- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
What is commitment and what's so scary about it? How can we better understand and appreciate the value of commitment and make it last--for a lifetime?
In his new book, Scott Stanley, best-selling marriage expert, reveals that the secret ingredient for finding lasting love is understanding commitment. Too often, men and women find themselves in half-committed, Maybe I Do, relationships that lead to frustration, sadness, ...
What is commitment and what's so scary about it? How can we better understand and appreciate the value of commitment and make it last--for a lifetime?
In his new book, Scott Stanley, best-selling marriage expert, reveals that the secret ingredient for finding lasting love is understanding commitment. Too often, men and women find themselves in half-committed, Maybe I Do, relationships that lead to frustration, sadness, and, in many cases, divorce. But it doesn't have to be this way. Scott Stanley offers a five-step plan--based on his groundbreaking marital research and uniquely spiritual approach--for understanding commitment, including learning to handle the pressures of everyday life, moving through the pain of unfulfilled dreams and hopes, overcoming attraction to others that might endanger a marriage, transforming your thinking from "me versus you" to "we" and "us," and capturing the beauty and mystery of lifelong devotion, loyalty, teamwork, and building a lasting vision for the future.
"Nobody is more qualified to write this book than Dr. Scott Stanley."
--Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, Seattle Pacific University; authors, Love Talk
"This book should be mandatory reading for dating, engaged, newlywed, and not-so-newlywed couples. Bravo!"
--Michele Weiner-Davis, author, Divorce Busting and The Divorce Remedy
To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; and I promise to be faithful to you, forsaking all others, until death do us part.
As reflected in these beautiful vows, commitment is at the core of a deeply fulfilling marriage. Most of us dream of journeying through life with that special person who knows how to make us smile, help us believe in ourselves, hold us close, and treasure us always. While we hope that commitment will take us to the mountaintops, we know that it can take us through deep valleys too. The road to lasting love takes dedication and determination, and I feel it is only fair to warn you that this book is not for the faint of heart. It will take you to the inner regions of your heart as we look together at the importance of commitment and how to maintain and deepen your commitment over the lifelong course of your marriage.
True commitment is far more than saying "until death do us part." That vow reflects the sanctity of marriage, but it doesn't guarantee that you will have a lifelong happy marriage. This book can help you go far beyond simply staying together to really being together in the full mystery and magic of marriage.
The Way Forward
Over the course of these pages,I am going to provide important information that will help you understand the concept of commitment. In this chapter, I focus on what current marital research and theory say about commitment, including a look at the trends in our culture that make it less likely than ever that people will fulfill their deepest desires for lasting love. After laying that foundation, we'll go deeper in the second chapter, looking at the nature and origin of the powerful desire to be fully known and accepted in marriage. We'll do this by studying Adam and Eve, the first couple with deep desires and the first to experience the fear of rejection.
In the middle section of this book, we will look at major myths related to commitment-myths that many people believe but that take lasting, committed love further out of the realm of possibility. We'll look at the following:
The myth that you can have it all
The myth that loved ones will wait forever to be a priority in your life
The myth that the grass is greener
The myth that love is all about you and what you can get from your mate
Myths about children and divorce, cohabitation, and soul mates
In each one of these areas, what you believe can affect how you choose to live your life. Each myth has the potential to erode your chances for a great marriage, and each represents beliefs that you need to battle in order to achieve a great marriage.
In the last section of the book, we will focus on three powerful themes. The first is about the importance of having a vision for your marriage (and life). A proper vision propels you to accomplish great things-and a lasting, loving marriage is a great accomplishment in life. The second theme involves coping with the sense of loss that often comes hand in hand with true commitment. Commitment requires your giving up some paths for the sake of the road you choose to travel, and sometimes you will feel a sense of loss about the paths not taken. The final theme is about the importance of acting on the long-term view. We will look at how to invest fully in your marriage so that you can continue reaping its blessings in the years to come.
The last chapter in the book is not for everyone. It's for those of you who are really struggling, who have lost your way and need to get back on the right path. In that chapter we will look at ways to recapture what has been lost so that you and your partner can live together with hope and happiness.
Research and Religious Bases of This Book
Much of what you'll find in this book is based on solid research. In various research centers, such as the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, where Dr. Howard Markman and I lead a team of excellent social scientists, researchers study a wide range of elements that help us understand how great marriages come about and what causes some couples to struggle. These elements include communication, happiness, family backgrounds, expectations, problems, commitment, and conflict styles.
But I don't just draw on research that my colleagues and I conduct. There are many studies that teach us about commitment, and many important points in the book are well founded both in sound research and insights from the Scriptures. If you wish to learn more about some of the topics I discuss, please check the notes organized by chapter at the back of the book.
Now, to start giving shape to the substance of the book, let's meet two couples on their wedding day.
