What can be more important than love in keeping a couple together? It’s not a rhetorical question. In fact, a couple of other factors are more important, according to a study of premarital relationship development by the American Psychological Association.
With the passage of time, love does indeed grow in relationships. However, love is not enough to keep many couples from breaking up. The study, lead by psychologist Susan Sprecher, PhD, of Illinois State University, concludes, “Couples break up because of decreased levels of satisfaction in the relationship—not because they stop loving each other. “
Sprecher says in her four-year study of 101 Midwestern, heterosexual couples, satisfaction and commitment were as important–or more important—than love in deciding whether to stay together. For couples who remained together, love, satisfaction and commitment levels all increased. The largest increase was in commitment levels.
For couples who ended their relationship, love was unchanged (did not grow or decline), but satisfaction and commitment both declined. The researcher suggests dissatisfaction may cause love to stop growing.
What do I think we learn from this?
1) It’s not enough to keep the status quo. If your love is not growing, you are moving backward in your relationship, putting it at risk. Complacency can be a relationship killer.
2) Perhaps more importantly, both partners need to recommit themselves and work toward meeting the needs of one another. Is your partner satisfied? Why or why not? (If one or both of you is not satisfied or has unrealistic expectations, counseling is recommended.)
Commitment, satisfaction and love are three critical factors in your relationship. What are you doing to encourage their growth? Are you putting your hobbies, job demands or child rearing responsibilities above your spouses’ needs? Or are you working daily to cultivate these important traits?