This study examines three variables of a romantic relationship. It focuses on the communication variable of assurances, or expressions of love, and compares assurances to the level of the non-communication variable of commitment. It also focuses on the quantitative relationship between assurances and sex roles. This study examines the idea that more assurances within a romantic relationship will lead to more commitment, or a stronger commitment for the couple. It also examines whether males or females use more assurances to increase commitment. In order to develop data for this study, students were each given fifteen surveys to distribute among people who are in different stages of relationships. For example, the surveys were given to people who were married, seriously dating, casually dating, and even couples that had just broken up. These surveys had questions pertaining to all aspects of a relationship, including the topics of assurances, sex roles, and commitment. Therefore, by analyzing the data received from the surveys, one can draw conclusions about the interconnectedness between assurances, sex roles, and commitment.
The irony of romantic relationships is that although the average person has a desire to be in one, most of the time in an actual romantic relationship is spent trying to fix it, rather than to move further or even end it (Duck, 1988, as cited in Canary & Stafford, 1991). The behaviors and actions in which the couples try to save or improve the relationship are called relational maintenance strategies (Dainton & Stafford, 1993, as cited in Dainton, Haas, & Stafford, 2000). One of the main strategies used in relational maintenance is the idea of interpersonal communication. In fact, interpersonal communication and relationship development go hand in hand so that one can not have one concept without the other (Miller, 1976, as cited in Canary & Zelley, 2000). The type of interpersonal communication discussed within this study of relationships is some sort of emotional expression. Burleson, Hatfield, Metts, Sprecher, and Thompson (1995) explain that, " the expressive dimension is often considered the heart of a relationship" (p. 203). They go on to say that, "Several therapists and writers have suggested that good communication is the essence of a good relationship" (p. 204). Good communication in relationships is considered to be supportive communication that makes one feel good about himself or herself or the relationship (Burleson, et al., 1995). This supportive communication is called assurance, and it adds satisfaction to a relationship (Canary & Stafford, 1991). Thus, when one adds satisfaction to a relationship, one is attempting to develop the relationship or make it better. This is a way to prolong the relationship, or in other words, to increase commitment.
Theorists have studied several types of maintenance strategies used to improve relationships (e.g. Canary & Stafford, 1991), and one particular focus is on assurances. Relationship strategies are used daily with couples in order to keep the satisfaction of the relationship. Therefore, maintenance is a huge part of relationships. The purpose of this study is to further evaluate how the maintenance strategy of assurance can lead to an increase in commitment within the relationship. It also examines the impact sex roles have on distributing the assurances.
Assurances, or expressions of love are one way to maintain the relationship. Assurances are usually used through interpersonal communication between the two people involved in the relationship. Hecht, Marston, and Robers (1987) say that, "' communication is the fundamental action which both expresses and determines the subjective experience of romantic love'" (Hecht, Marston, & Robers, 1987, p. 392, as cited in Hendrick & Hendrick, 2000, p. 208). Therefore, they suggest that communication is necessary in order for the expression of love to take place. Some assurances mentioned by Hendrick & Hendrick (2000) are ones that express the partners love by saying "I love you." Other assurances they give are actions, such as doing things for the other person and being supportive and understanding. Assurances also include when the partner directly or indirectly mentions to the other partner about the future of the relationship (Canary & Stafford, 1992, as cited in Dainton et al., 2000). Dainton et al., (2000) gave out surveys as a means of collecting data in one of their studies. On the surveys were certain factors of assurances. Some of these were as follows: showing love for the partner, implying the relationship has a future, telling how much the partner means to the other partner, stressing the commitment, and showing how much the partner means to the other partner. Ballard-Reisch & Weigel (2002) developed a questionnaire to find out what behavioral indicators people used to show commitment towards each other. Among the list of behavioral indicators were assurances such as, providing affection, stating love, showing affection, showing feelings, providing support, and giving emotional support. The main point is that in order for a relationship to be satisfying and to be maintained, an expression of love is important. These assurances are expressed through verbal and non-verbal communication. They are necessary for relationships because after all, "Without expression, even the greatest of loves can die" (Sternberg, 1988, p. 136). Most importantly, assurances are ways to persuade one of another's love, and they provide commitment and comfort when needed (Canary & Zelley, 2000). They "assure" the partner of one's feelings, and help to further develop the relationship. This further development often leads to more commitment in the relationship.
