What Ever Happened To Commitment?

Over the past few years, I have seen a number of couples I knew get divorced. For the record, I am also divorced (and also remarried). I did not plan on getting divorced, and probably wouldn’t have divorced if my ex-wife hadn’t decided she didn’t want to remain married to me anymore. Since then, I have seen a significant number of my friends get divorced. Like me, they were all married over 20 years. They all had seemingly stable marriages. Now I see younger couples marriages last a few years, then they get divorced. It makes me wonder, where was commitment? Why didn’t they try harder to make their marriage work?

On one level, divorce is a private matter between two people. There are some very valid reasons for divorce, like physical abuse, infidelity, etc, but for some people, they just got tired of each other, or they weren’t getting along as well as they did at first. Those things are private, and in some cases can be addressed with counseling. Others shatter the marriage beyond the possibility of repair.

On another level, when couples get divorced, it erodes other people’s hope and diminishes their ideas of the home and family. It just doesn’t seem as permanent when people around you are separating. When I hear of couples splitting up, I always feel bad. Marriage is hope for the future. It is the hope of family. It’s the basic unit of our society. That’s why people rejoice at a wedding.

On yet another level, marriage is a covenant between the couple and God. We take vows of love and responsibility to God, creating a triangular covenant between God, husband, and wife. Violating or destroying that covenant is also a violation against God, because our covenant with Him is also broken. It is for this reason that a marriage should not be entered into lightly, and should not be broken lightly. Yet in today’s culture, marriage has become no more than a legal covenant where we marry our worldly possessions, and divorce is redistributing those possessions when we go our separate ways. What happened to the commitment to one another? What happened to the commitment we made to God? I remember a woman who decided to divorce her husband even though there was no infidelity and no abuse. I asked how she could leave her husband and destroy their family. Her response was that she didn’t believe God would want her to be unhappy, and her husband didn’t make her happy, and being happy was more important than one verse in the Bible.

In life, we all have to do things that make us unhappy. Paying taxes makes me unhappy, but I have to pay them (and I do). Marriage is more than something that makes us happy. Its more foundational. We go through the storms of life together, and are supposed to support one another. We aren’t supposed to bail out the minute things cease to be fun or entertaining.

People were up in arms over the gay marriage issue, but the fact is, when we are not honoring our own commitments, who are we to complain about gay people making commitments of their own? if we are treating marriage as simply a legal status rather than a divine commitment, how can we complain about others trying to do the same thing? The reality is, without the commitment to God, any marriage is no more than a civil union, a legal living together. If that’s all people are going to have, they should just call it what it is, a civil union.

To my way of thinking, it is the commitment to God that should make a marriage a marriage. It gives it staying power. My grandparents were married over 70 years. They loved each other, fought like cats and dogs, and depended on one another to the end. My parents have been married 57 years and counting. Marriage can last a lifetime, as long as both parties are willing to make it happen.

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4 thoughts on “What Ever Happened To Commitment?

  1. Thank you for your post. You always have a way of putting things into perspective. It’s definately not easy, but is a commitment which is taken lightly anymore it seems.

  2. Rabbi, you hit a nerve. I’ll try to condense my opinions down into something reasonable and get it on here later. Meanwhile, let me say that a person who violates a marriage covenant brands himself as a LIAR, and I would not trust that person for anything ever again. I absolutely do not refer to the innoccent victim(s) of the divorce, but to the one who just got tired of the spouse and decided not to do this any more. I also refer to the unfaithful one. I’ll be back.

  3. As promised (threatened?).

    Society today suffers from some very serious problems in the upbringing of children. The divorces you mention create single-parent homes, usually single mothers. Whether the children are male or female, they cannot be raised into well-adjusted adults without two married parents. I posit that as an undeniable Truth, requiring no proof. God set it up that way, requiring one female and one male, to cause a child to be born.

    Add to that the fast-track society in which these one-parent children are raised. NOTHING has value. Whatever it is, if it doesn’t make the child happy it promptly gets replaced with something that will. Forget about weekend visitation and all that blather. That is weekend confusion and weekend disruption, but the gifts and special treats that accompany it reinforce the idea that if it doesn’t make the child happy it is worthless. The one goal is to make the child happy, and for him to know that I did it, not the other parent. That is a process that is guaranteed to fail. It doesn’t have a chance. Look on the street corners and the prisons if you think otherwise.

    Add to that the idea that you are awesome, which is one of the biggest cruelties being perpetrated on our youth. If a child fails at anything, he is denied the sorrow and the learning experience that should come from it. Everybody is a winner. Everybody is at the head of the class. Pain and unhappiness are forbidden, no matter what the cost.

    And here is the biggie. The children are taught that the end justifies the means. They are REQUIRED to feel good, no matter what foul deed it takes to accomplish that. It’s “Katie bar the door,” here. Nothing is off limits except getting caught, because that doesn’t feel good.

    Now we wind up with young adults who EXPECT to be treated like gods, and since they are gods their word is whatever they say it is. There is no responsibility for anything. As gods, they get to change the rules any way they wish.

    Now, this young person meets one of the opposite sex that appeals to him. First place they go is the bedroom. Virginity is worthless, because losing it is more fun. Living together (with lots of sex, of course) is not a committment.

    A small percentage of them decide to get permanent by marriage, but remember they have no concept of committment. So, they get married knowing full well that divorce is a option if anything isn’t all fun and games in the marriage. If these people were serious about marriage, there would be no prenuptial agreements. A prenuptial agreement is nothing more that the first step in a divorce.

    Rabbi, the lack of committment you bemoan was carefully taught to the young people by their parents of my generation and yours. After marriage, they fight, lie to one another, steal from one another, sleep around, abuse the children, run up debts to fight over, you name it, because they have never learned to be responsible for anything. When anything goes wrong it is always somebody else’s fault, and that makes it time to get him for it as well.

    Your grandparents, your parents, and my wife and I have all been married over half a century for good reasons. Our parents BOTH raised us, and they held us accountable for our mistakes. Under their guidance, we had to clean up after ourselves. We were taught that divorce was shameful, so don’t do it. We made the marriage committment FIRST, and then promptly jumped into the sack.

    A couple stand before God and those assembled, look into each other’s eyes, and make promises to each other that are clearly stated to last forever, until one of them dies. Whoever violates any of those promises, especially the one about fidelity, voluntarily brands himself a LIAR. The truth is not in him, and probably never was.

    Then, the other party, and any children, are forced to bear the consequences.

  4. Pingback: How is the Topic of Marriage Addressed in the Bible? - Its Greek51's Blog

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