.
Srping 2015 | Volume 24, Number 2 Musings from Silver Spring with Claudio Consuegra
Claudio Consuegra
Getting Off to a Good Start

Boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. This sounds and looks good in fairy tales, on television, or on the big screen. The reality is that for many people the script is not as clean cut. Some couples experience abuse manifested in hurtful words and actions. Others experience divorce or some other form of family disruption or breakup. Even for those untouched by divorce or abuse, many do not feel they have a happy marriage. Some statistical information may help us see a clearer picture of marriage today. 

According to the 2008 U.S. Bureau of the Census, 85% of the U.S. population will marry at least once. The age at marriage has been on the increase for more than four decades. In 1960, the median age for a first marriage was 22.8 years for men and 20.3 for women. In 2010, the median age for first marriage was 28.2 years for men and 26 years for women (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2010). More than 75% of Americans reported a belief that “being married” is an important value (Popenoe & Whitehead, 2010). 23.2 million Americans—about 9.8% of the U.S. population—are currently divorced (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2009). About 75% of those who divorce will eventually remarry (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2008). Most divorces involve children. More than 1 million children are affected by divorce each year (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2008) and approximately 40% of children will experience divorce before adulthood (Amato, 2007).1

This is just a sample of the large body of research regarding marriage and divorce. At the same time, some studies suggest that couples who have pre-marital counseling have a lower divorce rate than other couples, although some studies suggest religious factors as the reason for their success. All things considered, pre-marital counseling is the smartest decision any couple can make, and you don’t need to be religious to take advantage of the benefits it offers. Pre-marital counseling is like the best insurance policy a couple could ever purchase.

The question is, if pre-marital counseling is so beneficial, why is it so many couples avoid it or refuse counseling even early in their marriage? For many, it may have to do with fear because they think speaking openly about problems with a counselor will lead to even more problems and the eventual dissolution of the relationship. The reality is that venting anger, frustration, and resentments serves as a release of these feelings in a structured context that actually allows two people to move past them and later start liking each other again. Or it may uncover red flags that, if not dealt with, will prove to be challenges in the marriage.

As family life professionals we can encourage couples, those who are religious and those without any particular faith system, to consider pre-marital counseling as one of the best investments they can make in their relationship and their future. In this issue of the AAFLP newsletter, we consider commitment in marriage, and the role family life professionals may play with the people for whom they work.

References

1Statistical information compiled by Prepare-Enrich at https://www.prepare-enrich.com/pe/pdf/research/2011/marriage_and_family_facts_2011.pdf

From the Editor with Jeffrey O. Brown
Jeffrey O. Brown
Christian Marriage? Prove It

Our 3rd Annual Faculty Research Symposium at Oakwood University featured two faculty-student research presentations that I was asked to peer review. They were on the topics of finding lasting love on a Seventh-day Adventist college campus: what are the realistic factors and what are the realistic chances? They were thrilling, and I’ve asked them to share some preliminary findings in this issue. There’s something fascinating about marriage in a Christian context — even when destructive weeds are in close proximity.

Summer is coming, have you noticed? I have to mow the lawn more, tend to the garden more, remove the weeds more. If you are slack, the weeds take over. They seem to come out of nowhere, and they are stubborn. It’s hard to pull them up and when you do, before you know it, they are back. Married love requires husband and wife to be vigilant, active, and alert. Solomon said, “My sweetheart, my bride, is a secret garden, a walled garden, a private spring; there the plants flourish. They grow like an orchard of pomegranate trees and bear the finest fruits” (Song of Solomon 5:12-13, Good News). Marriage requires that you make time in your calendar for each other. This is your garden: invest in it, and then protect your investment. Somebody called weeds successful plants that nobody wants. Why successful?

In the first instance, weeds are successful because they are persistent. They compete for the moisture, nutrients, and light meant for the crop that is planted. Married love is riddled with weeds. There are persons that pray for you and there are persons that prey on you. What shocked the public about child kidnappings in Cleveland, Ohio, was that they were carried out by a neighbor, even a so-called ‘friend of the family.’ It’s the same with marriage. Your relationship may come under threat by somebody close to you. Understand that in the summer, the heat is on. There are people competing for the same nourishment you have. Watch your front, watch your side, and watch your back. 

