The Family: A Proclamation to the World is laced through and through with the language of commitment. It declares that spouses have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and their children, and to honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Further it warns that husbands and wives will one day be held accountable before God for the discharge of family obligations.
Research shows the value of commitment in family relationships. In national studies, parental commitment to marriage and family was associated with fewer behavior problems in children and less conflict among parents and children. Couples who are personally dedicated to the health of their marriage are far more likely to be happy with their relationship. They have greater satisfaction with giving and are less inclined to look for "greener pastures."
Committed couples realize that good things in marriage don't happen without the efforts of both partners. They take their marital vows quite seriously and are likely to view marriage more as a covenant than a contract. Their relationship becomes their highest priority; they make the time needed to keep it strong. They work together unselfishly in building a relationship that will meet, as far as possible, the needs of both partners. They are willing to make all possible changes for the good of the marriage. Couples who stay together do what's necessary to make the marriage a happy one. They find out what brings their partner happiness and then do it often.
Sometimes married couples commit to one another only so long as they have feelings of love for one another. However, love feelings come and go. Some days we love everyone. On other days, we may not feel we like anyone, including our spouse. If a commitment is based only on love feelings, then the commitment isn't worth very much. Committed, covenant-oriented couples realize that while love brought them together, commitment to one another (even at times when they don't "like" one another) keeps them together.
There are many ways to foster commitment at home:
"To Have and To Hold."
Find a way to renew your marriage vows. If you were married in a religious setting, consider visiting the same house of worship and pondering your marriage vows. Wherever you were married, you can plan a special occasion, such as an anniversary, to renew your vows. You might invite a few friends or family members to witness the occasion and hold an informal reception afterwards.
Discovering and Enhancing Family Traditions.
A family tradition is an activity or event that occurs with regularity and holds special meaning to a family. Family traditions promote feelings of warmth and unity. A fun activity is to identify and evaluate traditions you now have and make plans to add new ones. List your traditions and include everything from visiting Grandma on Christmas Eve to buying ice cream cones on Saturday afternoons.
Go over your list and discuss how much you enjoy these traditions.
Are there some you'd like to do more? Are there some that are no longer enjoyable? Finally, list anything you'd like to add as a family tradition. It can be anything your family does that makes family time special. Let your imagination soar. One father suggested "Midnight Pancakes" so that he could stay better connected to his dating teens. Keep the list handy in a visible area for a few days to see if you think of anything else.
"And Now . . . Our Feature Presentation."
Choose a video that deals with commitment in relationships or quality family life. On Golden Pond, Fiddler on the Roof, and episodes from Little House on the Prairie, or Our Town are some examples. Watch your selection together, have popcorn or cookies, and then talk about what you have seen.
Find Your Roots.
Trace your family tree and collect all the photographs you can find of ancestors. Public libraries and bookstores have books on genealogy to get you started. Sometimes churches, community colleges, or historical societies offer genealogy classes.
"When I Was a Boy . . . " Compile a family oral history.
Ask older relatives to talk about their parents and childhood, and tape record their comments. Then transcribe the tapes and send copies to aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins. These stories contain a glimpse of the past that would be lost otherwise.
Written by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, and Kristi McLane, Research Assistant, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.
- Duncan, S. F. (1999). Building family strengths (MT 9405). Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension Service.
- Duncan, S. F. (1994). The activity book: Activities for building family strengths (EB 128). Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension Service.
- Duncan, S.F. (2000). Practices for building marriage and family strengths. In D. C. Dollahite (Ed.), Strengthening our families: An in-depth look at the proclamation on the family (pp. 295-303). Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.