Wanting More: When Achieving Acceptance, Commitment & Trust In An Intimate Relationship Is Still Not Enough

Dear Visible Man,

I am writing about my relationship.  Although I was born of African-American parents in the Pacific Northwest, my values are firmly rooted in the South.  As such, I was raised in the church.  I think it’s time for me to get married, but it is important to me that I wed a man who shares my Christian values.

My boyfriend says that he’s a Christian, but he doesn’t go to church.  I worry about his salvation and want more for him regarding his spiritual walk with the Lord.

I want him to attend church with me on a regular basis.  He is willing to go, but he wants to go when he feels like going.  I have waited a long time for a man of Christian values to come into my life.

What is the likelihood of getting him to change his mind?

Waiting For A Sign,

Tacoma WA

Dear Waiting,

Given the serious nature of your concerns, as well as the importance of this next stage in your life, I would ask that you review your reasoning for wanting to seek marriage with this specific individual.  I raise this question due to the fact that in the United States, first time marriages have a high rate of divorce– about 40 to 50%.  This rate is higher in specific communities, and for African-Americans, the divorce rate is 70%.

It is true that no one gets married for the purpose of seeking a divorce.  However, it is essential to understand the pitfalls we consciously and unconsciously create through our expectations and bring into the martial relationship.

But first, I want to clarify the issues you seek to address:

  • You have a strong spiritual and religious foundation rooted in your family and cultural beliefs.   You are seeking a marital relationship in which your mate shares similar beliefs.
  •  Although your boyfriend shares your beliefs, he does not share your commitment to regularly attend church services.
  •  You are concerned for him and want more for him as this relates to his spiritual walk.
  •  You are questioning the likelihood of him changing his mind regarding his beliefs.

Rather than address my responses to him, I would prefer to have you look within yourself.  If indeed you are choosing to marry him for the person that he is, then:

  •  Why are you working to change his beliefs?
  • If you are indeed satisfied with your spiritual walk, why can’t you be satisfied with his?

Utilizing the ACT Model (Acceptance, Commitment, and Trust), let’s shed light on these concerns.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  •  If I accept him as who he is and what joy he can bring to the marital relationship, why is it important for him to change to accommodate my beliefs?
  •   If I want to hold to my beliefs of marrying a person who has the same beliefs as I do, why am I unwilling to terminate this relationship that clearly does not equal the standards that I am seeking?
  •   Do I have hidden agendas, hopes or aspirations?   Will he change his ways of thinking following the marriage?  How will I feel if he does not change?

If we think of acceptance as defined as the action or process of finding something or someone adequate or suitable or the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  •  As there are no restrictions being placed on how I choose to worship, why am I unwilling to extend the same rights to my partner?
  •  As I want more for him, why am I unwilling to accept how he views or what he wants for himself?

If a commitment, in its basic form, is a “a pledge to do” and he in fact stands before God, family and friends stating something similar to the following:

I take thee, to be my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health to love and cherish, till death do us part…

Then ask yourself the following:

  •  Why does it matter if he chooses to worship in his way as you worship in yours?

If trust can be defined as the “belief that someone is reliable, good, and honest,” then ask yourself the following:

  • In this walk with God, what am I truly seeking?
  • If indeed my prayers for the person I seek has been answered, why am I focused on changing this person?

It is possible that instead of coming to terms regarding what– or in this situation, who— stands in front of you, ready to make a lifelong commitment, you may view this person as a “project,” and therefore, feel compelled to make improvements.  In doing this, you run the risk of your mate changing into a person that you now dislike and/or resent, and the feeling will likely be mutual.

Have the willingness to cease “living in fear” of his salvation and work on wanting to “live with fear” of the path he has chosen.  Have belief, faith and trust in the person you have chosen to marry. Embrace your fears.  If you feel the need to change something about him, be honest with your mate as well with yourself.

Flip Wilson, as his legendary character Geraldine, would always say, “What you see is what you get.”   It is human nature to want more and not to settle for less, but in the journey of life, let us focus on the experience and not the destination.    Have the willingness to accept what the other brings to the relationship.  If this is not the person you want to be with, then have the willingness to let go and move on; leaving the individual exactly the way he or she was found.

In your writing, you indicated that you have waited a long time for a man of Christian values to come into your life.  Given this, I leave you with the Five Ws of Waiting:

“If it is worth while waiting for, then it was worth the wait.”

The Visible Man

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