Relationships, Commitment and Distance in Love

Is it possible to test how committed you are in a relationship? New studies are suggesting it is, but we’re not talking about couple’s “Survivor” or anything extreme like that. Instead, there’s new evidence that tells us how people learn to love and stay in love, how commitment depends on  mutual feelings, and why some people are more committed than their partners.

In data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA) study, conducted over a 30-year period from birth to adulthood, investigators learned a great deal about relationships and how they evolve. In fact, a lot of what they learned are things we’ve been talking about here on the blog lately!

For example, researchers found out that having a secure, supportive mother in toddlerhood often leads to an individual being a “strong link” in adult relationships (e.g., the person with a large emotional stake in the couple). In effect, individuals mirror the kind of role they saw their caretaker in, and end up developing a secure attachment style.

The opposite is also true. An individual who did not have a secure mother in childhood (avoidant) grew to be the “weak link” in their adult relationships. That is to say, they become avoidant themselves, always keeping one foot out the door just in case!

Why is it important to have a secure attachment?  those who secure attachment to their caretakers were better able to handle conflict in their adolescent years (formative years where some big decisions can happen), and can go on managing relationships better when grown up.

Now, we’ve discussed before what happens when a secure adult marries/has a relationship with an avoidant adult. This is often the recipe for conflict, hurt feelings, defensive behavior, and passive aggressive relationships. The MLSRA, predictably, backs this idea up. But it also has something to add to that: if your attachments don’t match up, you’ll have more friction.

So, even if two avoidant people get together (what we would think of as a bad thing), their expectations and commitment are equally low, so there’s less conflict between what one person wants and what the other does. It’s an interesting addition to the passive aggression debate: could two passive aggressive people actually make a long-term marriage work? Perhaps, if one or the other was often traveling or working!

In the end, whatever the combination of attachment styles, it was found that couples with mismatched commitments/styles were the most hostile toward one another.

This and other new studies about attachment and behavior tell us a lot about how we learn to love and support one another. Even from the beginning of our lives, our brains are “taking notes” on various topics: what happens if I approach someone with a problem different from mine? Where can I go for support? Is trust a good thing?

Are you currently going through a marriage crisis of your own? Are you wondering whether it’s safe to trust others, whether you’re able to commit or love anyone else? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact us for help and emotional support. We are always here to listen and offer our expert advice. You can receive relationship and attachment style coaching at Conflict Coach today.

Neil Warner

Neil Warner

I’m the “relationship guru,” and my main focus is to increase the quality of love-based relationship experiences. In this ground-breaking guide I offer useful strategies on healing a difficult angry relationship with love and compassion. You don’t have to stay in an unhealthy relationship one more minute. Let us share our tools with you today.We can begin by you having a complimentary consultation (by clicking here), with a plan for action to change your life with new skills included. Just click this link and get started now!


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