In the second instance, weeds are successful because they are perennial. Examples are poison ivy, Canada thistle, and dandelion. They have tough underground roots. Cut weeds down and watch them grow back. Weeds don’t have to be persons, weeds can be perversions. These weeds do not come out easily. They require surgery, and those who feed them require therapy. Farmers use powerful wide-spectrum herbicides, residual weed killers, or soil sterilants to eliminate weeds. What do you use? Don’t be blasé about having weeds under control. Don’t trim them, treat them. Don’t cut them down, cut them out or they will lead to abuse, violence, and even death.

In the third instance, weeds are successful because they are productive. They generate plenty of seed, such as pigweed, that can last upwards of forty years. They are like the neighborhood drug dealers: always ready to supply. Even after you uproot them, they come back. Even after you jail them, their successors have already been groomed. You cannot defeat weeds by yourself; you need help. Solomon said, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Like the wars on terror, drugs, firearms possession, identity theft, and drunk driving, it may appear as if you are losing the fight with weeds. Past events have left some of us scarred, but don’t be discouraged. You are now in the driving seat. You are not a helpless victim of your inheritance. Your past does not have to determine your future. Your history does not have to become your destiny. No matter how dysfunctional your family tree, you can draw a line in the sand and declare, ‘This destructive family system is going to end with me.’ What you do now is influencing the next generation. Charles Swindoll says, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Our children can only work with the tools we give them. So solidify, secure, and cement your marriage. Talk together, walk together, work together, read together, argue together, cry together, make up together, but don’t let your spouse go. If you feel you are the only one trying to make the marriage work, don’t despair. Claudia Arp says, “God needs only one heart to begin to work in a relationship.”

In conclusion, John Gottman identified seven factors of a successful marriage. I respect the findings of Dr. Gottman’s Family Research Laboratory in Seattle, but the “Love Lab” missed something. It is called commitment, and it is uniquely Christian: “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1b). Commitment’s key words are in spite of, regardless, nevertheless. It is based upon devotion not emotion, faith not feelings, holiness not happiness, commitment not contentment. It recognizes Jesus as our example in all things and because of that, “There are sacrifices to be made for the interests of God’s cause. The sacrifice of feeling is the most keen that is required of us; yet after all it is a small sacrifice.”1

So if thoughts of buyer’s remorse enter your mind, reject them. Go back to the vow you made.  Bob Moeller said, “The way to renew a marriage doesn’t begin with a change of emotions, but with an act of will.” If you can’t remember why you got married, take your mind back to that wedding day and park there until you do. Mike Mason said, “Love convinces a couple that they are the greatest romance that has ever been... And then marriage asks them to prove it.” That’s Christian marriage.

References

1Ellen G. White, Testimonies to the Church, Volume 3, page 500

Presidentially Speaking with David Sedlacek
David Sedlacek
Marriage: A Covenantal Commitment

“Love at first sight is easy to understand. It is when two persons have been looking at each other for years, that it becomes a miracle.” Sam Levenson

Beverly and I have been married for over twenty-nine years. I can remember the first time we met. [She was trying to correct me on how my last name should be pronounced.] I was immediately drawn to her somewhat brash but playful demeanor. I can recall timidly asking her if she had ever dated a white man before. When she said that she had, I got up the courage to ask her if she would go out with me. Three months later, after much prayer, I asked her to be my wife. [We’re told that the final movements will be rapid ones.] Our commitment to one another was sealed four months later at a beautiful and deeply spiritual wedding ceremony at the Southeast Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

In this process, very briefly described, are several levels of commitment. We first committed to our first date, then to getting to know each other better. Our next level of commitment was to exclusive dating and then a commitment to marry though a formal engagement. [I was a little slow in that I did not put a ring on her finger until earlier this year.] Finally, on our wedding day, we committed to each other for life – “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” With each commitment in this process, our minds and hearts were knit more closely with each other until we became in reality “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The commitment that we made to one another that spring day has been repeated over and over again, not in formal settings like a church, but in daily decisions to give when you don’t feel like giving, to love when you feel like hating, and to forgive when the flesh screams for justice. While an initial commitment made before witnesses is noble, often the gush of young love, it is the daily commitments made afterward that season and mature a relationship. In reality, two becoming one is the result of many small but significant decisions, made daily, to overcome forces that seek to separate and divide a couple.

