Fresh Start in Relationships – Part IV
If you have been following this blog this month, I have shared information about making your marriage a happy, healthy and long-lasting one. I have tapped into the 40+ years of research from the Gottman Institute as well as sharing appropriate and similar guidance from Scripture. If you saw the video on Trinity’s Facebook page for Valentine’s Day weekend, you saw the model of the Sound Relationship House as I explained the 7 principles for making marriage work. The area that I didn’t explain was the walls of Trust and Commitment.
The Importance of Trust and Commitment
Doctor Gottman explained in training that couples in the research often brought up the importance of trust and commitment. While the research team tried to measure self-reports of trust and commitment, the couples kept tying them to the 7 principles. The team also realized that when couples were struggling with the 7 levels of the Sound Relationship House, they also self-reported low levels of trust and commitment in their relationships. So, the team added the weight-bearing walls of Trust and Commitment to the Sound Relationship House.
As important as all the floors of the Sound Relationship House are, they don’t hold together without the pillars of trust and commitment. In a healthy, supportive relationship, two people make the decision to have faith in each other and stick together. They freely love one another and pledge to help that love grow.
Trust and Commitment beat out Compatibility
Dating sites like Match.com boast about their in-depth personality tests, and claim that someone with similar answers to the questions on their tests can result in finding the perfect mate. Basically, they claim that compatibility is what keeps relationships together. This sounds very appealing for many different reasons. Firstly, you want to be with someone who shares the same values as you and perhaps even someone who enjoys similar activities. Secondly, it only seems logical to search for another person that also dreams of having a family with children someday. Lastly, we have such a yearning for love, that we will convince ourselves of just about anything in order to fill the empty spots in our hearts. All of these reasons create quite the compelling case for compatibility sites, but how well and how long do the relationships that have similar interests and quirks truly last?
Dr. Ted Hudson of the University of Texas ran a longitudinal study of couples that had been married for years and in his research he discovered something quite surprising. Dr. Hudson explains, “My research shows that there is no difference in the objective compatibility between those couples who are unhappy and those who are happy.” Dr. Hudson went on to say that couples that feel content and warmth in their relationships said that compatibility wasn’t an issue for them. In fact, they said that it was them who made the relationship work, not the compatibility of their personalities. But when the unhappy couples were asked what they thought about compatibility, they all answered by saying that compatibility is extremely important to a marriage. Sadly, they didn’t think they were compatible with their significant other. Dr. Hudson explains that when the unhappy couples said, “we’re incompatible” they were truly meaning, “We don’t get along very well.” That’s where the issue arises with compatibility – everyone who is unhappy naturally blames it on compatibility, or their perception that they are not compatible. They fail to realize and comprehend that a successful relationship does not hinge its posterity on how alike you are, instead it hangs on by the sheer will power and want to stay in a relationship. Trust and commitment are more important in making a relationship last.
Trust and Commitment are God’s Design for Marriage
A man who had been married to his wife for over 50 years was asked by a reporter, “What’s the secret of your long marriage?” His answer? “Keep your promises and live a long time. It’s not very complicated.” While that man was being humorous, he also shared a profound truth. Marriage requires commitment intended to last. If there isn’t an intention to commit “till death do us part,” then that marriage is on shaky ground. Trust grows when foundational commitments are clearly understood and agreed upon and tenaciously held on to. Time after time. Day after day.
Some would suggest that a young couple cannot possibly understand that people go through all kinds of changes during the course of marriage. Yes, that is true. But that does not change the commitment. When needed, healthy married couples make adjustments based on those commitments. A union of two people who have mutual commitments and make the necessary adjustments—as they have children, for instance. And again as their children leave, as they suffer bereavement of their parents, and all manner of situations. All kinds of things require adjustment, but the fundamental commitments don’t change. Listen to Jesus talk about it in Matthew 19:
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Matthew 19:4–6, ESV)
In marriage, God takes a man and a woman, and by His Spirit He begins working in their lives so they become one. And they spend the rest of their days discovering what that oneness means. May God enable you to keep your promises and live a long time together with commitment and trust!
See you next time, here at the corner of faith and mental health.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Chad Wright