Commitment That Remains Strong in Bad Times Makes Marriage Good

Published November 16, 1989. Several things happened during the past week that impressed me regarding commitment and marriage. The first occurred a few days ago when I was talking to one of the receptionists at our office at Brigham Young University. Debbie Greco has been married to her husband Michael for just over a year. While I was copying some materials, I asked Debbie how her marriage was going. “Just fine,” Debbie replied. “It just gets better all the time.”

Her response was refreshingly upbeat. I asked what she and Michael do to make their marriage that way.

“I don’t know if we do anything that unusual,” she said.

I pressed Debbie a little more on commitment. “How do you know Michael is committed to you?” I asked, partly in jest but genuinely interested.

Debbie thought for a moment. “Just a few nights ago I was quite ill. I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. Michael was so concerned he woke up and sat up with me until I went back to sleep. That is just one of the things he does that lets me know he is committed and loves me.”

How many husbands besides Michael Greco, I thought to myself, would get up at night with his wife when she is ill? Is it just the innocence of newlyweds or genuine caring and concern? For the Grecos, I’m certain it is the latter.

A few days later I saw something on a local television channel that also impressed me regarding commitment to marriage. A couple was being interviewed, and the husband had Alzheimer’s disease so advanced that he didn’t recognize his wife. Still, she tearfully told the television interviewer how much she loved her husband, how concerned she was about his well-being, and how committed she was to him. I was touched by her sentiments. According to the National Institute on aging, between 2.5 million and 4 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly half of those who are 85 or older experience Alzheimer’s, from mild to advanced stages.

Staying in marriage today is difficult enough when we are at our best. But how committed would you be to your spouse if he or she had Alzheimer’s and, like the couple interviewed on TV, didn’t know who you were or couldn’t even recognize you? It is something to consider.

Last night I was reading a statement by the late Spencer W. Kimball, past president of the LDS Church. He commented on commitment and summarized my experiences this week. He wrote, “While one is young and well and strong and beautiful and attractive, he or she can, for the moment, almost name the price and write the ticket, but the time comes when these temporary things have had their day, when wrinkles come and aching joints, when hair is thin and bodies bulge, when nerves are frayed and tempers are taut, when wealth is dissipated.”

“There comes a time when those who flattered us and those whose wit and charm deceived us may leave us to our fate. Those are times when we want friends, good friends, common friends, loved ones tied with immortal bonds – people who will nurse our illnesses, tolerate our eccentricities, and love us with pure, undefiled affection. Then we need an unspoiled companion who will not count our wrinkles, remember our stupidities, nor remember our weaknesses. Then is when we need a loving companion with whom we have suffered and wept and prayed and worshiped, one with whom we have suffered sorrow and disappointments, one who loves us for what we are meant to be rather than what we appear to be in our gilded shell.”

The experiences this past week have reminded me once again of my absolute conviction that commitment as noted in these three instances is truly the foundation of marriage.

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