"Commitment, on the other hand, generally refers to a long-term orientation toward continuity of a relationship stemming from assessments of satisfaction, quality of alternatives to the relationship (dependence), and level of investments in the relationship" (Burleson et al., 1995, p. 204). Commitment then is the desire to continue a relationship based on rewards one is receiving from the relationship. It also refers to the extent to which a person wants to remain in a relationship due to feelings of attachment (Canary & Zelley, 2000). According to Fehr (1988, 1999), some features of commitment include, loyalty, responsibility, living up to one's word, faithfulness and trust" (Fehr, 1988, 1999, as cited in Harvey & Weber, 2002). Therefore, the ways in which one shows commitment towards his/her partner is through actions, verbal, and non-verbal communication. Commitment is not something that each individual person decides on his/her own in the relationship. Instead, commitment comes from interactions and communication with one's partner (Knapp & Taylor, 1994, as cited in Ballard-Reisch & Weigel, 2002). Ballard-Reisch and Weigel (2002) continue to say that the level of commitment within a relationship can be found by what people do and say. The more a partner shows or says to his/her partner about one's feelings, the more the level of commitment increases. These behaviors of commitment can be called assurances, hence, the more assurances one gives, the more the level of commitment will rise.
Assurance Leads to Commitment
The purpose of this study is to further examine how assurance leads to commitment in relationships. Much research has been written which exhibits this connection between assurance and commitment. For example, Canary and Stafford (1991) found that fifty-six percent of the different varieties of commitment could be predicted by the maintenance strategies of assurances, networks, and sharing tasks (Dainton et al., 2000). Dainton et al. (1994) also found that assurances and positivity helped predict satisfaction in relationships for husbands and wives (Dainton et al., 2000). The studies performed by Dainton et al. (2000) showed that assurances were the highest maintenance behavior related to commitment with a .51. Canary and Stafford (1991) also found similar results directly relating assurances and commitment. Assurances were most strongly associated with commitment with a .53 (Canary & Stafford, 1991). Ballard-Reisch & Weigel (2002) also found information on assurance and commitment. Their study identified the types of behaviors people used to show their commitment level in the relationship. As predicted, the most detected indicator of commitment was giving affection (2002). The type of affection given was assurance, in which partners actually said, "I love you, " and how much they care about their other partner (2002).
These studies indicate that assurance does in fact lead to commitment because assurances stand for a belief in a lasting relationship (Canary & Stafford, 1991). Assurances are relational maintenance strategies with a common goal to improve the relationship (Booth-Butterfield & Trotta, 1994). By expressing assurances, one is using relational maintenance strategies to improve the relationship, and attempting to become more satisfied (Burleson et al., 1995). This satisfaction increases the desire to develop the relationship deeper and further, thus increasing the level of commitment. Therefore, research has shown that assurances lead to commitment. From this information the first hypothesis is proposed:
H1: More assurances will lead to more commitment in romantic relationships.
Sex Roles Within Assurance and Commitment
The concepts of assurance and commitment are handled in different ways amongst males and females. Throughout the research, there have been conflicting views over who uses more assurances and signs of commitment between males and females. However, there are several more studies that conclude that women use assurances more than men. For example, Dainton et al. (2000) examines how Ragsdale (1996) found that females used positivitiy, openness, assurances, network, and tasks more often than males. Although, Canary and Stafford's (1991) study shows that females perceive males to use these strategies more often than males perceive females to use these strategies (Canary & Stafford, 1991, as cited in Dainton et al., 2000). This is probably because "Women are more likely to think about, talk about, and worry about a relationship" (Ballard-Reisch & Weigel, 2002). Ballard-Reisch and Weigel (2002) discuss how females tend to talk more, analyze, discuss their feelings and the relationship, and perform more relationship tasks than males. From this information, Ballard-Reisch and Weigel (2002) hypothesize that females will have more indicators of commitment than men. Needless to say, they were correct. Females did report greater use of maintenance strategies than males (2002). Fitzpatrick and Sollie (1999) conclude that females are more dedicated to their romantic relationships, thus they reported greater commitment than males. Fitzpatrick and Sollie (1999) believe the reason for this is because females usually take responsibility for relationships and care for the relationship. Simon and Baxter (1993) also found that females were more likely than males to use assurances.
However, there were studies performed that had opposite results. Canary and Stafford (1991) found that males were perceived as using more strategies such as positivity, assurances, and social networks than females. They go on to say that females may notice when males try to maintain the relationship and may appreciate it more than males do. Males, on the other hand do not usually notice female attempts to maintain the relationship. Finally, Booth-Butterfield and Trotta (1994) found that males were using assurances more because they were usually the first ones to express their love in a relationship. They presume that men are usually the leadership role in relationships; therefore, they are responsible for assurances such as saying "I love you." Based on these opposing sides, the research questions ask:
R1: Do men or women use more assurances in romantic relationships?
R2: Do men or women express more commitment in romantic relationships?