Staying in an unhealthy relationship has hazardous consequences to one’s health, but departing from a toxic union is never easy. Scientists from the Universities of Utah and Toronto offer insights into what makes deliberations to leave or stay so perplexing.
Leave or stay? What comes into equation
The study concentrated on what people consider pros and cons when weighting options of leaving or staying in a relationship.
In the first stage researchers asked people who were in relationships, including a group of test subjects who were considering breaking up, to come up with certain reasons to either stay or go. The participants were providing reasons in their own words, which were then grouped together. Altogether, 23 reasons to leave and 27 motives to stay were listed.
These reasons were used as the base for the questionnaire, which was given to another group of people who were pondering over leaving a serious relationship. Couples who took part in stage two were married on average for 9 years or dating for 2 years.
The following factors emerged as the most important in deliberations.
- Emotional intimacy
- Sense of obligation
- Breach of trust
- Partner withdrawal
- Partner’s personality
Dating vs. marriage
Both the couples who were dating and married put forward similar motives in favor of breaking up, Science Daily reported.
But there was a difference in reasons to continue.
- The ones who were dating quoted their partner’s likable personality, emotional intimacy or enjoyment of the couplehood as reasons not to break up.
- Pairs who were married pointed to the investment into the marriage, fear of uncertainly and complex logistics of leaving, and family responsibilities as reasons to stay.
One in two participants said they had strong enough reasons for both remaining in the union and breaking up, which obviously made it hard to make a decision.
“They felt really torn,” the co-author of the research Samantha Joel said. “The longer you’ve been in a relationship, the harder it seems to be.”
Joel also pointed out that people often throw “out of the window” their ideas about deal breakers in a person they want to be with, which they had, once they have met someone they like.
“From an evolutionary prospective, for our ancestors finding a partner may have been more important than finding the right partner.” This is why, she concluded, getting into a relationship may be much easier than getting out of one.