Here's why people choose to stay in unhappy relationships

Here is what a new study has found.

Washington: Have you ever wondered why people choose to stay in unsatisfying romantic relationships? It turns out, people are less likely to initiate a breakup if they think their partners are dependent on the relationship.

According to a recent study, it is because people view the idea of leaving as bad for their partner, as it might be for them.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, explored the possibility that 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.

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

In those cases, deciding to stay or go was based on self-interest, Joel said. But the new study shows the first evidence that decisions about an unsatisfying romantic relationship may involve an altruistic component. The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Samantha Joel, lead author of the study said, "When people perceived that the partner was highly committed to the relationship they were less likely to initiate a break-up. 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."

In making that choice, the unhappy partner may be hoping that the relationship will improve, Joel explained.

"One thing we don't know is how accurate people's perceptions are. It could be the person is overestimating how committed the other partner is and how painful the break up would be," Joel added.

Deciding to stay based on a partner's perceived dependence on the relationship could be a double-edged sword, Joel said. If the relationship improves, it was a good decision. But if it doesn't, a bad relationship has been prolonged.

There is also the question of whether staying for a partner's sake is really the correct thing to do."Who wants a partner who doesn't really want to be in the relationship?" Joel said.

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