Why is it, that even if we’re in a relationship that we logically know isn’t working, we can find it so hard to let go and leave?
We can spend hours talking about it to our friends –the clashes in personality, different expectations for the future, a fade in sexual chemistry – until we’re blue in the face and they’re secretly praying for a change of subject.
The battle of head and heart is a notoriously hard one, and so professors at the University of Utah have explored the indecisiveness of couples who are considering ending their relationship, and what’s stopping them.
And the top reason for leaving a relationship was the same whether married or not, and regardless of relationship length: issues with a partner’s personality.
However, there were some interesting differences in what couples who were dating and couples who were married valued in a relationship.
The research, led by Professor Samantha Joel, set out to identify the “specific relationship pros and cons that people are weighing”.
As Science Daily reports, using a mix of both married and dating couples, including those considering ending the relationship, researchers first asked open-ended questions about the positive and negative aspects of their relationship.
Their answers were turned into a list of stay/leave statements that were then used in a questionnaire. This was given to a separate group of couples who were trying to decide whether to end a relationship or marriage.
For both married and dating couples, the reasons to leave the relationship were similar. Whatever the length of the courtship, for most people the biggest reasons to dump their other halves were issues with a partner's personality, breach of trust and partner withdrawal.
However, differences emerged between dating and married couples when discussing reasons to stay.
For those in the study that were dating (for an average of two years), reasons for staying seemed more positive than those of married couples. For example, people in the earlier stages of a long-term relationship classed liking their partners personality, emotional intimacy and enjoying the relationship as reasons to stick around.
But after tying the knot, motivation for staying put seemed to be more situational than down to personal choice. For married partners (whom in the study had been together for an average of nine years), the top four reasons to stay committed were a sense of investment, family responsibilities, fear of uncertainty and logistical barriers.
Of course, this is just one study with one group of people and can’t act as representation for all married and dating couples (and may be more telling of relationship length than married status) but an interesting look into how priorities may change nevertheless.
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