He began to weep. Not simply moist eyes or mild tears; he openly sobbed. When I asked what I said that had hurt him so badly, he replied, “I just realized I’m not a fool.”

“What do you mean?”

“All my family and every one of my friends scolded me for staying with her and trying to fix the marriage. They tell me I’m a fool. She cheated. With my best friend, she cheated. Lied, sneaked around, treated me like dirt.

“I wondered if I’m a fool to come to this marriage intensive, but in the last few minutes I realized I’m not a fool.”

Again, I asked, “What do you mean?”

“As you explained various reasons to be committed to a marriage, I realized that I have some very important reasons to make this work. Strong reasons. I’m not a fool.”

That was over a decade ago. They made it work and are happily married today.

So what was it that made him realize he was not a fool to try to save his marriage?

Michael Johnson on Commitment

The commitment section of our marriage intensive that the young man reacted to is based on research by Michael P. Johnson, PhD, from Penn State. Years ago, I read one of his scholarly articles and contacted him to ask his permission to use it as I worked with marriages. Since then, I read everything I can find that he writes on commitment. Though several approaches to commitment exist in the social science world, I like Mike’s best.

Johnson describes commitment as doing whatever it takes to keep a relationship alive.

He believes that commitment falls into three major categories; personal, moral, and structural. He explains those three mean “I want to,” or “I ought to,” or “I have to” stay in this relationship. Under those, he lists ten dimensions, each of which may keep a person committed to a relationship.

I like to think of each of the ten as a lifesaving rope. My friend Jeff King owns a company that changes light bulbs on towers. When he is personally on a tower and bad weather pops up, he says that he ties himself off with every harness available to keep from being blown to his death. These commitment ropes do the same for a relationship. Sometimes storms come that may separate us from the relationship we have. When that happens, every rope is a lifeline that may keep the relationship alive.

The young man mentioned at the beginning of this article realized he had several strong ropes that could and should keep his marriage alive, and that each had tremendous value in his life.

Think about which are important to you.

PERSONAL COMMITMENT— “I Want to Be in This Relationship”

Personal commitment is when one wants to continue a relationship. That desire may come from one or more of these areas:

  • The person feels a positive attitude toward the relationship; he enjoys or feels good about the relationship.
  • The person feels a positive attitude about the partner; she feels love, affection, or affinity with the partner.
  • The person feels a relational identity with the partner. Relational identity is the extent to which one’s involvement in a relationship is incorporated into one’s self-concept. It is when a person thinks more of “we” than “I”, and feels a part of a team or closely bonded with the other.

MORAL COMMITMENT—“I Ought to Stay in This Relationship”

Moral commitment involves a sense of self-constraint. It is doing what one feels is right, which may or may not be what one wants to do at the moment. It is the internal value system of the person, not an external value system that may be placed on him by the society in which he operates.

Moral commitment is the feeling that one ought to continue a relationship. This sense of obligation may come from one or more of these areas:

  • The person believes in the value of consistency. That is the inherent human desire to continue a task or effort until it is completed. For example, if one makes a vow to be married until “death do you part,” that person may have a strong sense of personal obligation to fulfill that vow.
  • The person values the stability of the particular type of relationship she has. The more important the relationship is viewed by a person, the stronger she feels she ought to stay in it. Therefore, a person who values marriage will find it much more difficult to end a marriage than other relationships.
  • The person feels a partner-specific obligation. Partner-specific obligation involves a sense of obligation to the particular person with whom one is involved in a relationship. The moral constraint is a sense of personal contractual obligation. If a husband, for example, worries that his wife and children may not do well financially or emotionally if he leaves them, that sense of obligation will lead him to stay even if he wishes to leave the relationship.

