Scott Stanley on assessing couple commitment -3/00

owner-smartmarriages owner-smartmarriages
Wed Mar 29 16:01:29 EST 2000


from: Smart Marriages

Michelle Weiner-Davis wrote:  I NEVER ask 
 about my client's level of commitment for working on their marriage in 
 the beginning.   

Thought I'd toss in my two cents on all of this.  I think there is much 
to be 
said for what many were saying in these posts.  I think MWD is very 
correct 
here if we take what she's saying to mean that some couples cannot be 
(wisely) 
asked up front to make hard, total commitment.  While I obviously believe 
in 
the power of commitment, for some couples who are very damaged, going 
right 
at this with them having to declare it outright can cause you to lose a 
couple who might have made it.  Here is what i try to do:

1) I think the key in these notes is to be trying to ASSESS the 
commitment of 
the couple early on.  and if the commitment varies by partner.  there is 
much 
one can usually gauge this on based on behavior in the spouses 
themselves.  
alternatively, you can directly assess aspects of commitment levels using 
forms (i have short forms in books like Fighting for Your Marriage or A 
Lasting Promise.  i can paste in a message a short but potent form of 
dedication here if people would like).  at any rate, asking couples even 
directly about commitment level to me is not as dangerous as asking a 
fragile 
couple to declare total commitment at that moment.  in my view, people 
can 
tolerate being asked about it or answering questions on forms.  what i 
avoid 
is pushing for total declaration of it with very distressed couples.

2) which gets me to point two.  for very distressed couples, what i 
usually 
do is this: i acknowledge the difficulties and the challenge of 
commitment 
for them at this point.  BUT, i make it clear that no progress is usually 
made in an environment of total unpredictability and fragility.  so, i 
push 
this way:  "look, one thing i am sure of is that you have no chance if 
you 
are going to discuss divorce daily while at the same time trying to 
invest in 
ways to turn this around.  those are not compatible behaviors.  if you 
really 
want to give this marriage a shot, you need to AT THE LEAST, make a 
limited 
time commitment to give it your best.  you need a break from the active 
divorce talk and threats where you can both, in good faith, give it your 
best 
effort.  you might want to agree to be as committed as you can for a 
period of 
months, and during that time, really try hard to turn things around.  at 
the 
end of that time, we can discuss again commitment and what you are trying 
to 
do here.  that can at least stretch your time frame for investing from 
the 
day to day of divorce talk right now."

a lot of times, couples can commit to the latter while they will not 
commit 
to the long long term.  but the shorter term commitment to really try and 
to 
suspend active talking and action re divorce can give them time to slow 
down 
and give some effort a chance to work.

Scott Stanley 

Folks, this is a short form measure of my dedication construct.  An even 
shorter version is in the books, but this is pretty short enough.  what 
follows are the items then the scoring then some referencing for it.  You 
have 
my permission to make and use copies of this (not to publish it anywhere) 
in 
your work.  Clinically, i often do not even bother to score it, rather, i 
eyeball the responses in comparison of husbands to wives.  i usually do 
NOT 
share feedback with the couple directly based on this form.  In fact, I'd 
recommend telling them that you do not plan to share scores or any 
responses 
on this items between the two of them.  That way, you can use the info 
for 
clinical purposes of getting a sense where the partners are at but not 
have 
them worried about the other seeing their responses.  Since there is not 
a 
direct question about affairs here, i think that is a pretty safe 
strategy.  
People can be seriously thinking about what it would be like to be with 
others without being in affairs.  those items are VERY sensitive to 
current 
level of satisfaction.  Have at it.  Scott

Brief Description:

Stanley's Commitment Inventory (CI, Stanley & Markman, 1992) The CI 
assesses 
two dimensions of commitment: constraint and dedication.  It has high 
levels 
of internal consistency across a range of samples with alpha coefficients 
averaging .82 as well as theoretically consistent factor structures 
(e.g., 
Adams & Jones, 1997; Stanley & Markman, 1992; Pramann, 1986) and shows 
theoretically consistent relationships with stage of relationship, 
relationship adjustment, problem intensity, and various measures of 
religiosity (Stanley & Markman, 1992; Stanley, 1986; Pramann, 1986).  The 
dedication scale used here is a 14 item subset from the six dedication 
subscales of the entire CI. This measure has consistently demonstrated 
both 
reliability and validity in various data sets (e.g., Renick, Blumberg, & 
Markman, 1992; Trathen, 1995; Stanley et al., under review; Whitton & 
Stanley, 1999).

----------------------------------
the short form of my dedication measure (if you want even shorter still, 
see 
Fighting for Your Marriage or A Lasting Promise).  


RELATIONSHIP SCALE

Please answer each question below by indicating how strongly you agree or 
disagree with the idea expressed.  You can circle any number from 1 to 7 
to 
indicate various levels of agreement or disagreement with the idea 
expressed. 
 Please try to respond to each item.

