Sliding vs Deciding®: This blog is about romantic relationships and marriage. Many entries contain insights about how relationships develop or about what makes or breaks them. Some entries are about bigger societal or science issues.
Monday, July 7, 2014
What is Associated with Women's vs. Men's Thinking About Divorce?
I am a research professor who conducts studies on marriage and romantic relationships. Along with my colleagues, I also develop materials to help people in their relationships based on the best social science possible.
In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters, I have written or co-written a number of books, including The Power of Commitment, 12 Hours to a Great Marriage, Fighting for Your Marriage, and A Lasting Promise.
Together with colleagues Howard Markman and Natalie Jenkins, I head up a team that has produced various materials for use in marriage and relationship education, including PREP, Within Our Reach, Within My Reach, and other programs to meet the specific needs of those seeking to build strong and healthy marriages and relationships. Howard Markman, Galena Rhoades, and I head up our research team at the University of Denver.
This blog revolves around themes about the nature of commitment. Sliding vs. Deciding® is a theme that comes out of my study of commitment dynamics in relationships. Based on my work—and that of my colleagues at the University of Denver (Galena Rhoades, Howard Markman, and others) and elsewhere, I believe this idea of “sliding vs. deciding” captures something important about how romantic relationships develop in this day and age.
The core idea is that people often slide through important transitions in relationships, such as starting to live together, rather than deciding what they are doing and what it means. For example, sociologists Wendy Manning and Pamela Smock conducted a qualitative study of cohabiting couples and found that over one half of couples who are living together didn’t talk about it but simply slid into doing so. In our large quantitative study of cohabitation, we have found that fully 2/3rds of the sample of cohabiters report a process more like sliding into cohabitation than talking about it and making a decision about it.
There used to be many steps and stages of courtship and relationship development that, for the most part, no longer exist. Does that mean it’s harder than ever to make clear commitments? I suspect so. In contrast to sliding, commitments that we are most likely to follow through on are based in decisions. In fact, one essential truth of commitment is that it means making a choice to give up other choices. A commitment is a decision.
Not all relationships are meant to be or meant to last. But for those relationships that are, the fundamentals of commitment suggest that thinking about what you are doing and where you are going--together--and making a decision, can build a stronger, more lasting commitment.
Do we always need to be making a decision about things? I hope not. But when something important in life is at stake, I believe that deciding will trump sliding in how things turn out. You could think of this concept as an upgrade on the popular idea of being “intentional” about choices and pathways. One does not need to make decisions about everything--and sliding can be just fine and even preferred at times. Do you want to analyze and agonize about everything? Hopefully not. Decisions matter most when it comes to things that are important, like where a relationship is headed or what matters most to you in how you live your life. That is the central theme of this blog.
Some of the Books Authored or Co-authored by Me
Stanley, S. M. (2005). The Power of Commitment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
Markman, H.J., Stanley, S.M., & Blumberg, S.L. (2010). Fighting for Your Marriage. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
Stanley, S., Trathen, D., McCain, S., & Bryan, M. (2014). A Lasting Promise. San Francisco: Wiley and Sons, Inc.