A popular question among society today is whether to stay in a relationship even if it makes you unhappy. Everything that you once loved in your significant other is now what’s driving you away. You complain to your friends and only think of the negative aspects of your relationship, but for some reason you can’t leave. Why? A recent study conducted by University of Utah’s Samantha Joel and colleagues provides insight to this nature. Joel and her colleagues began by questioning the usual assumptions, which state that being single is worse than being in an unhappy relationship or that leaving an unhappy relationship would be a waste of the time and effort invested. Perhaps, then stay/leave decisions are made based on what is in the best interest for the partner. According to Joel and her colleagues, this selfless nature is due to the interdependence theory. The interdependence theory states that in any interaction, people have the choice to maximize the outcomes that benefit them but will actually transform these selfish gains to include their partner and the relationship as a whole. Joel and her colleague conducted two studies to test these propositions. In the first study, 1,281 participants provided the researchers with data that allowed them to determine whether the perception of the partner’s dependence on the relationship predicted lower breakup rates. The participants filled out questionnaires that included various questions about their partner and the relationship itself. Over the course of 10 weeks, researchers assessed the relationship status of participants, enabling them to make predictive observations. As predicted at the beginning of the study, participants that perceived their partners to be highly dependent on the relationship had low chances of breaking up. The second study dived in more closely to take a look at the specific ending process in couples who were contemplating a breakup. Participants were invited to participate in the study through ads on various social media platforms. This led to an initial 4,106 participants who were then screened to narrow it down to 500 total participants. At the beginning of the second study, 442 participants were actively considering breaking up with their partner. Over the course of two months, Joel and her colleagues once again found that the chances of a breakup were lower if the partner seemed highly dependent upon the relationship. The study conducted by Joel and her colleagues was one of the first documentation of the prosocial nature of humans. This explains why you might be in, or have stayed, in an unhappy relationship. Although the findings answer this common question, they leave several other questions unanswered such as “Is it a wise decision to stay in an unhappy relationship?” or “How long is too long to stay in an unhappy relationship?” Joel and her coauthors state that further research is needed to provide additional information to answer these questions and more. For now, Joel and her colleagues suggest that people in relationships take their partner’s feelings into account when deciding whether to leave or stay. Perhaps this sense of security within the relationship will inevitably make it stronger.
When I was writing the summary of the Scholarly Article, I found it difficult to decide how much information was “too much” and how much was “not enough.” I wasn’t sure what details were important to include and which ones I should leave out. I felt that if I left something out, the reader would have no clue what I was talking about. Through this process of summarizing a 20+ page article, I have gained a new respect for journalists. Kudos to you journalists! I had to take into account the lingo of today’s society. So I had to leave out some of the fancy science words and put it in terms that everyone will understand. I will admit that I put this off until the last minute as usual, so going back to write this summary was…interesting, to say the least.