How interdependent are stay/leave decisions? On staying in the relationship for the sake of the romantic partner.

The decision to end a romantic relationship can have a life-changing impact on the partner as well as the self. Research on close relationships has thus far focused on self-interested reasons why people choose to stay in their relationship versus leave. However, a growing body of research on decision-making and prosociality shows that when people make decisions that impact others, they take those others’ feelings and perspectives into consideration. In the present research, we tested the prediction that people make stay/leave decisions prosocially, such that consideration for their romantic partner’s feelings can discourage people from ending their relationships. In Study 1, a total of 1,348 participants in romantic relationships were tracked over a 10-week period. Study 2 was a preregistered replication and extension of Study 1, in which 500 participants contemplating a breakup were followed over a 2-month period. Both studies showed that the more dependent people believed their partner was on the relationship, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup. These findings held above and beyond a variety of self-focused variables (e.g., investment model components; Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998). These results suggest that people can be motivated to stay in relatively unfulfilling relationships for the sake of their romantic partner. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)