Jack and Judith Balswick insightfully distinguish between marriage commitment and covenant.1 Marriage is a contract between a man and a woman. In a contract, there is a mutual agreement that can only be broken when the terms of the contract are violated by one of the parties. The other party is then freed from the contract. Unfortunately, many marriages today are entered into as contracts with escape clauses. In contrast, “any covenantal relationship is based on unconditional commitment.”2 In a marriage, the covenant is bilateral, that is, between both parties in the marriage. As such, it is an act of unconditional agape love that is expressed as a commitment, regardless of the other’s performance. This is in contrast to the modern, open arrangement so characteristic of contemporary marriages. Many in today’s world are hesitant to make commitments. Therefore, they choose to live together without marriage or find it easy to break a marriage vow when the going gets tough. These arrangements are characterized by a conditional love that gives to the same degree that one receives.

The covenantal commitment of Christian marriage results in a cohesive mutuality between husband and wife, as opposed to the traditional commitment to the institution of marriage that can be more coercive and patriarchal in nature. In covenantal commitment, there is mutual respect, mutual submission, and mutual love. A couple’s passionate love for God spills over into their passionate love for one another. While this love is based on action, namely, repeated decisions to love the other as oneself, the result is a growth in the covenantal commitment that is expressed in deep, heart-felt intimacy. As couples take time to know each other intimately, their affection for each other grows, their understanding and compassion deepens, and their hearts are more fully bonded with each other’s. 

Despite our best intentions, we do hurt one another in marriage. The vast majority of hurt is unintended and reactive. A vital correlate of marital commitment is grace that is expressed as forgiveness. For a marriage to endure, a spirit of forgiveness must be mutually given and received. Because hurts are real in marriage, forgiveness is costly, as it was for Jesus on the cross. Forgiveness implies humility, openness to communication, and especially a willingness to listen with both ears and heart to one’s spouse. Working through offenses with care and sensitivity often further cements the relational covenant.

Finally, for a covenant commitment to be substantive, each person must be well differentiated, having a solid sense of self. A well-differentiated person is not emotionally dependent on the other and is not emotionally reactive. In marriage, this person is able to clearly articulate needs, desires, values, and opinions while respecting the spouse’s differing perspectives. One’s own and the other’s boundaries are in place. There is no need or desire to distance or cut oneself off from one’s spouse, such as stopping talking or refusing sex. Each spouse can look objectively at an issue and constructively resolve it. Jesus showed this Christian maturity in His covenantal commitment to us as His bride. He invites us to follow Him in our self-sacrificial love for our spouses.
 

References

1Balswick, J.O. and Balswick, J.K. (2014). The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home (4th Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Books, p. 88.

2BIbid., p. 10.


GUEST COLUMNIST WITH EVA STARNER
Factors Contributing to College Students’ Understanding and Perception of Romantic Relationships While in College: An Exploratory Study

There is a paradigm shift in the trend of undergraduate students marrying before leaving school. No longer do students come to college to get an MRS (get married), but now students are coming for the actual BS (get a degree). At least that appears to be the case at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. Many students travel hundreds of miles to find a large pool of eligibles for marriage. Because Oakwood University is a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher learning, many families have looked at Oakwood as the place to send their children to find a suitable mate. The OU Relationship Study-I examined the part played by divorced parents in romantic relationship formation among undergraduate college students. The results were puzzling. Divorce had no impact on whether or not college students were forming romantic relationships in their undergraduate studies yet students in general, 70% to be precise, were not forming relationships, irrespective of their parent’s marital status. 

In the recent OU Relationship Study-II, the researchers looked at the factors that are keeping students from forming relationships. Today, college students are finding meaning for their lives based on their family of origin experience and their experience while in college. This qualitative study looked for the meaning behind this paradigm shift. Interaction-Constructionist theory notes that families and individuals construct meanings about their lives through interaction. The population for this qualitative research study focused on currently unmarried, undergraduate college students between the ages of 19 and 25. Several focus groups were formed which led to in-depth interviews. After the initial coding and analysis process, there were four key factors that stood out to the researchers: communication, preparation, culture, and chemistry. 

The first factor, Communication, is conceptually defined as the ability to understand, interpret, and express your thoughts, feelings and emotions in verbal or non-verbal language. Respondents noted that communication is the first factor that needs to be carefully cultivated before an individual can hope to be successful in a relationship. For example, Susan (not her real name) stated, “I think communication is very important. I love to communicate a lot.” Paul (not his real name) noted, “On a scale from 1 to 10, it is a 10; probably even a 15. It’s very, very important. I don’t think your relationship is anything without communication. Communication is everything.”

