Tue Sep 26 10:52:39 SAST 2017

Why breaking up is hard to do - especially if you're married

2017-08-18 16:37:03.0 | Claire Keeton |

To break up or not to break up? It’s a question over which many partners agonise after years of being together.

A new study finds that the reasons partners want to abandon a relationship are similar whether people are dating or married.

But married partners are more likely to be restricted in their decisions about staying.

University of Utah psychology Samantha Joel‚ who led the study with co-authors from the University of Toronto in Canada‚ said: “What was most interesting to me was how ambivalent people felt about their relationships. They felt really torn.

“You can look at a relationship from outside and say‚ ‘you have some really unsolvable problems‚ you should break up’‚ but from the inside that is a really difficult thing to do — and the longer you’ve been in a relationship‚ the harder it seems to be.”

In the first phase of the study‚ researchers recruited three groups of people‚ including partners trying to decide whether to stay or leave their relationships‚ and asked them about their reasons to stay or go.

They came up with 27 reasons to stay and 23 reasons to go. This list was turned into a questionnaire and given to another group who were facing this decision.

In this sample‚ the dating partners had been together on average for two years compared to an average of nine years for the married participants.

“At the top of the stay list were: emotional intimacy‚ investment and a sense of obligation. At the top of the leave list: issues with a partner’s personality‚ breach of trust and partner withdrawal‚” said Joel.

For dating and married partners‚ the reasons to leave were similar. But when it came to staying‚ married partners listed their “investment into the relationship‚ family responsibilities‚ fear of uncertainty and logistical barriers” as reasons.

Individuals dating were more likely to identify positive reasons to stay‚ such as aspects of the partner’s personality they liked‚ emotional intimacy and enjoying the relationship.

Joel said most people have deal-breakers about the kind of person they want to date or marry but these often disappear when they connect with someone.

“Humans fall in love for a reason. From an evolutionary perspective‚ for our ancestors finding a partner may have been more important than finding the right partner. It might be easier to get into relationships than to get back out of them.”

The findings were published in the journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science on Thursday.

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