"Marriage demands toughness, and toughness proceeds out of commitment. No marriage will ever be stronger than the commitment that serves as its infrastructure." (Dr. Neil Clark Warren)
How true that is. Dr. Warren, in his book, "Learning to Live With the Love of Your Life" explains, "For most people, the demands of marriage are mind-boggling. It requires all the energy you can give it --and then it asks for more. It involves a continual need for negotiation and compromise, for giving and giving more. "Mind you, I'm a big believer in marriage. I've have never seen happier, more deeply satisfied people than men and women who have made their marriages work. But neither have I met many people in highly successful marriages who got there without an enormous expenditure of energy and courage and determination. There were times when they simply had to be 'willful.' "Virtually every successful marriage requires all kinds of willpower. Sometimes issues arise and the patterns don't have the necessary skills to manage them. They essentially have two choices: give up and run away, or develop the required skills. Partners with willpower always adopt the second alternative. They wouldn't think of giving up. They're ready to go to work on the problem, and ready to do whatever they must to keep their marriage healthy for a lifetime. "The foundation of willpower is a set of marital promises. It is this set of promises that serves as the steel structure of every great marriage. Both partners need to know what they originally promised each other, and they need to be currently committed to those promises so that their willpower will always be stronger than any opposing force. "Marriage doesn't just happen! It takes a solid set of decisions, a huge amount of skills, and enormous willpower. I contend that people in healthy marriages built those marriages just as you build a bridge or skyscraper. They made their marriage triumphant because they simply wouldn't settle for less. It doesn't matter to them how much backbreaking work it requires; if it were necessary, they'd do it a thousand times more. Their willpower gives them this kind of toughness. Marriage demands toughness, and toughness proceeds out of commitment. No marriage will ever be stronger than the commitment that serves as its infrastructure. "Roger Sternberg, a Yale professor, cited commitment as crucial to a successful marriage. He says: 'Loving relationships almost always have their ups and downs, and there may be times in such relationships when commitment is almost all that keeps the relationship going. This can be essential for getting through hard times and returning to better ones. In ignoring it, one may be missing exactly that which enables one to get through the hard times as well as the easy ones.' "It's a tough-sounding vow that society [and more importantly, God] asks people entering marriage to take, and it should be. If they're to be successful, they must be prepared for a major contest. They need to be toughened and trained --and why not? We require our citizens to prepare long and hard for careers, We put soldiers, policemen, & firemen through rigorous training programs. We expect athletes and athletic teams to practice for months so they will be equal to the challenge of competition. But we are in the habit of sending persons into marriage with virtually no understanding of the challenges they'll face. The inevitable massacre is tragically predictable!"The bottom line is that marriage is often tougher than marital participants are. That can change. We must understand that commitment alone is only part of the equation for a triumphant marriage. Commitment must lead to skill development. I've never studied a great marriage in which I viewed the partners as anything less than profoundly skillful. "It's crucial to recognize, though, that much of the time these skills were learned and developed AFTER the marriage began. Often the development of the skills came in response to a crisis or a series of crises. Many persons encounter enormous problems in their marriages. In response to those problems, they learn marriage-saving skills. If those skills were learned well, the crisis was not only handled, but the marriage also took on a new level of strength and satisfaction that would not have been available if the crisis had not happened. Marriage-saving skills became vital sources in building a great relationship. "Well in advance of skill development, though, is the matter of willpower. Hundreds of thousands of marriages fall apart before the necessary skills
can be developed, because there is inadequate willpower. If a marriage relies forever on willpower, it will eventually become worn out and weak. Nevertheless, a marriage short on willpower is vulnerable when the road gets challenging.
"It goes without saying that commitment has become a cheap concept in our culture. Most married people don't have the foggiest notion of what they've committed themselves to. But worst of all, there is little about the 'promises' of marriage that are current for most married people. Like one middle-aged man said to me while in the heat of a major marital crisis: 'Listen, I took those vows a long time ago, and that's all ancient history.' "So what's the solution to this dilemma? First, we have to develop
something like 'informed consent' when it comes to marriage. We simply must not let any new marriage begin unless the two people really know what they're promising each other. Second, we need to encourage people who are already married to recommit themselves to each other --but only after they have carefully understood EXACTLY what the marital promises are all about. "My experience tells me that a high proportion of married people are totally unfit to face complex marital challenges. Often, they've become inattentive to their original commitment. They've done almost nothing recently to prepare themselves for the demanding events that are always lurking. They're like tennis players who haven't played for a long time. They aren't ready! How come? Because no one warned them to stay tough! Why not? Because everyone simply assured them they could make it fine on the basis of their love and warm feelings. This assumption is absurd. "I'm convinced that until we start seeing marriage more realistically, the divorce rate is going to stay at epidemic levels. Marriage is incredibly difficult! We'd better start recognizing this. Anyone who is going to succeed in marriage needs to determination. Obviously, great skillfulness is required but the development of the necessary skills often takes time. That's why you need to deeply own the promises you made to your mate. If
you aren't ready for the tough battles that will test your strength and endurance, then you're in danger of becoming a divorce statistic." We're told in the Bible in Matthew 5:33, "It was said to the people long ago, 'do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord'." Be willful. Be faithful. Learn the skills you need to know and do YOUR part in keeping your commitment. Exercise determination!
Steve and Cindy Wright