STRUCTURAL COMMITMENT—“I Have to Stay in This Relationship”

Structural commitment is the feeling that one must continue a relationship, but not because of her own internal values. The factors are external and most often considered constraining. This type commitment may come from one or more of these areas:

  • The person has made irretrievable investments into the relationship. Those are those things that a person has given to the relationship that will be lost if the relationship were to end—things like time, energy, and other resources. If the investment is considerable enough and the person feels there may be a chance of receiving the return he wanted from the relationship, the person feels he has to stay until the investment is recovered. For example, if he dropped out of college to work so that his wife could finish medical school and become a world-famous surgeon, he may feel he has to stay married to her to get his share of the monetary and social status he earned by supporting her.
  • The person is concerned about the social reaction of ending the relationship. Social reaction is a consideration of the feelings that a person’s social group will likely have about the morality of the dissolution of the relationship. If she feels her family, church, or friends will diminish their relationship with her if she divorces, she may choose to stay married.
  • The person faces difficulty in ending the relationship. Definitive endings of committed relationships usually require some form of action. The more complex and serious the relationship, the more complex and costly the effort to end it. If he lacks the emotional strength, the financial resources, or a viable course of action, he likely will not go through the pain of ending the relationship.
  • The person fears there may not be a viable alternative. Availability of acceptable alternatives means the availability of “replacements” for the current relationship. That is more than the consideration of a new person to replace the old. It also includes such considerations as the likely economic situation that will exist at the end of the current relationship, the likely impact on the structure of the person’s social life, and so on.

Though one might think that the structural commitments (the “have to” dimensions) are not good reasons to stay in a relationship, they very much are. They may hold a couple together long enough to repair the relationship and make it good again.

If the personal commitment “I want to” is strong enough, the “ought to” and “have to” areas are relatively unimportant. However, during those times when the “I want to” is lacking, these other areas are crucial to a maintenance of the relationship.

The young man mentioned at the beginning of this article found that there were several dimensions in both the “ought to” and “have to” areas that had great value to him. He saw, for example, that because of his “partner-specific” obligation to his children, it would be worth saving the marriage so that his children would live with both Mom and Dad.

If you are contemplating ending a committed relationship such as a marriage, it could be very important for your future to consider all the reasons to make this relationship work. From Michael Johnson’s work, I developed a survey that you may use to investigate what areas are important to you in either the “want to,” “ought to,” or “have to.” Before walking away, be willing honestly to evaluate all those.

If you wish to have an analysis of what your scores mean to you, click here. It may change your future for good.

If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper workshop for troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for you and your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can’t attend the workshop.

 



12 thoughts on “10 Reasons To Stay Married

  • December 29, 2014 at 8:44 pm
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    Great article!

    Reply
  • April 2, 2015 at 7:53 pm
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    This article does not even begin to address my problem. Is it right for a husband to stay married to a woman who is in active addition as well as having severe symptoms of paranoia, OCD and depression, does not even want to be touched intimately and does NOT want help for any of these issues ? Am I supposed to remain unhappy, codependent an an enabler the rest of her life ? Doesn’t she have a responsibility to want help ? I regularly see a shrink and a therapist and they say get out.

    Reply
    • June 9, 2015 at 3:15 pm
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      I understand your pain. There is little that can be said for those who have to live outside of the bell curve.

      if you do believe in God, scream into your pillow and do not hold back for as long as you need. he is a big boy.

      if you do not believe in God, talk to him anyway. nothing else is work so far. what do we got to lose?

      Reply
    • January 28, 2016 at 8:02 pm
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      Gerry, I feel your pain! My wife also seems to exhibit many of the same characteristics and in addition has even stated that she “only married me for a baby (which we were not able to conceive in the brief 2-weeks after our marriage). Members of her church and family have indicated that she married me to get a Green-Card. She has accused me of abuse both privately and legally and though nothing has become of it, she still remains silent, angry, hostile and adament that “nothing will ever bring her back to our marriage because she does not love me – not friends, not family, not pastors, not even God”. Nearly everyone I know tells me that I should divorce her and move on. You and I are trapped by what we know in God (that we are to love even when it hurts and that divorce is wrong). Our counselors and psychologists, psychiatrists and more all say that if we simply let go and focus on ourselves we will find happiness and joy again, yet in my mind I ask the question, “Isn’t that where I was before I got married? I wasn’t happy then either!” I know that standing is what Jesus would do. It is hard, and unfortunately there is little to no support for men who actually are committed to their marriage and their spouse/family. Fortunately, I believe this article and other stories I’ve heard, illustrate that MH wants to help. I don’t know if they can ever help with my marriage, as it does require my wife having a desire to come back into it as well. But I do know that if she does come back, even partially, what I’ve seen from them may give me resources to build from there. It’s been 2.5 years of standing for me so far. Many days I want to give up and do like everyone says… but at night, when I take that moment to talk to God, it’s tears that flow as I admit to Him, I did and do and always will love her… I need His help to bring her home.