The second factor, Preparation, is conceptually defined as actively pursuing maturation and growth that works toward readiness for possible opportunity. This key factor had much to do with whether or not a student was even looking for a romantic relationship. For example, students said, “[In college] you learn yourself. You learn what you want, what you don’t like, what you want in a spouse.” [Self-awareness.] “In order to really communicate in relationships there’s a patience learning curve, and honestly it’s not something that I’m particularly interested in dealing with right now.” [Maturation.] “I need time to myself, to regroup, to get my life together.” [Personal Growth.] The most interesting part of Preparation were the differences in male and female preparation for self-awareness and growth. For example, males tend to engage with many different females using interpersonal relationships to help them “find themselves,” while females tend to engage in intrapersonal, or solitary methods to “find themselves.”

The third factor, Family/Culture, plays a large part in whether a student decides to form a romantic relationship. Family/Culture were operationally defined as the environmental factors, spiritual beliefs, and social customs of the family of origin that determine an individual’s perspective life. For example, “My parents’ relationship was amazing. They loved each other a lot and you could see that in everything they did.” “I remember my Dad showing unconditional love to my Mom.” “Unconditional love is something I highly admire and hope for myself and my spouse.” “I’ve learned from my mother to support my husband in whatever he does. It may not be healthy all the way.” 

 Spirituality is also a part of that culture. For example one student noted, “It’s a big thing. Before you love someone, you love God. At least that’s my view point.” Another said, “It’s very important, probably at the top. For me it’s a direct reflection of God and how I treat someone else in relationship, friendship or other.” Still another student commented, “Their (spirituality) plays a part on whether I consult God before I get into a relationship.” Again, “It’s not just me talking to God, I’m actually receiving answers.”

The fourth factor, Chemistry, is operationally defined as the emotional, physical, or mental connection between two individuals. For example, a student stated, “I guess for me it has to be based off of friendship. And it can’t be an 80/20 it has to be 50/50 where it’s like I’m able to give, you’re able to give, it’s able to go both ways. You’re able to grow, there’s got to be some kind of progression, we’re not staying stagnant, we aren’t pulling each other down. It’s way past infatuation, it’s more like I see this person walking beside me in life, going through what may or may not occur.”

While the results are only preliminary, with data still being received and analyzed, the results suggest that students are often “single” at graduation, and happily so. Students today are less likely to form romantic relationships while in college.  They graduate unattached, and relatively unconcerned. For most, academic preparation and life preparation appear to take precedence over romantic relationships. This paradigm shift suggests that colleges and universities have much to learn about how to address this newest trend among students.

Editor’s Note:

Responding to the label “Southern Matrimony College,” research from Southern Adventist University asked Seventh-day Adventist and non Seventh-day Adventist universities what percentage of their alumni married fellow alumni. Results ranged from 8% to 33%. Southern Adventist University (Collegedale, Tennessee) 20%, Bucknell University (Lewisberg, Pennsylvania) 24%, Union College (Lincoln, Nebraska) 26%, and Andrews University (Berrien Springs, Michigan) 33%. Ashley Cheney concludes, “According to these numbers, an Adventist education seems to increase your chances of finding a mate in college.” https://www.southern.edu/marketing/Documents/Columns-Spring08.pdf.

Positive Parenting with Susan E. Murray
The Value of a Lasting Marriage

Those of you reading this column undoubtedly understand the value of a lasting marriage not only to individuals but also to their children, the church and the broader community. You are likely familiar with at least some of the significant statistics from social research that specifically relates to the benefits for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, and are less likely to be physically or sexually abused. They are less likely to use drugs or alcohol and commit delinquent behaviors and less likely to become pregnant or impregnate someone as a teenager. They also have a decreased risk of divorcing when they get married.

Additionally, children receive gender specific support from having a mother and father in the home. The Witherspoon Institute (2008) cites that the particular roles of mothers (to nurture) and fathers (to discipline), as well as complex biologically rooted interactions, are important to the development of boys and girls. Rector, Fagan and Johnson (2004) cite that a child living with a divorced or never-married mother are 6 to 30 times more likely to suffer serious physical abuse than is a child living with married biological parents. 

