First, this is my favorite one, regular, safe, good sex. Committed monogamous partners have more and better sex than singles and noncommitted partners.
Second, companionship. We’re social beings, we’re comforted by closeness. Married people are healthier, happier and live longer than singles.
Third, intimacy. Emotional closeness and love and trust and mutual support, it builds and improves over time in a committed relationship. It’s much more difficult to achieve in quality and quantity outside of a committed relationship. Sure, you can be friends. You can support each other. You can even experience intimacy, but there is something about a committed relationship in which you can really build that and evolve that over time far beyond what you can in a non-committed relationship.
Fourth, family. Both children and adults seem to thrive in an environment that’s stable, long term, multi-generational relationships.
Fifth, economics. Committed couples are financially more successful than singles and non-committed couples. Given that economics is how you survive, it’s how you pay your bills, it’s how you eat and shelter and provide security for your future and your family, it’s no small thing.
Six, community. Extended family and neighbors, and churches, and other forms of networks of supportive relationships thrive on the stability of committed relationships.
Seven, mental, emotional, physical health. The research shows that married adults live longer and have fewer mental, emotional problems when they are in committed relationships. That’s just a fact.
Path to Happiness Paved with Commitment?
I have found compelling evidence that the path to long-term relationship happiness requires commitment in the results of a study by Linda Waite, author of “The Case for Marriage,” who found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. She coined the term “Marital Endurance Ethic;” stating that “marriages got
happier not because partners resolved problems, but because they stubbornly outlasted them.”
This is astounding. All by itself, the act of commitment appears to be more effective than counseling, therapy, workshops, self-help books, and even relationship coaching, in overcoming problems and creating a happy long-term relationship.
Attitude, Behavior, and Responsibility
Couples come to counseling and coaching wanting to be happy together. Chances are, they’ll be happy if they just stick it out long enough, they don’t need me for that. If they wish to pro-actively co-create their happiness together, they both must be committed and be willing to accept personal responsibility.
In working with couples I inform them of this, and seek to immediately learn their level of commitment, their ability to accept responsibility, their attitudes toward commitment, and whether there is a difference between fact and attitude. If the “fact” is that they are in a committed relationship (e.g.
married), yet their “attitude” is less than committed (e.g. “I’m not sure this is the right relationship for me” or “It’s his/her fault, I’ll change when s/he changes.”), that is where the work must begin.
It is understandable that their unhappiness might cause couples to question their relationship, however, I share with them that I have learned that the path to happiness starts with commitment and personal responsibility. I explain that if they need results before commitment then we can’t work together, as I would be doing them a disservice by wasting their time and mine, and chances are that if they do nothing other than stick it out, they’ll end up happy.
Commitment is a fact simply demonstrated by the act of staying in a relationship. While “attitude precedes outcome” is true, it is also true that “all behavior is purposeful,” meaning that what someone does is a better measure of the future than what they say. We can clear up a lot of confusion and “what ifs” (“What if there is an affair?” “What if they won’t go to counseling?” “What if my needs aren’t met?”) by focusing on the “fact” of commitment as demonstrated by both partners staying in the relationship no matter what, since now, thanks to Linda Waite’s research, we know that if they do so, the odds are that it will work out.