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The Commitment Equation: A New Psychological Theory Guaranteed To Help Your Relationship

By: Leah Hovey

"Commitment" is a word that frightens people, it is something individuals desire to have, and it is a word that symbolizes so many important choices we make daily in order to keep our relationship to our partner strong. When getting into a relationship, we are making a conscious decision to be with this individual and making an effort to stick it out for a long period of time. By sacrificing ourselves for this commitment, we want to know that we have the same type of commitment back. But what do we do when we are unsure we are getting back what we give out? Or what about if you are not really sure you should be staying in this relationship? How do we really know when we should commit?

Heidi Reeder, PhD believes she has discovered a very simple equation to solve this problem. Dr. Reeder completed over fifty studies based upon commitment and has discovered she can explain the factors that make up commitment in four parts. The equation is as follows:

Level of Commitment= (Treasures - Troubles) + Contributions - Choices

The first factor is treasures. Individuals will be more interested in committing if they know they will be receiving a reward. For example, knowing that your partner will provide you with contributions such as emotional support will make you more likely to give them commitment back.

The second factor is troubles. Having troubles within a commitment is an inevitable part of relationships, but if there is more trouble than one can manage then it will make you less likely to stick it out with your partner. For example, if you fight with your partner for the majority of the relationship, it may outweigh the positive moments in the relationship.

The third factor is contributions. We all put in time within our relationships. However, there may be certain contributions you have invested more in than others. Time, energy and resources are all things one can devote within a relationship. For example, maybe you have children within your relationship. This may make the two individuals in the relationship put in more of an effort because there is a large contribution present.

The final factor is the choices. Having choices decreases commitment exponentially. Maybe there are other romantic interests around you or maybe you have a choice to travel for work. If the choices outweigh the value you put on your relationship, commitment will no longer occur.

How much you commit to a relationship is going to be determined by these factors. If any of our readers are pondering their relationship, wondering “should I stay or go?” may need to take a deeper look at their relationship and use this equation to sort out if the commitment is truly worth the work.


Reeder, H. (2015). Commit to win: How to harness the four elements of commitment to reach your goals. Plume.

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