      Reply
    • January 23, 2019 at 7:14 am
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      All the reasons I should leave her:

      She always seems angry at me and is quick to yell and scorn me
      She never wants to talk when I want to, shes to drained or to tired to do so
      She doesnt seem to want to have sex with me anymore
      It seems as its a huge deal for me to lay next her anymore
      She is quick to put me down for things in the past, even if I truly did not due them
      I say sorry to her and she doesnt seem to want to hear it
      She admitted to masturbating (But how many times, I really dont know she says once)
      She never wants to go down on me but went down on her X more than 10 times *Hurts so much to think about
      I try to lay with her in bed but she is distant and does not seem interested in me at all
      I dont know her finacial situation at all, I know she got a lump sum of money, but dont know how much or what she does with her money
      Honestly dont care about the money she has but she reminds me of how she doesnt want me to even think about it
      She has been with some of my friends
      She doesnt believe in me anymore, is quick to tell me she doesnt trust me *Everytime basically we have a convo
      I tell her that I want to be better and do what ever she asks of me *Again tells me she doesnt believe me
      I dont know if she is attracted to me anymore
      She doesnt seem attracted to me at all because she doesnt want to touch me or show any affection to me
      She obviously calls me a horrible husband but now even says im a horrible father
      I dont have a job and she puts me down for it for the past 8 months
      The last time she sent me a encourging text about my current low situation is back in Feb. almost a year
      She was so supportive and mentioned us being a team but doesnt even come close to saying that for almost a year
      I want to have sex but am afraid of being rejected by her cause she has so many times
      She seems to enjoy conversation with other male friends or male people she knows
      Complains about me to her friends (to the point they actually cried for her)
      I dont even know her phone password
      She doesnt want to even turn on something so little as read reciepts
      I lost the keys to the car last week and thought they might be in her purse, thats when i noticed she hides it from me every night
      She literally hides her purse from me at her parents house
      Staying at her parents house, but she never tells me that she wants me to stay. But is so quick to tell me do what i got to do
      I dont know how to communicate with her, with out making her angry at me or make her feel bad
      She says I love to be a victim, i enjoy to manipulate her, i enjoy hurting her
      I wish she would show me more affection, but when i ask for it, she says shes not wanting to do that, cause she says we never did
      She does not want me to be mad or say anything negative to her about how i feel. Wants me to shut up about my feelings basically
      If I Express my feelings to her, she basically will get upset at me for days. Tell me that i drain her and then comes the leave if you want to
      My sons have started not wanting to spend time with me, they are all about her, thats my fault but she doesnt understand how it makes me feel
      She has no compassion for how it makes me feel to stay with her parents. I didnt have a great child hood and dont know exactly how to act around them
      She says im ungrateful for her parents or her but i truly am gratefull for both
      She makes me feel like im the biggest loser in the world
      Reminds me that she gave me $900 last week plus $100 from my mom on my B-Day
      Then accuses me of gambling with that money
      She doesnt ever give me money like i did her, not saying i gave her a ton of money but on constant occasion did. I provided for the family for 10 years
      Never has thanked me for being by her side during her rough time with a accident. I tried making sure i was there for her. Emotionally finacially physically
      She always is so abusive and personally cutting me down if we do argue
      Iv been really feeling bad the past 3 days because of withdrawals from a medication but she basically left me in her room, not asking me once how i was doing
      offering to bring me food or just sit with me. She instead yelled at me constantly
      Locks me out of the bedroom like last night because she says shes tired
      I dont feel that she wants me
      I dont feel she has any attraction to me
      I want to try to work on us and hopefully have her love me before i start working because im afraid im not going to be able to let go of these times when i do
      Im honestly confused if she does love me or wants to spend time with me
      I want her to love me so badly that i text her when i feel neglected but that only makes the situation much worse
      She seems more interested in her family then me
      I want her to love me
      I dont know if she loves me
      I want to be there for her, i want to help her out, but she doesnt communicate with me unless its about how horrible i am
      The past few fights have been because she refuses to allow me to sleep with her in bed.
      When i try to explain how i feel because of that she starts to tell me that shes tired and im basically the worst person in the world for saying anything
      I cant sleep in the living room at her parents house becasue of the constant noise made by her family members *not angry at them for doing so, im actually
      glad they do. it makes me not seem like a burden but she does not understand that i cant sleep downstair becasue of it. plus im thinking about it all night
      I want to work, i want to find a job and provide for her, but she doesnt take into account with out sleep, or my medication, or more importatnly with feeling
      like i have her in my corner, its super hard for me to concentrate on work and finding a job
      I feel like she doesnt want me around anymore, I dont know what to do when she is around me with her parents. Meaning should i go outside or should i pretend
      to be on the computer or pretend to be making phone calls. Becasue she doesnt sit or talk to me and i feel her parents notice thats happening and its very awkard for me
      I dont feel like im apart of her family. She doesnt make me feel like im her husband and she will be with me for ever. Im confused and fearful that we will not last
      I want to be wanted by her
      I want her to want me to sleep next to her
      I want her to believe in me and us
      I want her to truly look at me as her partner in life
      I want her to be intimate with me
      I want her to want to talk to me like she does her friends and family
      I want her to try to understand my feelings rather than her to shut me down and feel like shit cause i have them
      I want her to love me
      I hope she has not cheated or is cheating on me

