4 Rules That Can Save Your Marriage: Rule 2

Dec 7 22:52 2006 Lee Baucom, Ph.D. Print This Article

Hard-hitting advice from a seasoned marriage therapist.  Discover the 4 rules you should follow to perfect, improve, or save your marriage.  Part 1 of 4.

The last article focused on the approach of not taking everything personally (article is available at http://www.savethemarriage.com/blog/blog.html)  But there are several more rules that can help you with your marriage.  The next rule is an internal understanding that will transform your external actions.

Rule 2:  Honor Your Commitment

This rule may seem obvious,Guest Posting but it isn't always reflected in our actions toward our spouse.  You see, our commitment, our promise to be together through it all, is the cement of marriage.  We often underestimate the importance of commitment in our throw-away, disposable culture.

Yet powerful psychological shifts happen in a marriage as a result of commitment.  Think back to your wedding vows.  Most of us took a vow to stay together regardless of how our lives are going.  We promise to "hang in there," through thick-and-thin, regardless of how our emotions are running at any particular time.

Think for a moment about the power of knowing that someone makes a promise to get through any difficulty with you.  That completely frees you up to work on the relationship, to resolve your difficulties, because at the end of the day, you will be together.

In other words, commitment is the glue of a marriage.  In fact, while we may center marriages on lots of other ideals or attributes, this is the one that carries the day.  Center a marriage on happiness, and when there is a period that lacks in happiness, there is no foundation.  Center a marriage of great sex, and when they fails, there is no safety net.  Center a marriage on any particular goal, and when that goal is met (money, kids, careers, etc.), there isn't anywhere to go.  But commitment is a continual event, and one that we can maintain by our own choice.

Don't get me wrong.  I recognize this is easier said than done, but isn't that the point?  Marriage is about consciously choosing the direction of the relationship, rather than being blown by external events and expectations.

Which leads me to one of the implications for this rule:  don't threaten to leave or divorce in the midst of conflict.  I have seen far too many couples where the basic level of trust between them has been eroded by threats of divorce or one leaving for a period of time.

The effect of this is to undermine the glue of commitment.  It basically creates the message that as long as things are going well, you will stay around.  But when things get tough, you change the rules and decide to leave.  That is not an environment conducive to working out a relationship.  It means that one or both people are always on guard of being left.

It reminds me of a book I recently saw in the bookstore on wedding vows.  The author, I think with the best of intentions, stated her belief that vows need to be changed to reflect the "temporary nature of marriages."  She suggested that a promise could be made "as long as we love each other," or "as long as we want to be together" as a substitute for "as long as we both shall live."  That is not a vow!  That is basically a statement that "I promise to stay with you until I decide not to."  There is not a lot of stability to build upon.

When we make a vow, we assume we have some control over the outcome.  If I commit to staying in a marriage, I have control over that.  When things get difficult, I can continue to rely on the fact that I made a promise, and therefore, I will work it out.

Which brings me to the second major implication of this rule:  a marriage built on commitment means that both people can relax into the marriage and drop the basic fear that the other person is going to leave.  By relax, I don't mean "let it go, but rather a realization that fear is not necessary.  In fact, it gives me full ownership of the relationship.  I am responsible for my half of the commitment, and must make it work for myself and for my spouse.  And if both people are willing to focus on the commitment, the reverse is also happening.

So today, make a decision to be committed in your relationship.  Don't avoid the commitment, but embrace it as the direction through difficulty.  Take a look in the mirror and see someone taking responsibility for your half of the marriage staying together for as long as your vows suggested.

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About Article Author

Lee Baucom, Ph.D.
Lee Baucom, Ph.D.

Dr. Baucom is a 15-year veteran of marriage therapy.  He works day-in and day-out to help people save their marriages.  Dr. Baucom is creator of the best-selling ebook, Save The Marriage (http://www.savethemarriage.com).  He also created an online marriage workshop (http://www.transformyourmarriage.com), and offers podcasts on marriage at http://www.marriagemoment.com.

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