Research serves to help us understand the societal milieu in which we find ourselves. In addition, the writings of Ellen G. White have gifted us with an abundance of counsel as relevant today as they were to her generation. Her inspiration provides us with a strong foundation of principles to follow in building and maintaining important relationships from friendship through to courtship, marriage and parenting. However, it is Scripture that provides us with the theological foundation for the value of marriage. Let’s consider five Biblical principles we can share in our work with families on this subject: 

1) Marriage, as an institution in society, is here to stay because it is a divine institution. It is God who saw that it was not good for man and woman to be without a helpmate, as told in Genesis 2:18-24. It is God who places the man in a deep sleep. Man is not responsive or responsible. It is God who brings the marriage together. The gospel writers attest, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6; cf. Mark 10:9).  Ellen White (1952, p. 25) comments, “Thus the institution has for its originator the Creator of the universe.” The aspiration for having a mate might have been the man’s (Gen. 2:20, 23), but the answer to finding a mate was God’s. “Jesus answered, ‘Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female?’ ” (Mat 19:4, The Message). God, the author of marriage, gives the terms for when a marriage comes to an end; not us.

2) Marriage is to be built on a firm foundation. Jesus taught a very important life principle which has application for couples in Luke 6:46-49. Jesus illustrated that people must think ahead. Lack of planning leads to certain consequences. All of us must answer the question, “Is my life built upon a sure foundation?” We want to encourage couples to build their relationships on Biblical principles. Along with being the cornerstone of the foundation, Jesus is also like the mortar, cementing and holding together the relationship of a couple.  Jesus can fortify any couple to stand against the stormy elements of apathy or crisis.

Those who want a healthy marriage need to deal with the fact that marriage will not always be soft breezes and warm sunshine. The romantic feelings experienced under the moonlight will not always be as intense after marriage. The rain, the wind, and the floods of life will beat upon their relationship, upon that “house” they have built. Whether a couple has built their relationship upon a solid foundation, or a weak and poorly built one, will determine how their relationship rides out those storms and will have a lasting effect on the lives of their children.

3) Marriage is a continual walk together. Amos 3:3 asks, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” The Old Testament prophet seems to indicate that two people do not walk together unless they have a common purpose to view. To “walk together” is not some occasional act but a continuing habit that comes from an established relationship. It means companionship based upon mutual harmony of mind and spirit.

4) Marriage is a lifelong relationship (Matthew 19:3-9). In order to have a growing and productive marriage relationship in the years that follow the wedding, every couple needs to give serious and earnest consideration to planning their marriage. In today’s society, too many marriages are ending in divorce; but an equally prevalent problem is the marriage relationship that ceases to grow, existing in apathy, disillusionment, and growing separateness. A marriage relationship committed to growth ideally must have frequent opportunities for this growth to be facilitated. While perhaps more challenging for couples with young children, it is nonetheless imperative. “Growth takes place as one invests himself [herself] in relationships.  Only as one contributes to the fulfillment of others will one’s own potentialities be discovered and fulfilled. Only as one enters into relationships of mutual giving in which one is aware of and strives to satisfy the needs of the other, are one’s own needs met.” (Clinebell, H., 1970, p. 203). 

5) Marriage is a solemn commitment made under the authority of God. “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be found in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18, RSV). The church has been designated as God’s authority on earth. The church is duty-bound to take steps in assuring that couples are as spiritually, emotionally and relationally prepared for marriage as possible and then to provide many avenues for couples to continue to build their marriages throughout the life cycle.  

What a blessing for the children (and the children’s children) of such marriages to be nurtured by a committed and loving couple living the kind of marriage that will produce deep joy and sweet memories sufficient enough for a lifetime, and even eternity.

References

The Witherspoon Institute (2008). Marriage and the public good: Ten principles. Available at: www.protectmarriage.com.

White, E. G. (1952). The Adventist Home. Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association.

Rector, R., Fagan, P. F., & Johnson, K. A. (2004). Marriage: Still the safest place for women and children.  Available at: www.heritage.org.

Clinebell, H., (1970). Growth counseling for marriage enrichment.  New York, NY: Harper and Row
GUEST COLUMNIST WITH PAULINE SAWYERS


PAULINE SAWYERS
The Things We do for Love I am a hopeless romantic. There, I got it out. I imagine that, after your mouths drop open in shock and disbelief, your gasps will turn into sighs and you will proceed to make excuses for me. “Poor thing, she lives in a fairy tale world,” you might say. “She’s young, I suppose; she’ll learn.” What if I also told you that I didn’t believe in romance until I started studying the Bible? The Gospel is the most romantic love story I’ve ever read. I can’t help believing that all other love stories are symbolic retellings of that One.

