At some point in our lives, we may find ourselves in a romantic relationship that makes us unhappy, yet we still choose to stick it out. Why persist in a joyless romance when we could simply break up? A new study has found a surprising answer.
Unfortunately, happy romantic relationships are very familiar and often the focus of books, movies, and agony aunt columns.
But why do people find it so difficult to break free of situations that they are less than enthusiastic about?
One intuitive answer may be that the relationship becomes the person’s “normal,” something that they are used to and may be afraid to trade for the unknown of single-hood.
Or, perhaps, the unhappy partner is afraid that, once they break up, they will be unable to find a better partner and build a stronger, improved relationship. A new study, however, suggests that the real answer may lie elsewhere.
The research was led by Samantha Joel, who collaborates with both the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Western University in Ontario, Canada.
Joel and her team’s findings, which appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest that a person’s decision to stay in an unfulfilling relationship may arise from a place of altruism, rather than one of selfishness or insecurity.
An unlikely reason to stick it out
Some existing research has suggested that people may find it hard to let go of partners who make them unhappy because they are afraid of being single.
Other studies note that people are more likely to stay in a relationship if they perceive that the effort their partner puts into its success matches their own.
All of these motivations indicate that individuals consider, first and foremost, whether and to what extent the relationship is meeting their own needs, or is likely to meet them, in the future.
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