Tag Archive for commitment

Take Me Out to the Ballgame…For a Better Marriage

Baseball season is fast approaching and that’s good news for marriages. Let me explain. In the early 1990’s Howard Markman, director of The University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, conducted an informal study of cities with major league baseball teams (See Baseball Preserves Marriage). He discovered that cities with major league baseball teams had a 28% lower divorce rate than cities that did not have teams but expressed an interest in getting one. Even more surprising, Denver’s divorce rate stood at 6 divorces per 1,000 people the year before they were awarded a major league baseball franchise. Ten years later, 7 years after the Colorado Rockies played their first game, the divorce rate had dropped to 4.2 divorces per 1,000 people (a 20% drop). Lest you think that 20% decrease was just a product of the 10 year time span, the divorce rate for the United States had only declined by 15% over that same time period. Interesting…. Markman does not believe baseball saves marriages. But, he does believe that “going to a baseball game and… having fun and talking as friends is one way to protect and preserve love.” In other words, having fun as a couple strengthens your marriage. Said another way, “couples who play together stay together!”

Baseball aside, enjoying playful times as a couple really does strengthen marriage. It increases effective communication and conflict resolution. It enhances relationship satisfaction. Play promotes spontaneity, reminds us of our positive relationship history, and builds additional positive history for us to look back on with joy. Play also builds friendship and enhances commitment. In general, if you want a healthy, happy marriage, engage in copious amounts of play together. Enjoy fun activities. Be silly. Tell jokes. Tickle. Have a pillow fight. Laugh. Anything you both find fun and pleasurable provides an opportunity to play and grow more intimate in your relationship…which brings us back to the 7th inning stretch. Baseball may not save your marriage; but the playful conversation, light-hearted teasing, and plain old fun you have at the game will definitely contribute to a stronger, more intimate marriage. So sing along. Everybody now, “Take me out to the ballgame….”

Great Marriages Have CARP

Many people in the area I live (Western PA) know about the carp at Pymatuning, “where ducks walk on carp.” Over 300,000 people a year throw chunks of bread into the water and watch the carp literally swim on top of one another to eat it. So many carp clamber over one another that ducks can walk on their backs. That carp has nothing to do with a great marriage. I just like the image. But, great marriages do have CARP.  They are overflowing with CARP and both spouses like to feed the CARP.  Don’t get grossed out. I’m talking about Commitment, Adventure, Respect, and Persistence (C.A.R.P.).

C—Great marriages demand Commitment.  Commitment involves doing what it takes to make your relationship successful. This will involve communication and compromise for the benefit of your healthy marriage. Spouses committed to their marriage serve their spouse and make sacrifices for spouse…and they do so willingly. They are ok with compromise and sacrifice because they know it strengthens their marriage and benefits the one they love.

A—Great marriages love Adventure. In fact, people in great marriages view their marriage as an adventure. They love to try new things as a couple. They encourage their spouses to learn and grow. They are excited to help in that growth and to witness their spouse blossom and bloom. They plan and dream together. They also support one another’s individual dreams and take great joy in the adventure of their spouse’s dream.

R—Great marriages practice Respect. Spouses honor one another. They value one another, viewing one another as diamonds among the coal. As such they strive to lift up their spouse and place their spouse in a setting that will reveal and enhance their beauty. They express fondness and admiration, gratitude and appreciation for their spouse on a daily basis. Even in the midst of conflict, both spouses maintain a level of respect. They do not engage in name calling, criticism, or contempt. Instead, they listen, encourage, and work toward mutual growth, intimacy, and peace.

P—Healthy marriages are made up of Persistent spouses. They do not give up. They have a long-term vision of their marriage and work toward long-term goals for their marriage. There is no mention of divorce or leaving even in the midst of anger and disagreement. They do not get caught up in short term stresses and disagreements. Instead, they focus on the long-term happiness and security of their marriage.

Healthy, happy marriages focus on CARP. They love to feed the CARP in their marriage. So, if you want a great marriage, go ahead and feed the CARP.

Beatitudes for a Happy Marriage

  • Happy the couple who humbly serves one another; that couple shall inherit a joyous intimacy.

newly married couple chasing each other in field

  • Happy the couple who is attentive, observant, and studious of one another; they shall know their spouse deeply.
  • Happy the couple who is intentionally responsive to one another; they will know a secure connection and deep friendship with one another.
  • Happy the couple who resolves conflicts quickly for they shall nurture peace in their marriage.
  • Happy the couple who supports one another’s dreams; they shall inherit a lifetime of joy.
  • Happy the couple who cherishes one another; in nurturing their commitment they will reap a secure environment of trust.
  • Happy the couple in which both spouses remain present and available. This couple will experience security and peace within their marriage.
  • Happy the couple who shows kindness within the relationship; they shall know the pleasure of gratitude.
  • Happy the couple who honors one another; they shall live in the safe haven of their marriage.
  • Happy the couple who puts their love into action and words, they shall know the deep satisfaction of a life-long, intimate marriage.

