Additional Information on Chapter 2, page 22
The Compatibility Code establishes that commitment extends well beyond avoiding violation. There are actually three classes of activities associated with commitment:
1. Don’t violate the basic rules of marriage
2. Don’t behave in such a way that your partner has legitimate reason to suspect possible violation
3. Live your life in such a way that your partner is continually reassured of your love and commitment
We expand on the three in that order:
Don’t Violate Basic Rules
The standard marriage vows identify certain components of marriage. Creative couples in any culture can, of course, adapt vows to fit their particular situation. Here, however, are some common ones:
Faithful partners: This suggests romantic and sexual fidelity. You don’t fall in love with another woman or man; you don’t violate your own marriage by sexual involvement with someone else. This issue tends to be the current definition of marital commitment. When the phrase “He/she was unfaithful” occurs it almost always means sexual violation.
Better and worse: Your love for and commitment to your partner is not threatened during either good times or bad times.
Richer and poorer: Your love for and commitment to your partner is not threatened by the state of your finances.
Sickness and health: Your love for and commitment to your partner is not threatened by the nature of a person’s physical condition. Note actress Dana Reeves commitment to Christopher following his paralyzing accident.
Love and cherish: This all encompassing comment suggests ongoing expression of love for each other that undergirds the commitment.
Comment: From the perspective of PRE-marital considerations, it might be well to consider whether the couple is in a position to fulfill such vows to each other prior to the wedding. We live in a world of continual violation of these vows, with a 50% divorce rate and 80% unhappy rate in marriages (that 80%, of course, includes the 50% who divorce). It might be worthy of a frank discussion, ideally with a counselor, to consider your potential vows and your ability to live up to them.
Let’s provide an example on the positive side of this equation. Several years before marrying Elizabeth, I thought this problem through carefully: I work in a profession (university professor) in which I am in continual contact with beautiful women. When I marry, I don’t want my association with beautiful women jeopardizing my marriage. I thought about the issue thoroughly, and eventually decided as follows:
“I will encounter beautiful women many times after I am married. I do not have control over an emotional reaction to a particular person, but I DO have control over whether I choose to nurse such feelings or to act upon them. Therefore, when I am married and have such a reaction I will immediately shift attention elsewhere and never allow such feelings to gain a foothold.”
I have now been married 9 years (at the time of this writing) and have found that my plan (thoroughly rehearsed prior to my marriage) worked so well that I simply don’t have the initial reaction that I feared. When I see an attractive woman, I acknowledge her attractiveness and, likely as not, will muse “I wonder who might be a nice fit for her?” The question of my relationship to her simply doesn’t occur.
Don’t Behave in a Way that Generates Suspicion
At some levels this is a common sense sort of thing. Anyone with average intelligence and reasonable social skills is aware of behaviors that might legitimately encourage your partner to wonder: Some examples:
- Staying out late at night
- Staying out over night
- Avoiding your partner when in a social setting
- Showing special attention (in a social setting) to attractive people who might be legitimately considered a threat
- Criticizing your partner in public
- Having unexplained withdrawals from your bank account
- Creating separate bank accounts, mail boxes, or telephone lines
- Reduced amounts of affection displayed
- Reduced amount of communication
- Not mentioning your spouse when interacting with someone who might be considered a threat
Now for each of the behaviors listed above (and hundreds of others like them) there are two reasons a person might engage in them:
- The relationship has drifted and you are actively thinking of breaking the commitment
- Some of these events may be happening but you are unaware that such acts should legitimately arouse suspicion.
If you are in situation #1, (relationship is drifting and you are looking) You have to live with your own conscience and the consequences of your actions.
If you are in situation #2 (unaware that such behavior is a problem) you’re probably not reading this anyway. But if you are, I suggest that you have a frank discussion with your spouse about which of your behaviors creates suspicion in him or her. Ask in a way that encourages an honest answer. When you have heard the answer, quit doing the suspicion arousing behaviors. If this discussion proves to be difficult, you might find a counselor or a trusted friend to help facilitate an honest exchange.
Perform Acts to Reassure Your Partner of Your Love
Commitment is so often posed in a “this is what you shouldn’t do” way. Let’s acknowledge with author Gregory Popkak that the best defense is often a great offense. As applied to commitment, behave toward your partner in such a way, express your love and commitment so frequently that 1) You actually remain in love with your spouse, and 2) there is no way that suspicion could be aroused in the context of such support.
What you should actually DO is so thoroughly documented in the Love and Romance Chapter under “Romantic Acts” that we provide you a live link to that location.
The premise of the Romantic Acts section is that this is the way you transition from the “in love” state to real love that can last a lifetime. The same actions (performing romantic acts) will also reassure your spouse of your rock solid commitment-truly the offense that eliminates the need for defense.