. But God has many things to show us and teach us if we’re willing to invest the effort to live committed lives for His glory. Take time today to examine where you can put commitment into practice in a way that will allow God to shape you more into who He’s created you to be!