The Countercultural Message of Marriage

I wonder what Jesus would say about marriage? Of course He did talk about marriage some. But, imagine if He had thrown a “section on marriage” into the Sermon on the Mount.

newly married couple chasing each other in field“You have heard it said,” Jesus might begin, “That marriage will complete you and make you whole. But I say to you that only your heavenly Father can complete you. Truly, truly, marriage is not a matter of addition in which half a person added to half a person makes a whole person. No, marriage is more like multiplication in which half a person times half a person results in only a quarter of a person.  Truly happy marriages are made up of two people already complete in God. Only one person complete in God with another person complete in God equals one complete marriage.”

“You have heard it said that you will live happily ever after once you’re married. Marriage can bring great joy, even a taste of the kingdom of God.  But, a marriage that brings great joy and happiness is built upon individual growth, character, and sacrifice. Truly I say to you that you will find joy and happiness in your marriage only to the extent you grow in God-like character and willingly make sacrifices to bring joy to your spouse.”

“You have heard it said that marriage, when founded on deep feelings of love, will be easily maintained. But I say to you that marriage is based on commitment. Passion will wax and wane. Intimacy will fluctuate with the seasons of marriage. But commitment will carry you through the difficult times and the low tides. Commitment will bring you through the valleys and lead you to the mountain tops of even greater intimacy and passion. Our Father created marriage and established it upon the principle of lifetime commitment, not the fickleness of human feelings that wax and wane.”

“You have heard it said that commitment in marriage is not necessary for great sex and deep intimacy. But I say to you that only within a committed, intimate marriage can two people stand before one another in total trust and security, willing to expose themselves on the deepest level. Honestly, it is over years of learning about one another that a couple learns how to please, how to touch, how to cherish, how to hold…how to experience deep intimacy and great sex.”

“You have heard it said that marriage will never last. After all, statistics suggest that a large number of marriages end in divorce. What’s going to make mine different? But I say to you again, marriage is founded on commitment. Remaining committed to your marriage involves effort. You must invest in marriage to make it last just as God the Father committed himself to, and invested Himself in, you. That investment is paid in currency of time, service, and affection, all given on a daily basis to your spouse.”

A healthy marriage really is countercultural. It is established on the principles of personal commitment, humility, service, sacrifice, and love. Such a relationship will have a positive impact on your children and leave a lasting impression on all those who have the joy of witnessing a godly marriage, a countercultural love.

A Triangle of Love

I invite you to participate in a love triangle…Oh wait. That sounds bad. Step back. Take a breath. It’s not what it sounds like. I’m talking about Robert Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Love. Let me rephrase. I invite you to experience all three components of Sternberg’s theory of love with your spouse…and only your spouse! (That sound’s better. Sorry about that.) Sternberg believed love consisted of three components:

  • hearts in the sandIntimacy, which includes our feelings of closeness and connectedness.
  • Passion, which describes our sexual attraction and physical desires as well as those romantic moments of holding hands and “googly eyed” staring, and
  • Commitment, which involves our decision to remain in our relationship and invest in its growth.

You can imagine various types of relationship based on the three components of this model. Best friends have intimacy (feelings of connection) and commitment, but no romantic passion. Many affairs have passion and intimacy, but no commitment. On the Bachelor or Bachelorette, we watch passion grow and provide a false sense of intimacy that will likely fade over the next year as real life struggles bursts through the door of unscripted life.

I have talked with people who say they “love” their spouse but are not “in love” with them. I think they have felt intimacy and passion in the past but have allowed them both (intimacy and passion) to wane over the years. Unfortunately, they want to base their commitment on their sense of passion and intimacy; so, in the midst of drifting intimacy and passion, they forfeit commitment. Unfortunately, this is backwards (can a triangle be backwards?). Let me explain.

