The Importance of Commitment



What is it that makes commitment in a long-term relationship so important? We can ask this question as we look around us and see the flotsum and jetsum of so many broken relationships in today’s culture?

Many choose to separate and/or divorce from their partners and eventually go on to start new relationships and try and ‘recover’ from their previous ones. Is it worthwhile then pushing on and persevering with a relationship that is struggling? Is there really any point? Why not let it ‘die a death’ and then, at some appropriate time, seek happiness and fulfilment elsewhere?

Speaking as a marriage and couple counsellor, I am convinced of the central need for continuing commitment in a long-term relationship. Without this, many relationships are doomed to be wrecked on the rocks of ‘normal’ life – never mind about in the storms that a turbulent life can send our way.

There is an underlying stability and security in the permanent lifestyle produced when partners and spouses give a commitment to each other. It enhances the relationship and strengthens it with the ‘glue’ of permanence. By staying together the two halves continue to make one whole – rather than the torn remainders of two separate pieces.

The ‘can do’ mentality that arises when both partners know their other halves have ‘stickability’ will help when problems arise – as they surely will – in any marriage or relationship. Knowing there is commitment – on both sides – to make it work when things are tough, will, by definition, produce resiliance, perseverance and strength.

The persevering mentality that things will go on despite difficulties, means that the success or failure of the relationship does not depend upon the vagaries of any emotional ‘roller-coaster’ that either partner may experience. They both know that, regardless of how they feel in their emotions at any particular given time, they are committed to the other partner and to the relationship and want to make it work.

This long-term, stable, continuous commitment to a relationship is an excellent role-model for children who can see at first hand the benefits to be gained. Family ideas and ethos’ are often ‘caught’ rather than ‘taught’ and this is particularly true in the parenting of families. Long-term commitment to a partner carries a seriously good message to the children of that relationship.

And commitment will protect children from the emotional damage that comes with the breakdown of marriages and partnerships. The rejection, guilt, anger, forlorness, etc. that comes on the children because of the breakdown in the adult relationship will not materialise. Instead, as mentioned earlier, they will see perseverance and steadfastness role-modelled and faithfulness maintained.

The self-images of the children will also be enhanced – consciously or sub-consciously – by the fact that the parents/adults stay together. This works on the basis that they will think along the lines of, “I am worthy to be stayed for,” as opposed to, “I am not worthy enough for the significant adults in my life to stay together on my behalf.”

Worse still, children can often think when an adult break-up comes, that they are to be blamed – that they are the cause of the breakdown in relationship. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. The effect – and consequential damage – of a thought process that says, “I am the cause of the break-up,”is very detrimental to the long-term emotional health of a child.

And for the adults too there is a very positive effect on self-image that comes when one knows that the other partner is committed to them. The sense that, “I am worthy enough to be committed to/stayed with,” bolsters that individual’s self-image with a ‘knock-on’ effect into the relationship as a whole. It boosts the long-term love, security and acceptance of one partner for another.

Conversely, the negative effects of withdrawal, isolation and rejection will have a harmful and detrimental effect on the self-image of most individuals who experience separation and divorce. The failure of the relationship will produce a perception that the two participants will have ‘failed’ and are therefore ‘failures’ of one sort or another.

Commitment within a marriage or relationship will also protect from the dangers potentially within successive casual relationships that can come from casual sex and promiscuity. For example, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, broken hearts, etc. These are very real problems that affect and damage many.

Individual and family life are undoubtedly enhanced when individuals and couples choose to be committed to their partners – come what may. Obviously, there will be times when relationships fail, for a variety of reasons, but a sense of genuine commitment will hold many relationships together in the ‘storms’ of life. The positive effect into society at large will no doubt be greater social cohesion – as opposed to social fragmentation.

Categories : Commitment

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