      Reasons i should stay with her:

      I love her more than anything else in this world
      Even though she has changed and been so mean to me lately, i feel there was a time when she truley cared and loved me. *when i had a job (my Fault)
      She has been with me for 10 years
      I love her so much
      She is so beautiful to me
      I love the way she looks
      I love when she does touch me
      I love her more than I love anything else
      I love her smile
      I love her eyes
      I love when she is happy
      I loved when she was caring for me
      I didnt show her how much i loved her in the past. (Would ignore her in the past and her text, but didnt realize the damage i was doing)
      I know she is a wonderful mother
      I know she is a great person but seems she is not great to me
      I love her
      I love her
      I love her
      I love her
      Damn I love her so much
      I want to keep our family together
      She did sacrifice alot for me and our family in the past
      I cant forget the good times we did have
      I remember when she was truly a partner of mine and would be supportive of me and my decisions *she made me feel like she was always going to by my side
      I love her so much that it truly hurts me physically to imagine life with out her by my side
      I want to keep her happy and provide for her and my sons
      I want to see her smile with me
      I love her
      I love her
      I would be so happy if i could be with her and just have her love me
      She is my wife and i love her
      I know i have done wrong to her but never to the point she assumes or faults me for
      I love her though
      I want her to be happy with me and by my side until i die
      I want to be her partner in life and have her be grateful for me one day
      I want to raise our kids together becasue i know we are a awesome couple of parents when we are good and on the same page
      When we do have sex i thought it was amazing but lately im feeling even that might be a lie *maybe why she doesnt any more
      I love her
      Man i love her
      I wish i could take her pain away and want to work on us
      I want her to tell me what i can do better and do those things and help her feel im her partner
      I take fault for not having a job right now *even though some of its because i dont understand where we are in our relationship
      I love her
      She seems to care for me here and there
      When she is the wife i married shes the best person to have in your corner
      She is my world
      She is everything i want in a women and wife
      I love her
      I dont know how to explain to her how much i love her
      I love her
      I want her to be happy and smile when we are talking or walking
      I want to leave her parents house asap but want her to love me please
      I want her to know that i dont ever want her to feel like i want to leave her
      I love her
      But does she love me?
      I love her
      I would spend a lifetime with her and then would want to spend after life with her because i love her so greatly
      she is my heaven and my bestfriend
      I dont find any other person attractive but her
      All i want is her to smile and understand the amount of love i have for her
      Im willing to do anything she needs me to do so she knows i love her
      I love her with all my heart and feel terrible for hurting her ever
      I want her to love me and be happy in doing so
      I love her
      I love her
      I love her and everything about her
      I want to make her happy

