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Why is commitment difficult?

28.04.2020 klo 13:57 - Written by Written by Jaana Ojanen, Psychologist, the Family Federation of Finland , Family Federation of Finland
The basis for a happy relationship is a deliberate decision to live with one another. As you enter into an intimate relationship with someone, the style of interaction with a loved one you learned in the early years of your life activates. A person who has grown up in an insecure environment experiences more difficult feelings in their relationship and interprets others in the light of their negative experiences in the past. The control of intense emotions fails without sufficient self-soothing skills. The fear of rejection in a relationship is alleviated by a clear and mutual commitment decision.

Past relationships influence how satisfying the current relationship is

Everyone’s individual attachment style influences how close the relationship is. Attachment style refers to everyone’s natural way of communicating with someone close to them. The image of the loved one, built already at the early stages of life, becomes most visible in a relationship. You expect your partner to treat you the same way your parents once did. Connection with the partner is sought in the style that has attracted attention in your childhood home.

Attachment to another person is usually triggered after the honeymoon phase of a relationship that lasts from 1 to 8 months (Fisher et al., 2016). It is often thought that only after the initial falling in love phase we see the true colours of our partner, which explains the fading of emotions and can lead to the end of the relationship. There are other forces behind the shooting stars. Relationship studies have found that those who are securely attached are, on average, more satisfied with their relationship and commit to their partners for a longer period of time than those who are insecurely attached (Gleeson et al., 2014). Researchers believe that those who are insecurely attached have less tools to give and accept love, care and support. Jumping from one relationship to the next and constant dissatisfaction with partners may be due to the person’s personal challenges in interaction.

Decision to commit reduces insecurity and increase efforts in the relationship

Nowadays, there are several alternative paths to starting a family and the formation of a romantic relationship has become more vague: open relationships, on/off cycle, and the “friends with benefits” setting are familiar manifestations today. However, according to research, the secret of a long relationship is a public decision to commit to one another. Commitment means actively choosing a partner among other options. According to an American study, careful couple choice is associated with a number of well-being factors, such as increased self-control, positive interaction, more effective conflict resolution, higher relationship satisfaction, and commitment to the relationship (Vennum et al., 2011). In addition, decision-making reduced behaviours such as mental abuse, casual sex, and binge drinking.

As commitment to the relationship intensifies the fear of losing the relationship increases. Couples’ means of dealing with anxiety vary. At best, uncertainty is dealt with quickly and transparently between the partners. A commitment decision said out loud reduces feelings of insecurity. Sometimes, however, the conversation is shunned and the state of the relationship becomes vague – are we together or not? The lack of commitment discussion is due to the difficulty of the partners to tolerate the feelings that the idea of a break up as an alternative creates. It is understandable that it is frightening to face the fact of the other not wanting to continue. It can also be difficult to talk about your own insecurity, as your partner may react negatively to it. However, obmutescence can lead to the relationship drifting beyond what was intended – for example, a decision of getting engaged may be made for financial reasons. Saving in the early stages of a relationship may be expensive: Studies show that progressing in a relationship without proper consideration is associated with weaker commitment and predicts later dissatisfaction (Vennum et al., 2015). A moderate assessment of compatibility and risk factors in a relationship strengthens the relationship.

The challenge of commitment is the difficulty of managing emotions

Sometimes people act in the opposite of what they would like or aspire to in their lives. This may happen when people have difficulty to withstand their own emotional states. In these situations, the core challenge of commitment is not the lack of will, but difficulty of managing emotional life. Driven by emotions, people may act against their own principles and ruin their chances of fulfilling their dream of a long relationship. Fear of the relationship ending or anger over the partner’s behaviour is relieved by reckless behaviour. Relationships are vulnerable to arguments and on/off cycle when conflicts are not dealt with constructively and anxiety is resolved by hasty decisions. Understanding and soothing feelings of insecurity help reduce relationship breaks and commitment deteriorating behaviour.


Fisher, H.; Xu, X.; Aron, A. & Brown,, L. (2016). Intense, Passionate, Romantic Love: A Natural Addiction? How the Fields That Investigate Romance and Substance Abuse Can Inform Each Other. REVIEW ARTICLE, Front. Psychol.

Gleeson, G. & Fitzgerald, A. (2014) Exploring the Association between Adult Attachment Styles in Romantic Relationships, Perceptions of Parents from Childhood and Relationship Satisfaction. Health, 6, 1643-1661.

Vennum, A. & Fincham, F. (2011). Assessing Decision Making in Young Adult Romantic Relationships. Psychological Assessment: 23, 739-751.

Vennum, A; Hardy, N.; Sibley, S. & Fincham, F. (2015). Dedication and Sliding in Emerging Adult Cyclical and Non-Cyclical Romantic Relationships. Family Relations: 64: 407-419.


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