• The person believes in the value of consistency. That is the inherent human desire to continue a task or effort until it is completed. For example, if one makes a vow to be married until “death do you part,” that person may have a strong sense of personal obligation to fulfill that vow.
  • The person values the stability of the particular type of relationship she has. The more important the relationship is viewed by a person, the stronger she feels she ought to stay in it. Therefore, a person who values marriage will find it much more difficult to end a marriage than other relationships.
  • The person feels a partner-specific obligation. Partner-specific obligation involves a sense of obligation to the particular person with whom one is involved in a relationship. The moral constraint is a sense of personal contractual obligation. If a husband, for example, worries that his wife and children may not do well financially or emotionally if he leaves them, that sense of obligation will lead him to stay even if he wishes to leave the relationship.

Structural Commitment - "I Have to Stay in This Relationship"

Structural commitment is the feeling that one must continue a relationship, but not because of her own internal values. The factors are external and most often considered constraining. This type commitment may come from one or more of these areas:

  • The person has made irretrievable investments into the relationship. Those are those things that a person has given to the relationship that will be lost if the relationship were to end—things like time, energy, and other resources. If the investment is considerable enough and the person feels there may be a chance of receiving the return he wanted from the relationship, the person feels he has to stay until the investment is recovered. For example, if he dropped out of college to work so that his wife could finish medical school and become a world-famous surgeon, he may feel he has to stay married to her to get his share of the monetary and social status he earned by supporting her.
  • The person is concerned about the social reaction of ending the relationship. Social reaction is a consideration of the feelings that a person's social group will likely have about the morality of the dissolution of the relationship. If she feels her family, church, or friends will diminish their relationship with her if she divorces, she may choose to stay married.
  • The person faces difficulty in ending the relationship. Definitive endings of committed relationships usually require some form of action. The more complex and serious the relationship, the more complex and costly the effort to end it. If he lacks the emotional strength, the financial resources, or a viable course of action, he likely will not go through the pain of ending the relationship.
  • The person fears there may not be a viable alternative. Availability of acceptable alternatives means the availability of “replacements” for the current relationship. That is more than the consideration of a new person to replace the old. It also includes such considerations as the likely economic situation that will exist at the end of the current relationship, the likely impact on the structure of the person's social life, and so on.

Though one might think that the structural commitments (the “have to” dimensions) are not good reasons to stay in a relationship, they very much are. They may hold a couple together long enough to repair the relationship and make it good again.

If the personal commitment “I want to” is strong enough, the “ought to” and “have to” areas are relatively unimportant. However, during those times when the “I want to” is lacking, these other areas are crucial to a maintenance of the relationship.