Commitment and Relationship
Caryl E. Rusbult
Jody L. Davis
Peggy A. Hannon University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sometimes involvement with a close partner is simple. When partners' goals correspond and their preferences are compatible, partners can readily achieve desirable outcomes such as security, companionship, and sexual fulfillment. When circumstances of interdependence are congenial, it is relatively easy for partners to gratify one another's most important needs. The real test of a relationship arises when circumstances are not so congenial—when partners encounter dilemmas involving conflicted interaction, incompatible preferences, extrarelationship temptation, or experience of betrayal. In dilemmas of this sort, the well-being of each person is incompatible with the well-being of the relationship and something must give. Thus, sometimes it is not so easy to maintain a healthy and vital ongoing relationship.
Over the past two decades, we have conducted a program of research that explores the means by which close partners manage to sustain healthy, long-term relationships. Our model of persistence and couple well-being employs the principles and constructs of interdependence theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959). This chapter describes the main propositions and findings from our ongoing research program. First, we review the interdependence theoretic principles that underlie our work, describing interdependence dilemmas, discussing partners' adaptations to such dilemmas, and outlining the manner in which partners' adaptations become embodied in personal dispositions, relationship-specific motives, and normative prescriptions. Second, we