Partner commitment moderates the association between commitment and interest in romantic alternatives

  • Yoobin Park
  • Sun W. ParkEmail author


Previous studies have shown that individuals who are committed to their relationship are less interested in romantic alternatives. This research examined whether the negative association between commitment and interest in alternative partners depends on the level of partner’s commitment. In Study 1, married individuals (N = 289) completed questionnaires assessing their commitment, perceptions of their partner’s commitment, and two indicators of interest in alternatives. We found that committed individuals’ tendency to remain inattentive to alternatives and to report fewer infidelity experiences was significantly weaker among individuals who perceived their partner to be low (vs. high) in commitment. In Study 2, we recruited both members of married couples (N = 156) and replicated the moderating effect of partner commitment using the partner’s self-reports. Our findings suggest that how committed the partner is, or is perceived to be, can play an important role in committed individuals’ faithfulness, highlighting the dyadic processes of relationship maintenance.


Commitment mutuality Commitment asymmetry Infidelity Extramarital relationship 



This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A5A2A02926605).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Amato, P. R., & Previti, D. (2003). People’s reasons for divorcing: Gender, social class, the life course, and adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 24, 602–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arriaga, X. B., Reed, J. T., Goodfriend, W., & Agnew, C. R. (2006). Relationship perceptions and persistence: Do fluctuations in perceived partner commitment undermine dating relationships? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 1045–1065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atkins, D. C., Baucom, D. H., & Jacobson, N. S. (2001). Understanding infidelity: Correlates in a national random sample. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 735–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baker, L. R., McNulty, J. K., & VanderDrift, L. E. (2017). Expectations for future relationship satisfaction: Unique sources and critical implications for commitment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146, 700–721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barranti, M., Carlson, E. N., & Côté, S. (2017). How to test questions about similarity in personality and social psychology research: Description and empirical demonstration of response surface analysis. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8, 465–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blow, A. J., & Hartnett, K. (2005). Infidelity in committed relationships II: A substantive review. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 31, 217–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Cross, E. J., Overall, N. C., Hammond, M. D., & Fletcher, G. J. (2017). When does men’s hostile sexism predict relationship aggression? The moderating role of partner commitment. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8, 331–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dailey, R. M., Brody, N., LeFebvre, L., & Crook, B. (2013). Charting changes in commitment: Trajectories of on-again/off-again relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30, 1020–1044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Drigotas, S. M., & Rusbult, C. E. (1992). Should I stay or should I go? A dependence model of breakups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 62–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drigotas, S. M., Safstrom, C. A., & Gentilia, T. (1999). An investment model prediction of dating infidelity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 509–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Etcheverry, P. E., & Le, B. (2005). Thinking about commitment: Accessibility of commitment and prediction of relationship persistence, accommodation, and willingness to sacrifice. Personal Relationships, 12, 103–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fincham, F. D., & May, R. W. (2017). Infidelity in romantic relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology, 13, 70–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Finkel, E. J., Rusbult, C. E., Kumashiro, M., & Hannon, P. A. (2002). Dealing with betrayal in close relationships: Does commitment promote forgiveness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 956–974.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gagné, F., Khan, A., Lydon, J., & To, M. (2008). When flattery gets you nowhere: Discounting positive feedback as a relationship maintenance strategy. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 40, 59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gere, J., MacDonald, G., Joel, S., Spielmann, S. S., & Impett, E. A. (2013). The independent contributions of social reward and threat perceptions to romantic commitment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 961–977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Joel, S., MacDonald, G., & Shimotomai, A. (2011). Conflicting pressures on romantic relationship commitment for anxiously attached individuals. Journal of Personality, 79, 51–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Joel, S., Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., MacDonald, G., & Keltner, D. (2013). The things you do for me: Perceptions of a romantic partner’s investments promote gratitude and commitment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1333–1345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jones, D. N., & Weiser, D. A. (2014). Differential infidelity patterns among the dark triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 57, 20–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Karremans, J. C., & Verwijmeren, T. (2008). Mimicking attractive opposite-sex others: The role of romantic relationship status. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 939–950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kavanagh, P. S., Fletcher, G. J., & Ellis, B. J. (2014). The mating sociometer and attractive others: A double-edged sword in romantic relationships. The Journal of Social Psychology, 154, 126–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Cook, W. L. (2006). The analysis of dyadic data. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  24. Le, B., & Agnew, C. R. (2003). Commitment and its theorized determinants: A meta–analysis of the investment model. Personal Relationships, 10, 37–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Le, B., Korn, M. S., Crockett, E. E., & Loving, T. J. (2011). Missing you maintains us: Missing a romantic partner, commitment, relationship maintenance, and physical infidelity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28, 653–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Linardatos, L., & Lydon, J. E. (2011). Relationship-specific identification and spontaneous relationship maintenance processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 737–753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lydon, J., & Karremans, J. C. (2015). Relationship regulation in the face of eye candy: A motivated cognition framework for understanding responses to attractive alternatives. Current Opinion in Psychology, 1, 76–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lydon, J. E., Meana, M., Sepinwall, D., Richards, N., & Mayman, S. (1999). The commitment calibration hypothesis: When do people devalue attractive alternatives? