Why Do People Stay in Miserable Relationships?

Why Do People Stay in Miserable Relationships?

A new study suggests it may not be because they’re scared to be alone.

By Marianne Garvey

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,” says a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 

If they view leaving as bad for their partner, they may unselfishly stay. 

"The more dependent people believed their partner was on the relationship, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup," said Samantha Joel, lead author of the study.

“Previous research shows the amount of time, resources and emotion invested in a relationship can be factors in deciding to end a romantic relationship,” said the report.  “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.”

This is 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," Joel said. "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."

But what about the person who is unhappy?

Basically, they’re hoping the relationship will get better.

"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 break up would be."

But the downside is two unhappy people. ”Who wants a partner who doesn't really want to be in the relationship?" Joel said.

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