Passion and intimacy naturally ebbs and flows in a long-term relationship. An active commitment, on the other hand, lays a secure foundation that maintains and increases passion and intimacy. Ironically, a couple’s long term commitment leads to daily investments in one another and their relationship. The daily investments of a long term commitment lead to an overall growth curve in intimacy and passion over time. Let me share some examples:

  • Couples committed to their relationship invest in learning about their partners on a daily basis, increasing a sense of intimacy.
  • Couples committed to their relationship invest in putting what they learn about their partners into action. They learn what pleases their partner and then commit to doing those things on a regular basis, increasing intimacy and passion.
  • Couples committed to their relationship learn what their partner finds romantic and sexually satisfying; and they act on that knowledge, increasing a sense of passion.
  • Couples committed to their relationship invest in a long term view of their relationship. They share hopes and dreams of future times together. They actively plan and prepare for that future together. This increases commitment, intimacy, and passion in a relationship.
  • Couples committed to their relationship respond to one another on a daily basis. They invest in their friendship with one another. They intentionally have fun together. They comfort one another and rejoice with one another. All on a daily basis, building intimacy and passion.

You can see how a couple’s daily commitment maintains and improves intimacy and passion. Interestingly, as intimacy and passion grow, commitment increases as well. After all, it’s easier to be committed to someone with whom you share growing intimacy and passion. Thus, the love triangle of commitment, intimacy, and passion forms an upward cycle of more commitment, intimacy, and passion. I invite you to share all three components of this love triangle with your spouse. No, I urge you to intentionally and actively invest in all three components of love in your marriage and soar on the wings of the upward cycle of the love triangle into new heights of love.

The Best Valentine’s Gift Ever

Valentine’s Day approaches and couples everywhere busily search for the perfect gift. Perhaps you have considered jewelry, hotel getaways, singing cards, romantic dinners, or funny knick knacks to make your spouse laugh. Let me suggest that you give the best Valentine’s gift ever. (Don’t worry; no pressure.) Although this sounds like a bold statement, I believe you truly can give the best Valentine’s gift ever. It will not cost you much financially, but it will save you tens of thousands of dollars. More importantly, it will bring you more long-term joy than you can imagine. What is the best Valentine’s gift ever? A “3-step promise of commitment.” “What? Wait a second. My wife knows I’m committed. She will not thrill at the promise of commitment.” I think she will (and for you women, so will he). Read through the “3-step promise of commitment” and judge for yourself.
  •  Step One: Write a certificate of commitment to your spouse. You most likely made vows of commitment during your wedding ceremony. That’s OK. For Valentine’s Day, rewrite those vows (even add to them) based on the experience and knowledge you have gained during your time married. Recommit to “stick with your spouse” through thick and thin, health and sickness, aging bodies, aging minds, good times and bad, joyous occasions and times of deep sorrow, times of complete agreement and times of passionate disagreement, times of great gain and times of painful loss. Put it in writing—not long, no more than the front side of one page. Make it neat and official-looking. Laminate it and read it to your spouse over dinner…maybe even in front of your kids, extended family, or friends. Let everyone know that you remain committed to your spouse and are determined to maintain that commitment for the rest of your life.
  • Step Two: Commit to build intimacy by having no less than 20-30 minutes of meaningful conversation a day with your spouse. The average married couple in the US only spends 4 minutes a day in meaningful conversation. Commit to change this in your marriage. Commit to build intimacy through meaningful conversation. You can meet over a cup of coffee, breakfast, or while taking a walk. Talk about the news, daily activities, movies, books, spiritual insights gained, or interactions you had with someone while away from your spouse. Go even deeper by discussing the emotions, good and bad, that these experiences aroused in you. Converse like you did while dating by 1-remaining curious about what your spouse is thinking and feeling and 2-accepting your spouse’s ideas and opinions as important and valid. This daily commitment will lead to deeper intimacy with your spouse.
  • Step Three: Commit to meeting your spouse’s needs and desires on a daily basis. Make meeting your spouse’s needs and desire a top priority in your life. Remember what excites your spouse, the little things that interest her, the love language that speaks to her most profoundly, and the nuanced vulnerabilities that you can protect. Commit to keeping your spouse foremost in your heart and mind, number one in your life. This may mean doing little things like the dishes now and again or big things like coming home from work early on a regular basis.
“Wait a minute. This gift is not worth anything!” Actually, considering the average financial cost of divorce, this gift is worth at least $20,000. That figure does not even come close to the value of emotional intimacy you and your spouse will gain. It does not even touch the value of watching your children blossom in response to the “3-step promise of commitment” you share with their other parent. And, if you don’t mind me saying, the “3-step promise of commitment” will have a profound (and pleasurable) impact on the passion and physical intimacy in your marriage. After all, studies suggest that long-term married couples have the most satisfying sex life…they know one another, they know what makes the other person happy, and they are committed to satisfying and pleasing their spouse. Just imagine: dinner and a night in a hotel-$200; a 1/4 CT TW diamond necklace-$750, a “3-step promise of commitment”-priceless…and growing more valuable every day you practice it. Really, the “3-step promise of commitment” is the best Valentine’s gift ever!
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