Scenario: Your friend comes to you complaining about his nagger of a girlfriend. He tells you he can no longer handle the relationship. You advise him to put an end to it if it no longer works. Days, weeks, months pass and he is still dating the same girl.
"Why the hell does he continue a relationship though he isn't happy?" you'll probably ask. Stephanie Spielmann, a postdoctoral fellow in social psychology, has an answer.
Dr. Spielmann and her colleagues surveyed 153 individuals ages 18 to 59, 48 of whom were single, 57 were exclusively dating, 20 were casual daters, 10 were engaged, and 17 were married. They were asked a very simple question: "What do you specifically fear about being single?"
Gathering the answers, here's what the researchers found out
- 40 percent fears not having a long-term partner
- 18 percent fears spinsterhood
- 12 percent fears losing a current partner
- 11 percent fears growing old alone
- Seven percent fears never having children and a family
- Seven percent said they feel worthless if alone
- Four percent fears negative judgments from others
- 0.7 percent said they'd better go out with someone horrible than no one
Long story short, some people are willing to settle for less just to be coupled up.
"Those with stronger fears about being single are willing to settle for less in their relationships," Spielmann said in a statement.
"Sometimes they stay in relationships they aren't happy in, and sometimes they want to date people who aren't very good for them," she added.
The study also breaks gender stereotypes that only women struggle with the fear of being single.
"In our results we see men and women having similar concerns about being single, which lead to similar coping behaviors, contradicting the idea that only women struggle with a fear of being single," Geoff MacDonald, a co-author of the study said.
Spielmann concluded that: "Now we understand that people's anxieties about being single seem to play a key role in these types of unhealthy relationship behaviors."
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