I would really love to live in a world in which the people we chose to like (and sometimes love!) always return the same level of affection. That being said, most of us have learned the hard way that, unfortunately, that's not always the case. Sometimes, much to our dismay, we wind up in what scientists refer to as "asymmetrically committed relationships." What are asymmetrically committed relationships, you ask? Allow me to explain.
Asymmetrically committed relationships (or ACRs) happen when one person is way more invested in the relationship than the other or, as researchers published in the Family Process Institute put it, “relationships in which there is a substantial difference in the commitment levels of the partners.” Simply put, there's now a more scientific (and less heteronormative) way of saying, "He's just not that into you."
The researchers based the concept upon a theory called the "Principle of Least Interest," founded by sociologist Willard Wallar. As you might have surmised based on the name, the Principle of Least Interest states that the person who's least interested in the relationship has the most control. It's the reason why we force ourselves to "play it cool" in different social situations. It's the reason we wait an awkwardly long time to reply to a text from someone we're interested in. It's the reason why we find ourselves suddenly attracted to that person we originally had literally no interest in the minute they stop giving us all of that attention. It's pretty much the reason behind most of our worst social conundrums.
And, in a recent study, researchers decided to apply Wallar's theory to our romantic relationships. More specifically, the researchers tried to figure out what types of people are more likely to be the less committed partners who tend to maintain the control in romantic relationships.
Here's what they found — and read carefully so you can avoid these people like the plague: Does the person you're currently into seem to operate under the assumption that there are "plenty of fish" in the sea? Have they cheated on you? Do they have an avoidant attachment style (which means they have difficulty opening up and getting close to people)? Do they have a lot of exes? Were their parents never married? The researchers found that a "yes" to any of these questions showed an increased likelihood of someone who's consistently going to be the one who cares less in their relationships.
When looking into the committed partners in these relationships, the researchers had a harder time finding any overarching traits that they all shared. The only thing they found was that these people had a tendency to have an anxious attachment style, which means they tend to worry if their partners are truly interested in and committed to them.
It's also important to note that this was a fairly small study (only 315 couples were surveyed) and it was extremely heteronormative (all of the couples were straight). Moreover, all of the people surveyed were young, with the median age for women being 24.8 and for men being 26.97.
Regardless of what level of commitment you're comfortable with, let's all save ourselves by being honest and communicative about what we really need from our relationships.
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