Thriving Relationships//

Commitment Readiness Can Predict Your Relationship Success and Help Avoid Stress, According to Science

New research proves that communication isn’t the sole predictor of a lasting partnership.

Courtesy of Suparat Malipoom / EyeEm / Getty Images
Courtesy of Suparat Malipoom / EyeEm / Getty Images

New research proves that — quite logically — if you’re ready to commit, your relationship is more likely to succeed. What does it mean to be commitment ready, though? And how does this finding relate to the stress and pressure we often to face to commit from friends, family, and peers?

It can be stressful to be stuck ruminating over whether your partner is on the same level of commitment-readiness as you are. It can also be stressful to wonder whether you are truly ready to commit yourself. The findings of this study can actually help alleviate some of our anxieties surrounding how we determine the stability of our relationships.

“People need to realize that even if they truly love their partner and their partner truly loves them, that doesn’t automatically mean that the timing is right for either oneself or one’s partner for long-term commitment,” Dr. Christopher Agnew, Ph.D., a professor of social psychology at Purdue University, and the study author, tells Thrive. “People have lots of things going on their lives at any given moment, and those things can ultimately detract from the stability of a partnership.”

In his new study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, Agnew found that subjects who reported being “commitment ready” were less likely to leave a relationship. Feeling “commitment ready” depends on factors including past relationships, life history, cultural background, and and other aspects of relationships, depending on the individual.

Most of us want lasting love — and for our relationships not to be an ongoing source of stress, but a source of both stability and joy. How, then, do these findings apply to our relationships? How often are people not ready to commit? Here are four myth-busting takeaways from Agnew’s study.

1. Not feeling ready to commit is more common than you think.

Although it may feel like everyone is in a happy, marriage-bound relationship, that’s not always the case. Although social media can often make relationships look happy and secure, Agnew’s research proves that more people are unsure about their commitment (and stressed about it) than you may initially believe.

“I was a bit surprised to find the number of people who reported high commitment to their current partner, but low personal readiness to commit,” Agnew tells Thrive. “Again and again, participants in our studies reported that even though they were currently involved in a highly committed, satisfying partnership, they simultaneously reported bad timing for the involvement.”

It’s common to feel pressure from your family, friends, and peers to be heading towards marriage, but it’s crucial to remember that people are often unsure about long-term commitment, and some hesitancy is healthy and normal. It’s okay to not be ready for commitment — even if that is your eventual goal — because the time before marriage can be a valuable period of growth and self-knowledge.

2. Readiness can predict more than whether you’ll stay in a relationship.

Commitment readiness can also predict how well you will work to maintain a relationship. A partner is more likely to be vulnerable, accommodating, and make sacrifices for their partner if they are ready for a serious relationship. These factors — although they can often go unnoticed — can make a huge difference in relationship satisfaction.

Readiness can also predict how likely someone is to leave a relationship. Those who were not “commitment ready” were 25 percent more likely to eventually break up.

It’s common to feel worried about whether your partner is ready to commit. To get a pulse on how they’re feeling, consider how vulnerable they are, how accommodating they are, and how much they sacrifice for you, Agnew suggests.

3. Commitment readiness comes at different times for different people.

When you’re ready for true commitment depends on several factors, and these factors change depending on your life, peers, and internal pressures. Next time you feel stressed about your relationship status, remember that it’s not fair to compare yourself to others because everyone’s situation is different.

There are several reasons you may (or may not) be ready to commit. Maybe your friends and family have put extra pressure on you to find a partner. Maybe you fear being single and crave stability. There can also be the additional pressure of a biological clock. All three of these factors contribute to commitment readiness, Agnew says.

Not only is it impossible to know what other people are going through, but it’s also impossible for them to tell you when you should be ready. Your readiness is yours to determine, and once you feel that readiness, your relationship will likely flourish and stabilize, Agnew notes.

4. Commitment does not equal readiness — and that’s okay.

In theory, if you’ve been with a partner for years and years, you may think you’re both ready to get married. However, time spent in relationships is not necessarily a fair representation of commitment readiness, Agnew points out. Even if you’ve been with a partner for a long time, if you don’t feel ready to commit, your readiness (or lack thereof) will outweigh the time you’ve spent together.

It’s also crucial to remember that there’s no reason to pressure yourself into commitment readiness — and add that extra weight of stress into your life — if you’re just not there yet.

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