Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Relationship Talk: Assessing Partner Commitment

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Relationship Talk: Assessing Partner Commitment

Article excerpt

"The talk" is culturally understood to mean a discussion whereby both partners in a relationship reveal their feelings about each other and their commitment to a future together. Typically, one partner feels a greater need to clarity the future and instigates "the talk." This study reports the analysis of a 15 item questionnaire completed by 211 undergraduates in regard to "the talk" to identify the length of the relationship before the talk (65% had "the talk" within one year, 36% within six months) and context (usually during a meal). The most frequent (30%) strategy was direct ("What do you see as far as the future of this relationship?) or questioning of motives (15%) ("What do you want out of this relationship?"). The most frequent reaction from the partner was that he or she *'wanted a future" (50.5%) or "did not know" (32.5%). Nine percent told the partner that there was no future and 14% broke up. Social exchange theory is used to explain initiating *'the talk." Implications and limitations are suggested.

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Partners in a new relationship often have different interests in regard to continuing the relationship- the future. While one partner may view the relationship as casual/short-term, the other may want increasing levels of commitment- exclusivity, cohabitation, and marriage. Partners often operate in limbo. Not only may they not reveal to the partner their own level of commitment, they may be reluctant to ask the partner to reveal his or her thoughts about the future.

"The talk" is culturally understood to mean a discussion whereby both parties reveal their feelings about each other and their commitment to the future together. Typically, one partner feels a greater need to clarify the future and instigates "the talk." Hence, "the talk" involves one part Her engaging the other about the future of the relationship. The goal of "the talk" is to confirm that the partner is interested in and committed to a future.

Previous studies on commitment have been in reference to the experience of young men as they encounter "serious" relationships (Forrest, 2010), the well-being of college students in committed relationships (Braithwaite et al., 2010) and commitment to remain in a marriage (Miles and Servaty, 2010). No research has targeted the discussion between romantic partners about the future of their relationship. What research does exist about communication and the future focuses on the process of communication (Gibson, 2008) and the different topics of communication for individuals in long distance dating relationships versus those in geographically close distance relationships. Stafford (2010) found that those in the latter relationships were more likely to talk about marriage.

The purpose of the current research was to examine "the talk" in terms of how long partners are involved before they have "the talk" specific words/strategies used in having "the talk," and the context (e.g. during sex?, after sex?, while watching TV?, dinner?) of "the talk." Other research questions included how the partner responded and the effect of "the talk" on the couple's relationship.

Sample

Data for the study was based on a sample of 211 undergraduate student volunteers at a large southeastern university who completed a 15 item questionnaire (approved by the Institutional Review Board) on "Having 'the talk': Words, Timing and Context of Undergraduates Assessing Commitment of a Romantic Partner". Respondents completed the questionnaire anonymously. The researcher was not in the room when the questionnaire was completed and no identifying information or codes allowed the researcher to know the identity of the respondents.

A majority of respondents were female (77.7%) (22.3% male) and white (78.0%) (11.4% African American). Class standing in college was distributed across categories, with the largest category being freshmen 43.1% (28.9% were sophomores, 16. …

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