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The Two Faces of Commitment: (2) Over time relationships can find themselves in trouble, with only Constraint Commitment holding it together

Pre-marriage programs, inventory workshops and enhance programs for married couples, each consider the true meaning and purpose of commitment.

With this in mind, the research on commitment by Dr Scott Stanley is an excellent area to cover with couples preparing for or enriching marriage (for further reading refer to Dr Stanley’s publications “12 Hours to a Great Marriage” and the “Power of Commitment”).

Commitment is crucial and an essential ingredient in the recipe for marital success, relationship satisfaction, as well as trust in longevity. Commitment is pledging yourself to each other by word, action and giving up or making choices. However, couples often struggle with commitment due to disenchanted, resentfulness, experiencing conflict or having ‘grass is greener’ visions.

When couples stop acting on commitment in their relationship, they can get off track (something we never dream of when we first get together). The success of a relationship is a strong sound friendship with our partner and we need to stay deeply committed to each other and the partnership so that we can continually build a strong emotional bank account.

Dr Scott Stanley speaks of two faces of commitment:

  1. Personal dedication; and
  2. Constraint commitment

This week: Constraint Commitment is the type of commitment referred to one enforced by circumstances.

An example: Jane is committed to her organisation and her skills only match this particular organisation. She has huge responsibilities outside her work and needs the money. She is not personally fulfilled by her role and is often unappreciated for the work she does.

How Commitment Erodes
Lack of enjoyment or appreciation of the other can erode commitment. One of the biggest causes of dissatisfaction is conflict or unfilled expectations. When conflict isn’t handled well, marital satisfaction declines and with it goes personal dedication. When couples feel little commitment and that they don’t have a partner who understands them and supports them, they stop helping each other and stop doing things to make each other happy. Over time relationships can find themselves in trouble, with only constraint commitment holding it together. In this situation, partners can journey their relationship on autopilot – just being, not doing. The person with the lest commitment has the most power.

Commitment can also erode when both partners continue to show dedication but neither one notices the other’s efforts, or life becomes so busy or distracted that they take the other for granted. When couples experience this they can take the ‘grass is greener’ view and the relationship is open to emotional or physical affairs. Unfortunately, the partner with the least commitment has the most power.

I hope these tools prove useful and help you enrich your relationship. If you would like further reading on commitment, please contact me on 4979 1370 or

by Robyn Donnelly
Co-ordinator, Marriage & Relationship Education CatholicCare and Secretary and NSW Representative MAREAA.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

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