Most times we find ourselves in a romantic relationship that makes us unhappy, yet we still choose to stick it out. Rather than calling it quits, we persist on a joyless romance, hoping, wishing and praying that things will turn around for better.
Even the fact that there are close to eight billion people on earth wouldn’t deter many who choose to stay through thick and thin with one partner. And we keep wondering, what actually makes it so hard for one to decide to quit a joyless relationship?
Here are two logical assumptions;
The illusion that there is always a happy ending
The common relationship stories portrayed in movies and narrated in books and agony aunt colums are happy romantic relationships. It is rare to see a relationship story with despairing conclusion make a bold headline. These sweet love stories give a false picture of relationships, making it difficult for us to break free of situations that we are less than enthusiastic about. From what we see in movies, we feel there is always a happy ending to every relationship, if we persist.
Our relationship becomes our ‘normal’
When we are romantically involved with someone, the relationship becomes our “normal,” or something that we are used to. We become so afraid to trade it for the unknown of singlehood.
Sometimes, 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.
There are so many other related reasons that make people choose to stay in unhappy relationships. But however they may seem like the right answers, a recent study has found that the real answer may be far from what we think.
The study was led by Samantha Joel in collaboration with both the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Western University in Ontario, Canada.
Joel and her team’s findings published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest that a person’s decision to stay in an joyless relationship may arise from a place of altruism, rather than one of selfishness or insecurity.
Some existing research suggests that; people may find it hard to let go of partners who make them unhappy because they are afraid of being single.
However, people are more likely to stay in a relationship if they perceive that the effort their partner puts into its success matches their own.
This means 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.
“When people perceived that the partner was highly committed to the relationship they were less likely to initiate a breakup,” Joel explains.
“This is true even for people who weren’t really committed to the relationship themselves or who were personally unsatisfied with the relationship,” she adds. “Generally, we don’t want to hurt our partners and we care about what they want.”
In summary, an unhappy partner may choose to give the relationship a second chance in the hope that they may be able to rekindle the romance at some point. However, this hope could well be unfounded.
“One thing we don’t know is how accurate people’s perceptions are,” says Joel, adding:
“It could be the person is overestimating how committed the other partner is and how painful the breakup would be.”
But, while there is a chance that the relationship will turn around for the better, which may make it worth the gamble, the opposite can actually happen. And this will make the couple’s life together further deteriorate, prolonging the agony.
Besides, even if the other partner is truly loving and committed, the researchers ask if it is ever worth staying in a relationship when we have misgivings about its future.
After all, “who wants a partner who doesn’t really want to be in the relationship?” Joel emphasizes.