      I guess at this time i feel i should give it one more last go, one more heartfelt try. Meaning everything i have to make her feel loved and hopefully
      have her love me in return. I want her to smile and be happy with me. I dont want to leave her EVER but at this point i feel like maybe she has already
      moved on from me. That she no longer wants me and is attracted to me. There for i will try to get her to love me one more time and hopefully have her
      in my life for ever. But i can not force her and feel like imposing on her anymore. I will give us one more chance at making it work before i leave for
      good. I know if i leave i will never be able to come back and look at her the same. Cause i will always feel she was ok with us breaking apart. I love
      her and would be a happy man if she loved me back as the way i love her. But thing that keeps me up at night and the thing that doesnt let me sleep
      that brings me to my knees in pain and makes me feel crazy is that she doesnt and never will love me. For that reason this is the last time i will give
      it my all and i pray on everything i love and have loved that she will love me and we will be together till the end. I will try…… but i will not
      end up being the reason she hurts and does not smile anymore. I hope that me and her can figure this out for the family and boys. More importantly i hope
      she loves me. I love her

      Reply
      • January 25, 2019 at 7:36 pm
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        Thank you for sharing some of your story with me. I am so sorry for all that you are going through. I am glad that you have found Marriage Helper as we do work with many couples who are in similar situations as yours.

        I know you are in an extremely hard place of wanting to save your marriage but feeling like you are doing that alone. My advice to people is always to turn your focus to what you CAN control. That basically means to put all of your focus on you since that is what you can control. One of the things we talk a lot about here is working on your PIES. That means focusing on yourself Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, and Spiritually. By finding something that you can do to improve yourself in each of those areas it makes you the best version of yourself as possible. Those are also all areas of attraction.

        What we see happen often is that the spouse wanting out of the marriage eventually takes notice of all the changes the standing spouse is making and all the time they are investing in them self. Of course, we hope that your marriage is able to be saved but no matter what the outcome of your marriage is you still need to be healthy.

        We have many resources here at Marriage Helper which you can find at: http://www.marriagehelper.com or: http://www.youtube.com/marriagehelper

        We also have a three day workshop that has an amazing success rate of helping marriages be saved. I know that getting your wife to agree to come probably feels hopeless right now, but I have seen it happen many times. Some times people will use attending the workshop as a bargaining chip before agreeing to or finalizing a divorce. We also offer coaching calls where you would purchase a number of 45 minute phone calls with one of our Marriage Helper trained and certified coaches. The coaching calls can be used individually or as a couple. If you want more information on the Workshop or coaching calls just let me know.

        Please don’t hesitate to reach out if there is anything I can try to help you with. All of us here at Marriage Helper want to continue to offer you hope.

        Reply
  • April 10, 2015 at 4:52 am
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    Wow, what a great article, and all the reason’s mentioned were never valued by my husband despite my pointing out of what he has to do and what we have to do, what the problems and where the problem is he still choose to be with his mistress and get divorced. Despite swearing that he loves his daughter, he still choose divorce. Its been a year now, and I just accepted to take his route, to divorce to spare me more heartache and sleepless nights.

