As an outsider looking in, it's easy to assume that all of the couples around us are perfectly happy. I mean, how couldn't they be with all of those "candid" Instagram posts of them laughing hysterically into each other's loving arms?! But, of course, the reality is that many couples aren't quite as happy as they seem. In fact, lots of people remain in relationships they aren't happy in. But why? Why do people stay in bad relationships?
According to a new study published in the upcoming November 2018 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a big reason why people stay in relationships they're not necessarily stoked about is that they're worried about their partners. In other words, if you're unhappy but you think your partner wants or needs you to stay, you're more likely to suck it up and stay.
"The more dependent people believed their partner was on the relationship, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup," Samantha Joel, an assistant professor at Western University in Ontario, Canada and lead author of the study, told Science Daily.
This isn't the first study that's tried to look into why people stay in unhappy relationships. Before this, research found people stay for a plethora of reasons: the amount of time they invested in the relationship, the emotional and financial resources they invested in it, and a fear of being alone.
What's unique in the case of this study is that it found that people's reasonings for staying in unhappy relationships weren't always selfish. I mean, let's face it, if you're staying because you're worried about being single again, you're not exactly doing that for the benefit of your partner. Contrastingly, if your sole reason for staying is to not leave your partner helpless and alone, you're doing it for a more selfless reason.
"When people perceived that the partner was highly committed to the relationship they were less likely to initiate a break up," Joel explained to Science Daily. "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."
That being said, Joel also told Science Daily that they can't be too sure how right the people int heir study were about how their partners felt. "One thing we don't know is how accurate people's perceptions are," Joel said. "It could be the person is overestimating how committed the other partner is and how painful the breakup would be." In other words, you and your partner could both be stuck in an unhappy relationship because you both secretly (and inaccurately) believe the other is really happy.
While staying in an unhappy relationship is often very difficult, Joel did note to Science Daily that, if the relationship does wind up improving, it could sometimes be a wise choice.
Needless to say, if things don't wind up improving, you won't be doing yourself any favors. And don't forget, you're not necessarily doing any favors for your partner by making them stick with someone who doesn't really want to be with them. Joel begged the important question to Science Daily, "Who wants a partner who doesn't really want to be in the relationship?"
The answer to her question, for the most part, is nobody. Do yourself and your partner a favor and get out of a relationship that isn't totally fulfilling you.
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