Dreams and Fears
The big day had finally arrived. The wedding had been carefully planned and everything was going smoothly-except that Lisa didn't feel so smooth inside. As her mother helped her straighten her veil, Lisa whispered, "What if I'm not making the right choice?" Although she could have been expressing wedding-day jitters, Lisa really did have doubts. Although she and Steven had dated for four years, and no one else had come along whom she liked as well, her parents had divorced when Lisa was seven. She remembered the pain of their separation as if it were yesterday. That event, and the preceding years of turmoil and conflict, had left her skeptical that any marriage could really work-at least over many years.
While Lisa wondered whether she was doing the right thing, her mother tried to comfort her: "Honey, you don't have to worry so much. Remember, you can always come back home if things don't work out with Steven." To her mother's surprise, Lisa burst into sad and anxious sobs. Lisa didn't really want to hear that there was a lifeboat; she knew she could go home if she had to. She wanted to hear that it was possible to have a lifelong, happy marriage with Steven. She had grave doubts, and she wanted them to go away.
Through her tears, Lisa said to her mother, "Mom, thank you for trying to reassure me. But I desperately want to know that it's really possible for this to work, that it's not a fairy tale. I am so afraid that we don't have what it takes, but I want our marriage to last all my life. That just doesn't seem realistic, does it?"
Well, does it? What do you think? Lisa's parents had divorced, but her mother told her that things could be different for her and Steven. She didn't need to end up unhappy in her marriage. She didn't have to end up divorced. She gave Lisa all the reassurance she was hoping for. Lisa managed a smile, but she still agonized: "Do we know how to live out a commitment over many years?"
Soon after asking that question, Lisa married Steven, with all her desires and doubts intact. She desperately hoped that she and Steven would remain faithful in their dedication to each other for the rest of their lives, that they would stick, but she knew that they could end up just stuck together for decades.
On the same day, Jeremy and Suzanne were getting married across town. It was a day of anticipation and rejoicing for both of their families. In one room of the church, Jeremy was with his father and his brother Chris, who was Jeremy's best man. Suzanne was with her mother, her sister, and Jeremy's mother getting ready in another part of the church.
As Jeremy's father and brother sat in the room chatting with him, Jeremy closed the door. He said, "I have something to say that I want you both to hear." Jeremy stood before father and brother and went on: "The commitment that I am making today is sacred. I am committing myself to Suzanne for life, for all that I am and can be in this marriage. I am asking both of you to hold me accountable to this commitment. I am asking you to push me to love her in the fullest measure for all of my life."
Jeremy's father hugged his son, and the three men vowed to support one another in living out their commitments. It was a powerful moment that none of the men would forget.
As you can see, Jeremy's concept of marriage was very different from Lisa's, but their desire was similar. His parents had demonstrated commitment to each other by showing their love in the ups and downs of their life. That was the model that Jeremy brought to his marriage. By watching his parents he had inherited a clear sense of the sanctity of the wedding commitment.
After Jeremy spoke to his father and brother, he and Suzanne said their vows together-the traditional vows that opened this chapter. Before they said them, they had pondered the words, and they meant every one of them. But would making these public vows be enough? It would be if they follow through.
The two couples in these stories began their wedded life with similar hopes and dreams. But they had very different levels of confidence that they could really fulfill their vows of marriage in a full, happy life together.
Reality Is Rough
Here in the United States, 40 to 50 percent of young couples who marry for the first time will eventually divorce. Many will end their marriages within the first few years of their wedding day. In contrast, most older couples have a very low risk of divorce. These couples truly married for life and have made it through some tough trials. But even though the divorce rate for these older couples will be nowhere near 40 to 50 percent, the number of divorces for older couples has gone up as well.
Where do the promises of marriage go? Most couples start out wanting the "until death do us part" kind of marriage. Just as important, all couples I have met want that "to love and to cherish, to have and to hold" kind of marriage as well. Most of us get married because we believe we have found the special person with whom we can have all these things. Although couples may increasingly fear that divorce is a possibility, I am convinced that most newlyweds start out believing that it will be other couples who will divorce, not them. It's hard for them to believe that their love will not be cherished and deepen over time. They think, Our commitment can't possibly erode like that of so many other couples.
As divorce has become far more common, the level of confidence that people have in marriage has gone down. This is widely believed by researchers to be the reason that young people are putting off marriage until an older and older age, that they are more likely than ever before to have children without being married, that they feel they must be financially established prior to marrying, and that they enter into prenuptial agreements. People are hedging their bets because after all, you can't be too sure about marriage anymore-or so these people believe.