    Reply
  • July 17, 2015 at 2:27 am
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    I just sat in on your free webinar tonight, where Joe gave the above points in talk-form. I also heard pointers to a WHACKLOAD of interesting, helpful, creative, and smart tools and supports, available through these guys, to any marriage/relationship-strugglers in a variety of situations or positions…from the “bored, I want out” to “this is dangerous” with a number of scenarios in between.

    I want to encourage anyone reading this to listen in to one of their free webinars (I’m guessing they will keep offering them?) . They’ve helped thousands of couples, and, even if you’re in a relationship that the other person has entirely quit on, there are still some really creative and smart things you can do (listen in to find out!) to greatly increase the possibility of things turning around.

    I’ve been in my marriage for 24 years now. At least 3 times the pressures were SO GREAT to leave…it honestly seemed like the only sane thing to do.

    But REMAINING IN or FIGHTING FOR or WAITING TO find the way, even when no way appears possible…even when it hurts like hell…or worse…

    I tell you…we BOTH would tell you…THE REWARDS of FINDING THAT WAY, and WAITING FOR that way, and PERSEVERING til things turn around again (and they will, they will…) those rewards…and conversely, the things you / we lose….by not fighting, not standing, not waiting, not investing…things you won’t realize til later in life…both on the loss and the gain side…

    Please, don’t miss this…life is too hard to do it alone later…and we need one another…far more than we perhaps realize…

    And, we need to finish life with the one we have fought with and stood with and grown with, and a whole lot more.

    Don’t miss this.

    Do EVERYTHING you can to REMAIN IN and see TURNED AROUND your marriage/relationship…The work can be VERY PAINFUL — and how I know it — but the best things in life come only through ALOT of sweat and sometimes pain, too.

    You can do this.
    Together, find the way.
    You’re both (and your kids if you have them) worth this, and more.

    nj

    Reply
  • July 22, 2015 at 3:04 am
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    I am on the other side. I am the one that wants to leave & wants the divorce. All we do is argue. She wants to overcommunicate constantly. To the point that she puts my life and others lives in danger. She refuses to get help for bipolar disorder & says that there is nothing wrong. Our house is in turmoil all the time. All the don’ts from this website she does. I think the article is good, but when it comes down to it those 3 values mean nothing when hate is involved. Hate to the point of having dreams of doing really bad things to her. That is why I want out. The one sin of divorce is much better than the way we live.

    Reply
    • July 22, 2015 at 4:05 pm
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      Ralph, I understand that there is a lot of hurt and pain right now. It is important to encourage your spouse to seek help for any mental illnesses, but don’t focus on all the things your spouse is doing wrong from what you are reading on our website. Try not to focus on your spouse right now at all. There is still a lot of hope that getting your spouse to seek marriage help with you can help her realize what she needs to change – but you dwelling on what your spouse needs to change is not going to change your spouse.

      Reply
  • August 21, 2015 at 3:16 pm
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    We have been married 32 years, and I had some issues with my wife for a few years that I couldn’t take anymore. I told her I would file for divorce, unfortunately I also had an emotional affair for 2 weeks with no physical contact, in fact we didn’t even meet, she was an old acquaintance from school. After a short separation my wife came home. We are trying to stay together but my wife is fixated on the affair even having a company send her all my texts from the affair, that’s all my wife talks about. Our therapist tells her to get past it but she won’t, I love her and want to stay with her.

    Reply
  • September 25, 2018 at 1:15 pm
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    Well the married life is the very best of all since you have that special person to share your life with, especially if your both very loving, caring, committed, and very honest with one another which would really make the marriage work altogether. Married people have all the advantages in the world which single people always have so many disadvantages unfortunately. When your single for example which it can be very unhealthy and very depressing, especially if all your friends are settled down with their life. Married people are always together when they go on trips, to parties, family gatherings, eating out in restaurants together, and the list goes on. And when your single, it really sucks being all alone wherever you go. Well i would certainly say the married life is the real way to go these days instead of being single and all alone. Makes sense doesn’t it? The real problem though is trying to meet a real good woman to connect with for many of us good men that really hate being single today, and that is the most difficult part of all unfortunately.

    Reply

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