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 152–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maner, J. K., Rouby, D. A., & Gonzaga, G. C. (2008). Automatic inattention to attractive alternatives: The evolved psychology of relationship maintenance. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 343–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mattingly, B. A., Clark, E. M., Weidler, D. J., Bullock, M., Hackathorn, J., & Blankmeyer, K. (2011). Sociosexual orientation, commitment, and infidelity: A mediation analysis. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151, 222–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McNulty, J. K. (2016). Highlighting the contextual nature of interpersonal relationships. In J. M. Olson & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 54, pp. 247–315). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  32. Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2016). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change (2nd ed.). New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  33. Miller, R. S. (1997). Inattentive and contented: Relationship commitment and attention to alternatives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 758–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Munsch, C. L. (2012). The science of two-timing: The state of infidelity research. Sociology Compass, 6, 46–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Murray, S. L., & Holmes, J. G. (2009). The architecture of interdependent minds: A motivation-management theory of mutual responsiveness. Psychological Review, 116, 908–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Collins, N. L. (2006). Optimizing assurance: The risk regulation system in relationships. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 641–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Murray, S. L., Derrick, J. L., Leder, S., & Holmes, J. G. (2008). Balancing connectedness and self-protection goals in close relationships: A levels-of-processing perspective on risk regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 429–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Neal, A. M., & Lemay, E. P. (2017). The wandering eye perceives more threats: Projection of attraction to alternative partners predicts anger and negative behavior in romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Advance online publication.
  39. Olsen, J. A., & Kenny, D. A. (2006). Structural equation modeling with interchangeable dyads. Psychological Methods, 11, 127–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Oriña, M. M., Collins, W. A., Simpson, J. A., Salvatore, J. E., Haydon, K. C., & Kim, J. S. (2011). Developmental and dyadic perspectives on commitment in adult romantic relationships. Psychological Science, 22, 908–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Overall, N. C., & Sibley, C. G. (2009). Attachment and dependence regulation within daily interactions with romantic partners. Personal Relationships, 16, 239–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Park, Y., Han, G., Jeong, Y., & Park, S. W. (2018). Partner-idealization and marital satisfaction: The mediating role of communication patterns. Korean Journal of Social and Personality Psychology, 32, 65–81.Google Scholar
  43. Previti, D., & Amato, P. R. (2004). Is infidelity a cause or a consequence of poor marital quality? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2012). A longitudinal investigation of commitment dynamics in cohabiting relationships. Journal of Family Issues, 33, 369–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Righetti, F., & Impett, E. A. (2017). Sacrifice in close relationships: Motives, emotions, and relationship outcomes. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. Advance online publication. Scholar
  46. Ritter, S. M., Karremans, J. C., & van Schie, H. T. (2010). The role of self-regulation in derogating attractive alternatives. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 631–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rusbult, C. E. (1983). A longitudinal test of the investment model: The development (and deterioration) of satisfaction and commitment in heterosexual involvements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 101–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rusbult, C. E., Verette, J., Whitney, G. A., Slovik, L. F., & Lipkus, I. (1991). Accommodation processes in close relationships: Theory and preliminary empirical evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The investment model scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5, 357–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rusbult, C. E., Olsen, N., Davis, J. L., & Hannon, P. A. (2001). Commitment and relationship maintenance mechanisms. In J. Harvey & A. Wenzel (Eds.), Close romantic relationships: Maintenance and enhancement (pp. 87–113). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  51. Russell, V. M., Baker, L. R., & McNulty, J. K. (2013). Attachment insecurity and infidelity in marriage: Do studies of dating relationships really inform us about marriage? Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 242–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schoebi, D., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2012). Stability and change in the first 10 years of marriage: Does commitment confer benefits beyond the effects of satisfaction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 729–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sciara, S., & Pantaleo, G. (2018). Relationships at risk: How the perceived risk of ending a romantic relationship influences the intensity of romantic affect and relationship commitment. Motivation and Emotion, 42, 137–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Simpson, J. A., Gangestad, S. W., & Lerma, M. (1990). Perception of physical attractiveness: Mechanisms involved in the maintenance of romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1192–1201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., & Tackett, J. L. (2012). Social threat, social reward, and regulation of investment in romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 19, 601–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sprecher, S., Felmlee, D., Metts, S., Fehr, B., & Vanni, D. (1998). Factors associated with distress following the breakup of a close relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 791–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., Scott, S. B., Kelmer, G., Markman, H. J., & Fincham, F. D. (2017). Asymmetrically committed relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 34, 1241–1259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Toth, K., & Kemmelmeier, M. (2009). Divorce attitudes around the world: Distinguishing the impact of culture on evaluations and attitude structure. Cross-Cultural Research, 43, 280–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Visserman, M. L., & Karremans, J. C. (2014). Romantic relationship status biases the processing of an attractive alternative’s behavior. Personal Relationships, 21, 324–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C. E., Foster, C. A., & Agnew, C. R. (1999). Commitment, pro-relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 942–966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoOntarioCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyKorea UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

Personalised recommendations