“It’s not you, it’s me,” may seem like the most cliche line uttered during breakups, but it turns out that when it comes to deciding to end a relationship, many breakup-ers really do think about the breakup-ee.
A new study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, one of the most common reasons people stay in a relationship—and refuse to break up with their significant other—is because they feel their partner needs the relationship. If you’re contemplating ending things, but decide that your partner depends on you or some other aspect of your relationship, you become much less likely to end it.
“The more dependent people believed their partner was on the relationship, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup,” said Samantha Joel, lead author, in a release. “When people perceived that the partner was highly committed to the relationship they were less likely to initiate a break up.”
To really determine these findings, researchers followed 1,348 people in relationships, then followed 500 people who were considering breaking things off during two months. They were then able to determine that if the participant believed that their boyfriend or girlfriend depended on the relationship, they were much less likely to go through with the breakup, even if they had lost feelings or no longer found happiness in the relationship.
“This is true even for people who weren’t really committed to the relationship themselves or who were personally unsatisfied with the relationship,” Joel continues. “Generally, we don’t want to hurt our partners and we care about what they want.”
While the most immediately logical decision would be to leave a relationship that makes us unhappy, our innate need and desire to keep the people we care about (though might not want to continue dating) overrules it. Yes, settling for a mediocre relationship or having messy breakups are just a couple of the dating habits we all made in our younger years, but the instinctual need to make others happy is always there.
What if the shoe were on the other foot? Would you want to be with someone who doesn’t really want to be with you, but stays because it might be best for you? Or are we really estimating correctly how dependent our significant other is on our love? It might be a resounding “no” to both, but no matter how simple and logical it may seem, it’s also true that breakups are rarely black and white.
And considering another person’s feelings, no matter the relationship, is a kind thing to do. Just always remember to keep your own happiness top-of-mind too.