Relationships: Paths to Commitment
Most people in a relationship want to know where this might be leading. Psychologists describe three possible paths that can lead from first date to commitment. Research has shown that the vast majority of couples in a committed relationship got there by one of the three following routes.
You might find it helpful to picture a graph as you continue to read or better still draw one.
Path one starts at the bottom of the graph and ascends quickly and steeply. This represents the situation where two people meet and begin a romantic relationship, which moves swiftly towards commitment.
Path two here the line ascends slightly from the bottom of the graph and then progresses for a while in almost a straight line close to the bottom before taking off sharply in an upward direction. This represents the situation where two people meet initially through work or mutual friends for example. They get along well but nothing more. A situation then occurs which causes them to become aware of their attraction to each other. For example they share a taxi to or from a work meeting or social event. This gives them an opportunity to talk and get to know each other. This then leads to dating and fairly quickly into a committed relationship.
A jagged line illustrates the third path with peaks followed by valleys. This illustrates a couple who move towards and then away from each other. Although this can and does in some cases lead to the couple becoming life partners it is the least stable. People with this pattern are more prone to divorce and partnership break up than those with the previous two.
All relationships go through phases. They start with a heady romantic time when you are relative strangers. This usually lasts for about three months. It’s too early at this point to think about commitment. Focusing on the future means missing out on the romantic experience of the now. At this stage its anybody’s guess to how long this attraction might last.
Relationships that progress towards commitment generally share certain characteristics. The couple spend an increasing amount of time in each other’s company. They get to know each other’s family and friends. They become more inclined to discuss their deeply held views, their childhoods and past experience with each other. They take holidays and trips together. Become involved in each other’s hobbies and interests or take up new joint interests. In other words they share an increasing amount of each other’s lives until a shared future becomes almost inevitable.
There also seems to be a timetable by which things happen. In most cases couples move in together, announce engagements, plan weddings about one year to eighteen months after they meet. There are some exceptions.
Relationships between very young people, teenagers progress more slowly due to a need to complete their education and perhaps a desire to travel abroad before settling down. Surprisingly long distance relationships seem to move more quickly than others towards commitment. It’s as though the distance acts as a spur to making a decision.
A map is useful on any journey, it can confirm that you are headed in the right direction and give an approximate idea of when you might arrive. My aim here has been to give you a map of relationships from first meeting to commitment through the medium of psycholgy.
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