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Study Shows Deep Faith Strengthens Romance, Superficial Faith Less Impactful

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In a new study published in the Archive for the Psychology of Religion, researchers from the University of South Florida have uncovered intriguing insights into how intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientations impact romantic relationship commitment. This pioneering research opens up new avenues for understanding the complex interplay between religious beliefs and romantic life.

At the heart of this study is the understanding that religious beliefs play a significant role in shaping attitudes towards romantic relationships. While the influence of religiosity on relationships has been widely acknowledged, the specifics of how different religious orientations impact commitment levels remained largely unexplored until this study.

Central to the research is the “Investment Model of Commitment” developed by Rusbult in the 1980s. This model posits that commitment in relationships is influenced by three key factors: satisfaction with the relationship, the quality of available alternatives, and the investment made in the relationship. Humala and her team’s research extends this model by exploring how religious orientation interacts with these antecedents of commitment.

The study differentiates between two types of religious orientations: intrinsic and extrinsic. Individuals with an intrinsic orientation internalise their religious beliefs and apply them to their lives, including their romantic relationships. On the other hand, those with an extrinsic orientation use religion as a means to an end, such as gaining social status or comfort.

The findings indicate that intrinsic religious orientation plays a protective role in romantic relationships, especially when satisfaction levels are low. It buffers the negative effects of dissatisfaction, suggesting that intrinsically motivated individuals might stay committed to their relationships despite facing challenges. This aspect of intrinsic religiosity acts as a shield, protecting the commitment in times of strain.

Conversely, extrinsic religious orientation shows its impact in the context of perceived alternatives to the current relationship. Individuals with a high extrinsic orientation seem less influenced by the availability of alternatives, indicating that their commitment is less swayed by external options. This could be due to social pressures or a desire to maintain appearances within their religious community.

The study’s findings have significant implications for relationship counselling, particularly for couples for whom religion is a central aspect of life. Understanding a person’s religious orientation could provide key insights into their commitment dynamics in a relationship.

For future research, this study lays the foundation for a more nuanced exploration of the role of religious beliefs in romantic relationships. It encourages a departure from the general consideration of religiosity towards a more detailed understanding of individual differences in religious orientation.

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