1 = Strongly Disagree
2
3
4 = Neither Agree Nor Disagree
5
6
7 = Strongly Agree


  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 My relationship with my partner is more important to me 
than 
almost anything else in my life.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I want this relationship to stay strong no matter what  
rough times we may encounter.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7      I do not feel compelled to keep all of the 
commitments 
that I make.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 I like to think of my partner and me more in terms of 
"us" 
and "we" than "me" and "him/her."

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 I think a lot about what it would be like to be married 
to 
(or dating) someone other than my partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   My relationship with my partner is clearly part of my 
future life plans.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7     My career (or job, studies, homemaking, childrearing, 
etc.) is more important to me than my relationship with my partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7     It makes me feel good to sacrifice for my partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I do not want to have a strong identity as a couple 
with my 
partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I don't make commitments unless I believe I will keep 
them.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   Giving something up for my partner is frequently not 
worth 
the trouble.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7     When push comes to shove, my relationship with my 
partner 
often must take a back seat to other interests of mine.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7     I am not seriously attracted to anyone other than my 
partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I may not want to be with my partner a few years from 
now.

    Version 1.3
    Copyright 1986, Scott M. Stanley.  Permission granted to copy as is.

----------------------------------------------------
Scoring directions for the form above.  Note carefully how to do this.


RELATIONSHIP SCALE                      KEY FOR DEDICATION SCALE

Reverse scale the items with the "R" in front, and total all items for 
the 
total dedication score.  For reversed items, 1=7, 2=6, 3=5, 4=4, 5=3, 
6=2, 
7=1.  

The mean for males is 86.13 SD 10.25 and for females the mean is 84.51 SD 
11.27, in a sample of relatively happy and committed couples.  These 
items 
that now comprise the short form were given in the context of the entire 
scale.  The short form has been shown to be an excellent predictor of 
couple 
dropout or completion in a research project of premarital programs.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   My relationship with my partner is more important to me
                       than almost anything else in my life.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I want this relationship to stay strong no matter what
                       rough times we may encounter.

R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I do not feel compelled to keep all of the commitments
                       that I make.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I like to think of my partner and me more in terms of 
"us"
                       and "we" than "me" and "him/her."

R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I think a lot about what it would be like to be married
                       to (or dating) someone other than my partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   My relationship with my partner is clearly part of my 
                       future life plans.

R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7   My career (or job, studies, homemaking, childrearing,   
    
                         etc.) is more important to me than my 
relationship 
with
                       my partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   It makes me feel good to sacrifice for my partner.

R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I do not want to have a strong identity as a couple with
                       my partner.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I don't make commitments unless I believe I will keep 
                       them.

R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7   Giving something up for my partner is frequently not 
                       worth the trouble.

R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7   When push comes to shove, my relationship with my 
partner
                       often must take a back seat to other interests of 
mine.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I am not seriously attracted to anyone other than my 
                       partner.

R 1 2 3 4 5 6 7   I may not want to be with my partner a few years from 
now.
    Version 1.3
    Copyright 1986, Scott M. Stanley

-----------------------------------------------------
relevant references related to this measure:

    Adams, Jeffrey M., & Jones, Warren, H. (1997).  The conceptualization 
of 
marital commitment: An integrative analysis.  Journal of Personality and 
Social Psychology, 72, 7-1196.
        
    Pramann, R.F. (1986) Commitment to spouse and God: The relationship 
among 
measures of marital commitment and spiritual maturity.  Unpublished 
doctoral 
dissertation, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon.

    Renick, M.J., Blumberg, S., & Markman, H.J. (1992). The Prevention 
and 
Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP): An empirically-based preventive 
intervention program for couples. Family Relations, 41(2), 141-14.

    Stanley, S. (1986).  Commitment and the maintenance and enhancement 
of 
relationships.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Denver, 
Denver, CO.

    Stanley, S.M., & Markman, H.J.  (1992). Assessing Commitment in 
Personal 
Relationships.  Journal of Marriage and The Family, 54, 595-608.

    Stanley, S.M., Markman, H.J., Prado, L.M., Olmos-Gallo, P.A., 
Tonelli, 
L., St. Peters, M.,  Leber, B.D., Bobulinski, M., Cordova,  A.,  &  
Whitton, 
S.  (Under review).  Short term effects of premarital training in a 
religious, community based sample. 

    Trathen, D. W. (1995).  A comparison of the effectiveness of two 
Christian premarital counseling programs (skills and information-based) 
utilized by evangelical Protestant churches.  (Doctoral dissertation, 
University of Denver, 1995).  Dissertation Abstracts International, 
56/06-A, 
2277.

    Whitton, S., Stanley, S., & Markman, H.  (1999, November).  Sacrifice 
in 
romantic relationships.  Poster session presented at the 33rd Annual 
Meeting 
for the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy.  Toronto.



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