The Key to a Successful Marriage: Consistent Commitment
I wonder about my commitments. Are they what they should be? Do my commitments make a barrier in my life? If I had less of them, would my life be more of what it should be or somehow would it be more than what it is? Let me share one commitment that changed the course of my life. Because of this one commitment, my life has been profoundly shaped and this shaping is everlasting. I got married at the age of 21. I am still married. Soon it will be 40 years, but it has not always been blissful.
What I have learned about being married is repetition. I have learned routine and consistency. For example: being two fully employed individuals, we learned how to communicate our schedules and work-related priorities. Phones calls during the day are not filled with chit chat. These contacts provide important information about who is where, what’s for dinner and who will be in charge of it. When the children were young, additional information about their activities and appointments along with notification of any changes were always added to phone calls. Any long range preparation or planning could be done in-person.
What I have learned about being married is the difference between spouse and friend. My husband wasn’t my best friend. He never grew to be my best friend either. We are solidified in every sense of the role as husband and wife. As a matter of fact, the way I know the difference is because I tried dating my best friend in high school. We attempted to present as a couple and it was awkward. Friendships have a different closeness. We both felt the uneasiness. Therefore in short order we decided to go back to being friends. After high school graduation, we went on our merry ways. Marriage is not like that. We may not have to be together every minute of every day, but it is impossible to just go separate ways. I tried a couple times by filling my days with work, engaging as a volunteer in all the children’s activities and exploring my past in counseling. Friendship can take a hiatus. Marriage cannot. Commitments fail when I attempt to change something into what it was never meant to be.
Marriage has uniquely different intimacies. The paths are not the same as friendships. Friendships and marriage are not interchangeable because the commitments are not the same. My husband is my friend sometimes. My husband is my husband always. He is also the one I feel safest to disagree with, though it has not always been that way. Years of commitment, along with scars from hard fought battles, have brought our commitment to the edge of disjointing. It is in that exact moment our intimacy has grown into the safety of understanding. He is the one I trust the most, but I also know that my life will not always take priority over his. This is why I trust him so. I trust him for his honesty about how he perceives circumstances and engages what he believes is important. I know his edge of disinterest, disjointing and breaking point, but without all the details. His personality and characteristics are not the same as mine. I get it… I didn’t always understand. I know how our relationship works and when it does not. Surrender and sacrifice are necessary to navigate our differences, but it is being committed that allows us to sail the sea of disagreement. Commitments include assurance that painful circumstances will come along and the outcomes have predetermined criteria in which to manage them.
What I have learned about being married is the importance of spending time together and apart. I would love to write only about my husband, but that would serve no purpose. He would hate it and I would be disrespecting him if I did it anyway. We are two very different people who fit so well together and apart. There was a time when my personality assessment results were his duplicate. There was a time I followed an incorrect model and training of what a wife should be. There was a time when I needed to do my own work—counseling, coaching and support, so that my authenticity would again surface and forge through challenges that had gotten complicated by my best defense mechanisms. I grieved the person who I pretended to be. Our marriage was deeply affected, but our commitment kept us together.
What I learned about being married is I am not my husband and he is not me. Marriage provides an opportunity to practice, to repeat, to understand and to continue to influence lives beyond ourselves. We are a couple and we are individuals. There are three relationships in marriage and all of them are important. Marriage is a fascinating institution and can withstand any and all attacks from the outside as long as there is commitment from the inside out.
“A ‘perfect marriage’ is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.”