The modern dating landscape reveals that there has been a shift in our attitudes towards commitment. These days, younger men and women seem to be increasingly delaying – or altogether avoiding – marriage or serious and committed relationships. More “casual” relationships and non-conventional structures seem to be the norm today.
So, what’s changed? Why do so many people suddenly seem to have this predisposition towards non-commitment? And more importantly: can we do anything about it?
A theory of relationship commitment Interdependence Theory (Rusbult & Buunk, 1993; Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003) builds off of earlier work on Social Exchange Theory. This theory suggests that relationships are an exchange of costs and benefits between two partners. The theory suggests that individuals commit to a partner to the extent that they are dependent on that partner. This dependence is a result of three factors:
(i) Lack of Alternatives:
A person is unable to have their needs better met somewhere else.
A person receives many benefits, with few downsides from their partner.
A person has numerous important resources invested in their partner.
It is apparently these factors, coupled with the dependence that ensues, which foster feelings of “commitment”; in other words, attachment to their partner and a desire to maintain and foster the relationship.
In general, people who invest in a partner in any way, do not see many alternatives in getting their needs met elsewhere, and are, to a certain extent, satisfied with what they receive — ultimately commit.
So, Why Are We Seeing So Many Non-Committal Modern Men and Women?
Interdependence Theory assists in explaining why so many people in modern society are often uninterested in commitment. Women’s empowerment movements have reduced women’s dependence on romantic partners — predominantly when it comes to economic, childcare, and social support needs.
Furthermore, women with a long list of relationship alternatives — whether it be casual flings, careers, or social support — might be less motivated to commit to one, single romantic relationship. In much the same way, people with energy devoted to multiple projects might find themselves less committed to their romantic relationships.
Naturally, men have also had to deal with these social changes. As women start to become more focused on other things, men face higher potential threats in committed relationships — especially when it comes to divorce, child support, and domestic matters. For some men, relationships of today actually offer fewer benefits and higher costs. These are also factors which can result in less motivation to commit. As a result, these men may turn to exploring relationship alternatives. As other studies reveal, some men choose to have their sexual and emotional needs met with things like porn and computer games. Other men might get involved in multiple non-committal relationships and “friends-with-benefits” kinds of scenarios, rather than risking the costs of a deeper commitment.
Overall, it seems that when both partners sincerely need one another in complementary ways, care for and invest in each other’s well-being, and de-prioritise other alternatives — satisfaction and commitment are more likely to occur.
So, How Can We Increase Commitment?
If you’re feeling trapped in a non-committal relationship, or if you, yourself, are not motivated to foster a deeper relationship, just remember: It might not be your fault! Societal changes, such as the examples mentioned above, can often make romantic commitments seem less appealing, regardless of who you are or what you look for in another person. Although you cannot please everybody, there are certain things you can do to make a romantic commitment more likely to happen, and more appealing to others.
How, exactly? Well, quite simply follow the three main factors of Interdependence Theory!
(i) Find Complements:
Even at your very best, not everyone is going to value what you’re offering, or even want a committed relationship at all. For this reason, it’s crucial that you find someone with whom there are complementary dynamics at play; coupled with someone who has a strong desire for all that you’re offering. Figure out exactly who you are attracted to, narrow your list down to the “non-negotiables”, and then head out into the playing field to look for the most compatible partner.
(ii) Be As Satisfying As Possible:
Doing your bit means always considering your partner’s needs, and striving in whatever ways possible to create pleasant exchanges and experiences.Keep your physical appearance in check, stay positive, and share all your unique features and skills with your significant other. Do your best to make your relationship as rewarding as possible to both you and your partner.
(ii) Foster Investment:
A commitment calls for two people to share the workload. Allow your partner to invest and share in the relationship, as well as take care of your needs. This contribution of care towards you will help skyrocket their feelings of love, and improve their sense of gratitude for your efforts.
Final thoughts: Find a partner who is compatible, not overly focused on alternatives to a relationship, and who can come to depend on everything you have to offer. Thereafter, look for ways to effectively satisfy their needs at a minimal cost, while allowing them to invest in your needs and the relationship as well. With time, this approach may lessen some of the challenges that come along with many modern relationships, creating a mutually satisfying, committed partnership. 💗🤗🔥