Building and keeping a commitment is an important aspect of any long-term romantic relationship. Toward that end, in previous posts, I have discussed strategies to build trust in relationships; ways of increasing commitment, particularly with reluctant partners; and strategies and tactics for keeping a partner faithful, too.
Beyond all of those techniques, it is important to consider your (and your partner's) readiness for commitment as well. Is this a good time for you to have a serious relationship? Is your date or lover ready for a monogamous, long-term commitment? Such considerations can have an impact on both the direction and quality of your future relationship together. At least, that's what the research indicates.
While the dynamics of relationship commitment have a longer history of study in the social sciences, evaluating an individual's readiness and interest for such commitment was more recently investigated by Agnew, Hadden, and Tan (2019). Noting that there was a lack of specific evaluation about such "commitment readiness," the team first developed a questionnaire to evaluate the degree to which individuals perceived themselves to be motivated and interested in a committed relationship.
Specifically, the questionnaire explored the following:
- Whether the individual generally felt ready to be in a committed relationship.
- Whether they were open to such a commitment, considering all of the factors in their life at present.
- Whether the timing was right at the moment for them to commit to a relationship.
- Whether they saw being in a committed relationship as a good thing for themselves.
- Whether they were overall receptive toward pursuing a committed relationship.
Agnew, Hadden, and Tan (2019) then explored the connection between people's commitment readiness and other relationship outcomes:
- In study 1, the researchers found that relationship readiness predicted an individual's level of self-disclosure in a relationship. The more an individual was ready for a commitment, the more they shared about their self with a partner. Also, if they were already invested in a relationship that was satisfying, they were more likely to be accommodating to their partner than individuals who were less ready for such a commitment.
- In study 2, the researchers found that greater commitment readiness was associated with a greater increase in actual commitment in a relationship two months later. Essentially, those who are ready to commit to a partner actively work toward building that commitment as well.
- Study 3 consisted of a diary procedure, where individuals wrote down daily entries regarding their behaviors in existing relationships. Here again, greater commitment readiness related to greater intimacy and self-disclosure behaviors. Also, here again, individuals who were more commitment-focused were also more likely to sacrifice for the good of their partner and the relationship.
- In study 4, the researchers looked at the connection between commitment readiness and leaving a romantic relationship. Results indicated that those with a lower level of readiness were more likely to have ended their relationship seven months later. In contrast, those with high commitment readiness tended to preserve their existing relationships, especially when those relationships were satisfying.
Commitment Readiness in Your Relationship
Overall, these results suggest that an individual's readiness for commitment impacts their relationship behavior in a number of important ways. Those who are ready for a commitment are more likely to actually commit to a relationship within a short period of time. When they are in a relationship, they are also more likely to disclose things about themselves, accommodate a partner, and sacrifice for the good of that relationship. Finally, they are also more likely to choose to keep the relationship going, rather than end it.
Thus, from beginning to end, those who are ready for a commitment are also more motivated to be better long-term relationship partners too.
Given that, if you are thinking about a long-term and committed relationship, it might be a good idea to consider the following:
1. Are you (and your potential partner) ready to commit? With the above research in mind, the most important consideration is your overall readiness for commitment—and the readiness of a potential partner. Along those lines, it can be helpful to evaluate how you (and they) might feel about commitment in general, whether it is a good time for such a commitment, and whether other life factors are favorable for such a relationship. While speaking about these items with a partner, it can help to build rapport and explore their motivations, too. In essence, you want to get a sense of whether you are working toward the same commitment goal.
2. Are you both acting like someone interested in commitment? If you are currently in a relationship of some kind, it can also be important to consider how you are actually behaving toward each other. Generally, individuals who are ready for a commitment tend to behave in ways that are more open toward their partner and that enhances the relationship. Specifically, they may share more about themselves to increase intimacy. They may also show more gratitude, which encourages additional positive behaviors. Taken together, these types of behaviors tend to build trust and make the relationship feel special. Therefore, if you are considering whether to be a committed couple, it can be helpful to evaluate whether you are behaving like one.
3. Does your relationship have the right dynamics for a commitment? Factors beyond your readiness and behavior also play a role in relationship commitment. Specifically, individuals tend to feel committed to a relationship when they are invested in it, satisfied by it, and it is their best alternative. Given that, when deciding on a committed relationship, it can help to evaluate these factors. Is your relationship fair, with both you and your partner investing in it? Is the relationship meeting both of your needs and satisfying you? Are you both an attractive and compatible choice for one another? If so, then you likely have the factors that would foster a successful commitment.
© 2019 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Agnew, C. R., Hadden, B. W., & Tan, K. (2019). It's about time: Readiness, commitment, and stability in close relationships. Social Psychology and Personality Science, 1-10.