When Partners Aren’t Equally Committed – Why It Matters
(WellnessPursuits.com) – Does it ever feel like you’re more committed to your relationship than your significant other? While we would all like to believe that romantic partnerships are 50/50 mutual commitments, it turns out that isn’t always the case. In fact, according to a Psychology Today study, 35% of unmarried couples who have been together a little over two years are not mutually committed. But what does that really mean to your relationship?
The Study’s Findings
The study, run by researcher Dr. Scott Stanley and his colleagues from the University of Denver, looked at 315 unmarried couples between the ages of 18 and 34. They found that, in some relationships, there tends to be a significantly more committed partner (the strong-link partner) and a less committed partner (the weak-link partner). The researchers coined the term Asymmetrically Committed Relationships (ACRs) to denote relationships where there is a gap in the unequal levels of commitment between partners.
You might think walking down the aisle would solve the commitment problem, but the same study found marriage didn’t really do anything to decrease the gap. And while you might worry this type of gap can only cause you problems, you’ll be happy to hear it doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is doomed. The levels of commitment you each feel can ebb and flow over the course of your relationship.
Signs You’re in an Unequally Committed Relationship
Either of you could be the “weak-link,” but men were nearly twice as likely as women to be the ones who were less committed. In addition, the imbalance in commitment often translates into an imbalance of power in the relationship because the least committed person tends to be the one who has the greatest power in the relationship. How backward is that?
How can you tell if you and your partner are not equally committed? Look for these signs:
- One person tends to change preferences, hobbies and interests to suit the other.
- One person doesn’t want to label the relationship or define boundaries.
- One person tends to see things as options rather than goals.
- One person often feels insecure, jealous, or underappreciated.
- One person does more of the work in the relationship.
- One person tends to try too hard to earn love by accepting bad behavior.
- One person tends to take the blame for friction in the relationship.
Unequal commitment is pretty common in the early stages of any relationship. As time passes, though, you should both be on the same page about the relationship. Not quite getting there? Trouble might be on the horizon.
Consequences of Unequal Commitment
People in ACRs generally experience more conflict and aggression, according to Dr. Stanley’s study. This can cause a lot of strife, anger and hurt in the relationship – all things that could also lead to its doom.
Couples in ACRs are more likely to break up than those who are equally committed. The person who is less committed to the relationship, the weak-link, is the one who almost always initiates the break-ups. As noted above, men are twice as likely to be the less-committed partner. Even so, men tend to stay in relationships when they are the weaker links, especially if children are involved. But when it is the woman who is less committed, the study found a breakup is more likely.
Can the Scales Be Re-balanced?
An earlier study found that it’s not more commitment but rather equal levels of commitment that are the best predictor of relationship longevity. So if you and your partner are both very strongly committed or if you are both more weakly committed, the relationship is likely to succeed. The problem is specifically when one of you is very committed at the same time the other is only semi-committed.
If both partners are open to tackling commitment issues, balance can be restored. Consider these guidelines:
- Define your relationship. This first step may cause considerable discomfort and may lead to the next step…
- It’s okay to fight, as long as you fight fairly. You have to communicate your desires and expectations, as well as your disappointments and fears. Your partner can’t read your mind.
- Learn to function as a couple. You need to consider not only what is good for you or your partner, but what is good for your relationship.
- Give your relationship the nurture it needs to grow. Relationships are more like campfires than like furniture: They need to be tended to, cared for and protected. You can’t just assume that once you’ve made a commitment, you’re done. It’s a constant growth process.
- Take time to be and do things together. Grow together. Learn together. Enjoy experiences together. Face challenges together. Talk with each other.
If you believe that you’re not in an equally committed relationship, don’t despair. Being in an ACR does not automatically mean your relationship is doomed to fail. There are ways you and your partner can balance the scales with some work, and you can consider professional counseling to assist you. As you pursue love and commitment in your life, consider whether you and your partner are equally committed and what that means to you.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Pursuits!
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