Are you dating someone and finding yourself wondering, “Where is this going?” You can easily measure your current level of commitment to the relationship to make an educated guess about whether you guys will stay together. It’s not magic. It’s not a gimmick. It’s just statistics. Give it a try: Take our relationship quiz. (I recommend you take the quiz before reading further so that you can give your natural responses.)
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Editors’ note: This quiz is part of an informal project on great relationships conducted by contributor
Melissa Schneider, LMSW, and is not supervised or conducted by ScienceOfRelationships.com,
other contributors, or the academic institutions affliliated with other contributors.
I think we can all agree that the word “Commitment” gets tossed around a lot. Will he commit? She has commitment issues…We all say it, but what does commitment really mean? To some, it means not cheating, and for others, it means dating exclusively or maintaining a marriage. For most of us, commitment involves some sort of obligation or promise to the other person.
But to relationship researchers, commitment is a specific animal with three major organs: relationship satisfaction, quality of alternatives, and investments.1 “Relationship satisfaction” is fairly self-explanatory—it means how satisfied you are with your overall relationship. Your “alternatives” refer to the other people you could potentially become involved with if your current relationship ended. Lastly, your “investments” are the things you put into a relationship, like time, effort, money, property, or emotional energy. Researchers have refined and tweaked this definition of commitment since the 1980s, and it has become one of the single most-studied aspects of romantic relationships.2 More importantly for us, this flurry of empirical inquiry means we know a lot about the interaction between commitment and a person’s future decision to stay or break up. Essentially, it works like this:
Commitment’s Predictive Powers
Your commitment score is not a perfect crystal ball, but it is a good place to start if you want to predict your relationship’s future. Commitment is one of the best markers of who will break up and who will stay together in the future, anywhere from three months to a year or two later.3 It is also a great way to assess your relationship because unlike other factors, such as how often you fight or how much support you get from your social circle, commitment’s powers appear to work equally for men and women. Also, the relationship between commitment and your future status is also generally immune to your ethnicity, sexual orientation, or how long you’ve been with your partner.
This means that you can measure your commitment at any point in the dating or relationship process and learn something useful about the future. But how accurate a prediction can you make? In one study that followed more than 1,700 people for five months, commitment scores collected at the start of the study explained 22% of the difference between the people who stayed together and the people who broke up after the five months. In normal-speak, this number means there is a moderate connection between commitment and staying together in the future. While a lot of other factors contribute to keeping a couple together, we can confidently say that people’s current commitment to their relationship is an important piece of their future decision to stay with their partner or move on.
Commitment would probably be an even more accurate predictor of your relationship’s future status if it weren’t for one thing: Committed people sometimes get dumped. It sucks but it’s true. If your partner is less committed than you are, he or she might break up with you, rendering your own commitment a much less relevant factor in your future break-up. If your partner is willing, perhaps you can both take today’s relationship quiz and compare your scores. If you have similar scores, then great. If your commitment levels vary, you might want to talk about what is causing this difference. One study of college students found that people who would initiate a breakup with their partner in the next five months had lower commitment levels than people who would still be dating their partner at the end of that time.4 A mismatch in your commitment levels doesn’t have to be cause for panic, but it could be an important thing to discuss together.
Moreover, commitment is not 100% accurate because committed people might leave for other reasons. If you find out your partner is cheating, for instance, or if your parents strongly disapprove of your partner, or if you have to move to China and your partner insists on keeping a position in the state of Wyoming, such factors could prompt a non-commitment-related breakup.
All in all, your commitment score is a significant puzzle piece when you want to know if your relationship will last. Understanding your own commitment will give you a unique perspective on yourself and your relationship. So, go on, click here to find out how committed you are!
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1Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The Investment Model Scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5, 357–391.
2Le, B., Dove, N., Agnew, C., Korn, M., Mutso, A. (2010). Predicting nonmarital relationship dissolution: A meta-analytic synthesis. Personal Relationships, 17, 377-390.
3Le, B., Dove, N., Agnew, C., Korn, M., Mutso, A. (2010). Predicting nonmarital relationship dissolution: A meta-analytic synthesis. Personal Relationships, 17, 377-390.
4Arriaga, X. B., & Agnew, C. R. (2001). Being committed: Affective, cognitive, and conative components of relationship commitment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1190–1203.
Melissa Schneider – Science Of Relationships articles | Website
Melissa is a licensed Dating and Relationships Counselor and the Co-Founder of LuvWise.com. Follow her blog or connect on Twitter. Take her free relationship test or work with her to get over that breakup and learn how to build your own great relationship, right from the very first date– find out how.