Recent Posts

Love Beyond Color: Understanding Racial Preferences in Romantic and Sexual Relationships

Love Beyond Color: Understanding Racial Preferences in Romantic and Sexual Relationships

The first time I heard about racial preferences was when my past partner told me they would “never date a White person again and preferred dating Black people.” Their answers were unclear when I inquired about their motivations for this preference. It made me question…

How to Break the Cycle of Generational Trauma

How to Break the Cycle of Generational Trauma

Trauma can have a substantial impact not only on individuals, but on families through the generations. I (Julie) often think about the difference it would have made in my childhood had my grandfather worked out his trauma after World War II (WWII). I have a…

The Impact of Social Media on Adolescent Romantic Relationships

The Impact of Social Media on Adolescent Romantic Relationships

As we have discussed continually on this blog, technology is impacting the formation and maintenance of relationships. Today’s adolescents have increasing access to technology, including social media, potentially influencing their social and emotional growth. Peer relationships typically flourish during this stage, including forming romantic relationships.…

Illinois Council on Family Relations 2024 Conference

Illinois Council on Family Relations 2024 Conference

On April 5th, our research team attended the Illinois Council on Family Relations 2024 Annual Conference hosted at Northern Illinois University (NIU) DeKalb, Illinois. The Illinois Council on Family Relations is a state affiliate of the National Council on Family Relations. This was the first…

A Review of “The Dating Divide: Race and Desire in the Era of Online Romance”

A Review of “The Dating Divide: Race and Desire in the Era of Online Romance”

In today’s digital age, couples are increasingly meeting via online, rather than relying on introductions from friends, family, or social events. Without the barriers of physical proximity, individuals seeking romantic relationships can tap into a bottomless pool of potential partners. That means, who we are…

The Essential Nature of Family Dinner

The Essential Nature of Family Dinner

Family dinner is essential when members come together at the end of their day with the ones they love. Lasting memories from couples, children, and families are made during these times that will span years to come with favorite meals and traditions. With parent’s and…

Ghosting and Other Breakup Strategies: How to Recover from a Relationship Dead End

Ghosting and Other Breakup Strategies: How to Recover from a Relationship Dead End

You may find it surprising to hear that according to a 2021 YouGov study, 41% of Americans reported to possess some belief in ghosts or spirits of the supernatural. While a discussion of those statistics is beyond the scope of this article, for those of…

Understanding the Impact of Birth Order and Sibling Relationships on Romantic Relationships

Understanding the Impact of Birth Order and Sibling Relationships on Romantic Relationships

One of our most influential and often longest-lasting relationships is with our siblings. Our relationships with them are significant to our development. As our family structure members linked by marriage or bloodline continue to change in the United States, the attachment to our siblings can…

Are You Paying Attention? The Impact of Phubbing on Your Romantic Relationships

Are You Paying Attention? The Impact of Phubbing on Your Romantic Relationships

Do you ever feel like your significant other is always distracted on their phone? Do you feel ignored by your companion due to their phone usage? If so, your significant other may be “phubbing,” which is ignoring one’s significant other to pay attention to their…

On Again, Off Again: Is This Really Healthy for Us?

On Again, Off Again: Is This Really Healthy for Us?

Have you ever been in a relationship where you have been with your partner, then broken up, and then gotten back together? Have you both done this more than once? If you have, you are experiencing something called “relationship cycling,” also known as an “on…

The Essential Element of Forgiveness in Couple and Family Relationships

The Essential Element of Forgiveness in Couple and Family Relationships

Have you ever been unable to forgive someone for wronging you? Maybe someone was unable to forgive you and you couldn’t understand why. In this blog, we will review the factors of forgiveness, dispositional forgiveness, differentiation of self, the way attachment impacts forgiveness, and the…

Turning Away From Connection: The Impact of Pornography

Turning Away From Connection: The Impact of Pornography

Is pornography use harmful to relationships? An ever growing body of research indicates that pornography poses a substantial threat to individuals, couples, families, and society. Many studies conclude that a major impact of pornography is that it causes individuals to turn away from connection in…

Is This a Dealbreaker? How to Detect and Respond to Red Flags in a Romantic Partner

Is This a Dealbreaker? How to Detect and Respond to Red Flags in a Romantic Partner

Is this a red flag that I observed in a potential romantic partner? Is her excessive spending or his substance use a dealbreaker? I (Aleisha) recently got out of a serious, long-term relationship with someone who I knew deep down was not right for me,…

The Impact of Loneliness on Our Relationships

The Impact of Loneliness on Our Relationships

Have you experienced a time when you felt isolated but craved social interaction? Have you ever been in a room full of people but still felt alone? Or have you ever felt distanced from your partner or as if they don’t want to spend time…

Mindfulness and Gratitude from Romantic Relationships through the Parenthood Years

Mindfulness and Gratitude from Romantic Relationships through the Parenthood Years

Every day I try to think about how I can make meaningful changes in my parenting to help improve how my child approaches the world. What will help him establish meaningful relationships? How can I help him learn to cope with any problems he may…

Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood 2023 Conference

Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood 2023 Conference

On June 15th through 17th, Dr. Sibley, Stephanie Lipira, Jessica Lopez, Katherine Smail, and myself had the pleasure of presenting some of our research at the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood (SSEA) 2023 Conference in San Diego, California, at the Hyatt Regency Mission…

Overcoming Challenges in Interracial Romantic Relationships

Overcoming Challenges in Interracial Romantic Relationships

Every interracial relationship is different. However, one idea remains constant in all of these pairings is that race matters. By this, I mean race should not be the determining factor in whether or not you choose a romantic partner, but it should be something that…

