Did you know that marriage requires the same kind of planning and investment that you give to your health and financial portfolios?
A good way to start taking inventory of your marriage (i.e. assessing the strengths and weaknesses of both you and your spouse), is to consider your level of commitment.
Start by asking yourself the following:
- Has your marriage been on auto-pilot for so long that neither you nor your spouse has a clue where you’re headed?
- Where would you like to see your marriage go this year?
- Are you committed to making positive changes?
- Do you expect your marriage to get better by doing the same things you did last year?
- How committed are you to your marriage for the long haul?
- How committed is your spouse to your marriage?
The Three Levels of Commitment
Commitment is something many claim to have, yet few seem to understand. It is a concept that has been used, abused and improperly modelled for so long that we’ve lost sight of what genuine devotion looks like.
Where marriage is concerned, commitment is the decision to continue in the relationship. Dr. Michael P. Johnson, Sociology Professor at Pennsylvania State University, views the decision to continue in a relationship as a function of three different experiences, or levels, of commitment — personal, moral and structural. These three types of commitment can be described as follows:
Personal Commitment, a.k.a. “I Want To”
If you have a high level of personal commitment to your marriage, you may find yourself saying or thinking, “I want to continue in my marriage. I take pleasure in being married. I enjoy being committed to my spouse.”
Moral Commitment, a.k.a. “I Ought To”
Those with a high level of moral commitment might say, “I believe staying in my marriage is the right thing to do. I’ll stick it out because of my values and beliefs. I made a commitment and I should keep my word.”
Structural Commitment, a.k.a. “I Have To”
If you have a high level of structural commitment, the following statements may apply to you: “External constraints are keeping me in my marriage. I have to stay married. I can’t afford the negative consequences of divorce on my finances, my social relationships and the way others might perceive me. Divorce would also be detrimental for my children.”
Although one facet of commitment may sound “better” or more virtuous than another, our relationships benefit from having all three. The active presence of multiple facets, or layers, of commitment makes one’s marital resolve stronger than if only one facet were present.
To make your relationship with your spouse flourish, it is important to strengthen your marital commitment. Find out how to do this on the next page.