Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Not Ready to Commit? Don't, Or You'll Doom Your Relationship

Here's one thing that predicts your relationship's success or failure.

Some years ago one of my patients, then going through a contentious divorce, revealed this during a therapy session: During his wedding ceremony, while walking down the aisle literally, he stressed and said to himself: "I shouldn't be here." "This isn't right." "I'm making a huge mistake." But he followed through. And now, eight years and two children later, he acknowledged that he just wasn't ready to commit to marriage. His desire to learn why he did so anyway had brought him into therapy.

I've heard versions of this story over the years, and they highlight the importance of self-awareness and clarity about what you're seeking in a relationship, in general. And more: If your current relationship gives you a sense that you're ready; that he or she is "the one."

If you're not feeling so certain about making that commitment, then both clinical evidence and some new research from Purdue University shows that you shouldn't do it. Otherwise, you'll risk sowing the seeds for failure down the road. In fact, the findings of this new study show that if you ignore your inner voice and commit anyway, like the guy walking down the aisle telling himself that he doesn't want to be there, you’re much less likely to have long-term relationship success. In contrast, the new study found that commitment “readiness” is a good predictor of relationship success.

According to the study’s lead author Chris Agnew, “Feeling ready leads to better relational outcomes and well-being,” It amplifies the effect of psychological commitment on relationship maintenance and stability, he added. The study found that the reverse is also true: That when a person feels less ready for commitment while in a relationship, they are less likely to act in ways that support its endurance, and a positive, sustaining connection.

The study, described here, was based on an initial survey of over 400 adults in committed relationships. It looked at their sense that the current time was right for the relationship; their satisfaction with the relationship; and their investments in it.

The findings, combined with subsequent studies with participants five to seven months later, revealed a strong connection between being "commitment ready" and longer-term relationship success. Greater readiness predicted a lower likelihood of leaving a relationship. For example, those who reported feeling greater readiness to commit were 25 percent less likely to break up over time. Also, those more ready to commit were more likely to do the "relationship work," which helps maintain a positive relationship over time. The study was published in Social Psychology and Personality Science.

So: Were you, or are you, ready to commit? Reflect honestly and carefully.

Facebook image: Stephanie Swartz/Shutterstock

More from Douglas LaBier Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Douglas LaBier Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today