Commitment is an essential quality of long-term relationships. In traditional marriage vows commitment is expressed as “forsaking all others.” What does this look like? Commitment is more than gritting one’s teeth to forsake “all others.” Instead it is a life time process of choosing your loved one over and over again when relationship alternatives come your way. In long-term committed relationships, people are interdependent, and they look to this sacred relationship to have their central needs for love and trust met. Losing the relationship would be traumatic. Carol Rusbult, a key commitment researcher, observed that this favorable comparison of choosing your loved one over all others again and again is the power behind loyalty. People in committed relationships cherish one another; they think fondly of one another when they are apart; they are grateful for who their spouse/child/friend is. Any sacrifices made for the relationship are made based on love, not out of a begrudging sense of duty. In marriage, commitment promotes emotional safety and emotional safety promotes intimacy. Sounds a lot like God’s covenant with us, doesn’t it? Here are five thoughts to consider about commitment to those you love:

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 (NIV)

  1.  Examine your heart. How often do you make negative comparisons between the one you love and to whom you are committed and any other alternative relationships? The more you choose your loved one over all others, the greater your level of commitment.
  2. 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?
  3. Begin relationship building conversations. This step takes commitment!!! You will need to carve out and protect time in your busy week to open your heart to your loved one. You can start this process by listening to John and Julie Gottman share about 8 conversations for a lifetime of love. Then begin your own conversations.
  4. Do “little things.” Do your part to express your commitment to those you love by doing “little things.”  Doing “little things” daily matters. Start by making as long a list as you can of small actions that 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.
  5. Revamp your calendar. Commitment building behaviors will take time. No two ways about it.  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?

To learn more about relational commitment, see the following resources:

Read Chapter 8: Living with an Eye Toward the Future in Scott Stanley’s book, The Power of Commitment (Jossey-Bass, 2005).

Read Chapter 3: Covenant Marriage: The Greatest of These Is Love in Jack and Judith Balswick’s, A Model for Marriage (IVP Academic, 2006).

Read this blog from “What does trust, and commitment look like in a Relationship?” 

Read Scott Stanley’s blog: 8 ideas for protecting your marriage from divorce. 

Relational contributor: Virginia T. Holeman, PhD., LMFT, LPCC, Retired Chair of the Department of Counseling and Pastoral Care, Asbury Theological Seminary
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle