Entries in benefits of relationships (4)


Building a Lasting Relationship: The Three Pillars of Commitment

When it comes to understanding the fate of any given relationship, I’d argue that knowing something about a couple’s commitment level, or their attachment to each other and long-term perspective on the relationship, is critical (see our previous article on predicting breakup here). Beyond predictions about staying together versus breaking up, commitment is also associated with all sorts of positive relationship outcomes (see our previous article on 5 Reasons Commitment is Good For Your Relationship). But how is commitment built in a relationship? More than 30 years of research on this topic has identified three pillars that form the foundation of commitment in relationships.

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To Have and To Hold, To Share and Be Equitable

Meet Nate and Angelica. Nate and Angelica are getting married. They’ve planned every detail of the ceremony, and checked all their reservations twice. The vows are written; the honeymoon getaway is booked. Maybe Nate daydreams about surprising Angelica on special occasions; maybe Angelica has her eye on a good preschool for their future children. Their future is set — or is it? What about the more mundane details of married life that are often overlooked?

Will Angelica be the one on kitchen duty, cleaning up after dinner? Will Nate be the one who picks up the kids when Angelica is working late? Will the person who earns less income contribute to the household in other ways, even if they both work 40 hours a week? Often, couples decide these matters based on convenience or preference, not according to a marital master-plan of equal give-and-take. But precisely because the average couple doesn’t analyze the costs and benefits of every chore undertaken, an unfair division of labor may create resentment over time. For example, Angelica may realize Nate only takes their cats for shots once a year, whereas she has to change their kitty litter every day.

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The “Need to Belong” - Part of What Makes Us Human

Why are people so strongly motivated to have relationships? According to a landmark paper by psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary it’s because of a fundamental “need to belong.”1 The “belongingness hypothesis” states that people have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior. 

Here is an overview of the evidence for this hypothesis, point by point.

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Teens in Love Stay Out of Trouble: Not All Teen Sex Is Created Equal

A recent study of over 500 teenaged same-sex twin pairs suggests there may be a hidden benefit of being a lovesick teen. Teenagers that have sex with a romantic partner engage in fewer delinquent behaviors than do teens that have sex outside of a relationship (i.e., “hooking up”). In other words, teens spending more time with a boyfriend or girlfriend leaves them less time to get into trouble. 

Harden, K., & Mendle, J. (2011). Adolescent sexual activity and the development of delinquent behavior: The role of relationship context. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(7), 825-838. doi:10.1007/s10964-010-9601-y