FAMILY AND MARRIAGE: Permanent or conditional commitment
“When a man repeats a promise again and again, he means to fail you” – Proverb (Anonymous)
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” Bible
Don and Doris contacted me for counseling. They had, been living together for some time, and Doris was ready to get married. Don, on the other hand, wasn’t sure he was ready. Ultimately they broke up. Don liked the short-term conveniences of living together without the long-term costs of commitment.
Instant gratification is the mindset of today. We are told we can have what we want, and we can have it right now. No need to wait. No need to plan and prepare. No need to consider the cost; we can pay it later – someday. Or more likely we can get out of it; someone else will pay for it.
This mindset carries over into our relationships and has a drastic effect on marriage.
The Bible says a husband is to love his wife in the same way that Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. And yet today approximately 50 percent of the mothers in the United States have no husband.
Commitment is not only diminished; it’s gone. And those that are married break up at the rate of about 50 percent.
Dr. Willard F. Harley Jr., in his book “Buyers, Renters, and Freeloaders,” has some interesting thoughts to share about the various levels of commitment in marriage. Each of us could benefit by evaluating our own level.
There is the freeloader. According to the Urban dictionary, a freeloader is “one who takes advantage of one’s generosity and tries to suck as much as possible from them. A freeloader will often times live with someone, eat their food, drive their car and not pay rent. Will make no attempt living on their own as they claim they will ‘do it later’ or are ‘tired.’ Must be forcefully removed to get rid of them.” Pretty blunt description, but accurate.
Renters seem to be more common in marriage relationships today. The freeloader probably isn’t willing to get married in the first place.
The renter, however, may agree to marriage, but there are a number of (usually unspoken) conditions.
The renter is willing to contribute to some of the cost of the relationship, but he expects his wife to fulfill her part of the bargain (he/she is interchangeable in this discussion).
He probably won’t contribute much to the upkeep, maintenance and repair in the relationship.
If she doesn’t make him happy, he may decide to terminate the rental agreement. In fact, if he can find a better deal elsewhere, he may just leave.
Then there is the buyer. Quoting Dr. Harley, the “buyer” is willing to demonstrate an extraordinary sense of care by making permanent changes in his or her own behavior and lifestyle to make the romantic relationship mutually fulfilling. Solutions to problems are long-term solutions and must work well for both partners because the romantic relationship is viewed as exclusive and permanent.
“It’s like a person who buys a house for life with a willingness to make repairs that accommodate changing needs, painting the walls, installing new carper, replacing the roof and even doing some remodeling so that it can be comfortable and useful.”
Dr. Harley suggests some criteria for assessing our level of commitment.
Renters: Our relationship is temporary; OK today but maybe not tomorrow.
Buyers: The commitment is for life.
Renters: Fairness is important. “What I get should balance what I give.”
Buyers: “We both contribute whatever it takes to make our relationship successful.”
Renters: If change is needed, and it’s difficult, I may leave.
Buyers: I will adjust as necessary to meet new needs.
Renters: If I am criticized, I will change if it benefits me.
Buyers: If I am criticized, I recognize my responsibility to change as needed.
Only buyers demonstrate unconditional love. Are we freeloaders, renters or buyers?
The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, can be reached at 640-4689, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.aikenfamco.com.