The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology recently published a study that should shock no one. They discovered that the “fear of being single may drive adults to stay in bad relationships or settle for less-than-desirable partners, all because they'd rather have someone than no one.”
The researchers then wanted to know how this fear affects behavior in romantic relationships. Again using online surveys (some which included thousands of participants), they discovered that, due to a fear of being alone, people tended to either stay in unhealthy relationships or settle for partners who were not ideal.
The authors wrote, "During relationship initiation and maintenance, those who fear being single may prioritize relationship status above relationship quality, settling for less responsive and less attractive partners and remaining in relationships that are less satisfying."
Can we please talk about the real reason people feel the need to stay in bad relationships -- especially bad marriages?
It’s not necessarily fear of being alone, although that may be a contributing factor. It’s fear of the unknown. The phrase “better the devil you know” exists for a reason, people.
Will I be able to provide for myself and my children? Especially if you’re a woman and a stay-at-home mom to boot. What if you’ve never even had a fulltime job outside the home? At the very least, there’s no getting around the fact that your standard of living is going to go down when there are two households to support instead of just one.
What will people think of me? Society tends to scorn the leaver. Gender doesn’t matter as far as I can tell on this one. When a man does the leaving, it’s generally assumed that it’s for a newer model, and when it’s the woman, people tend to believe that it’s a selfish desire to “find herself.” Sure, those things happen. But it’s not always the case.
What if I’m not worthy of love? When you feel like your spouse, the person that promised to love you unconditionally until the day you die, doesn’t love you, why would anyone else? If no one will ever love me anyway, shouldn’t I just stay here and at least enjoy the perks of being an “intact” family?
There are many reasons a person may choose to stay in a dysfunctional marriage, but in my opinion, they all boil down to the fear of what comes next.