Love is a word that’s becoming less and less associated with marriage. Perhaps it is too easily confused with lust and infatuation. However, we are counseled that it is a sin to marry someone we do not love.1 We typically assume this refers to self-sacrificial, agape love, but this paper proposes that romantic love is both possible and desirable, even when absent from the start or eroded along the journey. Amato and colleagues2 defined romantic love as “a strong emotional bond with another person that involves sexual desire, a longing to be with the person, a preference to put the other person’s interests ahead of one’s own, and a willingness to forgive the other person’s transgressions.” Using this definition, one can see components of what we normally call agape love.

Robert Sternberg3 has developed a well-accepted theory of romantic love involving three components: passion, intimacy, and commitment. Within his theory, Sternberg defines romantic love as being high in passion and intimacy but low in commitment. Most desirable would be Sternberg’s “consummate love,” where lovers are high in passion, intimacy, and commitment. As romantic love matures, commitment should grow without necessarily losing all the passion. Consummate love comes closest to the committed love discussed in I Corinthians 13: “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”4  The indwelling Holy Spirit enables us, as we obey His promptings, to live out I Corinthians 13 in our relationships through daily, intentional actions of love.

Commitment can be defined as “the desire and intent to stay married,”5 but the commitment promoted in marriage is sometimes very different in quality from a love-based commitment, and it often revolves around the word motive. There are different motives for commitment. A spouse may be committed out of a sense of obligation or duty. A spouse may be committed to spare the children the pain of a divorce or to maintain a lifestyle standard or income level. Ultimately, commitment for the sake of avoiding certain consequences or maintaining certain privileges cannot sustain a marriage. Christian marriage requires commitment not to circumstance or status but to a person. This commitment remains valid even when feelings wane. 

Adams and Jones6 explored commitment in studies involving over one thousand individuals, both single and married, ranging in age from 26 to 99. They identified three major subtypes of commitment: personal commitment (committed to the spouse and his/her unique attributes), moral commitment (committed to doing the right thing), and entrapment (staying because of circumstances). Clements and Swensen7 concurred with Adams and Jones that personal commitment was the type of commitment most closely related to the quality of the marriage: the higher the personal commitment, the better the quality of the marriage in terms of cohesion and satisfaction. For couples high in personal commitment, there were more expressions of love, more emotional and material support, and greater satisfaction in the marriage.

The goal of family nurturing, then, should be to encourage high personal commitment and deep love affection. This must be intentional and will not happen without mutual effort, yet one willing party can still move the relationship in the direction of growth. Because love may not exist long without expression,8 love expressed in words, deeds, and small acts of kindness will grow and multiply in the lover, in the beloved, and into the surrounding environment. Commitment based on other reasons may useful in the short-term, but only until a person can reconnect with his/her appreciation and love for their spouse.

Since Sternberg’s components are interrelated, anything a couple does that increases either passion or intimacy will tend to increase commitment over time. In seeking to promote healthy relationships, emphasis may be placed less on commitment as duty and more on commitment as love. This will strengthen the quality of the relationship and avoid Sternberg’s “empty love” paradigm, namely a marriage high in commitment but low in passion and intimacy. As our marriages grow towards consummate love, they will reflect more closely the relationship between Christ and the Church: a relationship high in passion, intimacy, and commitment.9. 

 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What can be done to rekindle love?  
  2. In our Family Life programming, how can we plan programs to give a balanced treatment to the three components of love proposed by Sternberg: passion, intimacy, and commitment?

References

Ellen G. White (1952). The Adventist Home, 43.

P. R. Amato, A. Booth, D. R. Johnson, and S. F. Rogers (2007). Alone together: How marriage in America is changing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Robert J. Sternberg (1986). A Triangular Theory of Love. Psychological Review, 93: 119-135.

I Corinthians 13:7, 8, NIV.

J. M. Adams and W. H. Jones (1997). The conceptualization of marital commitment: An Integrative Analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(5), 1177-1196.

ibid.

Richard Clements and Clifford H. Swensen (2000). Commitment to one’s spouse as a predictor of marital quality among older couples. Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social, 19, 110-119.

Ellen G. White 1952). The Adventist Home, 107.

Ephesians 5:22-32.