"I Do" Doesn't Mean "I Can”

We all can picture the moment when two people standing at the altar in front of God, family, and friends hold hands and stare into each other’s eyes and say their vows. Vows to love, honor, and cherish . . . for richer or for poorer . . . in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part.

Watching two people make that type of commitment is beautiful. 

It’s also overrated.  

It’s time we state the obvious. When it comes to relationships, commitment isn’t getting the job done. Every day, committed couples are throwing in the towel. Every day, committed couples are fighting with each other and secretly (or not so secretly) wondering if they married the wrong person. Every day, committed couples are asking themselves, Why is this so hard? If I were with the right person, this would be easier! Every day, fully committed couples decide their forever commitment to each other actually has a term limit. 

So what happened?

It wasn’t that these couples weren’t committed; it’s that they weren’t capable

We all know that preparation is one of the biggest keys to success in nearly every area of life. In academics, sports, business, and medicine, your level of preparation— not a promise—is going to determine how well you do. No coach would ever put a player on the team simply because they promise to do well. No one would ever let a surgeon operate on their body because they swear to do a really great job. And you’d never give your money to a fund manager who vows to give you a 10 percent return every year. Promises aren’t enough. You want to see them practice; you want to know how many surgeries they’ve performed; and you want to see their investment track record for at least 10 years in a row. In every case, you are going to trust the people who have prepared and practiced. 

You don’t promise to be successful. You prepare to be successful.

So why wouldn’t the same be true in a relationship? Why do we assume a promise made in front of a lot of people would make us better equipped than actually doing the work that would equip us for a lifelong relationship? 

If we want to know if someone is ready for a committed relationship, we need to stop listening to their promises and start paying attention to their preparation. Otherwise, we are set up to fail. So how do we judge someone’s preparation? By observing their behavior now and in the past. Have they been trustworthy in the past? Have they been faithful in other relationships? Do they have a record of being kind, forgiving, and generous? Have you seen them consistently move in other people’s direction, behaving selflessly and patiently? A person’s track record matters, and no promise they make will cover up a lack of character or preparation. Maybe that sounds harsh, but when considering the game of a lifetime, you can’t afford to make a commitment to someone who knows how to make a promise but isn’t capable of keeping it.

And the same goes for us. All of our best intentions and big promises won’t make up for a lack of preparation. Preparation from both people is crucial to achieving the lifelong commitment you want. 

So are you doing the things now in your relationships that will prepare you for when you are ready to make the ultimate commitment? Are you dating the type of people now that you will want to commit to later? If you aren’t preparing now, you won’t be prepared later.  

Because “I do” doesn’t mean “I can.”

If you enjoyed this blog, stay tuned for more content from “Love, Dates and Heartbreaks” - a series by Andy Stanley every Sunday in August 2019.