Relationships can be fulfilling, but they can also be hard. Everyone looks for something different in a significant other and finding the right match requires work on both sides. The bubble of the first few weeks of dating someone new can be exciting, but it may lead to bigger questions about commitment. Kelly Campbell spoke with MyDomaine about identifying the signs of real commitment in a relationship.
Meet the Expert
Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, San Bernardino. Her research examines instant connections among friends and romantic partners, how being in love helps and/or hinders performance across domains (e.g., athletics, creativity), infidelity, and catfishing (online romantic deception).
Before you can determine the seriousness of your relationship, Campbell explains it is imperative to be able to have conversations about tough subjects with your partner.
A committed relationship occurs when a couple agrees upon a certain level of commitment to one another. The level may vary from couple to couple, for example, some may enter into a monogamous relationship while others may prefer to commit to an open relationship.
“You should have a clear idea of what being ‘committed’ means to you and learn about your partner’s definition,” she told us. “Although the meaning of commitment may seem obvious, it’s important to gain clarity. For example, one person might believe in open relationships, and for them, commitment means honesty about sexual partners but not necessarily sexual exclusivity. If the other person is not on board with that definition, they might end the relationship at that point.”
As a self-proclaimed firm advocate of clear communication, Campbell mentions that one of the most taboo topics she has observed is the relationship itself: “It is understandable that people don’t like to have that type of discussion. However, being a mature adult means you are comfortable discussing uncomfortable topics and can do so in a clear, direct, open manner. If you aren’t there yet, it might be time to work on that skill!” she emphasized.
Once you’ve gotten communication down, Campbell suggests these more tangible signs indicate that you are indeed in a committed relationship.
They Portray You in a Positive Light
People in committed relationships tend to portray their partners in the best possible light—they minimize their flaws and emphasize their positive attributes. This can sometimes make them delusional about their partner’s negative qualities, but as long as those things aren’t harmful, it keeps people happy in their relationships.
They Speak in "We"
People in committed relationships speak about themselves as “we.” For example, if you ask a committed person, “What did you do this weekend?” rather than respond with “I took the dogs on a hike,” they’ll say, “We took the dogs on a hike.”
They Meet Your Needs (and Vice-Versa)
People in committed relationships are committed because they are meeting each other’s needs. Everyone has different needs (e.g., some people desire sex every day while others want a partner to provide for them financially), so if partners are meeting each others’ needs, they are likely very committed to the relationship. If you are trying to find a way to make your partner more committed, do a good job of meeting their needs—do it better than anyone else could.
They Are Highly Satisfied
The strongest predictor of commitment is satisfaction. If you are highly satisfied, you are often committed.
They Think Their Relationship Is Better
Committed partners tend to believe their relationships are better than other people’s relationships.
They Don't Pay Attention to Others
People in committed relationships don’t pay attention to potential alternative partners. They don’t even notice attractive people around them. Researchers call this process "devaluing alternatives."
They Make Sacrifices
Committed partners make sacrifices for each other and don’t expect favors to be returned, at least not immediately. They have a more long-range view of things and make decisions based on what’s best for the relationship, not what’s best for themselves as individuals.