This crisis of confidence in marriage affects many people, and children of divorced parents most of all. As we'll see in Chapter Seven, those whose parents divorced are more likely to come into their own adult relationships anxious about whether they will last and more accepting of the possibility of divorce. The lack of confidence also compounds the risks for couples in which one or both spouses' parents divorced-the concern that commitment may not last actually makes it more likely that it will not last. The worry that marriage won't work out becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How and Why Commitment Develops
When you become deeply attached to another and fall in love, you may enter a period of anxiety about the future of the relationship. The anxiety becomes greatest after you have experienced intense satisfaction but before the two of you have committed to be together. From a psychological standpoint, various forms of commitment develop in order to make this anxiety go away. It's scary to be in love with someone when you don't know whether the person is going to remain in your life.
There are many incremental steps in forming commitment. When teenagers pledge to go steady, that's a form of commitment. When teenagers give a "steady" a class ring to wear or hang around the neck, they are pledging a higher level of commitment. Hold it! Stop a second and think about what you just read. Teenagers don't do those things anymore, which I think is very meaningful. There used to be all kinds of symbols couples had that spoke of their deepening commitment, but virtually none of them is widely visible any longer.
These old practices were important because they were public emblems between two young people that communicated "you are mine and I am yours." Even though these commitments were often immature in many ways-teenagers were making them, and they were not meant to be full, lifelong commitments-they were right for the dating couple's level of development, and they functioned as mature commitments do: to get rid of the anxiety about loss.
The force of such emblems of commitment, simple as they are, affects both the internal and the external parts of relationships. Internally, they communicate a sense of allegiance, that "you can count on me to be here for you." Externally, they convey a sense of exclusivity. Each person is publicly identified as "belonging" to the other, at least for a time. These messages have many levels of meaning, but the root of them is "You have me; you can relax." When given to a partner in marriage, a full, clear commitment embodies both messages-you can count on me and others take note, we are a couple going through life together.
I believe that the old emblems of developing commitment have gone the way of the dinosaurs because commitment itself has been under steady attack since the early 1960s. What has replaced them? For many couples, cohabitation has become one of the few tangible steps they believe reflects their growing commitment and the desire for security. As we'll see in detail in Chapter Seven, the problem with taking this step is that cohabitation outside of marriage does not reduce risks for couples; in fact, decades of research show just the opposite. Furthermore, it's a step that's actually associated, on average, with lower, not higher, levels of commitment in men toward women.
Real commitment has real power to turn a good relationship into a great marriage. It lays a firm foundation for the attachment between partners. Without that security, partners don't feel safe, and they will not invest as much in the future.
Safety: The Foundation of a Great Marriage
In our research, I and my colleague Howard Markman have come to believe that the most essential elements of a great marriage are three types of safety:
1. Safety in the connection. Feeling emotionally safe, feeling that you will be supported and accepted. It allows you, for example, to talk openly and well about key issues.
2. Personal safety. Feeling safe from physical or emotional harm or intimidation.
3. Safety in commitment. Feeling secure that you mutually support each other, work as a team, and have a clear future together.
The focus of this book is the third type of safety; I will show both its power and how to develop it to the fullest in your marriage. As I'll show you in the next chapter, however, through a look at Adam and Eve, the first type of safety is what we all long for most deeply. Yet the first type needs the foundation of the third type in order to reach full potential in marriage. Of course, personal safety is crucial as well, and commitment when there is ongoing danger should be avoided. If you are in danger in your marriage or relationship, this book will not provide the help you need. I strongly encourage you to seek outside help to take wise steps to become safe.
Although most people still long for greater acceptance and a deeper connection, they have begun to disconnect that longing from the need to develop security in commitment. The erosion of commitment in marriage has actually made it more and more difficult for people to achieve their deepest desires in life.
Excerpted from The Power of Commitment by Scott M. Stanley Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
STEP ONE: Understanding the Importance of Commitment.
1. Understanding Commitment in a “Maybe I Do” World.
2. The Deepest Desires of the Heart.
STEP TWO: Battling the Myths That Undermine Commitment.
3. Maybe I Can Have It All.
4. Maybe You Can Wait.
5. Maybe the Grass Is Greener.
6. Maybe It Should Be All About Me.
7. Myths About Children and Divorce, Soul Mates, and Living Together Before Marriage.
STEP THREE: Building Your Future with the Power of Commitment.
8. Living with an Eye to the Future.
9. Grieving and Growing.
10. Investing for the Long Haul.
11. For Couples Who Have Lost Their Way.
About Scott M. Stanley and Gary Smalley.
Posted December 14, 2012
Great Book, Im learning alot about what it takes to have a good relationship. Book has some great ways to think about ways to communicate and respect your partner. Im enjoying the book so farWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book is helpful for anyone who is married or considering marriage. Not many of us really consider what we are forsaking when we commmit to another on our wedding day, however Scott Stanley reassures us that we have more freedom as committed partners than we think. It teaches us how we are all bound to evolve in our relationships and how to recognize change. I highly recommend it for couples who are trying to save a marriage; it will definitely help.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2009
No text was provided for this review.