Relationships are 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 whether or not you're in a committed relationship.
What Is a Committed Relationship?
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.
Before you can determine the seriousness of your relationship, Kelly Campbell spoke with Brides 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).
"You should have a clear idea of what being ‘committed’ means to you and learn about your partner’s definition,” she says. “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"
Someone who feels committed speaks 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)
Those who choose to be in 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 who's comfortable with giving them some independence), 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.
They Are Highly Satisfied
The strongest predictor of commitment is satisfaction. If you feel highly satisfied, you are more likely to want to commit to a relationship.
They Are Disinterested in Pursuing Others
People in committed relationships don’t pay attention to potential alternative partners. Sure, they will likely notice other attractive people from time to time, but they are disinterested in pursuing them.
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.
Joel S, MacDonald G. We're Not That Choosy: Emerging Evidence of a Progression Bias in Romantic Relationships. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2021 Nov;25(4):317-343. doi: 10.1177/10888683211025860
Baker LR, McNulty JK, VanderDrift LE. Expectations for future relationship satisfaction: Unique sources and critical implications for commitment. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2017 May;146(5):700-721. doi: 10.1037/xge0000299