Do you ever look at your text messages with your significant other and notice that most of the text messages are from you, and they are much larger chat bubbles? Dating coach Matthew Hussey calls this being “in the blue” because the messages sent from your phone appear in blue, and they are dominating the screen.
Scientists have recently coined a new term to define this kind of relationship—an “asymmetrically committed relationship.” A new paper in the Family Process journal looked at relationship and personality data from hundreds of couples to understand what kinds of people end up in asymmetrically committed relationships, and why they ultimately stay together. Some obvious personality trends were noted—like people who think they have tons of other options out there, so they are less committed. Another common trend were people with avoidant attachment style, meaning they tend to shrink away from closeness and prefer to be independent. And of course, we all know the type on the other end of this spectrum—the people who worry about their relationships so they get super clingy with their partners. This would be an asymmetrically committed relationship because the other partner is not being clingy back.
If you hyper invest in the relationship, it’s natural that you will be with someone who isn’t as committed as you are.
Some of the data showed less obvious trends. For example, those with parents who had never been married often end up in asymmetrically committed relationships. People who have had more sexual partners in their lifetime and those with more past experience in long-term relationships were more likely to be in asymmetrically committed relationships, both as the low-commitment partner and as the highly committed partner.
Overall, the research pointed to a lot more information about the less committed partners than those who were more invested. What the researchers discovered is that in almost all of these relationships, one half has no idea they’re in an asymmetrically committed relationship. The reason for this is because it is in the less committed partner’s best interest to hide his or her lack of commitment from the other person. Sociologist Willard Waller summed it up perfectly in 1938 with the Principle of Least Interest—The person in a relationship who cares less has more power. But that doesn’t mean the less caring partner is in some kind of rush to leave.
All this to say, it is totally possible to be in a relationship with someone who is hiding his or her lack of commitment (in other words, stringing you along) for the benefits that come with being in a relationship. This person may completely hide his or her level of commitment until that person no longer wants you around. This makes it incredibly important to be aware of whether you are in an asymmetrically committed relationship, so you can take control of your life and avoid being in a long-term relationship with someone who really doesn’t give a f*ck.
Pay attention to who’s doing all of the texting—are you in the blue? Don’t be afraid to engage in open communication and talk about where your relationship is at. As hard as it may be, you and your partner are better off being in relationships where you are equally invested.