LivingWhy do we cling to unhappy relationships?

Why do we cling to unhappy relationships?

“Better alone than in bad company”. How many times have you heard that hackneyed saying? It is assumed that if we get into a relationship it is to feel better, both physically and emotionally. And, in fact, there are studies that explain that maintaining relationships that make us unhappy, and therefore bring stress and discomfort to our lives, can have a negative impact on health . So why do we sometimes try not to break up a relationship that doesn’t satisfy us? A recent study carried out by the University of Utah (Salt Lake City, USA) suggests that the reason could lie in altruism, in looking after the interests of the other rather than one’s own.

As this educational and research center explains in a press release, the study, recently published in the scientific journal Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , has analyzed the possibility that the person who is considering ending a relationship not only takes into consideration her own wishes, but also to what extent she believes that her partner wants and needs that the bond not be broken. “The more dependent they believed their partner felt in the relationship, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup,” explains psychologist Samantha Joel, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Utah and Western Ontario (Canada).

In previous research, it had been found that the amount of time, resources and emotions invested in a relationship can be determining factors when deciding whether or not to break up with the partner. Likewise, if the alternative to breaking up – which would be to stay alone or have to find another partner – is unattractive to the person, they may choose to continue with their unsatisfactory relationship.

Joel explains that in these cases, the decision to stay or leave is based on self-interest. Instead, this new study now shows that the decisions we make about an unsatisfying romantic relationship could include an altruistic component . “When people perceived that the couple was very committed in the relationship, they were less likely to decide to break up,” says the psychologist. “This was true even for people who weren’t really committed to the relationship or were personally dissatisfied with it. In general, we don’t want to hurt our teammates and we care about what they want, ”he adds.

Perceptions imprecise or precise?

To what extent can we know what the other person is feeling? This is precisely a question that the author of this study asks. “What we don’t know is how accurate people’s perceptions really are. It could happen that the person is overestimating how committed the other member of the couple is to the relationship and how painful the breakup would be, ”he points out. Joel also explains that by choosing to continue, the unhappy partner may be waiting for the relationship to improve.

On the other hand, the expert raises the question of whether not breaking a relationship supposedly for the good of the couple is something really prosocial or not . Because, “who would want to have someone for a life partner who doesn’t really want to be in a relationship with you?” Concludes Joel.

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