The Virtues of a Strong Marriage Commitment
In a Catholic Marriage ritual, the groom and bride make strong promises to each other saying:
I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.
Based on years of clinical studies, modern psychologists have identified some key virtues or dispositions, which strengthen these promises by supporting mutual trust. In strong marriages, this culture of trustworthiness reinforces and defends the Marriage bond. Not surprisingly, these truths are the same advice our faith offers.
This sense of trustworthiness in one’s partner has five elements: (1) honesty, (2) transparency, (3) accountability, (4) ethics, and (5) alliance. [i]
Couples need to be mutually committed to complete honesty with each other. While we can never see inside another person’s heart, we must be convinced that our spouse is not trying to deceive us, lie to us, or to live a secret separate life from us. “Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor; for we are all members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).
Related to this is the idea of transparency. We need to strive to make our life an open book to our spouse. We need to be convinced in our heart that our spouse is not keeping secrets from us. This means you have an intimate knowledge of their life, their friends, relatives, and family and their goals and ambitions. They should be completely forthcoming with us when we request information from them. As Proverbs reminds us, “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you” (Prov. 4:24, RSVCE).
Your relationship also needs to have accountability. Our spouse should do what he or she says and promises. As Jesus reminds us, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew; James 5:12). Our spouse should be straightforward about any significant transactions they have with others, financially or otherwise.
Do we see a life guided by the good ethical standards of our faith? Our spouse’s life should bear witness to consistently living these standards of just and fair conduct with others. Very often, when we form a belief about whether a person is trustworthy, it is based on our observation of their entire life. If we observe a person who lies or treats others unjustly, even if we have no evidence that they have done the same to us, we still do not trust them. Ethical hypocrisy erodes trust.
The idea of alliance means that our spouse is totally on your side, at times even against others. In practice, this means that our spouse has our true interests at heart, and does not operate out of self-interest, or form coalitions against us. Love “does not seek its own interests” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Marriages, which strive to live this sense of trustworthiness, have strong commitment. Upholding the virtue of trustworthiness protects our marriages from future betrayal.
Continue reading: Part II the Dynamics of Betrayal