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Fear of solitude keeps people in bad relationships

Fear of loneliness motivates many people to stay in unhappy relationships, a new study suggests.

Researchers interviewed 153 adults of different ages in the US and Canada using online surveys and questionnaires. A significant 40 per cent admitted to being afraid of not having a companion, while just under 20 per cent said they were scared of being a ‘spinster’. Twelve per cent said they were afraid of losing their current partner, while seven per cent admitted that they were scared of never having a family or children. Another seven per cent said they would feel “worthless” on their own, and four per cent said they feared being judged by others for being without a partner. Just under one per cent admitted to thinking that any relationship, even if abusive, was better than none.

People with such anxieties tended to stay in unhappy or unsatisfactory relationships, the authors concluded.

“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.”

Researcher Stephanie Spielmann added: “Now we understand that people’s anxieties about being single seem to play a key role in these types of unhealthy relationship behaviors.”

The study, entitled Settling for less out of fear of being single, was published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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