MILAN, Italy — It may seem like common sense, but simply worrying that you’ll get dumped only increases your likelihood of a breakup, a new study finds.
Researchers at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Italy recruited relationship partners to participate in a psychological manipulation experiment, hoping to see how fear of a relationship ending affected feelings of attraction and commitment toward one’s significant other.
After disclosing personal information about their relationship’s dynamic, participants were presented with different forms of evidence against feeling optimistic about their partnership, such as statistics showing the failure rate of relationships, or false feedback that attempted to convince them that their romance was already on the ropes.
Subsequently, participants were asked to indicate how dedicated they felt toward both their partner and overall relationship.
The researchers found that levels of romance and commitment declined precipitously when participants were told there was either a high or low chance of an imminent breakup.
Meanwhile, when one perceived their chances of a breakup being only moderate, feelings of commitment and romance toward their partner did the opposite — they actually grew.
Fortunately, no lovers were hurt in the course of this study; any second thoughts were able to be cured with a touch of romantic reassurance.
“This shows that, when faced with a ‘too high’ risk of ending the relationship, participants clearly reduced the intensity of their positive feelings towards the romantic partner,” notes Simona Sciara, the study’s co-author, in a media release.
Giuseppe Pantaleo, the study’s other co-author, believes that his team’s findings demonstrate how critical it is for psychologists, clinicians, and counselors to understand how a partner perceives their relationship’s stability.
“Reduced relationship commitment, for instance, leads to dissolution considerations and, thereby, to actual relationship breakup,” he explains. “Relationship breakup, in turn, plays a critical role in the onset of depression, psychological distress, and reduced life satisfaction.”
The study’s findings were published last week in the journal Motivation and Emotion.