Washington: People continue to stay in unsatisfying romantic relationships because they believe that leaving would be bad for their partners, a study suggests. Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study explored the possibility that people deciding whether to end a relationship consider not only their own desires, but also how much they think their partner wants and needs the relationship to continue.
“The more dependent people believed their partner was on the relationship, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup,” said Samantha Joel, who was an assistant professor at the University of Utah in the US at the time of the research. Previous research shows the amount of time, resources and emotion invested in a relationship can be factors in deciding to end a romantic relationship. Studies also show that a person may opt to remain in an unfulfilling relationship if the alternative
Being alone, the available pool of partners, etc – seems less appealing. In those cases, deciding to stay or go was based on self-interest, Joel said. However, the new study shows the first evidence that decisions about an unsatisfying romantic relationship may involve an altruistic component. “When people perceived that the partner was highly committed to the relationship they were less likely to initiate a break up,” said Joel, now an assistant professor at Western University in Canada. “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,” said Joel.
In making that choice, the unhappy partner may be hoping that the relationship will improve, Joel said. Deciding to stay based on a partner’s perceived dependence on the relationship could be a double-edge sword, Joel said. If the relationship improves, it was a good decision. However, if it doesn’t, a bad relationship has been prolonged.