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Commit to Marriage: Why It’s Both Deeper and More Fulfilling Than Committing to a Relationship

by eharmony Editorial Team - July 3, 2024

When you think of marriage, the first word that comes to mind is commitment. Commitment is a cornerstone of any serious relationship but when you commit to marriage, you take it to a whole new level. Your commitment now has a legal, social, and possibly religious weight that it didn’t before. Let’s look at what commitment in marriage is, the types of commitment in marriage and why someone might be afraid of marriage. We’ll also look at the effects of a lack of commitment in marriage and offer some tips for building commitment in a marriage.

Types of commitment in marriage

According to researcher Dr Michael Johnson, when you commit to marriage, you’re making three types of commitments: personal, moral and structural.1

Personal commitment

This is a commitment you make because you want to. A personal commitment to marriage reflects your understanding of your partner and the relationship. You want to get married because you love your partner and spending time with them brings you joy.

Moral commitment

A moral commitment is one you make because you believe is the right thing to do. A moral commitment to marriage reflects your values and beliefs, and guides how you behave in your relationship. For example, you might stay in a marriage because you do not believe in breaking a promise made before the law or your god.

Structural commitment

A structural commitment is a commitment you maintain for reasons outside culture or custom, or because the logistics of breaking the commitment are too daunting. Examples include staying together for the kids or because the cost of divorce is too high.

What is commitment in a marriage?

Commitment to marriage is both similar to and very different from commitment in a relationship. Both are serious, both are long-term, and both require effort to maintain. Commitment is one of the three Cs of a healthy relationship – along with communication and  compromise – but when you commit to marriage, there are a few additional layers.

A marriage is a contract

When you commit to marriage, you sign a contract. It doesn’t fit the romantic image of happily ever after but, legally, that’s what a marriage is – a contract the people entering it sign. And like all contracts, they should be taken seriously.

A marriage is a vow

If you’re religious, your marriage is a vow made before God. If  not, your marriage is still a vow made in front of family and friends. Making that kind of promise can change a relationship. When you exchange vows, you’re giving your word to keep the promises outlined in the marriage ceremony for the rest of your lives.

A marriage gives you rights

Getting married means having the right to make medical decisions for your spouse, automatically assume custody of your shared children, being eligible for alimony should you break up, access to social security, medical care and other benefits after your spouse’s death, and more.

A marriage makes you two a unit

Although more and more people choose to live together and raise families without marriage, it can’t be denied that a wedding band does add an air of legitimacy. When you commit to marriage, you’re telling everyone you’re now a team, hopefully for the rest of your lives.

What if I’m afraid to commit to marriage?

Committing to something, especially for the rest of your life, can be a scary prospect. Marriage is a wonderful thing, but it also brings obligations and responsibilities. Some of the reasons you might be afraid to commit to marriage include:

A fear of commitment in general

Some people just don’t do well with the idea of settling down – they’re worried they won’t be up for the increased responsibilities that come with marriage and kids, or that life won’t be fun once they’re ‘tied down’. If that’s you, consider therapy to see where this fear is coming from and deal with it.

TIP: Try focusing instead on the benefits and adventures you can have with a spouse and kids.

Worries he or she isn’t the one

No matter how much you love your partner, it’s perfectly normal to have doubts about the relationship, especially if you’re going through a rough patch. At times like these, it can be helpful to talk things through with a friend, family member or even a professional and see if the relationship is meeting your needs.

TIP: Do an honest evaluation of your life and relationship. You might be surprised.

Is he the one?

Read about typical signs he’s the one to marry and settle down with.

Is she the one?

Figure out if you’re headed for a happy ending with these signs that she’s the one.

Trauma from a previous breakup

Not all breakups are civil. Some may even be bad enough to leave you with trauma years later. Even if the damage isn’t that bad, it’s entirely possible that baggage from previous relationships is interfering with your ability to commit to marriage in your current one. Therapy can be helpful in cases like this, if it’s something you have access to.

TIP: Remind yourself that your current partner is not your previous one and that every relationship different.  

No good role models for a healthy marriage

Sometimes, if you can’t see it you can’t be it. If you grew up a child of divorce or the only marriages you know are unhappy, it makes sense you’re afraid to commit to marriage yourself. Additionally, positive pop culture portrayals of marriages are rare, which can make it harder for you to picture yourself in a good one.

TIP: Search out resources for how to foster good relationships.

What happens when there’s a lack of commitment in a marriage?

No matter how willing you are to compromise or how good your communication is, if both of you aren’t committed to the relationship, the odds of it failing are high. When one or both partners aren’t invested in a relationship, they have less motivation to keep it going, especially when things get tough. When you’re not committed to your partner, you may find it more difficult to create or maintain an emotional connection with them, which in turn can hasten the demise of your relationship.

According to research published in the Journal of Family Therapy and Review, over a third of divorces occur because of infidelity2. In fact, some 63% of divorcees believe having a better understanding of commitment could have helped them avoid divorce. This makes sense when you consider that most people who end their marriages early cite a lack of compatibility. All of which to say, make sure there’s commitment before you marry.

Tips on how to maintain the commitment in a marriage

Now we know how important it is to be committed in your marriage, a few tips on building that:

Be open and honest in your communications

It can be easy to fall into a communication rut or to hold back for fear of hurting your spouse’s feelings. But good communication is one of the pillars of a successful relationship. A regular ‘date’ to share issues and make sure they’re addressed can be a great way to ensure no tensions build up.

Appreciate your partner

Make sure you take the time to notice things – big and small – your partner is doing and thank or compliment them for it. Doing this will likely raise your satisfaction in your relationship – or be an early warning sign of problems.

Spend quality time together

It‘s easy to get caught up in the bustle of daily life and let your relationship fall by the wayside. Don’t stop dating just because you’re married – a great way to commit to marriage is to commit to dating even after the wedding and especially after the kids.

TIP: Find unconventional pockets of time – breakfast, lunch – to use for dates.

15 Date Ideas That Aren’t Dinner and a Movie

We collected a bunch of different date ideas – casual, spontaneous, and memorable. Also in marriage, you’ll find cool and interesting date ideas to wow your partner with.

Find lasting love and authentic connection

It’s a  cliché to say that things are different when you’re married but nonetheless true. When you commit to marriage, you commit to a whole lot more than a relationship. . But every marriage starts with finding a relationship and that what eharmony is for. With us, you’ll find a massive pool of eligible singles who’re looking for someone who shares their values. Sign up for eharmony today and get started on the path to real love.

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