By Katie & Gay Hendricks
How do you feel when you hear the statement that “married people are happier?”
If you’re married and struggling with your spouse, you might feel like this whole idea is a cruel joke. How come you’re not so happy?
If you’re in a relationship but not married, you might feel offended and even angry. Who says a piece of paper really means that much?
If you’re single, you might feel marginalized, depressed, and even defective. The love you long for hasn’t yet appeared, and you become despondent that it ever will. So are you saying that I’m not happy, just because I’m not married?
So here’s the good news: all those studies and conventional wisdom are getting something seriously WRONG.
Yes, people in happy marriages are generally happy.
But it’s not the fact that they are “married” that makes them happy.
Being “married” is a status.
There’s something underneath that relationship status that is the actual engine behind happy couples:
Take a moment to wonder what that might be, as the answer may surprise you.
The engine is Commitment.
Here’s what we mean:
Think of a harmonious relationship as a carefully-tendered garden.
This garden has many benefits: beauty, peace, tranquility, safety. This is where true intimacy can grow. Only when you’re in the garden do you get to enjoy and experience all of it.
Here’s the catch: the garden door is locked. The key to that garden?
Only commitment unlocks the door and lets you into the garden. Commitment says:
“You and I agree to maintain this garden so that it is always in bloom. If we don’t care for the garden, it will wither and die.”
This beautiful garden of intimacy is not opened just because you are married. It’s opened because you are willing to do what it takes to keep it alive and growing.
You will tend it, and nourish the soil and seeds.
You will savor its beauty, celebrate its gifts, and spend time in it regularly.
You will put it back together after a damaging storm – with the power of recommitting to your partner. You see, commitment gets you in the game – and in the garden! – but recommitment keeps you in it.
In short, you commit to the garden’s well-being, and as a result, you regularly get to enjoy all of its many blessings and bestowed happiness.
Commitment is vowing that you’re in this relationship for the long haul. It’s promising that your relationship is a priority, and you will do what it takes to nurture and support your relationship.
“Doing what it takes” also means closing all the back doors and side doors to the garden:
If you’re threatening – or even entertaining – separation when conflict occurs, you haven’t fully committed.
If you secretly fantasize about being with someone else, you’re not fully committed.
If you think “Let’s take this day by day and see if it works out,” you’re not fully committed.
If you’ve given yourself any kind of “out,” you’re not fully committed.
If you have one foot out the door, then you’re not harnessing all your resources to create lasting, genuine love.
Your mutual commitment is what creates the safety and trust you both need to fully love each other.
You aren’t spending time worrying that what you say or do might “scare this person off.”
You aren’t holding back the best of you to protect yourself from getting hurt.
You aren’t afraid of sharing even your most difficult thoughts and feelings.
You can rest in the knowledge that your relationship is a safe haven where both mistakes and growth are possible.
Without commitment, you don’t get to enjoy all the benefits of the garden – you’re just an onlooker, standing outside the garden door looking in.
Commitment is the catalyst to trust and intimacy. It helps us prevent our fears and past hurts from sabotaging our happiness.
We all enter into relationships with certain fears and barriers to love.
You might be afraid that if you get too close to someone, they will hurt you. Or if someone truly gets to know you, they won’t like what they find. Or that a person will change, just like all the other people you’ve dated have changed, and leave you disappointed and alone again.
Commitment unlocks the barriers to love you may have, because until you make a real commitment to someone, you can’t be fully vulnerable. If either of you has one foot out the door, you can’t fully trust that you and your relationship are safe.
But once you have committed to making this relationship work, you are safe to become emotionally naked with each other. To share these fears, and past hurts, and secret desires. To express scary emotions, and truly welcome someone else into your life. To consider the needs of the relationship as equal to your own.
And when you can count that your partner is committed to deepening the connection you share and willing to accept the messy parts, you can begin to heal the parts inside of you that feel unworthy or unlovable.
You are no longer reacting to the fear of being abandoned, and instead putting your energy into loving each other… no matter what.
You can be married and be uncommitted. We see it all the time. We’re sure you’ve seen it, too.
Affairs, workaholism, and making unilateral decisions are all examples of having one foot out the garden door. Refusing to accept equal responsibility for relationship issues is also a sign of non-commitment.
That’s why marriage in itself isn’t what can make you happier, and it isn’t what makes a relationship.
Commitment is the door opener to relationship happiness – it doesn’t matter if you're married or not. What matters is whether you’ve committed and closed all the side doors and back doors.
Now, we’re not saying marriage isn’t wonderful. It can be! But we want you to understand it’s not the relationship status fueling the happiness. It’s the commitment to the relationship.
Marriage can give your commitment power. But it doesn’t power your commitment.
Commitment is an art, and it’s a learned one.
Many of us grew up not having appropriate role models for what true commitment looks and feels like. So we mistake marriage for commitment. Or don’t have the tools to make our marriages work once we get there.
If you want your relationships to flourish, one of the most important steps you can take is to learn how to truly commit in your relationships – it’s the only way you’ll fully experience the love and joy a relationship can bring.
Making a meaningful commitment is more than just saying “I commit.” There is a way to bring it deep into your body, and align it with what you want in life… today and tomorrow. And we can teach you how:
There are specific tools and actions you need to take to make that commitment last, so what you want deep in your heart can become a lasting reality… When you subscribe to our advice newsletters, we’ll walk you through each step, and the best part is that it’s not difficult. A small dose of willingness each day can go a long way.
If you are married, in a relationship, single, or anywhere in between, commitment is the life-force that will power all of your relationship happiness.
It’s the first step you need to take if you want love to last. Don’t wait, sign up for our newsletters now to start learning it.
Skip it, and your relationships will wither and die, or worse… continue on in a state of inertia and inner longing.
Don’t leave the planet without experiencing the joys of committed relationship – it’s the most glorious garden you'll ever discover.