The ties that bind us in romantic relationships are undeniably complex. Yet one study published in the Journal of Family Psychology has found that the reason for our commitments tends to fall into just four categories, some healthy and others less so. In fact, each of these reasons has the power to predict whether a relationship might withstand the test of time or wither in the face of adversity.
Using data from 1,184 unmarried American adults in relationships, the researchers found that three out of the four types of commitment were associated with higher rates of relationship stability and predictive of couples staying together. Those three types of commitments were interpersonal commitments (positive feelings toward your partner and a desire to stay together), social pressure to stay together, and “material constraints” such as shared children, a lease, or a pet.
The fourth and last commitment type was associated with a higher likelihood of breaking up. Researchers called this commitment type “felt constraints,” but if you’ve ever been in a relationship that’s gone on too long, you more likely know it as feeling trapped.
Much like social pressures and material constraints, this feeling was viewed by subjects as a hurdle to disengaging from a relationship, yet it was unique in its association with eventual breakups. “More dedication, more material and perceived constraints and less felt constraint were uniquely associated with a higher likelihood of staying together over an eight-month period,” the study’s authors conclude.
Of course, given the coronavirus pandemic, even those in the strongest of relationships may be feeling a bit more trapped than usual these days, and it can be difficult to distinguish between pandemic-related frustrations and actual gripes with your partner. Read on for relationship tips that can keep your bond strong through these challenging days.
Chris Kraft, Ph.D., a psychologist, and expert in relationships and sexuality, told Johns Hopkins Medicine that, amid the pandemic, “even committed couples can start to become lethargic and lose the sense of time, asking themselves, What day is it?” He adds, “A sense of monotony can cause a numbness to feelings, which is part of coping with so much uncertainty in the world right now.” Read 10 qualities of a good woman that you should consider before marriage
Luckily, you can help break up that monotony and strengthen your bond by getting active together: Kraft suggests going for a run, taking a bike ride, or doing some gardening—whatever gets your endorphins going. “Couples who are more sedentary can start a healthy habit, such as regular walks outdoors together during this time,” Kraft says.
2. Don’t expect a normal sex life
Kraft warns that setting high expectations for a normal sex life during the pandemic may cause conflict between you. “The stress is very real, particularly if one or both people are dealing with children at home, financial concerns, job loss, or illness affecting a friend or family member,” he explains. “These concerns, along with a generalized uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, can interfere with sexual desire.” Read 4 Worst Things You’re Saying to Your Partner Without Even Realizing It
If you or your partner is less interested in bonding physically these days, practice extra patience and be sure to talk about it so everyone’s on the same page.
3. Stay connected to your support system
According to Kraft, it’s essential to stay connected to others outside of your relationship to avoid overburdening your partner. “It’s important for both people in the relationship to stay connected with family and friends who can be available for them, especially as time wears on with continuing physical distancing measures,” Kraft says. “Talk with other people on the phone and use technology to keep your support network intact,” he adds. Read 20 Habits To Watch Out For Before You Jump Into Marriage
4. Plan something fun
Now that your favorite date spots are temporarily restricted, this isn’t exactly the easiest time to plan something fun with your partner. But according to Kraft, making new, different plans can make all the difference in keeping your bond strong—and a small gesture will be that much more appreciated in our current conditions.
“You can take a drive together, plan a special meal, or, if you have the resources, even make a small purchase that you can both enjoy,” he says. “The important thing is to create things to look forward to, even if they’re small.” And for how to make your relationship last read 10 Powerful Lessons You Must Learn If You Want To Succeed In Marriage