My colleagues and I have published a number of articles about asymmetrical commitment in relationships--especially in unmarried romantic relationships. I have argued in many places that asymmetrical commitment is likely an increasingly common phenomena of romantic relationship development. The reason is that there are fewer steps and stages--less clarity about signals of commitment--in current patterns of dating and mate selection.
I will not state all the particulars here, but, instead, want to provide some links to the body of work we have around this important concept.
1. A short video of me explaining asymmetrical commitment and its association with ambiguity between partners about the nature of the commitment in their relationship, using the illustration of a teeter-totter (or, if you rather, a see-saw). CLICK HERE.
2. A theoretical overview and review of key findings on the concept in a digestible blog article by me and Galena Rhoades. CLICK HERE.
3. A paper of ours showing that there are greater levels of asymmetrical commitment among couples who lived together before either marrying or having clear, mutual plans to marry--and that the asymmetry does not abate at all, years into marriage:
Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J. (2006). Pre-engagement cohabitation and gender asymmetry in marital commitment. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 553-560.
4. A paper of ours showing that asymmetrical commitment is associated with lower relationship quality, even controlling for levels of commitment between partners:
Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2012). A longitudinal investigation of commitment dynamics in cohabiting relationships. Journal of Family Issues, 33(3), 369-390.
5. A paper of ours examining associations between asymmetrical commitment and a) various dimension of relationship quality (e.g., relationship adjustment, aggression), b) relationship characteristics (e.g., cohabitation, plans for marriage), and c) break-up among unmarried couples in serious relationships:
Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., Scott, S. B., Kelmer, G., Markman, H. J., & Fincham, F. D. (2017). Asymmetrically committed relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 34, 1241–1259. Advance online version published in 2016.
[This paper has a pretty detailed literature review of the research by various scholars on asymmetrical commitment. Full word-doc, author version, available here.]
6. A paper of ours on the characteristics of individuals who are in asymmetrically committed relationships, including variables such as alternative quality and attachment dynamics:
Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., Kelmer, G., Scott, S. B., Markman, H. J., & Fincham, F. D. (2018). Unequally into “Us”: Characteristics of individuals in asymmetrically committed relationships. Family Process.
A blog entry summarizing the findings of this article above. CLICK HERE.
A video abstract about this same article. CLICK HERE.