Categories: Marriage.

There is a lot of information out there about why marriages fail.  A quick search of the internet turns up articles on how communication is the key to marital success.  I don’t buy it, and neither should you.  Communication is important, but what many don’t realize is that we are always communicating.  In fact, you cannot NOT communicate. Everything you do communicates something.  Whether you communicated what you intended is another story.  Tony Robbins explains it best when he says “communication is defined by the response you get.” 

Communication is not the reason marriages fail.  Neither are money problems, health problems, affairs, addictions, or even a previous history of divorce.  The number reason that marriages fail is DIVORCE.  It’s the decision to end the commitment.  In other words, the reason that marriages fail is lack of commitment. 

Commitment is the willingness to uphold the sanctity and well-being of the marriage.  This means that married couples will look not only to their own interests but also to their spouse’s best interests. It means you will be there for your partner when they need you the most.  It means you will be aware of your spouse and care about them.  Someone once said that healthy families all look the same, but dysfunctional families come in all varieties.  In the same way, healthy marriages all have one thing in common: They have an ironclad commitment.   Dysfunctional marriages have commitment problems that can come in a variety of forms.  For instance, a wife may go to her parents for emotional support more than her husband – that’s a commitment problem.  A husband may clear his schedule for golf or hunting but can’t find time to spend with his wife and family – is that commitment problem?  I’d say yes it is. A wife might stay up late chatting with other guys online rather than going to bed with her husband – is that commitment?  Maybe a man has been hurt in a previous marriage and never really let his guard down with his current wife – is that commitment?  

It takes both people committing to the marriage for it to last a lifetime.  If you think of commitment as a chain, it’s only as strong as the weakest link.  The weakest link in a marriage is the one who cares the least about it.  Is the person who files the divorce papers the “weakest link?”  To answer yes is to oversimplify a complex issue.  Sometimes the person who instigates the legal divorce is merely taking steps to protect themselves from the spouse who truly lacks commitment.   There is a need to “guard the good” within the individual.  To continue otherwise might be harmful.  This only becomes an issue when someone has a low commitment to the marriage.  

James Phineas McBride (whoever that is) is quoted as saying “When we got married I told my wife ‘If you leave me, I’m going with you.’ And she never did.”  Personally, I have confidence that my wife will never leave me.  Do you know how comforting that is?  That is the trust that comes with commitment. That is safety and security, and it allows me to be myself.   It’s the commitment in a marriage gives both people space to breathe and “just be.”    Does this mean that I can just do whatever I want whether my wife likes it or not?  Are you crazy?  That is the opposite of commitment, and endangers the safety of the marriage.  That is the lack of commitment on my part that can result in my wife “guarding the good” within herself, which will result in her pulling away.  That kind of blatant disregard for a spouse is a lack of commitment that may drive them to separation or divorce. 

Being committed not only means looking out for the mutual interests of both partners.  It also means that you must be able to forgive.  There are times when your spouse will let you down and hurt you.  If you are committed to the marriage, you must ultimately let go of resentment.  This doesn’t mean you let them hurt you repeatedly as you must “guard the good” within you for your own personal survival.  It does mean that you will not hold their sins against them and let it get in the way of your commitment.  In conclusion, I leave you with this very fitting quote:

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you
gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults.
And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect
people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage.
And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that
protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them – it was that

By Thornton Wilder, from the play “The Skin of Our Teeth”


  1. Marcia Bartley

    Hi Patrick,

    You may not remember me, but my husband (of 40 years last Sunday) is your Dad’s cousin, Bruce.

    I looked at your website a month or so ago, but hadn’t yet read any of your articles. The one on “commitment” seemed very appropriate to read as we have just celebrated a milestone anniversary.

    Your message that a marriage is all about commitment, on many levels, hits the nail right on the head. Your article also showed your sense of humor, which smoothes the road, not only in marriage and child-rearing, but in all walks of life.

    As I read the article I felt myself agreeing with the things you said. We know that as humans we will fail at some things; hurt those we love; and let ourselves down. It is our commitment to the people that God put in our lives that we must hold onto, and keep the important things in perspective and in the forefront of our lives. Bruce and I have both been tested these past 40 years, and we are still committed to each other. It is not always an easy journey, but a very worthwhile one.

    The best of luck to you in your practice; your clients and readers have a great resource; you.

    Marcia Bartley

  2. Patrick Ward

    Marcia, Great to hear from you. Congratulations on your 40 years! I was just up in NY with my parents last April to visit with Bud and Barb before they moved. I would love to visit with you and your family again.

  3. This was a great article on commitment..I feel that is why so many marriages fail. Lack of commitment…young people seem to enter marriage with divorce on their mind if things don’t work out the way they expected them to they don’t stay together and work things out and if children is involved, they are the main ones who get hurt…Selfishness keeps one from desiring whats best for the other person and that is where we fail…I been their I know, and you have to be comitted to God first and the rest will follow..Love isn’t a feeling it is a commitment…The comment the husband made is what every married couple should make to one another, “if you leave me I am going with you” :)

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