Study Identifies Why People Stay In Unhappy Relationships

One of the reasons why some people stay in unhappy relationships and marriages may surprise you—they do so because they’re taking their partner’s feelings into account. The findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

New research from the University of Toronto, University of Utah, and Wayne State University examined the theory that a significant other’s feeling can prevent a person from leaving an unfulfilling relationship.

Researchers carried out two studies. The first focused on 1,348 participants over a 10-week period who were involved in romantic relationships. The second involved 500 participants over a period of two months who thought about breaking up with their partners.

The studies concluded that the more dependent people believed their partners were on the relationships the less likely they were to leave them.

“When people perceived that the partner was highly committed to the relationship they were less likely to initiate a breakup,” lead author Samantha Joel told MSN. “This is true even for people who weren’t really committed to the relationship themselves or who were personally unsatisfied with the relationship. Generally, we don’t want to hurt our partners and we care about what they want.”

Previous research has centred on “self-interested reasons” why people choose to stay versus leave a relationship, including the amount of time, resources, and emotion injected into the union. People also stay in unhappy relationships if the alternative, i.e., being alone or not finding anyone else, is worse than coping with an unfulfilling union.

The research presents clear evidence that people can be altruistic and can be “motivated to stay in relatively unfulfilling relationships for the sake of their romantic partner.”

Whether this is a good thing or not is debatable. “Who wants a partner who doesn’t really want to be in the relationship?” Joel noted.

If you are in a relationship that you want to leave, make sure you develop a support system of friends and family. Focus on being more independent and self-reliant, and spend more time on your passions and hobbies rather than the relationship itself.

On the bright side, recent research found that couples (with children) who stick it out end up making it work. A study of 10,000 parents found that of the 70 percent of couples who were unhappy following the birth of their first child, 68 percent were happy or extremely happy 10 years later.

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