You and your boyfriend have been dating for just over a year and things are going great – well, most of the time. Lately there have been a lot of ups and downs in your relationship and though there are moments when you’re sure he’s the one, at other times you don’t think you’ll last. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to tell where your relationship was going?
Ups and downs
It turns out there just might be. Whether a relationship stands the test of time might have to do with the ups and downs in how committed each partner feels over the long term, according to a recent US study.
In the study, researchers asked 376 dating couples in their twenties to record changes in their 'commitment to wed' – basically, whether they thought their partner was the one they’d marry and spend their lives with. The couples could choose between 0 and 100 per cent chance of marriage. During interviews, each couple recorded a percentage once a month for nine months.
How committed two people feel can change from one day to the next – it can go up after meeting the in-laws, say, or plummet after a major fight. That’s why patterns over the long-term might be the best way to predict whether a relationship will last or fall apart, reasoned the researchers.
What type of couple are you?
When the researchers analysed the survey, they found that couples tend to fall into four different categories, or patterns of commitment.
1. Dramatic couples
Dramatic couples had more ups and downs than others, and they often went pretty quickly from a high level of commitment to a much lower one. Ask them how they feel about their relationship, and they’ll probably give a pretty negative answer. They tend to spend a lot of time apart from each other.
2. Conflict-ridden couples
These couples have plenty of passion, but they’re constantly fighting, as well as going through ups and downs in commitment. If they have a downturn in feeling committed, it’s usually because they’ve just had yet another big row.
3. Partner-focused couples
These couples have lots in common, spend a lot of time alone together, and their worlds tend to be tightly intertwined. Changes in how committed they feel are to do with how much time they've been able to spend together. They feel pretty positive about their relationship.
4. Socially involved couples
For people with this pattern, hanging out together with their partner and friends and family is really important to them. When commitment takes a turn for the worse, it’s mostly because they’ve been able to spend less time together with their social networks. They have relatively few ups and downs in how committed they feel.
So is your relationship made to last?
Which commitment pattern predicts long-lasting love? Partner-focused couples are most likely to have their relationship get more serious – for example to go from dating casually to being exclusive. And socially involved couples have the most stable relationships. Meanwhile, dramatic couples are the most likely to break up, the research showed – surprisingly, they’re even less likely to stay together than conflict-ridden couples, who have more fights.
So if your feelings about your relationship swing violently up and down, and you find yourselves spending a lot of time apart, then maybe it’s time to think long and hard about whether you and your partner really have a future together. Perhaps you’re just not compatible. And if you spend lots of time with just the two of you, and your lives are intertwined, or you hang out a lot together with each other’s family and mutual friends, these are good signs that your love will last.
Source: Pathways of Commitment to Wed: The Development and Dissolution of Romantic Relationships, Brian G. Ogolsky1, Catherine A. Surra2, J. Kale Monk