Learning How To Navigate a Relationship When Your Partner Has ADHD

Learning How To Navigate a Relationship When Your Partner Has ADHD

Has your romantic partner ever forgot that they had a date planned with you? Or have you ever noticed your partner consistently having difficulty paying attention during a conversation with you? Does your partner ever get stuck daydreaming? Do they get so engrossed with an…


The Power of Commitment

Choose Your Love, Love Your Choice

Choose Your Love, Love Your Choice

On Valentine’s Day a few years ago, I was asked by my wife to go pick up a couple of extra items at our local supermarket for our family Valentine’s dinner. As I entered the store I was a bit startled by the scene before my eyes. All around me were men scrambling to purchase flowers, chocolates, and other gifts for their significant others. For the most part, it didn’t seem like much thought went into the purchase. Many of these men quickly found the nearest bouquet of flowers and dropped them into their shopping cart. I wondered as I watched the floral section of the store being completely sold out…how much thought was really put into these Valentine’s gifts? How much do these men personally prioritize their romantic relationship in comparison to work and leisurely activities? How do they communicate love in their relationships? Is this the same way they would have acted when their relationship was first starting out? Of course, it is quite possible that these men could be excellent husbands and boyfriends, and simply were looking for one last Valentine’s gift.

For the past six years I have seen individuals, couples, and families as a marriage and family therapist. At times, I have had the opportunity to work with couples who are on the brink of divorce. There are a variety of reasons why I have seen couples in therapy. There may be financial problems, infidelity, addiction, communication problems, challenging mental health concerns (depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.), and the list goes on. I have found though, that in the grand majority of these cases divorce does not have to be the answer. While I recognize that not all marriages can be saved, I believe strongly that for the most part they can be and should be. Any relationship, if it is not nurtured and cared for, can dwindle and die. However, when partners are united and dedicated to making their marriage work, problems that once seemed insurmountable can be overcome.

Love Your Choice

One of the most obnoxious things I hear as a therapist is the phrase “we have fallen out of love.” For me, this sounds like my clients have taken their fingernails to a chalkboard and are scratching with all of their might. I strongly believe that a person does not simply “fall out of love,” but instead partners make the choice to stop loving each other. They stop doing the basic things for each other that brought them together in the first place. They stop serving each other. They stop expressing their love for each other. They stop planning for their future together. Committed relationships require hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and constant communication. One of the most special moments I have as a therapist is when a couple decides to forgive one another. I believe that so many of the fights couples have can be worked out, but it requires each partner being willing to drop their pride, say “I’m sorry,” and decide to make changes in the way their relationship functions. When individual partners learn to stop pointing their finger at their partner, but instead recognize ways they can personally improve as a husband/wife or a boyfriend/girlfriend their relationship can often quickly improve.

Throughout my education, I have spent a great deal of time researching commitment in couple relationships. I have interviewed both individuals and couples regarding this topic. I have collected survey data from thousands of participants at the university. Commitment is one of the most essential elements for the success of romantic relationships. One of my very favorite quotes about commitment in couple relationships is “Choose your love, love your choice.” Far more than people give it credit for, love really is a choice. Each of us initially have the opportunity to choose the person we will love. Ultimately, if we want our relationship to not only last but to flourish we must love our choice. Loving our choice means that we are fiercely loyal to our partner and make them the top priority in our lives. It means that we treat our partner with kindness and with courtesy. It means that we still strive to do the romantic things we did when our relationship first started out.

Often, I feel like our society makes the concepts of love and commitment to be far more complex than they really are. Each semester I teach hundreds of students at the university about human development across the lifespan. One of our topics during the semester is romantic relationships. During our class discussions, it becomes apparent that many emerging adults are scared of commitment or believe that they have commitment issues. In my experience, this is often due to the example set by their parents (fighting, divorce etc.) or difficulties they have had in current or past romantic relationships. When I hear the phrase, “I have commitment issues,” I believe that the translation really is “I have decision-making issues.” I believe commitment actually is a simple concept and that it can be defined as a conscious, active decision to be dedicated to one’s partner. Regardless of what has observed through your family of origin you can still choose to have a successful relationship. It is true that you can’t control how your partner behaves but you can decide to be the best partner that you can be.

Decide To Have A Committed Relationship

One of my colleagues and favorite writers about commitment in couple relationships is Dr. Scott Stanley at the University of Denver. Stanley and his colleagues have become some of the most established researchers in the world regarding commitment in couple relationships. Perhaps their most influential work has been their commitment theory called Sliding versus Deciding. It’s the idea that when couples are faced with important relationship decisions (when to get married, when to have children, where to live, etc.) some people slide into these relationship transitions, while other people make well thought-out, intentional decisions as a couple. As explained by Stanley, Rhoades, and Whitton in a research article published in 2010:

“People slide into having sex. People slide into having children. People slide into dangerous relationships. In contrast to sliding, there are strong conceptual reasons to suggest that clear decisions generally build the most resilient intentions” (p. 253).

Being intentional in our decision making is extremely important if want our relationships to last. What are you currently doing to decide to be a loving spouse? What are you currently doing to decide to be loyal to your partner? As also explained by Stanley and Rhoades in a 2009 research paper:

“At the root, commitment means making a decision to choose one alternative over others, and that in choosing, one is deciding to give up the other alternatives. Deciding is fundamental to commitment” (p. 35).

We cannot afford to become complacent in our relationships if we hope for them to be happy and vibrant. I believe that our relationships can become more fulfilling and more satisfying when look for ways to grow and develop as a couple. My wife and I most certainly recognize ways that we can continue to strengthen and improve our marriage. Each of us can decide to be more invested in our relationships and choose to love the choice that we have made. You and your partner can choose to have a splendid relationship and be committed to each other. How grateful I am for my beautiful wife who inspires me to become that best husband and father that I can be!


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