Relationships

This is why so many people stay in unhappy relationships

By Marni Dixit December 6, 2016
Blue Valentine

It makes sense, but is it the right thing to do?

A new study by the University of Minho in Portugal has found that people are more likely to stay in an unhappy relationship if they feel like they’ve invested time, money or effort into it.

The study, which was published in the journal, Current Psychology, gave over 1000 participants hypothetical romantic situations and asked them how they would react.

The first experiment saw 951 people divided into four groups. They were then asked to imagine they were in an increasingly sexless and unhappy marriage and needed to decide if they were going to stay or not. 

The first group (the control group) was only given the above information, but the others were given slightly different relationship conditions.

Group number one, the time condition, were told to imagine they were only married a year, and not a decade. The second group, the money condition, were told they had bought a house with the person they were unhappily married to. The third group, the effort condition, were asked what they would do if they had “made a huge effort” to improve their marriage by showing their partner more attention with loving gestures.

Sara Rego, a psychologist involved in the study, explained that people were more likely to stay in a bad relationship if they felt like they had invested money and effort into it. Thirty five per cent of those in the effort and money conditions said they would stay with their partner despite the lack of sex and affection.

However, only 25 per cent of people in the time and control conditions would stay in an unhappy marriage, suggesting people are more likely to leave a short marriage than a longer one.

The second experiment saw 275 participants given two different scenarios based only on relationship length. The first group were told they had been married ten years, the second only one year. They were then asked to reveal how long they’d stay in an unhappy relationship.

The ten-year group said they would invest about a year and a half into saving their relationship, while the one-year group said they’d stay for nine and a half months to fix things.

The authors wrote:

“Together, both experiments confirmed the initial hypothesis that investments in terms of time, effort and money make individuals more prone to stay and invest in a relationship in which they are unhappy.”

And now it makes sense that your bestie is trying to fix things with their terrible boyfriend…

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